INTRODUCTION

SOCIO-RELIGIOUS REFROM MOVEMENTS IN MODERN INDIA

In the Indian society in the first half of the 19th century was caste ridden, decadent and rigid. It followed certain practices which are not in keeping with humanitarian feelings or values but were still being followed in the name of religion. A change was therefore needed in society. When the British came to India they introduced the English language as well as certain modern ideas. These ideas were those of liberty, social and economic equality, fraternity, democracy and justice which had a tremendous impact on Indian society. Fortunately for our country there were some enlightened Indians like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Dayanand Saraswati and many others who were willing to fight and bring in reforms in society so that it could face the challenges of the West.

 These social and religious reformers formed   movements. They attacked bigotry, superstition and the hold of the priestly class. They worked for abolition of castes and untouchability, purdah system, sati, child marriage, social inequalities and illiteracy. Some of these reformers were supported directly or indirectly by the British officials and some of the reformers also supported reformative steps and regulations framed by the British Government. Some of the reform movements can be analysed as follows:

Raja Rammohan Roy:

The central figure of this cultural awakening was Raja Rammohan Roy. Known as the “father of the Indian Renaissance”, Rammohan Roy was a great patriot, scholar and humanist. He was moved by deep love for the country and worked throughout his life for the social, religious, intellectual and political regeneration of the Indians.

Rammohan Roy was born in 1772 in Radhanagar, a small village in Bengal. As a young man he had studied Sanskrit literature and Hindu philosophy in Varanasi and Persian, Arabic and Koran in Patna. He was a great scholar Roy who mastered several languages including English, Latin, Greek and Hebrew.

Social Reforms:

  1.  Rammohan Roy fought relentlessly against social evils like sati, polygamy, child marriage, female infanticide and caste discrimination. He organised a movement against the inhuman custom of sati and helped William Bentinck to pass a law banning the practice (1829). It was the first successful social movement against an age-old social evil.
  2. Rammohan Roy was one of the earliest propagators of modern Western education. He looked upon it as a major instrument for the spread of modern ideas in the country. He was associated with the foundation the Hindu College in Calcutta (which later came to be known as the Presidency College). He also maintained at his own cost an English school in Calcutta. In addition, he established a Vedanta College where both Indian learning and Western social and physical science courses were offered.

Henry Vivian Derozio and the young Bengal movement:

The establishment of the Hindu College in 1817 was a major event in the history of Bengal. It played an important role in carrying forward the reformist movement that had already emerged in the province. A radical movement for the reform of Hindu Society, known as the Young Bengal Movement, started in the college.

Its leader was Henry Vivian Derozio, a teacher of the Hindu College. Derozio was born in 1809. He was of mixed parentage his father was Portuguese and his mother was Indian. In 1826, at the age of 17, he joined the Hindu College as a teacher and taught there till 1831.

  1. Derozio was deeply influenced by the revolutionery ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity.
  2. He inspired his students to think rationally and freely, to question authority, to love liberty, equality and freedom and to worship truth.
  3. By organising an association for debates and discussions on literature, philosophy, history and science, he spread radical ideas.
  4. The movement started by Derozio was called the Young Bengal Movement and his followers were known as the Derozians. They condemned religious rites and the rituals, and pleaded for eradication of social evils, female education and improvement in the condition of women.

Derozio was a poet, teacher, reformer and a fiery journalist. He was perhaps the first nationalist poet of modern India. He was removed from the Hindu College because of his radicalism and died soon after at the age of 22.

The Derozians could not lead a very successful movement because social conditions were not yet ripe for their ideas to flourish. Yet they carried forward Rammohan’s tradition of educating the people on social, economic and political questions.

Debendranath Tagore:

Debendranath Tagore, the father of Rabindranath Tagore, was responsible for revitalising the Brahmo Samaj. Under him the first step was taken to convert the Brahmo Samaj into a separate religious and social community. He represented the best in traditional Indian learning and the new thought of the West.

