Religious Reform Movements




Religious Reform Movements:

1. Prarthana Samaj:

‘Prarthana Samaj’ had its origin in the ‘Paramhamsa Sabha’. It was founded by Dadoba Pandurang Tarkhadkar. The founding members of ‘Prarthana Samaj’ like Dr. Atmaram Pandurang, Justice M.G. Ranade, Dr. R.G. Bhandarkar opposed idol worship and emphasised on the principle of ‘One Supreme God’ (monotheism). They opened orphanages, schools for girls, and night schools for workers. They focused on the importance of gender equality, wiping outcaste discrimination, and also appreciating the value of mundane life.

2. Satyashodhak Samaj:

In 1873, Mahatma Jotirao Phule founded ‘Satyashodhak Samaj’ in Pune. It challenged intellectually and rationally unjust religious traditions. Mahatma Phule cracked a whip on the social customs and practices, which pushed the masses of Indian society into a miserable state. He showed a new path to the farmers, artisans, workers, and various suppressed castes for their upliftment. The characteristics of the Satyashodhak Samaj included monotheism, rejection of the authority of Veda-Puranas, acceptance of rationality, opposition to dominance and intrusion of the priests and idol worship, pilgrimage, disbelief in miracles, and opposition to the notion of a world after death. Mahatma Phule and Savitribai Phule took initiative in the movement of education for girls by starting a school for them. They emphasised on the fact that educating the girls is the only way to their emancipation. The work of educating girls was continued by Pandita Ramabai and Ramabai Ranade.

The social system in India was based on social inequality. Mahatma Phule worked for creating a social system based on equality. His work was continued by Gopalbaba Walangkar, who severely criticised untouchability in his book, ‘Vital Vidhwamsan’ (Destroying Defilement). Shivram Janba drew attention to the problems of deprived women like Murali, Jogatini, and Devdasi.

In the first decade of the twentieth century, we find Shivram Janaba Kamble taking up the mission of removing the stigma of prostitution from the face of the Untouchables. In 1908, through his magazine Somvanshi Mitra, he wrote articles asking his community to accept in marriage the hands of women who had been thrown into the degrading profession of prostitution through the practice of giving girls to Hindu temples as devadasis (slaves of the God).

Besides writing articles, Kamble conducted various meetings to awaken and enlighten people and appealed to them to abandon the practice of offering girls to the god and goddess of Jejuri known as Khandoba and Yellamama.

Kamble’s efforts yielded positive results. One devadasi named Shivubai responded to the call and wrote a very long letter explaining the miserable life of the wretched women and offering herself in marriage to any willing person. In response to her call, published by Kamble in his magazine, one of his associates, Ganpatrao Hanmantrao Gaikwad, agreed to marry Shivubai. Accordingly, the marriage was solemnised and was given wide publicity. Not only did Kamble encourage such marriages but he also saw to it that these women got respect and dignity in society. His propaganda against the devadasi system was so effective that in the year 1909 not a single girl was offered to Khandoba as a devadasi. It was also found that other slave girls of God (prostitutes) were accepted by the young boys of the Untouchable community as their wives.

3. Arya Samaj:

Swami Dayanand Saraswati founded ‘Arya Samaj’ in 1875. Arya Samaj regarded Vedas as holy books. Arya Samaj rejected discrimination based on caste difference and encouraged the education of women, widow remarriage, and inter-caste marriages.

The Arya Samaj is a society that cultivates strong ethical and moral values as well as advocates peaceful and productive human living.  The organization is a global community whose members wish to be noble and are united in their unwavering devotion to the Universal Truth.  The society promotes love, justice, and righteousness towards all, irrespective of race, caste, or creed, and follows the principles espoused in the Vedas, which are universally true for all of mankind.

Arya Samaj was established by Swami Dayanand Saraswati in the year 1875 to get rid of the social evils of Hindu society. Arya Samaj is a bona fide Hindu-Vedic organization. It is a non-denominational authentic Hindu-Vedic religious organization dedicated to remove superstition, orthodoxy, and social evils such as untouchability, etc., from society. The Arya Samaj was established to propagate true pristine knowledge enshrined in the Vedas. To educate women and the downtrodden of society, Arya Samaj opened many educational institutions such as schools, colleges, technical institutions such as medical and engineering colleges and universities. It encouraged Hindu interdenominational marriages and also widow remarriages. Arya Samaj intellectuals and followers successfully achieved the goals of bringing equality of all sections of society and helped achieve the independence of India from British rule. Wherever Hindus migrated in the world, they have established Arya Samaj.

4. Ramkrishna Mission:

Swami Vivekanand established ‘Ramkrishna Mission’ in 1897. Ramkrishna mission focused more on serving needy people. They worked for people affected by famine, healthcare for the sick people, serving the weak, upholding the cause of education for women, and spiritual betterment. It gave a message to the Indian youth to get up, to awaken, and keep moving until the goal is achieved.

Swami Vivekananda founded The Ramakrishna Order of India in the name of his teacher, Sri Ramakrishna, who is regarded as the Prophet of Harmony of Religions. The Order is the pre-eminent religious organization of modern India. More than 1000 monks of the Order serve throughout the world. While in the West the work is mainly in the form of conducting worship, teaching, writing, and lecturing, in India the Order is widely known for its vast charitable activities — running hospitals and schools, rural uplift, and extensive relief work in times of emergency. The Swamis of the Order work tirelessly in the spirit of "Service of God in Man," regarding the service of all people as a veritable form of worship.

n America Vivekananda's mission was the interpretation of India's spiritual culture, especially in its Vedantic setting. He also tried to enrich the religious consciousness of the Americans through the rational and humanistic teachings of the Vedanta philosophy. In America, he became India's spiritual ambassador and pleaded eloquently for better understanding between India and the New World in order to create a healthy synthesis of East and West, of religion and science.

In his own motherland Vivekananda is regarded as the patriot saint of modern India and an inspirer of her dormant national consciousness, To the Hindus, he preached the ideal of a strength-giving and man-making religion. Service to man as the visible manifestation of the Godhead was the special form of worship he advocated for the Indians, devoted as they were to the rituals and myths of their ancient faith. Many political leaders of India have publicly acknowledged their indebtedness to Swami Vivekananda.

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