Wednesday, March 31, 2010

People’s history of the Punjab: Birth of revivalist movements

http://www.wichaar.com/news/319/ARTICLE/11139/2009-01-09.html

People's history of the Punjab: Birth of revivalist movements



 

 


Adjust Font Size  The Friday Times The Friday Times
 
 
 

Allama Muhammad Iqbal: his ideas remained embedded in a
 religious ethos

 
 
 

Mahatma Hans Raj led the Arya Samaj movement

 
 
 

Maulana Zafar Ali Khan: Muslim Punjab's religious ideologue

 
 
 

At the Round Table Conference held in London, 1930 (from left to right): Sardar Aurangzeb, A. K. Fazl-ul-Haq, Nawab Chhatari, Mian Muhammad Shafi, Sir Shah Muhammad Aga Khan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum and Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah

 
 
 

... The Punjabi Muslim masses looked outwards to Iran or Turkey for their salvation and got involved in Muslim revivalist movements. To some extent, this tradition recurs time and again because the Punjabi middle class is still in the process of maturing

 

The Punjab gave birth to many revivalist movements, principally Brahmo Samaj and Arya Samaj amongst Hindus, Singh Sabhas amongst Sikhs and the Khilafat movement amongst Muslims. More than pro-British Punjabi aristocrats, these reformist movements put into play the political dynamics of Lahore which had implications for the rest of the Punjab and pushed the province in the direction it ultimately went. From the Arya and Brahmo Samaj, Dayanand and Agnihotri were the most notable personages while Giani Ditt Singh was a prime mover of the Singh Sabhas and Muslim revivalist movements found their voice in Allama Mohammad Iqbal and Maulana Zafar Ali Khan.

Reformist movements were dominant amongst urban Hindus and Brahmo Samaj was the earliest formation. It was started by Raja Ram Mohan Roy in Bengal. He was influenced both by Islam – he was educated in a Madrassa – and Christianity and wanted to reform Hinduism of its casteism and polytheism. Brahmo Samaj doctrine preached one Supreme Being and rejected the concept of the infallibility of mystics, prophets and scriptures of every religion. They maintained that every person or scripture is temporal and open to revision.

The Brahmo Samaj was founded in Lahore in 1861 by Navin Chandra Roy. It was popular amongst the upper class, better educated segments of Hindus. The most prominent Brahmo Samaji in Punjab was the well-known educationist, Sardar Dayal Singh, who founded the college in Lahore named after him. The most intriguing Brahmo leader was Shiv Narayan Agnihotri, a brilliant engineering student who, after being introduced to Vedanta philosophy, left his education and joined the Government High School, Lahore, as a drawing teacher.

Pandit Agnihotri joined Lahore's Brahmo Samaj in 1873 and quickly became a major figure in the organization. He was a prolific writer of Urdu, Hindi and English. He became an honorary missionary in 1875 and eventually took a modified form of sanyas in 1882. As a full time practitioner of religion he left the post of drawing master but retained his married life. By 1886 after friction developed within the organization, he resigned from the Lahore Brahmo Samaj and established his own sect, Dev Samaj (Divine Society). He started deviating from Brahmo doctrines and its rationalist approach.

However, Pandit Agnihotri's continued to preach the lifting of caste restraints and he also said that there was no bar on intercaste marriages or shared dining. Pandit Agnihotri proposed a restructuring of the role of women and opposed child marriages: he proscribed that boys must be at least 20 and girls 16 at the time of the marriage. He also rejected excessive dowry or exclusion of women from any field of life. He made widows' marriage acceptable and married a widow himself. In his code of conduct honesty in public and private life was essential and bribery, lying, stealing, cheating, gambling, consumption of liquor and drugs, adultery and polygamy were absolutely prohibited. After Pandit Agnihotri's death, the Dev Samaj faded away.

Before the Brahmo Samaj movement could take hold in the Punjab, another reformist movement, Arya Samaj, made its way to the province. The founder of the movement, Swami Dayanand, a Gujrati, perfected his message in Lahore. He was also against casteism, rituals and idol worship. He preached strict monotheism, which he claimed was the essential message of the Vedas. His message found fertile soil among Punjabi Hindus of all classes. Arya Samaj was established in Lahore in 1877 and in due course most prominent Hindu political or business leaders, including Lala Lajpat Rai, were attached to the Arya Samaj in one way or another.

