Impact on Hinduism Under British Colonialism

Hindus under British Raj

      East India Company was one of the many companies from Europe, particularly Dutch and Portuguese which came to Indian subcontinent looking for a pie of trade and commerce in Asian countries. All these companies were keeping their private armies and were constantly competing with each other for larger size of the trade. British East India Company (EIC) got major boost to their efforts in 1612 after they secured exclusive business facilitation approval from Jahangir to freely stay and carry out their business any where in his empire. By diplomacy and deceit, the company also got control for revenue collection in the province of Bengal. This provided the company a great opportunity to exercise indirect control over the Provincial administration and a peep into the working of governments in this part.

These were very bad times for social harmony on the sub continent. Muslims were fighting with each other in many areas for seeking dominance post Mughal empire's got disintegrated, many Rajput kings were fighting with their Rajput neighbours, there were Muslim fighting with Rajput kingdoms in west area, Britishers were fighting with both Muslims and Rajputs in different parts. In some pockets, both Muslim and Rajputs had joined hand and were fighting with Britishers. Soldiers, both Hindu and Muslims were fighting for money and were known to switch side with whosoever was winning. Allegiance to any specific king or territory was not in vogue as soldiers wanted only salary and share in loot. Starvation and taxation policies of the Raj were killing farmers and labourers alike. The subcontinent was never more unfortunate. Muslims had made India their home. So whatever they looted was not going out of the sub continent. But plundering by Britishers has turned India from a 'Golden Bird' to 'Lame Duck' and a pauper for everything small and big.
Hinduism Under British

      EIC also remained focused on expanding from one region to another. They traded in spices, cotton, tea, and opium and later kept adding items to their list. In this process, they also expanded their operations to Afghanistan, South East Asia and China. The fact that at one point in history, this company accounted for half of the entire world trade, spoke volumes about their success in business. Expanded business also allowed them to expand their army which was having best of European weaponry of its time and employed only British rank and file while all the sepoys were.

      Between 1750 and 1755, one third of Bengal population died of famines. This catastrophe saw a big surge in worship of Goddess Kali in her aspect of Annapurna. This was in continuation where the features of the rising deity were matching in the need of the hour. 

      Then in 1757, EIC had first major success to keep firm foothold in taking over territories on the subcontinent. In the battle of Plassey; EIC defeated independent Nawab of Bengal, Siraj Ud Daulah who was affiliated to the Mughal King but EIC was ready to take on their original friends who had since weakened drastically. EIC had already established a number of treaties with many smaller kingdoms to extend their military support in exchange of exclusive trade rights. They also developed local understanding and took advantage of weakening of Marathas and snatched the area of Doab to have their control on Oudh to Agra and later many other territories in Gujarat and Maharashtra as well. They had spread right upto Mysore where they defeated Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan in 1799, who alone offered them some resistance. The Marathas, the Sikhs and rulers of Mysore could never unite to confront the foreign adversary and ultimately succumbed to their dirty designs and intrigue one by one.

      By this time EIC had full control on all economic matters in most part of the subcontinent. They forced farmers to switch over to cash crops and replace the food crops and got most industries closed down so that the entire subcontinent was only to offer crops for trade at their terms. Our farmers were reduced to work like supplier of raw materials of cash crops of British choice. Materials so procured were exported to England to feed the factories and finished products were brought back for sale in India making double profits. Large-scale diversions of cultivable land from food crops to cash crops resulted in substantial reduction in food buffers.

      Coincided with bad rain cycles, food non-availability resulted in enormous famines. As per British records, between 1800 to 1900 CE, India saw regular deaths of over 25 million people exclusively because of wide spread famines. But what the records fail to tell is the fact that British people had forced change of India's indigenous crop pattern to divert large track of food growing area to produce jute, cotton, tea and oil seeds so that EIC can meet its targets for supplying these items as raw materials to feed the factories back home. By this time, industrial revolution had turned Britain into world's workshop and India proved their largest raw material source and its 300 million populations was treated as a backyard market for readymade goods. There was no one to think that loss of food crops meant catastrophe in times of shortage of rains.

      These developments had very bad impact on Indian economic conditions. Earlier invaders looted only wealth from temples and treasuries but the new rulers were looting it by snatching away work from hands of labourers and by forcing them to die of hunger. Muslim invaders had concentrated their loot only on temples and monasteries based in main urban centres but British were making life difficult for almost everyone including people living in villages as they collected taxes in form of crops leaving little share with the farmers to survive on.

