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Sadharan Brahmo Samaj

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Title: Sadharan Brahmo Samaj  
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Subject: Brahmo Samaj, Brahmo, Prafulla Chandra Ray, Brajendra Nath Seal, Keshub Chunder Sen, Indian National Association, Prasanna Kumar Roy, Ramananda Chatterjee, Sitanath Tattwabhushan, Rammohan College
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Sadharan Brahmo Samaj

The Sadharan Brahmo Samaj (Bengali: সাধারণ ব্রাহ্ম সমাজ, Shadharôn Brahmô Shômaj) is a religious division of Brahmoism formed as a result of 2 schisms in the Brahmo Samaj in 1866 and 1878 respectively.

The Brahmo Samaj

The Brahmo Samaj movement was started on 20 August 1828, by Raja Ram Mohun Roy and his friends by opening a place of public worship on the Chitpore Road in Calcutta, and was duly and publicly inaugurated in January 1830 by the consecration of the first house of prayer, now known as the Adi Brahmo Samaj with a manifesto, which forms a part of the trust-deed of the new faith.

Timeline for formation of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj [1]

1833 Rammohun Roy passes to his heavenly abode on 27 September in Bristol[2]

1839 Tattwabodhini Sabha, or truth-teaching society, founded on 6 October by Debendranath Tagore [3] to discuss social and religious matters amongst bhadralok Bengalis.

1843 Debendranath and 20 of his Tattawobodhini companions are formally initiated in the Brahmo Sabha by Ram Chandra Vidyabagish on December 21, (7th Paush 1765 B.E.).[4] Debendranath institutionalizes Rammohun's ideology of reformed Hinduism. Vedas venerated as a scriptural source of Hinduism.

1845 4 Brahmin scholars are deputed to Benares to study the 4 Vedas as sources of religious authority.[5] Their reports some years later disquiet Debendranath and Akshay Kumar Dutta (his scribe and companion).

1850 Debendranath Tagore publishes the Brahmo Dharma in English (it had been previously privately published in Bengali in 1848).[6] The Vedas are henceforth rejected as a religious authority, in favour of "the book of nature" and "man's virtuous intuition".

1855 Charles Dall, American Unitarian missionary arrives in Calcutta. In this year he forms the "British Indian Association". Keshab Chandra Sen joins as the Secretary to the Association.[7] Sen is the grandson of Rammohun's lifelong Hindu Sabha opponent Babu Ram Kamal Sen.

1856 Sen organises a secret society called the "Goodwill Fraternity".[8]

1857 Keshub Sen, joins the Calcutta Brahmo Samaj when Debendranath is away meditating in the Himalayas. On his return, Debendranath instructs Dall never to enter the Brahmo Samaj or speak the name of Jesus Christ in his presence. A vengeful Dall forms the "Friends of Rammohun Society" to counter Debendranath's command over the Brahmo movement – Keshab Sen is his hand picked protégé.

1859 Tattwabodhini Sabha disbanded after Pt. Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, its famous secularist reformer and secretary, resigns in protest against the Keshub's actions which Debendranath did not oppose publicly. Young Brahmo Master Hemendranath Tagore (third son of Debendranath) is anointed MahaAcharya by the outgoing Tattwabodhini Council with the approval of Debendranath.

1860 Keshub Sen establishes the Sangat Sabha which is the centre for AntiBrahmo activity.[9] MahaAcharya Hemendranath Thakur finalises the "Brahmo Anusthan" or formal Code of Practice for True Brahmos. It is only revealed to the sacerdotal Brahmins of Adi Brahmo Samaj against solemn oath.

1861 Debendranath's eldest daughter Sukumari married according to the new Brahmo Anusthan on 26 July. In the same year the marriages of 3 other Brahmos of Brahmin caste take place by the new Anusthan. The Sangat Sabha mounts a virulent campaign against the new Anusthan. A fortnightly publication titled The Indian Mirror is established at the Adi Samaj.*

1862 Considerable tension simmers between the Brahmin Tattwabodhities under MahaAcharya and followers of the AntiBrahmo. To effect reconciliation on 13 April Debendranath grants Keshub Chandra Sen a Ministryship as Acharya Brahmanand under the MahaAcharya. An uneasy stalemate continues for the next 3 years.

1863 MahaAcharya now turns to North India and Upper India for expansion. The Brahmo Samaj is founded at Lahore in February by MahaAcharya's lieutenant Pandit Nobin Chandra Roy. The next month the Calcutta Brahma Sabha is renamed as the Calcutta Brahmo Samaj.

1865 Dissensions come to the boil with the formal expulsion of Keshab Sen from the Adi Brahmo Samaj by MahaAcharya Hemendranath.

1866 Creation of the Brahmo Samaj of India under Keshub at a meeting held in the house of the Calcutta College on 11 November. The Calcutta Samaj is now referred to as the Adi (or Original) Brahmo Samaj by the common people. MahaAcharya initiates legal action for all titles to the Brahmo heritage, his followers are referred to as "True Brahmos".

1867 Bijoy Krishna Goswami is expelled from Adi Brahmo Samaj. He persuades Keshub to use Vaishnavism and 'sankirtan' (community chanting) in services of his Church. By now the Adi Brahmo Samaj is increasingly outspoken against the British Crown, and equates Brahmoism with Nationalism and as the True Hindutvata (Indian-ness). The Hindu Mela – a powerful Swadeshi movement is initiated by the Tagore family, it is opened by a hymn composed for the occcasion by MahaAcharya.

