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The Social and Cultural Awakening

Social and Religious Reforms

During the 19th Century there were attempts to follow the example of the West in religion and in social and political reform. Educated India became growingly receptive to modern European thought. Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833), may be said to have initiated a new age in India's history. The constitutional methods in politics which he advocated were the beginning of the trend which led to the foundation of the Indian National Congress in 1885. He also founded the Brahmo Samaj, a religious group seeking to rid Hinduism of irrational distortions and practices.

Among other pioneers of religious, social, educational and political reforms were Ishwarchandra Vidhyasagar in Bengal and Jyotiba Phule in Maharashtra. They worked actively to improve the position of women, giving them education and recognizing their rights. As a reaction against the tendency of some to imitate the West and to ignore India's own rich and valuable traditions, and also a reaction to the adoption of the Christian forms of worship, Swami Dayanand Saraswati (1824-83) urged a revival of Hinduism in its pristine Vedic form. The synthesis of the two great forces, the ancient Indian and the modern Western, was brought about by Ramakrishna Paramhansa (1836-1886) and by his disciple, Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902). He believed in and preached the superiority of the Hindu path to spiritual salvation. At the same time, he urged India to adopt the scientific attitude of West. Vivekananda condemned the caste-system, rituals and superstition and urged people to imbibe the spirit of liberty, equality and free thinking. The Theosophical Society was founded in U.S.A. and the movement grew in India under the leadership of Mrs.Annie Beasant, which glorified Indian religion and philosophical tradition and helped the Indians to recover their self-confidence.

Cultural and Scientific Awakening :

The theme of this century was predominantly humanistic and stressed the freedom of man and equality of all. Geetanjali - the distinctive work of poet Rabindranath Tagore won him the Nobel prize. The modern Indian sought to reconcile the ideas and thoughts of the east and west. Later on, similar trends appeared in paintings and sculptures as well. In the field of science, high recognition was given to the works of scientists like Ramanujam in Maths, Dr.C.V.Raman in Physics for the Raman Effect and Dr.Jagdish Chandra Bose in the field of Botany.