In 1839, he founded the Tatvabodhini Sabha to propagate Rammohan Roy’s ideas. He promoted a magazine to do a systematic study of India’s past in Bengali language. The Samaj actively Debendranath Tagore supported the movements for widow remarriage, the abolition of polygamy, women’s education and the improvement in the condition of the peasantry.

Keshab Chandra Sen:

Keshab Chandra Sen carried on an intensive programme of social reform. He set up schools, organised famine relief and propagated widow remarriage. In 1872 the Government passed the Native (Civil) Marriages Act legalising marriages performed according to Brahmo Samaj rites.

Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar:

Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, a towering personality of the mid- nineteenth century, was born in a poor Brahmin family of Bengal in 1820. He was a renowned Sanskrit scholar and became the Principal of the Sanskrit College in 1851. The Sanskrit College conferred on him the title of ‘Vidyasagar’ because of his profound knowledge of Sanskrit.

Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar was both a scholar and a reformer.

  1.  He was a great humanist and had deep sympathy for the poor and the oppressed.
  2.  He dedicated his entire life to the cause of social reform which he thought was necessary for modernising India.
  3.  By admitting non-Brahmin students to the Sanskrit College, he dealt a severe blow to the prevalent caste system.
  4. Vidyasagar was a staunch supporter of women’s education and helped Drinkwater Bethune to establish the Bethune School, the first Indian school for girls, in 1849. As Inspector of Schools, Vidyasagar opened a number of schools for girls in the districts under his charge.
  5. Vidyasagar’s greatest contribution lies in the improvement of the condition of widows. Despite opposition, Vidyasagar openly advocated widow remarriage. Soon a powerful movement in favour of widow remarriage was started. At last, after prolonged struggle the Widow Remarriage Act was passed in 1856. Through his efforts, twenty-five widow remarriages took place. He also spoke vehemently against child marriage and polygamy.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa:

Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa was one of the greatest saints of modern India. Ramakrishna was born in a poor Brahmin family of Bengal. He showed a religious bent of mind from his childhood. He had no formal education but his discourses were full of wisdom. He was the chief priest of the Kali temple at Dakshineswar near Calcutta. People from all walks of life visited Dakshineswar to listen to his discourses.

  1. Ramakrishna Paramhamsa was a man with a liberal outlook. He firmly believed that there was an underlying unity among all religions and that only the methods of worship were different. God could be approached by any form of worship as long as it was done with single- minded devotion.
  2. Different religions were all different roads to reach the same God. He believed that service to man was service to God, for man was the embodiment of God on earth. As man was the creation of God, man-made divisions made no sense to him.
  3. Ramakrishna Paramhamsa was a great teacher who could express complicated philosophical ideas in a simple language for everyone to understand. He believed that religious salvation could be attained through renunciation, meditation and devotion.

Swami Vivekananda:

Narendra Nath Dutta, better known as Swami Vivekananda, was the most illustrious disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. He was born in Calcutta in January, 1863. He graduated from the Scottish Church College and was well-versed in Western philosophy. Vivekananda was a man of great intellect and possessed a critical and analytical mind. At the age of eighteen, Vivekananda met Sri Ramakrishna. This meeting transformed his life completely. After the death of Sri Ramakrishna, he became a ‘sanyasi’ and devoted his life to preaching and spreading Ramakrishna’s message to the people. His religious message was put in a form that would suit the needs of contemporary Indian society.

  1. Vivekananda proclaimed the essential oneness of all religions.
  2. He condemned the caste- system, religious rituals, ceremonies and superstitions.
  3. In India, however, Vivekananda’s main role was that of a social reformer rather than a religious leader.
  4. He propagated Ramakrishna’s message of peace and brotherhood and emphasized the need for religious tolerance which would lead to the establishment of peace and harmony in the country.
  5. He believed that it was the social responsibility of the better placed people to take care of the downtrodden, or the ‘daridra narayan’.

