Brief History of Social Reform Movements in India
The nineteenth century was a great period in India’s social and cultural history. There was a movement for social reforms in India. The British rule laid bare the defects and weakness of our society. Indian reformers of the nineteenth century did a lot to build a better society.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833) was the earliest social reformer that shines the brightest. He struggled hard to remove social and religious superstitions, social inequality and illiteracy. Most reformers of the period tried to improve the position of women. And, the contribution of Raja Ram in restoring the social honor of women is praiseworthy. His efforts for stopping the Sati (1829) are known to all. Sati was the inhuman practice of self-immolation of widows on the pyre of their dead husbands. Often unwilling women were dragged by fanatics and killed by burning. Ram Mohan founded two organizations called the Atmiya Sabha (1815) and the Brahma Sabha (1828). These became the source of a movement called the Brahma Samaj.
Debendranath Tagore (1817-1805), Akshay Kumar Datta, Keshab Chandra Sen, and Shibnath Sastri were some of the great leaders of the Brahma Samaj.
The Brahma Samaj held an important place in the reform movements of the period. Three other organizations were the Prarthana Samaj (1867), the Arya Samaj (1875) and the Ramkrishna Mission (1897) was the most important. Ramakrishna Mission was founded by the great religious reformer Swami Vivekananda.
When we speak about nineteenth century reformers we must not forget to mention the names of Derozio and Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar. Vidyasagar did a lot to improve the condition and status of women in society.
Derozio was a Portuguese by birth but he made India his home. He was a teacher of the Hindu college. He was against every kind of conservative idea. Derozio’s followers are known as the ‘Young Bengal”. Derozio encouraged freedom of thought. The Young Bengal showed enough courage.