      Even at this point, a large portion of the subcontinent continued to be independently governed by large and small kingdoms that numbered around 560 and had treaties with Raj for mutual cooperation. Both the EIC and Maharajas proved good allies to each other and both made increasingly higher profits at the cost of poor subjects. Raj officials played cozy with the rulers and exposed them to European luxuries and encouraged them to close eyes to the problems of the common man. There are so many stories and books already available on the luxurious life lived by most heads of kingdoms and fiefdoms.

      These were very bad times for social harmony on the sub continent. Muslims were fighting with each other in many areas for seeking dominance post Mughal empire's got disintegrated, many Rajput kings were fighting with their Rajput neighbours, there were Muslim fighting with Rajput kingdoms in west area, Britishers were fighting with both Muslims and Rajputs in different parts. In some pockets, both Muslim and Rajputs had joined hand and were fighting with Britishers. Soldiers, both Hindu and Muslims were fighting for money and were known to switch side with whosoever was winning. Allegiance to any specific king or territory was not in vogue as soldiers wanted only salary and share in loot. Starvation and taxation policies of the Raj were killing farmers and labourers alike. The subcontinent was never more unfortunate. Muslims had made India their home. So whatever they looted was not going out of the sub continent. But plundering by Britishers has turned India from a 'Golden Bird' to 'Lame Duck' and a pauper for everything small and big.

      True that they have invested in creating railroads, road network, telegraph, dams, bridges, irrigation canals, sanitation, public health, schools and colleges. But the entire investment was focused on facilitating their trade and commerce and nothing else.
Their methods and ways of dealing with the people of subcontinent sparked instant hatred for them and they could never succeed in creating any place in the hearts of public at large.

Social Significance of Britishers Arriving in India at Different Periods

      Let us briefly analyse the characteristics of Britishers arriving in India at different times with their changing agenda on the social and religious fronts. Britishers arrival in India had three distinct periods. To begin with we had people connected with trade and commerce who came to India in the first phase when they were focused, on trade and less on governing. They came with limited purpose and looked at things Indian with some curiosity. They mostly came without families and intermingled with locals with many having local marriages and children. As first batch of Orientalists, they were genuinely trying to learn India with open minds and were open for new learning and maintained social sensitivities by staying clear of India's socio-religious sphere. They stayed clear of all religious matters altogether.

      They could relate to Indian class divide with the similar system in Europe and only encouraged the gaps among classes. Their own brand of diplomatic deceit was intended to pursue the policy of divide and rule. They were happy that Hindus don't take Muslims kindly and brought in much segregation which only fuelled the mutual distrust and resulted in much confrontation among Muslims and Hindus to begin with. For Hindus, who have been used to see different aggressors over last 1000 years or so, they were yet another rulers in the series. Britishers of this time intermingled socially with rajas as they took themselves also as Kshatriyas.

      In their effort of sowing the seeds of segregation, to Brahmins, they encouraged to consider themselves as elite and focus more on their food and cleanliness. This was dubbed as their efforts of Sanskritisation and aimed at continuing with class-based divide that allowed larger role for new rulers to weaken both sides and enhance their own importance. Towards end of 18th century, however, many Englishmen started bringing their families to live in India and that created a lot of divide as the interaction of wives and children with locals became different. It was like a relation of masters and slaves with barricades and no-entry zones. Such behaviour was new to most locals and saw the seeds of 'us vs they'. Each memsaab had 20-25 workers at her disposal and ruled them like animals. Slowly; religion also started coming in between as new English arrivals started finding many local practices as unbearable and soon it was the religion that made Britishers treat Hindus as devils.

      Then in 1813, under pressure from English religious groups, new chapter of the Company allowed Christian Missions to operate in India. The arrival of Evangelicals soon resulted in conversions of many Dalits and lower class Hindus to Christianity. Slowly slowly; the Raj officials also started their interference in Hindu's religious matters like non acceptance to remarriage of widows, cancellation of inheritance rights of converting out to other religions, all castes to share same rail coaches, teaching children at missionary schools and making them realise that the religion of their parents is something to be ashamed of, etc. The changes made by Raj in these matters slowly lead to a big divide in the relationship between Britishers and Hindus.