With his clarity of thought, deep understanding of the social problems of India, Vivekananda undoubtedly left a deep mark on the Indian intelligentsia as well as on the masses. At a time when the nation was in despair, he preached the gospel of strength and self-reliance. Vivekananda died at the age of 39.

The Ramakrishna Mission:

In 1896, Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Mission to propagate social welfare. It laid emphasis not on personal salvation but on social good and social service. The Ramakrishna Mission stood for religious and social reform based on the ancient culture of India. Emphasis was put on the essential spirit of Hinduism and not on rituals.

  1. Rendering social service was the primary aim of the Ramakrishna Mission.
  2. It believed that serving a human being was the same as worshipping God.
  3. The Mission opened a chain of schools, hospitals, orphanages and libraries throughout the country. It provided relief during famines, earthquakes and epidemics.
  4.  A math or monastery was established in Belur near Calcutta. The Belur Math took care of the religious developments of the people.

Dayanand Saraswati and the Arya Samaj:

Another organisation in northern India which aimed to strengthen Hinduism through reform was the Arya Samaj. Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of the Arya Samaj in Rajkot, was born into a Brahmin family in Kathiawar, Gujarat, in 1824. At the early age of 14, he rebelled against the practice of idol worship. He ran away from home at the age of twenty. For the next fifteen years, he wandered all over India meditating and studying the ancient Hindu scriptures.

  1. In 1863 Swami Dayanand started preaching his doctrine of one God. He questioned the meaningless rituals, decried polytheism and image worship and denounced the caste system. He wanted to purify Hinduism and attacked the evils that had crept into Hindu society.
  2. Dayanand Saraswati believed that the Vedas contained the knowledge imparted to men by God, and hence its study alone could solve all social problems. So he propagated the motto “Back to the Vedas.” Asserting that the Vedas made no mention of untouchability, child marriage and the subjugation of women, Swami Dayanand attacked these practices vehemently.
  3. Dayanand began the suddhi movement which enabled the Hindus who had accepted Islam or Christianity to return to Hinduism, their original faith. Dayanand published his religious commentaries in Hindi so as to make the common people understand his preachings. The Satyarth Prakash was his most important work.
  4. The Swami worked actively for the regeneration of India. In 1875, Swami Dayanand founded the Arya Samaj in Bombay. The Arya Samaj made significant contributions to the fields of education and social and religious reforms. After his death, his followers had established the Dayanand Anglo Vedic Schools first in Lahore and then in other parts of India. Gurukuls were also established to propagate traditional ideals of education. A network of schools and colleges both for boys and girls were also established by the Arya Samaj.

The Arya Samaj influenced mostly the people of northern India, specially Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Punjab. Although it was not a political organisation, the Arya Samaj played a positive role in creating a nationalist pride in Indian tradition and culture.

Reform movements in Western India:

Jyotirao Govindrao Phule:

Jyotirao Govindrao Phule prominent role in bringing about, reforms in Maharashtra.

  1. He fought for improving the condition of women, the poor and the untouchables.
  2.  He started a school for the education of girls of the lower castes and founded an association called the Satyasodhak Samaj.
  3. People from all castes and religions were allowed to join the association. He was opposed to the domination of the Brahmins and started the practice of conducting marriages without Brahmin priests.

The Prarthana Samaj:

In 1867, the Prarthana Samaj was started in Maharashtra with the aim of reforming Hinduism and preaching the worship of one God. Mahadev Govind Ranade and R.G. Bhandarkar were the two great leaders of the Samaj. The Prarthana Samaj did in Maharashtra what the Brahmo Samaj did in Bengal.

  1. It attacked the caste system and the predominance of the Brahmins, campaigned against child marriage and the purdah system, preached widow remarriage and emphasised female education.
  2. In order to reform Hinduism, Ranade started the Widow Remarriage Association and the Deccan Education Society.
  3. In 1887, Ranade founded the National Social Conference with the aim of introducing social reforms throughout the country. Ranade was also one of the founders of the Indian National Congress.

