The Indian intelligentsia played a crucial role in the socio-religious reforms that took place in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They were educated in Western schools and universities and were exposed to new ideas about social justice, equality, and religious freedom. They used their education and influence to challenge traditional religious beliefs and practices and to advocate for reforms that would improve the lives of women, lower castes, and other marginalized groups.
Some of the most important socio-religious reforms that were spearheaded by the Indian intelligentsia include:
- The abolition of sati, the practice of burning widows on their husband’s funeral pyre.
- The reform of Hindu marriage laws, which gave women more rights and freedoms.
- The establishment of schools and colleges for women, which gave them access to education.
- The promotion of widow remarriage, which allowed widows to remarry and start a new life.
- The fight against untouchability, the practice of discrimination against lower castes.
- The Indian intelligentsia’s efforts to reform Indian society were not always successful, but they did make a significant impact. They helped to create a more just and equitable society for all Indians, and they laid the foundation for the modern Indian nation.
Here are some of the key figures who played a role in the socio-religious reforms in India:
- Raja Rammohan Roy (1772-1833): A Bengali polymath, Roy was one of the most influential figures in the Indian Renaissance. He founded the Brahmo Samaj, a Hindu reform movement that advocated for social justice and religious tolerance.
- Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820-1891): A Bengali scholar and educator, Vidyasagar was a leading advocate for women’s education and widow remarriage. He also played a key role in the abolition of sati.
- Jyotirao Phule (1827-1890): A Marathi social reformer, Phule was a vocal critic of the Hindu caste system. He founded the Satyashodak Samaj, a social reform movement that advocated for the rights of lower castes.
- Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902): A Hindu monk, Vivekananda was a major figure in the Hindu Renaissance. He travelled to the United States and Europe, where he spoke about Hinduism and Indian culture. He also founded the Ramakrishna Mission, a Hindu monastic order.
- These are just a few of the many individuals who played a role in the socio-religious reforms in India. Their efforts helped to create a more just and equitable society for all Indians, and they laid the foundation for the modern Indian nation.
Role of Press
- The press played a crucial role in the Indian national movement between 1858 and 1919. It initiated socio-religious reform movements and contributed to the emergence of nationalism and the national movement. As the most effective mass media of the time, the press played a significant role in the formation and promotion of political organizations. In ancient times, news gathering was essential for administration, and the press had its origins in ancient spy and communication systems. The Indian press served as a vehicle of propaganda for radical ideas and contributed to the formation of reformist and nationalist ideologies. It facilitated debates on various social issues and political matters, including female infanticide, widowhood, child marriage, untouchability, and British rule’s negative aspects. Numerous newspapers, magazines, and journals emerged during the 18th and 19th centuries, especially in Bengal and Tamil Nadu, fostering socio-religious, politico-economic, and intellectual activities. The press also played a crucial role in economic awakening, challenging the colonial rule. It became a powerful weapon for Indian nationalists, particularly the youth, to unite people from different provinces for the national cause.
- The press served as a mass media platform for political organizations, facilitating the dissemination of common ideas and ideologies. During the first half of the 19th century, the press was still in its infancy in India, but the 1857 uprising highlighted the drawbacks of the East India Company’s rule and led to a revival of the press. It became more politically engaged, with newspapers devoting significant space to political issues. The emergence of the vernacular press was particularly significant, challenging the English press and producing a consensus of views on common issues. Organizations like the Bhama Samaj, Arya Samaj, Rama-Krishna Mission, and others had their papers, and many news societies and associations were established. The press had a causal relationship with the emerging public opinion and the awakening of the Indian intelligentsia, and it became interdependent with the people’s aspirations.
- The vernacular press faced numerous challenges, including financial constraints and the authorities’ hostile attitude. Editors lacked university degrees and had to work in other professions before entering journalism. Despite these difficulties, the vernacular press had a better understanding of society and became more responsive to public emotions and aspirations. The press played a significant role in the success of the boycott movements and non-cooperation movements led by Gandhi. However, the press’s attitude toward these movements was divided, with nationalist papers supporting them and others opposing them. The press also played a role in shaping public opinion during the Malabar Rebellion and the visit of the Prince of Wales. The relationship between the press and politics in India was mutual, with the press influencing political awakening and political consciousness while being affected by contemporary politics.
- The press not only reflected reactions but also facilitated the coalescence of these reactions into broad categories, enabling united political action. Political and quasi-political associations and societies would not have been viable without the effective mass media provided by the press. The press had a causal relationship with the Indian political development, and the Indian press and political scene had a mutually causal relationship.
- Moreover, the press brought socio-cultural and politico-economic transformation, not just in Tamil Nadu but also at the national and international levels. It served as a powerful mirror of society and an institution that reflected individuals’ viewpoints. The press played a vital role in founding the ideological foundation of modern Tamil Nadu and India. It allowed for the exchange of ideas, ideologies, and thoughts and facilitated the formulation of new phenomena. Overall, the press played a crucial role in shaping public opinion, fostering nationalist sentiment, and promoting socio-cultural and politico-economic transformation during the Indian national movement.