Sadharan Brahmo Samaj
History of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj
1833 Rammohun Roy passes to his heavenly abode on 27th September in Bristol
1839 Tattwabodhini Sabha, or truth-teaching society, started by Debendranath Tagore to discuss social and religious matters amongst bhadralok Bengalees.*
1843 Debendranath and 20 of his Tattawobodhini companions are formally initiated in the Brahmo Sabha by Ramchandra Vidyabagish on December 21, (7th Paush 1765 B.E.). Debendranath institutionalizes Rammohun's ideology of reformed Hinduism. Vedas venerated as a scriptural source of Hinduism. 4 Brahmin scholars are deputed to Benares to study the 4 Vedas as sources of religious authority. Their reports some years later disquiet Debendranath and Akshay Kumnar Dutta (his scribe and companion).
1850 Debendranath Tagore publishes the Brahmo Dharma in English (it had been previously privately published in Bengali in 1848). 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 to cause trouble for Brahmoism. He organises a Masonic Lodge called the Goodwill Society where AntiBrahmo Keshab Chandra Sen takes membership in 1856. The AntiBrahmo is the grandson of Rammohun's lifelong Hindu Sabha opponent Babu Ram Kamal Sen.
1857 AntiBrahmo Keshub Sen, joins the Calcutta Brahmo Samaj when Debendrnath 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 protege.
1859 Tattwabodhini Sabha disbanded after Pt. Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, its famous secularist reformer and secretary, resigns in protest against the AntiBrahmo Keshub's actions which Debendranath did not oppose publicly. Young Brahmo Master Hemendranath Tagore (third son of Debendranath and the "first Brahmo" as well as Dwarkanth Tagore's chosen heir) is annointed MahaAcharya by the outgoing Tattwabodhini Council with the approval of Debendranath. MahaAcaharya embarks on a lifelong Yogic quest under the Tattwabodhini masters.
1860 The AntiBrahmo Keshub establishes the Sangat Sabha which is the nest of all AntiBrahmo vipers. MahaAcharya Hemendranath Thakur finalises the "Brahmo Anusthan" or formal Code of Practice for True Brahmos. It is only revealed to the sacredotal Brahmins of Adi Brahmo Samaj against solemn oath.
1861 Debendranath's eldest daughter Sukumari married according to the new Brahmo Anusthan on 26th 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 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 Matters come to a head with the formal expulsion of Keshab Sen from the Adi Brahmo Samaj by MahaAcharya Hemendranath. However, both sides choose to keep this secret for strategic reasons.
1866 Creation of the Brahmo Samaj of India under Keshub at a meeting held in the house of the Calcutta College on 11th November. AntiBrahmo Keshab is appointed "Secretary for Life" and he decress that "God shall always be President of his Samaj". The Calcutta Samaj is now referred to as the Adi (or Original) Brahmo Samaj by the common people. MahaAcharya intiates 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 AntiBrahmno's 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 for fradulent use of the title Brahmo Samaj , Keshub renames his Church as "The Tabernacle of the New Dispensation" and consecrates his chapel on 22nd August 1870. Keshub visits England at the invitation of the British Crown to counter the Adi Brahmo Samaj's national religion campain. Keshab is granted a brief audience with the Queen-Empress who gives him an annuity of 300 pounds per year. The AntiBrahmo promply declares all his followers to be loyal to her Majesty's Sovereignty. In the same year a vigorous campaign is launched by the Adi Brahmo Samaj against the inter-caste mariages being organised by the AntiBrahmo's 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 folleowers 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 Narain Bose, in a lecture entitled "The Superiority of Hinduism".
1874 With the blessing of MahaAcharya, a 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)*
With acknowledgemnts to "Brahmo Samaj and the reform of Modern India (1979)" by David Kopf, "The History of the Adi Brahmo Samaj (1893-1897)" in 3 vols edited by Kshitendranath Tagore and "History of the Brahmo Samaj (1911) in 2 vols by Shibnath Sastri M.A. publ. Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, 211, Cornwallis Street Kolkatta.