BRAHMO SOMAJ: A Hindu theistic society. Its aim is the monotheistic reform of the Hindu polytheistic religion. The founder, Rammohan Roy (b. 1774), of Brahman descent, through the study of the Koran and the Bible became estranged from his ancestral belief, and was attracted by Christianity, without, however, getting beyond a rationalistic pantheism. He endeavored to formulate a universal monotheism based upon various ancient scriptures. He denounced ethnic impurities, but maintained the institution of caste. In 1816 he gathered a small community at Calcutta, the Atmiya Sabha, of which he was the leader till his death, Sept. 28, 1833, at Bristol, England, where he acted as political agent.
The weakened reform party was strengthened in 1839 by the founding of the Tatwabodhini Sabha, whose leader was Babu Devendranath Tagore. He held aloof from Christian influences in the patriotic effort to restore (what he regarded as) the pure religion of the Vedas, but finally conceived a deistic system on the basis of reason, rejecting all scriptures. In 1862 the religious community was reorganized as the Adi Somaj. Meanwhile a follower named Dayanand Saraswati had turned again to the Vedas, which he regarded as teaching a purely theistic religion, and as anticipating also the results of modern culture. He founded the Arya Somaj, the adherents of which came afterward under spiritualistic influences. The two societies last named found a competitor in the adherents of Babu Keshav Chandra Sen (b. Nov. 19, 1838, at Calcutta), who, through European culture had become dissatisfied with the religion of his ancestors, and attempted to find rest in philosophy. But this brought no satisfaction to his religiously disposed mind. After much study of the Bible he came to a decision, and in 1858 joined the Adi Somaj. For a time he cooperated with Devendranath Tagore, but finally found himself at variance with this conservatively disposed leader, who did not approve his bold denunciation of the shameful practises of heathenism, and even of caste. After the rupture which naturally resulted, in 1863 he founded the Brahmo Somaj of India, which soon developed an activity that almost rivaled the Christian propaganda. He went to England in 1870, where he was much honored. Many Christian ideas tending to promote his cause were brought back by him to India, and the Brahmo Somaj found many adherents. But he grew more conservative and gradually drew away from Occidental influences. The representatives of progress separated and founded the Sadharan Brahmo Somaj. Only the less important members of the former community adhered to Chandra Sen, who lost himself more and more in a dark mysticism. Finally he appeared as the founder of a world-religion ("The New Dispensation"), as he claimed by divine command. For the new Church he prepared a ritual and teaching. Nevertheless, his success was not striking, though by his small circle of adherents he was almost worshiped. He died January 8, 1884. His successor, Babu Protap Chandra Mozumdar, had great difficulty in preventing the further disruption of the community, and little progress was made. In 1891 it numbered 3,051 members, mostly in Bengal.
The Arya Somaj had a larger success, developing especially in the United Provinces and the Punjab, numbering some 40,000 members. But few of the Brahmo Somaj have accepted Christianity. See INDIA, III, 1.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Sources: Indian Mirror, Calcutta, 1861-1880;
Sunday Mirror, ib.1880-82; The Liberal and the New
Dispensation, ib. 1881 sqq.; Theistic Annual, ib. 1872
sqq.; Theistic Quarterly Review, ib. 1879. Consult also:
Mary Carpenter, Last Days in England of Romohun Roy,
London, 1886; K. Chunder Sen, Brahmo Somaj, ib. 1870;
J. Hesse, Der Brahmo Somaj . . . , in Basler Missions
Magazin, 1876, pp. 385 sqq.; Kesavachandra, Brahmo
Somaj, Calcutta, 1883; F. Max Müller, in Biographical Essays,
London, 1884 (gives accounts of recent religious
movements); T. E. Slater, Keshab Chundra Sen and the
Brahma Samaj, Madras, 1884; P. C. Mozoomdar, Life and
Teachings of Chunder Sen, Calcutta, 1887; H. Baynes,
Evolution of Religious Thought in India, London, 1889 (a
full account); L. J. Frohmeyer, Neuere Reformbestrebungen
in Hinduismus, in Basler Missions Magazin, 1888, pp. 129
sqq.; The Offering of Devendranath Tagore, transl. by
M. M. Chatterji, Calcutta, 1889; Rammohun Roy, English
Works, 2 vols., London, 1888; Navakanta Chattopadhyaya,
Life and Character of Ram Mohun Roy, Dacca,
1890; C. N. Aitchison, The Brahmo Somaj, in Church
Missionary Intelligencer, 1893, pp. 161 sqq.
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