In Lahore, Mahatma Hans Raj was the major moving force behind the spread of the Arya Samaj movement. Dayanand Anglo-Vedic College, Lahore, and hundreds of other educational institutions established by the Arya Samaj were instrumental in preaching its gospel. Having been educated at these Arya Samaj educational institutions, most Punjabi Hindu professionals and businessmen adhered to its ideals. The Arya Samaj unequivocally condemned idolatry, animal sacrifice, ancestor worship, priest craft, the caste system, the sati or burning of widows, inequality of women, untouchability and child marriages, on the grounds that all these lacked Vedic sanction.

On the one hand Arya Samaj was a reformist movement, on the other it was very aggressive in preaching its doctrine, alienating other communities and ultimately creating unbridgeable hostilities. Its founder Dayanand and his followers preached that only the Vedas were divine scriptures and the holy books of other religions were invalid. Therefore, the only option for people of other religions was to convert to Hinduism if they wanted to achieve salvation. From this angle, the Arya Samaj was a precursor of contemporary Hindu extremists like the Rashtriya Sevak Sangh (RSS).

In the Punjab's political economy Arya Samaj represented the interests of Hindu urban middle classes versus the rural Muslim and Sikh peasantry. Muslim inhabitants of urban areas, though in a majority, were oppressed artisans and workers. Most probably, a clash of class interests led to irreconcilable socio-political contradictions and, ultimately, ended in a partition of the Punjab. Of course there were other geopolitical circumstances behind the partition but a fundamental reason was the uneven economic structure.

Sikhs who joined Arya Samaj had to leave it soon because Dayanand himself ridiculed the Sikh gurus. It is said that when Dayanand addressed a public rally in Lahore, the stage secretary was a Sikh, Giani Ditt Singh. But, when Dayanand ridiculed the Sikh scriptures, Giani Ditt Singh and other Sikhs left Arya Samaj and began to work on the process that culminated in the formation of the Singh Sabha.

Sikhism was being threatened from within and from without. The Mahants (Hindu priests) had taken over the holiest Sikh places and reintroduced Hindu practices that the Gurus had vehemently rejected. Casteism and idol worship had been brought back to Gurdwaras where they had been missing for decades. Idols were placed even in Amritsar's Golden Temple. The caste system and untouchability had so penetrated Sikh practices that a scholar like Giani Ditt Singh had to leave his Gurdwara when krah prasad (halwa) was going to be served.

The Sikh religion's degeneration into Hindu practices had started during Ranjit Singh's rule when many opportunistic influential families had converted to Sikhism. When Ranjit Singh died, seven women, two of his wives and five dasis, joined him on the funeral pyre and were burned to death. Thus, even sati had been brought back to Sikhism which was absolutely rejected by the Gurus. Therefore, the Singh Sabhas were formed to eliminate these degenerate Hindu influences and to rehabilitate the religion that the Gurus had preached.

Sikhs were also threatened by Christian missionaries. Many Sikhs were converting to Christianity and the situation was so bad that Giani Ditt Singh reported in his Khalsa newspaper that "An English newspaper writes that the Christian faith is making rapid progress and makes the prophecy that within the next twenty-five years, one-third of the Majha area will be Christian. The Malwa will follow suit…"

Interestingly enough Muslims did not need reformist movements like Hindus: Muslims got rid of Hindu social ills like sati and the banning of widow marriages by converting to Islam. Their main problems were related to the general backwardness caused by their economic deprivations and occupations as peasants, artisans or workers. Most of them had converted to Islam from lower castes but their economic status had not changed even during Muslim rule spanning some eight hundred years. Therefore, they were always oppressed by Muslim feudal and urban Hindu elites – Unionist Party of Punjab was a typical example of an alliance between Hindu elites and Muslim feudals – before and during (and perhaps even after) the British Raj. Muslim workers and artisans were never represented in government or businesses in a thousand years.

The absence of a large enlightened urban middle class among the Muslims of Punjab was one reasons they never found a way to address their fundamental problem of economic and social deprivation. Mian Muhammad Shafi and Nawab Fateh Ali Khan Qazilbash were leading Muslim aristocrats of Lahore. The former was well educated and enlightened while the latter was a traditionalist appendix of the British Raj. Mian Fazal-i-Hussain represented the liberal Muslims but he was not a people's representative. However, none of the established Muslim political figures was interested in or competent enough to address the issues facing the masses.

