On this special day let us remember those great men who had a direct impact on the spread of Brahmoism in the Bhowanipur area. In the month of June, 1852, a number of inﬂuential men assembled at the house of the late Sambhunath Pandit and established an Association under the name of Jnan Prakasika Sabha, or “Truth Revealing Society”, whose object it was to promote the spiritual enlightenment of its members. Sambhunath Pandit himself became its President. Babu Annadaprasad Banerji, was the Vice President and Bahu Harischandra Mukerji of the Hindoo Patriot fame, its Secretary. They were joined by Kashishwar Mitra, a member oi the Adi Brahma Samaj and a friend of Devendranath.
In the first anniversary of the Society held in 1853, it was duly and formally installed as the Bhowanipur Brahmo Samaj. Maharshi Devendrainath was unceasing in his interest and encouragement; the services of regular preachers were lent from the Calcutta Samaj and within a year or two, a house of prayer was built up and consecrated for the weekly gatherings. Soon, a society, like the Tattwabodhini Sabha of Calcutta, called the Satya Jnan Sancharini Sabha or the “True-knowledge spreading society” was also established, where many members of the Samaj along with many other young men of the town, used to meet for the reading of papers and for carrying on discussions on religious subjects. A large number of papers were read in connection with this Society during the period from 1853 to 1861.
Next we had the Keshub era in the Brahmo Samaj. From 1861, the Samaj showed signs of new activity. Srinath Banerji, now earnestly took up the work of the Samaj as its Secretary and carried it on with persistent energy. The Bhowanipur Samaj soon became the ﬁeld of operation of the new spirit. The two leaders, Devendranath Tagore and Keshub Chunder Sen, combined in opening something like a branch of the Calcutta Brahmo School at Bhowanipur. Sometime alone, at other times accompanied by his able assistant Ayodhyanath Pakrashi, Devendranath would regularly attend the classes of the school and deliver lectures to the assembled students of the Brahmo School, many of whom belonged to some of the rich and inﬂuential families of that place. Keshub Chandra too delivered some of his able lectures here, notably that On the Destiny of Human Life. The students were also regularly examined, as in Calcutta, and certiﬁcates were granted to them.
One of the most famous Acharyas of the Samaj was Ayodhyatiath Pakrashi, who also composed many devotional hymns of Brahmasangeet. One of his most famous songs is “Mono chalo nijo niketone”. It is said that Swami Vivekananda (at that time Narendra Dutta) sang this song in front Ramakrishna Paramhansa, which resulted in the sage to go into a trance or Samadhi. In this Samaj men like Rameshchandra Mitra, who was subsequently made a Judge of the Calcutta, was initiated into Brahmoism.
After the schism of 1868 we find Srinath Banerjee and Becharam Chatterjee devote their efforts for the upkeep of the Samaj. Srinath Banerjee at the age of eighty – eight carried on as the Secretary of the Samaj with the aid of Becharam Chatterjee, a well-known preacher of the Adi Brahmo Samaj. Becharam was born at Behala, a few miles south-west of Calcutta. He was trained as a Sanskrit scholar, and found employment as a teacher in a school in the Howrah district, where he came to know the Brahmo Samaj and was drawn into it. Maharshi Deverndranarh soon discovered his spiritual gifts and his abilities as a speaker, and appointed him as one of the preachers of the Adi Samaj. By his energy and enthusiasm, he not only kept up the work of the Adi Brahmo Samaj, but also kept going the work of the Bhowanipur Samaj, and also of the one he had established in his native village Behala. He was very steadfast in the performance of his duties. No rain or storm could keep him away from coming to the pulpit of the Adi Samaj on the appointed days.
He would come to attend these services from his native village in a miserable hackney carriage. which at times exposed him to serious inconveniences. His attendance at the Bhowanipur service was equally faithful. When others lost heart and became despondent, he was ever buoyant and ever cheerful. At times he had to preach to empty benches. yet he was not discouraged. Needless to say without the earnestness and the persevering energy of Srinath Banerji, the Bhowanipur branch of the Adi Samaj would have been extinct long ago.
Those who left the Samaj because of the schism gathered at the house of Pandit Sivnath Sastri where he was residing in Bhowanipur as the Headmaster of the South Suburban School in 1874. A Samaj of the progressive type was started in his house under the name of the South Suburban Brahmo Samaj and a large number of young men began to attend its services. Prominent among them was Kedarnath Roy, who took up the services of the Samaj as minister. At the same time a group of young men. most of whom were students, started a little Samaj of their own in a remote corner of the town. They were all progressives and followers of Keshub Chandra Sen. The two progressive Samajes were working for some time side by side. without any conﬂict. They would attend each other’s services on social occasions, and at times come together for holding garden parties.
