Indian society during the 17th and 18th century faced backwardness not only due to the practices like caste system, un-touchability, child marriage etc but also due to the apathy towards modern education as well as women empowerment. At a time when the western world was moving ahead in the vehicle of Industrial Development, the plight of Indians, particularly Indian women were deplorable.
Indian society during the period 1800-1950 AD saw many great leaders whom modern historians call as social reformers. The social reformers played a crucial part in shaping the present day Indian society by weeding out superstitions and evils present in the society as well as in the religions. Let’s have a quick look at the great leaders.
1. Raja Ram Mohan Roy
Raja Ram Mohan Roy was a scholar in many languages, and he learned the essence of all major religions of the world before attempting social and religious reforms. He started Brahma Samaj (1828) and is credited as the main force behind ending evils in the Indian society like Sati and child marriage.
The ideas of Raja Ram Mohan Roy was later carried forward by Devendra Nath Tagore ( Adi Brahma Samaj) and Kesab Chandra Sen (Brahma Samaj of India).
2. Swami Dayananda Saraswathi
Swami Dayananda Saraswathi started Arya Samaj. Suddhi movement – the conversion back to Hinduism – was an initiative under Arya Samaj. He was also the first person to use the term ” Swaraj”.
3. Swami Vivikananda
The name of Swami Vivekanda is an inspiration to modern youth. The famous disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, founded Ramakrishna mission. He through his famous Chicago speech in 1893 spread the ideas of Indian religious tolerance across the western world. He was against all social evils, but was not completely against idol worship. He succeeded in injecting the feeling of self respect among Indian youth.
4. Annie Besant
Annie Besant was the main force behind the Theosophical society in India. Theosophical society had worked for the revival of many religions including Hinduism.
5. Naoroji Furdonji and Dadabhai Naoroji
Leaders like Naoroji Furdonji, Dadabhai Naoroji and S.S.Bengalee were the pioners in Parsee relgious reforms. In 1851, the Rehnumai Mazdayasan Sabha or Religious Reform Association was started to modernize Parsee society.
6. Eshwara Chandra Vidya Sagar
Chamption of women rights.
7. Jyotiba Phule
He worked for the empowerment of lower castes of India. Jyotiba Phule started Satya Shodak Samaj.
8. Sayed Ahmed Khan
Stood for modern education among Muslims. Man behind Aligarh movement.
9. E.V. Ramaswamy
Also known as Periyar, E.V. Ramaswamy started Self- Respect Movement for uplifting the backward classes of Indian society. The movement was extremely influential not just in Tamil Nadu, but also overseas in countries with large Tamil populations, such as Malaysia and Singapore.
10. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar
Story of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar is highly inspiring. He stood for Dalit upliftment and founded organizations like Indian Labour Party and All India Depressed Classes Federation. He is rightly regarded as the Architect of Indian Constitution for his invaluable contributions as Drafting Committee Chairman and later as Law Minister.