Press "Enter" to skip to content

Editorial – August 2019

The month of August is important in the history of our country. The passion of Freedom in British India was kindled in the Quit India movement in 1942. On 8th of August Mahtama Gandhi delivered his address at the Bombay session of Congress and called for “do or die” for the country. This request was followed by a massive proportion of the population. On 12th August, Congress led the Quit India Movement to demand the British to leave India and transfer the political power to a representative government.

Couple of years back, on 8th August 1940, a statement was made by Viceroy Lord Linlithgow about the expansion of the Governor-General’s Executive Council and the establishment of a War Advisory Council. This was known as the August Offer, included giving full weight to minority opinions and allowing Indians to draft their own constitution. This was the demand of the Congress and C. Rajagopalachari voiced the demand for a Constituent Assembly based on adult franchise.

India finally achieved its Independence on 15th August and on 29th August of the same year a drafting Committee was appointed with Dr. B. R. Ambedkar as the Chairman.

But not all is happy and rosy – how can we forget the nuclear holocaust when one nation perished in the hands of others – 6th August is known as Hiroshima Day and 9th August as Nagasaki Day. This is in remembrance of the horrific incidents in 1945, when United States detonated two nuclear weapons over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing 129,000 and 226,000 people, which remains the only use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict.

If one looks at the meaning of the word “August” – it is shown as revered, honourable or grand. As for us the month is indeed honourable for us. Let us look back 191 years ago. The place is Kolkata and the day Sunday. Raja Rammohun Roy is returning from his usual Sunday discourse at the Unitarian Committee accompanied by Tarachand Chakraborty and Chandrasekhar Deb, when one said that why do we need to go to the worship place of others – why can’t we have a Samaj of our own. Rammohun endorsed that idea and on 20th August 1828 – the first Brahmo Samaj – a place for public worship was set up in the house of Kamal Bose in Chitpore in North Kolkata. Sivnath Sastri writes in the History of the Brahmo Samaj – “It was the first of its kind in the history of the country. Amongst the myriads of temples scattered over the land, which bore testimony to the great piety of the Hindu race, there was none that was dedicated to such a purpose. To open a place of worship where there was no image of a god or goddess was in itself a revolution, the importance and significance of which can be realised only by those who have some knowledge of the general degeneracy of the times.”

The Unitarian Association was set up in a rented room of Bengal Harkara newspaper of which Mr William Adam was the editor. Rammohun & his friends used to join the service each Sunday. When Tarachanad & Chandrasekhar complained what was the necessity of attending a Unitarian place of worship, in the absence of one entirely suited to their views and principles – Rammohun immediately took this into his heart. Sivanth Sastri continues to write “Ram Mohun Roy took this complaint to heart and forthwith proceeded to call a meeting of his friends, at which it was decided to open a place for the unsectarian worship of the One True God. Many of his rich friends came forward to meet the expenses, and a house, ever since known in Brahmo history as the memorable Feringhee Kamal Bose’s house, was rented to accommodate the first theistic congregation. Here on the 6th of Bhadra, corresponding to the 20th of August, 1828, the first Samaj was opened with Tarachand Chakravarti as its Secretary. Meetings of the Samaj were held every Saturday evening and the following order of service was observed : Two Telugu Brahmins used to recite the Vedas in a side-room, screened from the view of the congregation, where non-Brahmins would not be admitted ; Utsavananda Vidyabagish would read texts of the Upanishads, which were afterwards explained in Bengali by Pandit Ram Chandra Vidyabagish; thirdly, a sermon would be preached or read by Ram Chandra Vidyabagish, followed by the singing of Govinda Mala.”

This church or temple was called as the “Brahma Sabha” by the common people. However this “One God society” roused the enmity of the orthodox Hindus. The formed an association termed as the “Dharma Sabha” and went hammer and tongs against Rammohun and his followers. Dharma Sabha received patronage from the Rajas of Sovabazar – Radhakanta Deb & Gopimohan Deb. The entire society of Bengal got divided into two camps – which were termed as “Sheetal Sabha” – the ones with intellect and who used their judgement and common sense and logic to accept any social norms and practice and “Gurum Sabha” – the ones who continuously yelled at doomsday approaching and the entire society going downhill. Sivnath goes on to say “The “Dharma Sabha” began to use as its organ the , Samachar Chandrika, which daily poured abuse on the reforming party, to which the latter retorted in the Kaumudi with equal energy, The common people became participators in this great conflict ; for the tracts of the reformers, mostly written in the simplest Bengali appealed to them as much as to the enlightened classes. In the bathing ghats at the river side, in marketplaces, in public squares, in the drawing-rooms of influential citizens, everywhere the rivalry between the two associations became the subject of talk. Lines of comical poetry, caricaturing the principles of the great reformer, were composed by the wags of the time and passed from mouth to mouth, till the streets rang with laughter and ridicule. The agitation spread from Calcutta to the interior, and everywhere the question was discussed between the two parties. A large number of Brahmins who had accepted presents from the members of the ” Brahma Sabha ” on the occasion of the consecration ceremony, were excommunicated by the other party on that account, and the duty of supporting them devolved upon the rich amongst Rammohun Roy’s friends, who cheerfully undertook it. Prominent amongst the Raja’s co-adjutors at this time were Babus Dwarka Nath Tagore of Jorasanko, Kali Nath Munshi of Taki, and Mathuranath Mullick of Howrah. They bore the principal part of the expenses and formed a sort of Samaj triumvirate, as it were, pledging themselves to carry on the Samaj work after the Raja’s departure for England.”