      Muslims were still found better by English people as both Britishers and Muslims had basic books of their religions and shared manners in social governance. But soon the increased number of missionaries and their activities, coupled with racist attitude of British officials, threatened traditional Indian life creating new fear in the minds of most Hindus. It may be added that the problem was with Protestant Christians who came fresh from England with the belief that their ruling power was result of their religious superiority over Hindus and treated Indian as devils, downtrodden and duffers with no respect and regard to their religion and social customs. Their behaviours antagonised many Hindus on personal basis but the brutal power of Raj officials crushed all such incidences with increasing punishments.

      Christians Missionaries used to look at Indian religion also in light of their own systems and took the Vedas as equivalent to the Bible. They classified all popular manifestations as superstitions. Translations and explanations of Vedic scriptures also followed heavily on the model of Christianity and the role played by the Bible. They were looking to rule Hindus also by a Book (as the case in Islam and Christianity). But they realized that most Indians were illiterate and did not understand scriptures and rather followed oral and visual traditions. Their own effort of segregating real Hinduism and popular Hinduism did no good for their actual understanding of the depth of the whole gamut of religion in practice. They were confused to find so many commonalities and variations over regions that taking out a single stream, as a single representation of entire Hinduism became impossible. Back then, most of Western scholars could never had the humility to try and appreciate the basic tenets of Hinduism. Up until 1800, most European found Hinduism quite disgusting and ridiculous, as they could not handle the prevailing multiplicities of the religious practices. It was to take them another hundred years to change that attitude to tolerance.

      In the early decades of 19th century; British Raj took many legislative steps to curb and ban many Hindu practices that they considered as barbaric and impinging on women rights. The laws so made included banning infanticide, human sacrifice, and practice of Sati. These, by themselves, were welcome steps and should have created a positive impact but Britishers had lost their respect in the eyes of Hindus who had reasons to believe that all these are unwanted interference in their social life. As a result, and as a token of the first sign of disobedience, the number of Sati cases drastically increased in the first year after the ban by Raj as compared to a year earlier. This was first sign of defiance by Hindus. It gave them a reason to respond to British rule collectively.

      It was by pure accident that Britishers, in their own ignorance, forced a sense of unity and community that Hindus have never ever felt before. English Raj officials, made the arrogant mistake of considering all Hindus as a single combined community. For their goodness, they were awarded with large-scale protests from Hindus from one corner of the country to another. But in the process of their unintended arrogance, they ended up doing a great service to Hinduism by unknowingly forcing all Hindus to gather under a common umbrella. These legislative changes for social reforms together with missionaries, injected a sense of unity among all Hindus who got propelled to come together in self-defense leaving behind their sectarian identities leading to first time "unification".

The Great Indian Rebellion of 1857

      The year 1857 proved to be the tipping point and saw one after the other instances of rebel from Hindus. In some cases, Muslims, to oppose Britishers, also joined Hindus, in another first in the history of the subcontinent. To begin with it was rebellion by Mangal Pandey, and then there was mutiny of sepoys at Meerut where 85 sepoys got arrested. Little later there was massacre at Cawnpore (Kanpur). But the last nail in the coffin was the controversy of new cartridges having animal fat, which required to be kept in mouth before being used. The rumours spread that it contained both beef and pig fats (these were a big no to both Hindus and Muslims respectively) and that it has been done by the Britishers intentionally to corrupt the religion of Indian sepoys from both religions. The distrust exiting between Britishers and Indians raised the issue beyond proportions where the rebellion took unmanageable proportions leaving the Company Officials found wanted in their situation management.

      Events of 1857 culminated in British Government taking over India from East India Company and introducing new harsh administrative changes. The third round of Britishers arrival at this time was branded as Utilitarian and Anglicised. They were genuinely misplaced to think that Western education and religion was extremely superior to the traditions of East and gave them right to rule over Indians with an iron hand. Lots of counter measures were introduced to bring normalcy and for cooling religious fervours to normalize the situation. But the landscape had changed forever. From now on, Britain was forced to use most of their energy in managing administrative matters over India leaving lesser energy to enlarge their business further. The situation was also contributed by some bizarre situations like disparity of salaries between an Indian and an Englishman at the same post where there salaries were 1:20 times apart. Indians had well realized that they are being treated as second-class citizens irrespective of their social, educational or economic status. Top posts in ICS (Indian Civil Services) were not given to Indians, Indian origin judges had no jurisdiction to provide judgement if the person involved was a Britisher.

