Brahmo Samaj

Brahmo Samaj
a modern Hindu movement advocating a monotheistic religion based on the Upanishads, and social and educational reforms according to Western principles.
Also, Brahma Samaj.
[ < Bengali brahma samaj assembly of Brahma]

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Monotheistic movement within Hinduism, founded in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1828 by Ram Mohun Roy.

It rejected the authority of the Vedas and the doctrine of avatars, did not insist on belief in karma or rebirth, denounced polytheism and the caste system, and adopted some Christian practices. Roy's intention was to reform Hinduism from within, but his successor, Debendranath Tagore, rejected Vedic authority. In 1866 Keshab Chunder Sen organized the more radical Brahmo Samaj of India, which campaigned for the education of women and against child marriages. After Keshab nonetheless arranged a marriage for his underage daughter, a third group, Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, was formed in 1878. It gradually reverted to the teaching of the Upanishads but continued the work of social reform. The movement, always an elite group without significant popular following, lost force in the 20th century.

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Brahmo also spelled  Brahma 

      (Sanskrit: “Society of Brahmā”), quasi-Protestant, theistic movement within Hinduism, founded in Calcutta in 1828 by Ram Mohun Roy (Roy, Ram Mohun). The Brahmo Samaj does not accept the authority of the Vedas, has no faith in avatars (incarnations), and does not insist on belief in karma (causal effects of past deeds) or rebirth. It discards Hindu rituals and adopts some Christian practices in its worship. Influenced by Islām (Islāmic world) and Christianity, it denounces polytheism, idol worship, and the caste system. The society has had considerable success with its programs of social reform but has never had a significant popular following.

      Whereas Ram Mohun Roy wanted to reform Hinduism from within, his successor, Debendranath Tagore (Tagore, Debendranath), broke away in 1850 by repudiating Vedic authority and making reason and intuition the basis of Brahmanism. He tried, however, to retain some of the traditional Hindu customs, and a radical group led by Keshab Chunder Sen (q.v.) seceded and organized the Brahmo Samaj of India in 1866 (the older group became known as the Adi—i.e., original—Brahmo Samaj). The new branch became eclectic and cosmopolitan and was also most influential in the struggle for social reform. It sponsored the Band of Hope temperance society, encouraged the education of women, and campaigned for the remarriage of widows and for legislation to prevent child marriages. When Keshab arranged for his daughter to marry the Prince of Cooch Behār, both parties were well under age. He was thus violating his own reformist principles, and many of his followers rebelled, forming a third samāj, or “association,” the Sadharan (i.e., common) Brahmo Samaj, in 1878. The Sadharan Samaj gradually reverted to the teaching of the Upaniṣads and carried on the work of social reform. Although the movement lost force in the 20th century, its fundamental social tenets were accepted, at least in theory, by Hindu society.

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Universalium. 2010.

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