The Calcutta Congregation of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, at the suggestion Dr. P. K. Ray, its Secretary. passed a resolution in 1892, asking Pt. Sivnath Sastri, to open something like a branch of the Calcutta Congregation at Bhowanipur, for supplying spiritual ministration to members of the congregation living there. So now we had three Samajes in Bhowanipur. Though this Samaj was started in the drawing room of Mr. D. M. Das, it was transferred to other places afterwards. The three Samajes had a message of Unity among them – and their goal was one – to spread the gospel of Emevaditiyam. In course of time the three Samajes united into one Samaj called the Brahmo Sammilan Samaj or the Samaj for Brahmo Union. The services are conducted on the union principle, i.e., both the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj and the New Dispensation preachers are invited to occupy the pulpit.
However, some members of the old South Suburban Samaj did not like the manner in which that union was effected and they kept up weekly prayer meetings of their own under the old name. Sitikantha Mallick. a leading ﬁgure amongst the early secessionists from the Bhowanipur Adi Samaj after the ﬁrst schism, who had also a hand in the formation of the South Suburban Samaj of 1874, united himself with the Bhowanipur Adi Brahmo Samaj and is tried to reorganize its work on broader lines by inviting preachers of the progressive sections also to the pulpit of that Samaj.
The four pillars of the Brahmo Sammilan Samaj were Chandicharan Sen, Ram Brahma Sanyal, K N Roy and Ambika Charan Sen. Ram Brahma Sanyal was the Chief Superintendent of the Alipore Zoo.
All these personalities were servants of the Brahmo Samaj. Brahmo religion is a progressive religion Its origin was to stop the religious dogmas, unnecessary social customs and taboos that plagued the society. Its main cause is to bring about an universal religion and launch a pure and spiritual religion in the human society. Its main mantra is Universal Brotherhood and Service to God. So we must crusade against the existing social evils and the fight against the communal forces is inevitable.
An important aspect in the Brahmo movement is the inclusiveness in the concept of religion. In today’s India, we see a huge deficiency in this area. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and Christians, they have created communal divide amongst themselves – and this has come down from time immemorial. But for the sake of ethnic harmony and the need for unity between mankind, they need inclusiveness, love and sympathy. The most notable of the thoughts of Keshab Chandra is his coordination or religion of harmony, which he preached in 1880 as the name of Nava Bidhan. The purpose of the new dispensation was to synthesize the different religions of Hinduism, Islam, Sikh, Buddhism & Christianity together and become a collective religion or synthesis.
Rammohun wrote in his book Tuhfat-Ul-Muwahhiddin or “The Gift to the Deists” which was written when he was 16 or 17 years old. He says that he had studied the scriptures of the Hindus, Muslims, Christians and also other religions and found that it was God alone who was the Only One to be worshipped – there is an universal agreement on this part, the dispute is in the way and ideals.
In his book he has divided people in four different classes. He writes – “In short individuals of mankind with reference to who are deceivers and those who are deceived and those who are not either, amount to four classes. Firstly – A class of deceivers who in order to attract people to themselves willfully invent doctrines of creeds and faith and put the people into troubles and cause disunion among them. Secondly – a class of deceived people, who without inquiring into the fact, adhere to others. Thirdly – A class of people who are deceivers and also deceived, they are those who having themselves faith in the sayings of another induce others to adhere to his doctrines. Fourthly – Those who by the help of Almighty God are neither deceivers nor deceived.”
Today our country is in a crisis. We must come forward. All religions never dispute in the worship of God, but leaving aside the worship we are once again emphasizing on the rituals and ceremonies. We are turning towards hating the other religious communities.
I end quoting from some religious texts.
Bishnupuran – Let your mind be fixed on Him – day and night. Who is present in all beings and you shall overcome all trouble.
Brihadaranyak Upanishad – May you have union with Him that resides in the heart of all beings and may you have friendship with all. In that way you will overcome all sorrows.
Japuji (Sikh) – That is the true path where all paths have met. Conquer your mind and you will conquer the world. Bow to Him again and again. He is the beginning, He is the end, He is without beginning, without break, He is the same through different ages.
Bible – Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
So it is evident that we seek synthesis amongst religions. Let us join in praise of the Lord in the Jaina text and say – Let there be peace in the whole world, and let everyone exert the well-being of the other. Let the evil disappear. Let everybody be happy everywhere.