A few years down the line in the history of the Brahmo Samaj – we find Keshub Chandra Sen and Devendranath Tagore spearheading the Brahmo movement in all parts of the country. In August 1861 – the Indian Mirror was started as the English mouthpiece of the Brahmo Samaj, Tattwabodhini Patrika remaining the Bengali one. The initial funds to set this up was provided by Devendranath himself, who was also the managing editor. Manomohan Ghosh and Captain Palmer were the regular contributors to the Mirror.

On 2nd August 1864 – an intermarriage took place between members of different castes. This marriage was performed as per the Brahmo rites and was also a case of widow remarriage – and this was looked upon as a great revolution.

However, after the event of 1828, when the Brahmo Samaj was established – the next greatest event that happened in the month of August was on 22nd August 1869 – when Keshub Chandra Sen laid the foundation of the Navavidhan Brahmo Samaj or the Bharatvarshiya Brahma Mandir. There he proclaimed “Today, by Divine Grace, the public worship of God is instituted in these premises for the use of the Brahmo community. Every day, at least every week, the Only God without a second, the Perfect and Infinite, the Creator of all, Omnipresent, Almighty, All-Knowing, All-Merciful, and All-Holy shall be worshipped in these premises. No created object shall be worshipped. here, no man or inferior being or material object shall be worshipped here, as identical with God or like unto God or as an incarnation of God; and no prayer or hymn shall be offered or chanted in the name of any except God. No carved or painted image, no external symbol which has been or may hereafter be used by any sect for the purpose of worship, or the remembrance of any particular event shall be preserved here. No creature shall be sacrificed here; neither eating nor drinking nor any manner of mirth or amusement shall be allowed here. No created being or object that has been or may hereafter be worshipped by any sect shall be ridiculed or condemned in the course of the Divine Service to be conducted here. No book shall be acknowledged or revered as the infallible work of God ; yet no book which has been or may hereafter be acknowledged by any sect to be infallible shall be ridiculed or condemned. No sect shall be vilified, ridiculed or hated. No prayer, hymn, sermon or discourse to be delivered or used here shall countenance or encourage any manner of idolatry, sectarianism or sin. Divine service shall be conducted here in such a spirit or manner as may enable all men and women, irrespective of distinction of caste and colour and condition, to unite in one family, eschew all manner of error and sin and advance in wisdom, faith and righteousness. The congregation of the Brahmo Mandir of India shall worship God in these premises according to the rules and principles hereinbefore set forth.” In that way Keshub followed the principles of the Trust Deed of the Brahmo Samaj as laid down by Rammohun.

We have come a long way after that and our actions has reduced to celebrating these great events and reliving in the past. But we have miles to go before we sleep. Looking at the present state of the country we can see a strange dichotomy – with science and technology taking quantum leaps there are instances of pulling it back to the medieval times. Religion has now become a word that does not bring in reverence but causes a divide between those that practice. We seem to have built walls of hatred between religious communities. Our constitution is blessed with Articles 25 to 28 that allow any person in this country religious freedom and ensures a secular state in India. Brahmo Samaj stands tall among these as it has a Trust Deed that is wholly universal and does not speak ill of any religion. We are fortunate that we had the Universal Man – Rammohun as our pioneer and who laid down the principles of the worship of the One, True, Immutable Being – who is formless and resides in our Hearts. Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade writes in1902 – “He did not regard Brahmo Samaj faith as a New Dispensation, or a new declaration of God’s purposes. He aspired only to establish harmony between men’s accepted faith and their practical observances by a strict monolatrous worship of the One Supreme Soul, a worship of the heart and not of the hands, a sacrifice of the self and not of the possessions of the self. There was nothing foreign in his conception, origin or method. He wanted men and women to cherish their own ancient treasures of faith, and to secure their freedom from the bondage of superstition and ignorance.”

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!