Allama Mohammad Iqbal, departing from feudal politics, preached uplift of the Muslim masses but his ideas were embedded in a religious ethos. He recognized and understood the dark forces (mullahs, pirs etc) enslaving the Punjabi Muslim mind but he could not find a solution other than reviving the original spirit of religion. Similarly, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, powerful writer and fiery speaker, fought polemical wars against anti-Muslim forces but he was not the kind of ideologue who could lead the oppressed Muslims of the Punjab. Therefore, the Punjabi Muslim masses looked outwards to Iran or Turkey for their salvation and got involved in Muslim revivalist movements. To some extent, this tradition still recurs time and again because the Punjabi middle class is still in the process of maturing.

Dr Manzur Ejaz taught at the Punjab University, Lahore, for many years and now lives in Virginia


Monday, March 01, 2010

Sitemap / local search pages of brahmo links (01-March-2010)

Brahmo Samaj

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Brahmo Samaj

Brahmo Samaj

Beliefs of the Brahmo Samaj (as rendered by Raj Narayan Bose - as President of the Adi Brahmo Samaj)

I. The Book of Nature and Intuition form the basis of the Brahmo faith.

II. Although Brahmos do not consider any book, written by man as the basis of our religion, yet we accept, with respect and pleasure, any truth contained in any book.

III. Brahmos believe that the religious condition of man, is progressive like the other parts of his condition in this world.

IV. Brahmos believe that the fundamental doctrines of Brahmoism are at the basis of every religion, followed by man.

V. Brahmos believe in the existence of One Supreme God� "a God, endowed with a distinct personality & moral attributes equal to His nature, and intelligence befitting the Governor of the Universe," and worship Him�Him alone. We do not believe in His incarnations.

VI. Brahmos believe in the immortality and progressive state of the Soul and declare that there is a "state of conscious existence succeeding life in this world, and suplementary to it, as respects the action of the universal moral government."

VII. Brahmos believe that love of Him, and performing the works He loveth, constitute His worship.

VIII. Brahmos believe that worhip of Him needs no fixed place or time. "We can adore Him at any time and at any place, provided that time and that place are calculated to compose and direct the mind towards Him."

IX. Brahmos do not perform any rites or ceremonies, or believe in penances, as instrumental in obtaining the grace of God. We declare that moral righteousness, the gaining of wisdom, Divine contemplation, charity and the cultivation of devotional feelings, are our rites and ceremonies. We further say, govern and regulate your feelings, discharge your duties to God and to man, and you will gain everlasting blessedness,purify jour heart, cultivate devotional feelings, and you will see Him who is Unseen.

X. Theoretically, there is no distinction of caste among Brahmos. We declare that we are all part of God, and, therefore, must consider ourselves as one.

(c) 2009 World Council of Brahmo Samaj


Monday, January 04, 2010

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Doctrine of Sadharan Brahmo Samaj

Doctrine of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj

1) Faith in a Supreme Being and in Existence after Death is natural to man;

2) We regard the relation between God and men to be direct and immediate;

3) We do not believe in the infallibility of any man or any scripture ;

4) 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;

5) We regard the belief in an individual being a way to salvation, or a link between God and Man, as an unworthy belief, and those who hold such belief as unworthy of the Brahmo name;

6) 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;

7) 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;

8) We consider love of God and doing the will of God as equally imperative in the routine of a Brahmo's life;

9) 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.

More information on Sadharan Brahmo Samaj

Doctrine

Doctrine of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj

1) Faith in a Supreme Being and in Existence after Death is natural to man;

2) We regard the relation between God and men to be direct and immediate;

3) We do not believe in the infallibility of any man or any scripture ;

4) 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;

5) We regard the belief in an individual being a way to salvation, or a link between God and Man, as an unworthy belief, and those who hold such belief as unworthy of the Brahmo name;

6) 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;

7) 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;

8) We consider love of God and doing the will of God as equally imperative in the routine of a Brahmo's life;

9) 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.

More information on Sadharan Brahmo Samaj


Friday, January 01, 2010

Essentials of Brahmoism

The philosophy of Brahmo Samaj is contained in the Brahmo Dharma written in 1848 by Debendranath Tagore.

"Brahmo Dharma, the only book of Brahmoism

What is the teachings of the Brahmo Dharma ?

The religious system unfolded in the Brahma Dharma is that of the Upanishads, with some infusion of modern ideas.

Examples of directions in Brahmo Dharma given to seekers after God :

To know Him, one should go to the spiritual teacher. To whom comes the pupil of entirely peaceful and well regulated mind, the knower of God, should communicate the particulars of divine knowledge by which is known the Being, undecaying, perfect, and true. He, who is wise, of regulated mind, and is always pure, attains that station after which one is not born again.