      By this time, many Indian had come out of English based education systems with some of them also getting higher education at British universities. They had seen through the double standards being applied to Indian rule. Later 1800 time saw some Indians asking for greater role in their own governing as the loss of trust with Britishers had given rise to feeling of unrest in many quarters. Modernization and Westernization coupled with physical connectivity of regions like never before sparked the feeling of national identity and self-rule. This was first time that both Hindus and Muslims got united as they found common enemy in British rule.

Social Reform Movements of 19th Century

      The entire 19th century can be said to be a reforms driven century for Hinduism. With the banes and blessings of British Raj, Indians in general and Hindus in particular got a unified sense. New education and exposures to cultures and systems of Europe and other parts of the world helped them understand the evils infesting their culture. These feelings resulted in emergence of some very dedicated sons of Hinduism who got connected with its rich past and started galvanizing Hindus to fight for eradication of the social evils.

      This was the first time in history where Hindus accepted the word Hindu as their own representation. To many readers, this may be unbelievable but this is the reality. Hindus never considered themselves identified with this word before this time. Earlier, it will be recalled that many outsiders were calling people on Indian subcontinent by this name but it was mostly with derogatory connotation. Looking, back to the history of the Hindu as a word, one has to go back to Persians who used the word to refer to all residents living on other side of River Sindhu (the word S is pronounced as H in Persian language).

      By the time Britishers got settled, the word got accepted by the local residents to identify as a name for geographical identity rather than cultural. But thanks to colonial exploitation and intolerable attitude to subcontinent's culture, all the people having their links with Sanatan Dharma, living across in all regions of the subcontinent, forgot their internal differences and accepted to be collectively called Hindus. It was under this acceptance that they took Britishers as common enemy. The word Hindu got accepted to encompass whole of native culture as opposed to Muslims first and followed by Christians. The seeds that got sown at the time of arrivals of Muslims got germinated into solid shapes with English Raj.

      Coming into contact with European systems caused cultural and religious matters to gain political value like never before. This further provoked a strong sense of unity among all Indians (with Hindus and Muslims alike). The main reasons contributing to this sense of unity can be summarised as under:

1. Cultural gap between those dominated and those dominating were much greater than among various groupings of those dominated.

2. Spread of English language in India, which exposed some Indians to an outsider's view about preconceptions inherently present within Indian society. This made it easier to spot the social evils that were weakening the social systems.

3. Change in the direction of Colonial rule which changed colours from non-interference on religious matters to the one dictating changes without any prompting or consultations undertaken.

4. Deep distrust between rulers and subjects bringing in deep divides on restrictive measures being taken as unwanted and undesired interference.

5. Insensitivities of Britishers with many Hindu practices and persistent denial of expressed feelings that resulted in Mutiny of 1857.

6. Acceptance of Hinduism, by Hindus as a common umbrella covering all of them consolidated their unity and providing them a force never felt before - the feeling of oneness realized for the very first time.

7. Existence of infrastructure of transport and communication resulting in knitting the previously independent regions of subcontinent. This was single largest unifying force to germinate Indian independence struggle under one banner.

8. Emergence of very class of Indians who benefited from British education system and were exposed with concepts of fair play, justice and functioning of parliament in Westminster style, the democratic systems of decisions. They saw with naked eyes, all these concepts being ignored under rule in India.

      Britishers are generally blamed for successfully applying the principle of "Divide and Rule" which they used to acquire territories by pitching one local ruler against the other. History does not forget anything. It was time to pay Britishers in their own coins. There are benefits that come out from otherwise bad situations and this is what happened precisely when all Indians started coming together to "unite and gain independence".

      This situation gave rise to many individuals to initiate unification efforts and start reforms on social evils in bits and pieces. Soon like-minded people started coming together and many groups started to get formed championing common causes. Interestingly, these initiatives started the ball rolling in almost all regions of the subcontinent around the same time. As is expected, the individuals were fired by different forces and had varying point of views about possible solutions. Social movements of 19th century had religion and its resurrection by eradicating infested evils at the core unlike later period when all such efforts got a political tone aimed at independence from the colonial rule.

      Adi Shankaracharya had in 9th Century emerged as a great intellectual, organizational and physical power that uprooted Buddhism and Jainism from the subcontinent and established Hinduism as a stronger force to stand. He convinced people across the regions that if the world around us is just an illusion, as were the view of these competing thoughts of that time, then there is no encouragement or incentive for any human being to try to understand its working or to derive any empirical knowledge from it. Some thing similar happened again to Hinduism. In otherwise pathetic situation of the period, Hinduism got united again with many people working for its resurrection and to provide it strength to stand against Islam and Christianity.

      Most of the groups or organisations of this time had strong belief in Hinduism values and ancient traditions to take its rightful space as the world religion. It will be seen that all such organisations had focused around one or more of social evils of the Hindu Society while spreading the basic values of Sanatan Dharma, as envisaged in its purer form pre Puranik times. They also got in contact with each other and explored, for the first time, a grand common ground to resurrect Hinduism.

1. Secularists: This group include those rationalists who typified by individuals who publically discarded sacred thread, Janeu, as a mark of finishing class based divide which allowed the janeu to be worn only by upper three classes to the entire exclusion of Shudras, Dalits, Adivasis and all other lower class. These people also refused to swear by water of holy Ganga, they established modern libraries providing access to ancient scriptures to all sections as well as advocated modern knowledge on wider subjects. Many of these people donated their resources and land for promoting education for women and also refused to marry child brides. The focus was to stand against obvious social taboos by providing personal examples and create awareness in the Hindu society to embrace knowledge in place of undesirable traditions. To end the class divide was their main agenda. But most of these were individual examples rather than groups.

2. Radical Reformists: This group consisted of people who have come up based on English education including higher education on foreign soils and who desired to radically reform Hindu society in light of Western morals and rationalists ideals. The largest group under this classification was Brahmo Samaj, Prarthana Samaj and other individuals such as Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

3. Partial Reformers: Under this group can be included all those organisations and individuals who were engaged in defending old traditions and ideals of Hinduism. This group will include organisations like Arya Samaj, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, etc. Some of these have strong ideals and wish to make Hindu social polity. There looks to be stiffness in their approach as they suffer from the bias of neither tolerating nor acknowledging the existence of other forms of Hindu thoughts and practices. But not all of these need to be associated with hardcore mentality.

4. Conservatives: Defenders of conservatism included those people who considered Hinduism superior to all other faiths. The followers of this approach find no fault with any Hindu tradition and are intelligent enough to find shortcomings with other faiths. These were people for whom a mere mention of Pushpak Vimana in Hindu scriptures was sure shot guarantee of Hindus having achieved great advancements in scientific fields ahead of others. They don't need to listen to argue that to make a Vimana one required to assemble parts, equipments, navigation systems and what not, things for which scriptures do not provide any reference anywhere. The organizations such as Sanatan Dharmarakshini Sabha and Ramkrishna Mission find grouping under this category. Vivekananda, the genius disciple of Ramakrishna Paramhansa, married universalistic idea of Swami Rama Krishna Paramhansa (his Guru) to strange idea of social service, is one of the most befitting examples of classification under this school. Followers of this category had a sort of pride and arrogance towards outsiders as they had Hinduism in awe as a most superior thought of the entire human history. Some followers of this thought can be found even today, largely at school and college levels, who strongly believe that ancient Hinduism were so advanced in natural sciences as modern West and credit Hinduism for most sophisticated firearms, television, airplanes and bridge technology. Slightly misplaced with hard facts but this spirit also contributed towards Hinduism finding its pride and lost relevance.

Main Social and Religious Organisation During Raj

      Among many exploitative features of Raj in India, there are silver linings that helped Hinduism to encourage many thinkers of that time to shred away isolation and come out against many social evils prevalent in contemporary Hindu society. Beginning of 19th century was pivotal that saw creative excitement of new hopes, new culture, dream of a new nation, revival of deep cultural values inspired by own luminous past. Many illustrious individuals emerged out of this exciting cultural spark. It is interesting to see that many of these individuals and movements have their connection with Bengal. It was precisely due to the fact that Bengal had significant influence that helped produced new English educated group with varying degree of European exposure.