1869 Under legal threat from MahaAcharya Hemendranath for using the name Brahmo Samaj, Keshub renames his Church as "The Tabernacle of the New Dispensation" and consecrates his chapel on 22 August 1870. Keshub visits England at the invitation of the British Crown to counter the Adi Brahmo Samaj's national religion campaign. Keshab is granted a brief audience with the Queen-Empress who gives him an annuity of 300 pounds per year. Keshub declares his loyalty to her Majesty's Sovereignty. In the same year a vigorous campaign is launched by the Adi Brahmo Samaj against the inter-caste marriages being organised by the breakaway faction. Keshab seeks the legal opinion of Sir Henry Maine (Legal Member of the Viceroy's Council) and is dismayed to learn that marriages conducted by his followers have no validity in law.

1872 The Adi Brahmo Samaj ensures the passage of the Special Marriages Act (Act III of 1872) which forces Keshab's followers to declare that they are "neither Hindoo, nor Mussalman nor Christian". The new doctrine of Hindu nationalism is forcefully articulated before orthodox Hindu leaders of Calcutta by Adi Brahmo Samaj President Raj Narayan Bose, in a lecture entitled "The Superiority of Hinduism".

1874 With the blessing of MahaAcharya, the liberal faction within New Dispensation organizes the Samadarshi party to counter Keshab's growing dictatorial tendencies. Keshub abandons Unitarian gospel of social reform. He and his disciples begin a series of bizarre enactments known as "Pilgrimages to the Saints" which afford considerable amusement to his detractors".

1876 Members of the Samadarshi party constitute the Indian Association in support of the moderate nationalist ideology of Surendranath Banerjee. The movement leads a decade later to the formation of the Indian National Congress.

1878 Marriage of Keshub's eldest daughter, Suniti, to the Maharaja of Cooch Behar, Prince Nripendra Narayan, in violation of the Brahmo Marriage Act of 1872, becomes the cause of action for the First Schism in the New Dispensation. Samadarshi party returns to its Brahmo roots and reconstitutes itself as the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj or the (General Body of the Brahmo Samaj)

Sadharan Trust Deed of 1880

The intrinsic Primary ('Adi') Principles for Brahmo Assembly and Worship are reiterated by the next Deed of Trust of 1880 executed by Babu Sib Chunder Deb for the present Sadharan Brahmo Samaj premises situated at 211 Cornwallis Street, Kolkata.

Original Doctrine & Principles of Sadharan Brahmo Samaj

  • that faith in a Supreme Being and in Existence after Death is natural to man ;
  • that we regard the relation between God and men to be direct and immediate ;
  • that we do not believe in the infallibility of any man or any scripture ;
  • whatever book contains truths calculated to ennoble the soul or elevate the character is a Brahmo's scripture, and whoever teaches such truths is his teacher and guide.
  • We regard the fourfold culture of man's intellect, conscience, affections, and devotion as equally important and equally necessary for his salvation.
  • We consider love of God and doing the will of God as equally imperative in the routine of a Brahmo's life.
  • We regard the culture of faith at the sacrifice of reason, or the culture of reason at the sacrifice of faith as equally defective, and as fruitful sources of evil in the religious world.
  • We regard the worship of one God as the highest of a Brahmo's duties and as the best of means to improve the soul and the neglect of it as a way to spiritual death.
  • We look upon the enjoyment of uncontrolled authority by a single individual in any religious community as a calamity, and far from looking upon freedom of thought as reprehensible, we consider it to be desirable, and regard it as a safe-guard against corruption and degeneracy.
  • We regard the belief in an individual being a way to salvation, or a link between God and Man, as a belief unworthy of a Theist, and those who hold such belief as unworthy of the Brahmo name.
  • We consider it to be blasphemy and an insult to the Majesty of Heaven to claim Divine inspiration for any act opposed to the dictates of reason, truth, and morality.

Aims of the Sadharan Samaj

From this day we intend devoting ourselves to the propagation of Brahmoism and to the furtherance of the interests of our Church, apart from some of those with whom we have so long acted, but relying for aid and support on Him in whose hands are the destinies of man who supports every noble purpose, and has all along invisibly regulated the course of our Church who, in His inscrutable ways, has given strength when our Church languished from very feebleness, has vouchsafed life when her very vitality seemed ebbing away, and who has led her out from the darkness and superstition that eclipsed her face. May He enable us to discharge this sacred mission may He once more fill all the members of our Church with new life and resuscitated energy may He cause the day of hope to dawn upon the darkness of despair may He lead us out of the regions of discord and disunion into those of peace and tranquillity may He bless our cause and lead the millions of our countrymen into truth and salvation.

Footnotes and References

  1. The Sadharan Brahmo Samaj = The General Community of Worshippers of the One God.
  2. The movement was originally known as the Brahma Sabha (or Assembly of Brahman).
  3. A new premises at Chitpore (Jorasankoe) arranged by Dwarkanath Tagore.
  4. The appellation Brahmo Samaj (or Community of Brahman) was introduced in 1843 by Maharshi Devendra.Nath.Thakur for the Calcutta Brahmo Samaj. The First Brahmo Schism of 1866 engendered the 2 modern branches of Brahmoism viz. "Adi Brahmo Samaj" and "Sadharan Brahmo Samaj" (previously the general body of erstwhile Brahmo Samaj of India) .


External links

  • The Sadharan Brahmo Samaj
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