Debendranath Tagore, Keshub Chandra Sen and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar

Debendranath Tagore

Debendranath Tagore was a philosopher and religious reformer, active in the Brahmo Samaj, which purged the Hindu way of life of its abuses. Tagore’s writings were in his native Bengali. One of his books was translated into English and had wide influence: Vedantic Doctrines Vindicated. His Brahmo-Dharma, a commentary on the Sanskrit scriptures, is considered a masterpiece. Debendranath Tagore founded the Tattvabodhini Sabha to revive and carry on Ram Mohan’s ideas. It aimed at counteracting the rapid progress of Christianity in India and advocated the development of Vedantism.

Tattvabodhini Sabha put major emphasis on indigenous language and culture. Bengali texts in all subjects were published. A Tattvabodhini Press was established and in 1843 the Tattvabodhini Patrika, a journal of the organisation was started for the propagation of ideas. Debendranath Tagore became a Brahmo in 1843 and he reorganised the Brahmo Samaj in the same year.

Keshub Chandra Sen

Keshab Chandra Sen was a Bengali scholar, orator and religious leader. He tried to envision and establish a syncretic / synthetic religion with an amalgamation of the best principles of Christianity and Hinduism. Keshab gave new life to Brahmo Samaj introducing new ideas and activities in it during 1858 and 1862. Keshab started the Indian Mirror, an organ of the Brahmo Samaj, in 1861, through which he spread anti-sectarian, universal religious ideas. He introduced regular and systematic missionary work in the Samaj. After being appointed the Acharya (Preceptor) in 1862, he concentrated on the extension of missionary work on a voluntary basis. As the Acharya of the Samaj, Keshab insisted on giving up some Hindu customs and practices such as caste system, untouchability, child marriage, polygamy and became the champion of widow and inter-caste marriages. Under Keshab’s leadership many young Brahmos gave up the practice of wearing the paita (sacred thread). The first Brahmo widow and inter-caste marriages took place in August 1862 and 1864 respectively. Keshub stressed upon female emancipation and universalism. Women’s education was one of Keshab’s main themes. This became a vital part of the programme of Keshab-controlled Brahma Bandhu Sabha (1863). He also actively supported the educational efforts of the organisers of the Bamabodhini Sabha and Bamabodhini Patrika (both founded in 1863) and guided Bama Hitaisini Sabha (1871) to improve the moral and material condition of women. However, his Brahmo Samaj was against idol or image worship.

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was a great Sanskrit scholar who helped evolve a distinct modern prose style in Bengali. Vidyasagar became the principal of the Sanskrit College in 1851. He introduced the study of western thought in the Sanskrit College and opened its gates to non-Brahmin students. He wrote a Bengali primer and helped in the evolution of a distinct modern, prose style in Bengali. His main contribution was in female emancipation, particularly widow remarriage, which was legalised in 1856 due to his efforts. Under the supervision of Vidyasagar the first legal Hindu widow-marriage among the upper castes in India, was celebrated in 1856. Through 98? History of India his endeavours nearly 25 widow marriages were solemnised between 1855 and 1860 . He promoted the higher education of women for their general uplift. As Secretary to the Bethune School founded in Calcutta in 1849, he led the movement for women’s education. He also campaigned against the regressive practices of child-marriage and polygamy.

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