Reform Movements in South India:

The Theosophical Society and Annie Besant:

Many Europeans were attracted towards Hindu philosophy. In 1875, a Russian spiritualist named Madame Blavatsky and an American called Colonel Olcott founded the Theosophical Society in America. The society was greatly influenced by the Indian doctrine of karma. In 1886 they founded the Theosophical Society at Adyar near Madras.

Annie Besant, an Irish woman who came to India in 1893, helped the Theosophist movement to gain strength. She propagated Vedic philosophy and urged Indians to take pride in their culture. The Theosophists stood for the revival of the ancient Indian religion and universal brotherhood.

The uniqueness of the movement lay in the fact that it was spearheaded by foreigners who glorified Indian religious and philosophical traditions. Annie Besant was the founder of the Central Hindu College in Banaras, which later developed into the Banaras Hindu University. Annie Besant herself made India her permanent home and played a prominent role in Indian politics. In 1917, she was elected President of the Indian National Congress.

Women Reformers:

Pandita Ramabai:

The British Government did not take substantial steps to educate women. Still, by the end of the 19th century, there were several women who had become aware of the need for social reform.Pandita Rama bai had been educated in United States and in England. She wrote about the unequal treatment meted out to the women of India. She founded the Arya Mahila Sabha in Pune and opened the Sarda Sadan for helping destitute widows.

Sarojini Naidu:

Sarojini Naidu was a renowned poet and social worker. She inspired the masses with the spirit of nationalism through her patriotic poems. She stood for voting rights for women, and took an active interest in the political situation in the country. She also helped to set up the All India Women’s Conference.

CONCLUSION

In India, many thinkers and reformers came forward to bring reforms in our society. According to them society and religion were interlinked. Both needed to be reformed to achieve positive growth and development of the country. Hence our reformers took the initiative to awaken the Indian masses. Most of the social practices were done in the name of religion. Hence, social reform had no meaning without religious reform. Our reformers were deeply rooted in Indian tradition and philosophy and had a sound knowledge of the scriptures. They were able to blend positive Indian values with western ideas and the principles of democracy and equality. On the basis of this understanding, they challenged the rigidity and superstitious practices in religion. They cited the scriptures to show that the practices prevalent during nineteenth century find no sanction in them. The enlightened and the rationalistic amongst them questioned the popular religion which was full of superstitions and was exploited by the corrupt priests. The reformers wanted society to accept the rational and scientific approach. They also believed in the principle of human dignity and social equality of all men and women. They believed that education was the most effective tool to awaken and modernize our society.

The reform movements of India were able to create socio-religious consciousness among the Indians during the 19th century. All these movements laid stress on rational understanding of social and religious ideas and encouraged a scientific and humanitarian outlook. The reformers felt that modern ideas and culture could be best imbibed by integrating them into Indian cultural streams. The introduction of modern education guided the Indians towards a scientific and rational approach to life. All the movements worked to improve women’s status and criticized the caste system especially the practice of untouchability. These movements looked for social unity and strived towards liberty, equality and fraternity. However, these reform movements had certain limitations. It affected a very small percentage of the population, mostly the educated class and could not reach the vast masses of the peasantry and urban poor who continued to live in the same conditions.

Marginalization

Marginalization is the process of making a group or class of people less important or relegated to a secondary position. When one class of people is grouped together as second class citizens, this is an example of marginalization. Disempowerment, exclusion, and alienation, are the other words used as synonyms to the word marginalization.

Types

Though there are various types of marginalization, we identify some broad types, such as social, economic, and political marginalization.

Causes

  1. Caste
  2. Poverty
  3. Religion
  4. Wealth
  5. Being immigrants
  6. Gender

Structural marginalization

The inequalities often stalk from social structures that have institutionalized conceptions of other people. Gender inequalities often stem from social structures that have institutionalized conceptions of gender differences. Marginalization occurs on an individual level when someone feels as if they are on the fringes or margins of their respective society.

