As the forerunners of Indian modernization, the community of Bengali intellectuals known as the Brahmo Samaj played a crucial role in the genesis and development of every major religious, social, and political movement in India from 1820 to 1930. David Kopf launches a comprehensive generation- to-generation study of this group in order to understand the ideological foundations of the modern Indian mind. His book constitutes not only a biographical and a sociological study of the Brahmo Samaj, but also an intellectual history of modern India that ranges from the Unitarian social gospel of Rammohun Roy to Rabindranath Tagore’s universal humanism and Jessie Bose’s scientism.
From a variety of biographical sources, many of them in Bengali and never before used in research, the author makes available much valuable information. In his analysis of the interplay between the ideas, the consciousness, and the lives of these early rebels against the Hindu tradition, Professor Kopf reveals the subtle and intricate problems and issues that gradually shaped contemporary Indian consciousness. What emerges from this group portrait is a legacy of innovation and reform that introduced a rationalist tradition of thought, liberal political consciousness, and Indian nationalism, in addition to changing theology and ritual, marriage laws and customs, and the status of women.
Originally published in 1979.
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