      Let us briefly look at some of the major organizations contributing to resurrection of Hinduism as an umbrella holding many different thoughts under its wide wing. The sequence taken below is guided by the period in which these got founded and not by any means by the comparative significance these hold in the resurrection process:

Brahmo Samaj

      Raja Ram Mohan Roy initially founded it in 1828 after he returned to India after spending good amount of time in Europe. As a young boy he got mastery over Sanskrit and Hindu Philosophies at Banaras and learned Persian, Arabic and Quran at Patna. After settling down at Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1814, he dedicated his remaining life to light the candle of social and religious reforms. He advocated Hindus for studying maths, philosophy anatomy and other life sciences to obtain modern education and develop wide view about its society. Himself a staunch Vedic follower, he was against Puranic Hinduism focusing more on issues like puja, temples and pilgrimages. The social evils he worked for included Sati, Child Marriage, Polygamy; female infanticide and caste-based discrimination.

      The Samaj was based on doctrines of Upanishads and worked on propagating new tenets incorporating new developments. But after death of the founder, the membership got dwindled fast. Again, in 1839, Debendranath Tagore, father of Rabindranath Tagore resurrected the doctrines under the new name of 'Tattwabodhi Sabha'. The Sabha got Katha Upanishad translated into Bengali language helping it to become popular in that time. It was like modern-day Vedanta adaptable to middle class Hindus. The Sabha also attracted Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar as its active member. Eventually, they came up with a new version of Vedantic Hinduism, named. Adi Dharma which continued for many decades and eventually faded into obscurity in early 1900 when all energies of the entire nation got channelized towards Independence Movement.

Prarthana Samaj

      Later in 1867, Atmaram Pandurangan formed the Prarthana Samaj in Bombay (now Mumbai). Their doctrine was also to encourage people to believe in one God and worship only one God. Here again, the members of the Samaj were intellectuals who advocated their preferred philosophy as the basis for reforms in social systems of Hindu society of that time of Maharashtra. The members met regularly and followed teachings of saints like Vitthal, Namdev and Tukaram. The Samaj later started working for cultural change and social reforms in entire western part of the subcontinent.

      In their doctrines, Vedas were not to be taken as infallible. They called for abandoning class segregation and abolishing child marriage. They also raised voice for encouraging female education and remarriage of widows and banning of Sati.

Arya Samaj

      Arya Samaj was founded by Swami Dayanand, as a religious and spiritual organisation to promote a unique model of Hinduism incorporating some of the original core values of Vedic Dharma. These included belief in One Supreme Almighty, Vedas as infallible scriptures, rejection of idol worship, holding of havans as important rituals, and equality of all followers of the religion. In addition to the religion, the Samaj worked a lot for many issues of social reforms including empowerment of women, protection of cow from slaughter, etc. Swami Dayanand is known to denounce much of contemporary Hinduism, which, in his opinion, has got corrupted, and directionless due to polytheism, idolatry and many superstitions and narrow beliefs together with stranglehold of Brahmin class on sacred lore of religious practices. His religion was in form of pure Vedas and all his efforts were aimed at reinstating the Dharma of Vedas in its purity.

      Since beginning, the Samaj has stood for cultivating strong ethical and moral values as well as advocacy of peaceful coexistence of all human beings. The Samaj has unwavering devotion to universal truth and promoted love, justice, righteousness towards all irrespective of race, caste, and creed and follows the principles as espoused in the Vedas. Swami Dayanand was a profound Sanskrit scholar and firm believer in Vedic ideologies. He was also the first person to talk about "Swarajya" a motto, which was later promoted by Lokmanya Tilak on political level. Called as one of the makers of modern India, Swami Dayanand established many Vedic schools even before founding Arya Samaj in 1875.

      He also communicated closely with Brahmo Samaj and found many similarities but his firm belief in Vedas supremacy was so uncompromising that he could not be a part of Brahmo Samaj. Later, the Samaj activated a lot of people to contribute towards reforms through education. Even today, one can find so many educational institutions under the "Dayanand Anglo Vedic (DAV) Society".