Marginalization and gender inequality

  1. Female crimes
  2. Domestic violence
  3. Marital age
  4. Literacy
  5. Sexual violence
  6. Heavy house hold works
  7. No decision making power

Cultural stereotypes

Stereotype

A stereotype is an individual’s set of beliefs about the characteristics or attributes of a group (Judd and Park, 1993). Such attributes can typically consist in general psychological traits. A stereotype can also include behaviors considered typical of the members of this social category. Other possible aspects of the stereotype include information regarding the typical norms of this social category or its social status. A stereotype needs not to be disparaging: It can include desirable traits. Stereotypes, being beliefs, should be clearly distinguished from prejudice, which refers to a negative evaluation of a target group. Naturally, of course, stereotypes and prejudice often go hand in hand. Negative stereotypes can foster or justify .

Cultural Stereotypes

Within any society, cultural stereotypes shape expectations of and behaviors with the child. Cultural stereotypes associated with gender differences are common in the United States and many other countries. For example, girls are assumed to be better attuned to emotions and social relationships than boys, and therefore parents are more likely to talk about feelings with daughters than with sons. Although stereotypes are often based to some extent in actual group characteristics (e.g., many Scandinavians are tall and blonde), stereotypes sometimes lead to biased perceptions of group members, memory distortions, and differential treatment.

Cultural stereotype and Gender inequality

  1. Gender imbalance in higher education
  2. Unequal access to decision-making roles in cultural professions
  3. Uneven distribution of women between the different types of cultural industries and activities and segregation into certain types of employment in cultural profession
  4. Women are overrepresented in the administration of public cultural institutions and the informal sector
  5. For women, the chances of successful career trajectories to leadership positions differ depending on the type of employment, of cultural industry and of institution.
  6. Underrepresentation of female artists, theatre or movie directors, composers etc. in museum collections and in the programming of cultural institutions, and minor commercial value of works by women compared to works by male artists.
  7. The lack of female entrepreneurs, operators and professionals to share, create and gain credibility with their peers.

Sexism

 Sexism is  the prejudice or discrimination based on sex or gender, especially against women and girls. Sexism can be a belief that one sex is superior to or more valuable than another sex. It imposes limits on what men and boys can and should do and what women and girls can and should do. The concept of sexism was originally formulated to raise consciousness about the oppression of girls and women, although by the early 21st century it had sometimes been expanded to include the oppression of any sex, including men and boys, intersexual people, and transgender people.

Sexism can be expressed in language with negative gender-oriented implications, such as condescension. For example, one may refer to a female as a girl rather than a woman, implying that they are subordinate or not fully mature. Other examples include obscene language.

Sexism and discrimination

Sexism in a society is most commonly applied against women and girls.

  1. It usually takes the forms of economic exploitation and social domination.
  2. Considering women as the weaker sex and less capable than men, especially in the realm of logic and rational reasoning.
  3.  Degrading Women to the domestic realm of nurturance and emotions.
  4. Considering women cannot be good leaders in business, politics, and academia.
  5.  Women are seen as naturally fit for domestic work and are superb at being caretakers.
  6. Women roles are devalued or not valued at all when compared with men’s work.
  7. The extreme form of sexist ideology is misogyny, the hatred of women.
  8.  A high rates of brutality against women—for example, in the forms of domestic violence, rape, and the commodification of women and their bodies.
  9. Women are seen as property or as second-class citizens.
  10.  Women are often mistreated at the individual as well as the institutional level.

GENDER INEQUALITY

Gender inequality acknowledges that men and women are not equal and that gender affects an individual’s living experience. These differences arise from distinctions in biology, psychology, and cultural norms. Some of these types of distinctions are empirically grounded while others appear to be socially constructed. Gender inequality is a result of the persistent discrimination of one group of people based upon gender and it manifests itself differently according to race, culture, politics, country, and economic situation. It is furthermore considered a causal factor of violence against women. While gender discrimination happens to both men and women in individual situations, discrimination against women is an entrenched, global pandemic.