The lesser knowledge is the Rig-Yeda, the Yajur Yeda, the SamaVeda, the Atharva Yeda etc. The higher knowledge is that contemplation by which the Eternal is known.

Contemplate God through Om, and let welfare attend thee, as thou crossest the darkness of ignorance.

By means of Om, the knower of God obtaineth Him who is all-tranquil, without decay, without death, without fear, the all excellent. We contemplate the adorable power and glory of the Being divine, who brought forth the world. Silence, Silence, Silence !!!"

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Excellent website on Brahmoism

Excellent website on Brahmoism

Brahmo Samaj, Brahmoism
A Brahmo web resource devoted to History of the Brahmo Samaj and development of modern Brahmoism with reference to evolution of its main branches the Adi Brahmo Samaj and the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj.

Brahmo Samaj FAQ Frequently asked Questions
Q1. Is Brahmoism a religion or a philosophy? Can one adopt Brahmoism whilst retaining one's current faith.
Brahmoism is a religion. The philosophy behind Brahmoism is "Brahmo Dharma". Any person who believes that there is only one infinite "God" can "follow" Brahmoism by subscribing to membership of a "Brahmo Samaj" while retaining their own religion.

Brahmo Samaj Prime Principle
Simple Version
[On God:] There is always Infinite Singularity - immanent and transcendant Singular Author and Preserver of Existence - He who is manifest everywhere and in everything, in the fire and in the water, in the smallest plant to the mightiest oak.

Brahmo Samaj - The Articles of Faith
Brahmo Samaj embraces righteousness as the only way of life.
Brahmo Samaj embraces truth, knowledge, reason, free will and virtuous intuition (observation) as guides.

Brahmo Samaj - The Trust Deed of 1830
Trust Deed of ADI BRAHMO SAMAJ
THIS INDENTURE made the eighth-day of January, in the year of Christ one thousand eight hundred and thirty,
BETWEEN
DWARKANAUTH TAGORE of Jorasankoe in the Town of Calcutta Zumeendar,
KALEENAUTH ROY of Burranugar in the Zillah of Havelly in the suburbs of Calcutta aforesaid Zumeendar,

Brahmo Samaj, Brief History & Time Line
[1828 :] Raja Ram Mohun Roy establishes Brahma Sabha (assembly of Brahmins).
[1829 :] Asiatic Society admits the first Indian natives to its membership, the first of whom are Dwarkanath Tagore and Prasanna Coomar Tagore.
[1830 :] Dwarkanath Tagore, Prasanna Coomar Tagore and Ors. establish the first Brahmo Place for Worship through a legal Trust Deed at Chitpur (Jorasanko Kolkatta India). Ram Mohun departs for Britain.

Brahmo Samaj, True Brahmoism
1) Brahmoism is the highest form of Hinduism, and is so very different from what passes for Hinduism today that Brahmos consider themselves to be "beyond the pale of Hinduism" and a separate religion altogether.
2) A "True" Brahmo is either an adherent of Brahmoism to the exclusion of ll other religions, or a person with at least one Brahmo parent or guardian and who has never denied his faith.

Brahmo Samaj, Did God create matter?
God did not "create" matter, God is matter just as God is equally energy. God created the universe and all the worlds within. Before God there was nothing except Chaos which is still all-pervasive. God sprang from Chaos.

History of the Brahmo Samaj
In order to make the Brahmo Samaj a body of men believing in the One God and worshipping Him in truth and spirit only, Devendra Nath drew up a Brahmo convenant containing a number of vows enjoining the renunciation of idolatry, the worship of the One Only in the Vedanta and the practice of virtue. God as described Devendra Nath himself took the lead in being initiated into Brahmoism by Ram Chandra Vidyabagish by signing this Covenant in Dec. 1843 ; twenty of his friends followed him in this new and momentous departure, Thus was formed the nucleus of a Brahmo community; and by 1874 the number of covenanted Brahmos rose to 767.

The Brahmo Conference Organisation
(Sammilan) was founded on 27 January 1881 at Mymensingh in Bangladesh. It is the inter-faith organisation between the Brahmos of Adi Dharma and some from Sadharan Brahmo Samaj. The stated objectives for founding the organisation are to "achieve purity in Brahmoism" by

  • Resolving the differences between the 2 existing Brahmic divisions of Adiism and Sadharanism,
  • Preaching from every platform that the Nabobidhan (a dissenting sect - also known as "New Dispensation") is not the Brahmo religion but totally opposed to Brahmoism.