Rama Krishna Mission

      The mission was part of Vedanta movement and was founded in 1897 as philanthropic voluntary organization by yet another great son of India, Vivekananda. The Mission had focused on providing health care, help in disaster relief, rural management, tribal welfare, elementary education and higher education besides Vedic Hinduism. The people contributing their might in running such a huge organization included hundreds of ordered monks and thousands of householders dedicated to the path of Karma Yoga of Swami Vivekananda. Born in 1863, Vivekananda became a key figure in introducing Indian Philosophy of Vedanta and Yoga School to western World. His world famous speech of 1893 at Parliament of World Religions, Chicago has been credited as a milestone in bringing ancient Indian Philosophies and religious theories to the attention of whole world. His works have certainly contributed a great deal in showing the world about Hinduism. His works also inspired lot many youth of the time to wholeheartedly stand for nationalism under Colonial rule.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)

      Founded by Keshav Baliram Hegdewar in 1925 with Headquarter at Nagpur, the organization took up its goal to reunite all Hindus by rising above caste differences with an objective of making India a Hindu Rashtra. RSS has character building of the youth at the core of its ideology to make them dedicate their life for the cause of making India a strong nation with proud national identity. It is generally branded as right-wing, charitable and educational and volunteer
organisation. Based on its strong principles, many important people of their generation as Veer Sawarkar and Bhim Rao Ambedkar got influenced by RSS. Later this ideology got identified with political ambitions, which came to be known as Hindutva.

      Besides above mentioned few, there are many more individuals and groups who worked for social reformation in late 19th and early 20th centuries riding on ancient Hindu philosophies. Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) a nationalist, philosopher, poet, and spiritual thinker developed 'Internal Yoga', a special method of spiritual practice. Ramana Mahershi (1879-1950) who got his enlightenment at the young age of sixteen years practised and realised that silence was the purest form of reality. He turned out as an outstanding Hindu preacher with a wide following. Swami Sivananda (1887-1963) was another Hindu spiritual guru who worked on Yoga and Vedanta schools of philosophies after studying Medicine and working as a Physical for many years under Britishers. Later he took to monasticism and founded Sivananda Ashram at Rishikesh. Under this Ashram, the society named Divine Life Society spread his philosophy through its many centres spread all over the globe.

Other Great Indian Teachers

      Swami Ram Tirtha (1873-1906) was one of the first Hindu teachers who started lecturing about Vedanta through a series of lectures in different parts of America. He popularised these teachings under 'Practical Vedas'. He also worked to get many scholarships in America so that students from India could come to America for stud ies in many fields. After his academic achievements, he opted life of a sanyasi under direct influence of Vivekananda. In India he worked on the theme of education for women and children of poor families.

      Paramhansa Yogananda (1893-1952) was another great Indian teacher who is credited for popularising Indian ancient thoughts in America. Yogananda became a close disciple of Swami Muktananda Giri in Calcutta and learned his Sadhana under his close watch while pursuing formal college education. He was inspired by his Guru to move to America for spreading the Sanatan Dharma teachings under what he called 'Kriya Yoga' techniques. Before going to America and establishing 'Self Realization Fellowship', he established a boys school in India at Dihika, West Bengal where he combined modern education with Yoga training and spiritual ideals in a residential environment.

      Yogananda spent his later life in America from 1920 onwards where he established many centres for popularising Kriya Yoga to help achieve understanding of universe being a cosmic motion picture by God where human beings are just actors to perform as destined in the divine play. Combining some Buddhist values with Vedic ideas, he preached that human sufferings were rooted in wrong identification by the actor with the role assigned. Over the years, Yogananda achieved phenomenal success and his centres are still active spreading 'Kriya Yoga' teachings and techniques through on site and on line courses.

      Another great name in the series of Indian thinkers and promoters in academic world of 20th century is of Dr. Sarvpalli Radhakrishnan (1888-1975). In addition to be a great scholar of Vedanta, he developed detailed understanding of Western Philosophy and thereby created a bridge between East and West in very acceptable manner. He is accredited with translating all major Upanishads in modern English with his commentary where he defined and defended the ancient spiritual strength of Hinduism. His detailed commentary about Gita is another great service to Vedanta philosophies. He had a very lengthy writing career helping Hinduism create its respected place on world map of religions. He belonged to Advaita (Non-dualism) school of Vedanta philosophy of Adi Shankaracharya.

      Radhakrishnan hierarchy of religions is well-known and his 'Hinduism' accepts all religious notions as facts and arranges them in the order of their more or less intrinsic significance. The worshippers of the Absolute are the highest in rank; second to them are the worshippers of the personal God; then come the worshippers of the incarnations like Rama, Krishna, Buddha; below them are those who worship ancestors, deities and sages, and the lowest of all are the worshippers of the petty forces and spirits. Later he got known for championing the cause of education and nationalism and went on to become first Vice President of free India.

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