World

Asia

  1. gender inequality in Asia is in the form of  the “missing girls” phenomenon
  2. Many families desire male children in order to ensure an extra source of income.
  3. Females are perceived as less valuable for labor and unable to provide sustenance.
  4.  Gender inequality is also reflected in the educational aspect
  5. . Gender inequality exists because of gender stereotypes.

Africa

  1. Women face considerable barriers to attending equal status to men in terms of property ownership, gainful employment, political power, credit, education, and health outcomes.
  2.  Women are disproportionately affected by poverty and HIV/AIDs because of their lack of access to resources and cultural influences.
  3. Other key issues are adolescent births, maternal mortality, gender-based violence, child marriage, and female genital mutilation.
  4. Women  have  a lower value and importance compared to men.
  5. Workplace inequality

Europe

  1. In the areas of health and money, the gap between men and women is smaller.
  2. On average, women in the Europe live six years longer than men, although more women than men consider themselves not to be in good health.
  3. Meanwhile, women’s mean monthly earnings sit at around 80% of men’s.
  4. Some of the biggest discrepancies between the genders are seen when it comes to power, with women making up less than a third of ministers and members of parliament and a quarter of board members of listed companies.
  5. Most of the professions are male dominated.

Australia

  1. Among the many alarming findings was the fact that one in 10 young Australian women are currently experiencing sexual harassment.
  2. Average  women are less confident than men in putting themselves forward for a challenge,”
  3. Male entrepreneurs are more than twice as likely as their female counterparts 
  4. Women are much more likely to operate home-based businesses and sole proprietorships than men
  5. Women are just as interested in leadership as men.
  6. Domestic violence is more common. On average, one woman per week is murdered in Australia by a current or former male partner.

America

  1. The US is one of only eight countries in the world that does not provide any form of paid maternity leave.  
  2. As a result of contraceptive use, there were 26 million fewer unsafe abortions in the world’s poorest countries.
  3. In low-income countries, for every hundred boys who continue their education after high school, only fifty-five girls do the same.
  4. On average, women around the world spend more than twice as many hours as men doing unpaid work.
  5. Women across the world currently bear the majority of childcare

Home

  1. Boys are perceived as being more “valuable” and worthy of investing in.
  2. The sons would often get more or higher quality education than the daughters. 
  3. The daughters being expected to take a greater load in household work than the sons
  4. Discrimination in food, clothes and education
  5. In marriage, a girl often joins her husband’s family and may cost her family a dowry (property or money brought by a bride to her husband on their marriage). 
  6. In many countries, girls and women do not have property rights. Only men are allowed to own or inherit property, having a son keeps assets in the family and makes sure parents will have somewhere to live when they get old.
  7. If a family needs hard physical labour to run a farm or make it’s living in some other way, boys are seen as more capable and stronger than girls.

Education

  1. Nearly four in 10 girls are made fun of because they are a girl, compared to under one in ten for boys.
  2. Girls were generally seen as better at ‘soft’ subjects such as languages, history, art and music, and boys better at sports, mathematics and computing
  3. Pupils felt that male teachers are ‘more intelligent’ than female teachers, but female teachers were ‘more caring’ than male teachers.
  4. The socialization of gender within schools assures that girls are made aware that they are unequal to boys.
  5. Every time students are seated or lined up by gender, teachers are affirming that girls and boys should be treated differently. 
  6. Teachers socialize girls towards a feminine ideal. Girls are praised for being neat, quiet, and calm, whereas boys are encouraged to think independently, be active and speak up.

Workplace

  1. Not  hiring a woman because the boss thinks she won’t fit into a traditionally male workplace 
  2. Not  promoting a woman to a more senior position because it’s assumed the other staff won’t respect her authority 
  3. Dividing  up work tasks based on whether staff are male or female 
  4. Insisting  women wear different clothing at work to men, for example, short skirts 
  5. Not considering women for a particular role. 
  6. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature are all types of sexual harassment against women in workplaces
  7. Refusing to promote a fully qualified employee because she is a woman
  8. Paying a male employee with exact same abilities as a female employee more because he is a man