By Swami Harshananda
During the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, country witnessed several religious revival and reform movements. Though generally rooted in the ancient value-system, they tried to give religion and society a modern look in consonance with the changing ethos brought about by the British conquest of the country and an invasion of Western culture.
One such movement of these times is the Prārthanā Samāj of Bombay (now Mumbai). Inspired by the visits of Keśavacandra Sen, Dr. Ātmārām Pāṇḍuraṅg started it in 1867. R. G. Bhaṇḍārkar and M. G. Rānaḍe were the main leaders of this movement.
Though inspired by the Brāhmo movement of Bengal, the Prārthanā Samāj did not go to the extent of alienating itself from the traditional religion and society. It remained more like a protestant movement within the boundaries of religion. Major reforms brought about by this Samāj are:
- Positive belief in the unity of God
- Great stress on the abandonment of caste
- Introduction of remarriage of widows
- Encouragement of female education
- Abolition of the purdah system
- Abolition of child marriage
It drew its inspiration largely from the scriptures and the songs of Marāṭhi mystical poets. The movement did not spread beyond the Mahārāṣṭra region and gradually faded out.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore