Hinduism in Modern India

The following article is about some aspects of Hinduism in Modern India.

The establishment of British rule in India at the end of the 18th Century exposed India to all kinds of influences from the West: western liberalism and humanism, Christianity, scientific thought and technology. In the new avatar, Hinduism once again showed its diversity and its power to assimilate elements from other traditions according to the demand of the times while still retaining its own basic values and foundations.

Hinduism reacted to the Western influence in two distinctly divergent ways. There was a strong movement for reform in every nook and corner of India, led by the great reformer, Raja Ram Mohan Roy with a positive and welcoming approach to western thought, culture and practices. However, there was also a revivalist trend represented by Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of the Arya Samaj and others who felt that the grass was still much greener in the East than the West. They urged the Hindus to go back to the wisdom of the Vedic sages. They tried to inculcate the feeling of pride in ones tradition, culture and heritage. Surprisingly, the Theosophical Movement, which was introduced into India by the foreigners back-fired and opened doors to Indians for revivalism. In the 19th Century two very extraordinary men of immense character infused new vigour and vitality into Hinduism: Ramakrishna Paramahansa and his disciple Swami Vivekananda. Swami Vivekananda

Ramakrishna, in spite of no formal education, had immense knowledge of the best that Hinduism could offer. He showed by his personal example, that the ideas of unity, tolerance and universal love amounted to nothing in just books and speeches. They had to be strictly followed. Through poetic metaphors he brought the ancient wisdom of India into light. Vivekananda was a scholar, a man of strong convictions and a spiritual leader. He was committed and engrossed to revive the Hindu tradition yet ensure that the teachings had a modern outlook to them. He was the first to convey and carry the message of Hinduism and universal fraternity to Europe and America. The Ramakrishna Mission and the Vedanta Society, founded by Vivekananda, continue flourish in this Century amidst the IT parks and globalisation.

In the 20th Century, the finest propellers and mascots of Hinduism were Mahatma Gandhi and the poet, Rabindranath Tagore. Gandhi hailed himself as an orthodox Hindu- totally abstaining from flesh and liquor, but he believed firmly that the essential message of all religions is the same. He was inspired as much by the New Testament as by the Bhagavad Gita and he respected all religions and customs. His ancestors were Jains while his closest of friends were Muslims. Truth and Non-violence were his weapons only weapons in all aspects of life. While Gandhiji presented the moral aspect of Hinduism, Tagore focussed his attention on its creative and aesthetic achievements through his world class poems and stories. Tagore and Gandhi supplemented and complemented each other in every way. Together they expressed the deepest and simplest truths of the ancient Hindu tradition in the context of the modern age.

More articles: Hinduism religions in India


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