  • Adi Brahmo Samaj
    As left by Raja Ram Mohan Roy the Samaj was really nothing more than a mere platform, where men of various creeds met from time to time to listen to the hymns and sermons. By joining it nothing was lost, nothing incurred, nothing pledged. Indeed, there were not a few who would attend the service at the Samaj in the morning and worship idols at home in the evening, thus showing that they had never really grasped the meaning of spiritual devotion.
    Hence, in the year 1839, DebendraNath a started the Tattvabodhini Sabha, or Truth-teaching Society, and established various schools at different places, so that young men might be trained for national service in the Adi Brahmo Samaj and to propogate the spiritual researches of Raja Rammohun Roy.

    Brahmoism, Genetics and memetics
    Brahmoism, and information, is transmitted in at least 2 ways. Genetically or memetically. The human "genome" today has around 3 or 4 billion components (DNA / RNA etc pairs). It was the Tattwabodhini under young Master Hemendranath (founder of modern True Brahmoism) to whom were revealed the secrets of the human genome in about 1861. The power of this revelation transformed Brahmoism and also split it asunder and caused the Tattwabodhini (and its secrets) to go underground. Brahmanism is not an acquired trait, it is acquired genetically and reinforced memetically.

    Brahmo Samaj and Christianity
    This has reference to a remark made by one of the members of the group saying that Bangalore Samaj has fallen into the hands of property dealers and godless Christians like Global Christian Network. The fact is that Bangalore Brahmo Samaj had got itself registered under the Foreign Exchange Control Act way back in 1983 to receive a small contribution of Rs. 25,000/- (Rupees Twenty Five Thousand Only) from the Social Service Network of International Association for Religious Freedom. It is false to say that heavy donations were received from foreign Christian Aid Organizations to convert Schedule Caste in Karnataka to Christianity.

    Nature of "True Brahmoism
    "True Brahmos abhor any kind of image worship."
    "True Brahmos respect the 1830 Trust deed of the Samaj which forbids the admission of any graven work, painting, sculpture or image etc. into the premises"

    Adi Brahmo Samaj on caste
    Brahmos constitute a "clan". Being a minority, preservation of the distinctive identity of the clan is paramount. Caste within the clan is almost always patriachal, so a female Brahmo Brahmin who marries a Brahmo Kayasth becomes a Brahmo "Kayasth" . If somebody is admitted to the clan (say by Brahmo wedding, marriage or adoption) then equivalency of caste enters the picture to safeguard the clan.

    "True Brahmo" principles
    a) Declaring a firm belief in ONE GOD. The True Brahmo conception of "God" is quite different from most other religions which have a Supreme Creator who created everything. Brahmos do not worship "The Author and Preserver" as "God". For us there is only "the One without a Second" what we nowadays describe as "Singularity" - a point where the infinite folds back onto itself to generate "innumerable infinities" - being thereby both immanent *and* transcendant and where all laws of science breakdown.
    b) Declaring that one will abide by the Brahmo articles of faith.* These are not "blind faith" articles to be followed like a robut automaton. Brahmoism is now a very scientific religion, well grounded in doctrine after centuries of theological struggle against some of the world's largest religions. Our doctrine is the result of consensus of many ordinary people and a few brilliant individuals. We do not believe in revelations from God to be imposed by "Adesh" as "God's will" through his "chosen messengers.

    Salvation in Brahmo Samaj
    As is very well known Satyendranath Tagore was a close associate of Keshab and also a Freemason like Keshab. After Satyendranath sided with Keshub during the troubles of 1866 and Hemendranath took over from him, all neo-Christian, Unitarian and Masonic doctrines were exorcised from Brahmoism by Debendranath (and Hemendranath), as Sastri has recorded himself in his History.

    When Keshab founded Nababidhan, Satyendranath's composed hymns on salvation were adapted in the Vaisnav sankirtan manner as Sastri records at Page 222.

    "To grant salvation the merciful God has sent his new faith of Brahmoism. Lo ! the gates of salvation are wide open. He calls one and all, entrance through his gate is free ; no one ever returns disappointed; the rich and the poor, the wise and the ignorant, all are equally welcome there."

    Anusthanic Brahmos, Ananusthnic Brahmo Samaj
    In 1902, the Highest Appellate Court of the British Empire (ie, the Privy Council) confirmed the detailed 1899 finding by the High Court of the Punjab that "Anusthanic Brahmos are not Hindoos but the anAnusthanic Brahmo Samajists may very well be Hindoos".