Modern Indian History

The period of the Great Mughals, which began in 1526A.D. with Babur’s accession to the throne, ended with the death of Aurangzeb in 1707A.D.

Aurangzeb’s death marked the end of an era in Indian history. When Aurangzeb died, the empire of the Mughals was the largest in India. Yet, within about fifty years of his death, the Mughal Empire disintegrated. The sign of degeneration were unmistakably visible in the institutions and systems intrinsic to its cultural character and administrative policies. The general rot that had begun to set in during the reign of Aurangzeb could not be curtailed by his weak successors, and the recurrent war of succession worsened the situation further. The Mughal army too was weakened by a dearth of able commanders; there was no further introduction of military reforms or new technologies as had been done by Akbar. The political situation in Northern India clearly indicated the waning of the glorious days of the Mughal Empire

There are several reasons identified by historians for the decline and disintegration of the mighty Mughal Empire

Causes of the decline of the Mughal Empire:

1. Weak Successors:

The Mughals did not follow any law of succession like the law of primogeniture. Consequently, each time a ruler died, a war of succession between the brothers for the throne started. This weakened the Mughal Empire, especially after Aurangzeb.

 The nobles, by siding with one contender or the other, increased their own power. The successors of Aurangzeb were weak and became victims of the intrigues and conspiracies of the faction-ridden nobles. They were inefficient generals and incapable of suppressing revolts. The absence of a strong ruler, an efficient bureaucracy and a capable army had made the Mughal Empire weak.

2. Degeneration of the Mughal Nobility:

The history of India of the time of Akbar, Jahangir and Shahjahan was made by Bairam Khan , Munim Khan, Muzaffar Khan and Abdur Rahim Khan Khana , Itmad Ud daulah and Mahababat Khan, Asaf Khan and Saadulla khan. But with the decline in the character of the later Mughal Emperors decline also set in the character of the nobility wealth and leisure which the foreign Muslims acquired in India fostered luxury and sloth and the presence of many women in their harems encouraged debauchery, which, in their turn, undermined their character and love

3. Aurangzeb’s Religious persecution of the Hindus:

Aurangzeb failed to realize that the vast Mughal Empire depended on the willing support of the people. He lost the support of the Rajputs who had contributed greatly to the strength of the Empire. They had acted as pillars of support, but Aurangzeb’s policy turned them to bitter foes. 

The wars with the Sikhs, the Marathas, the Jats and the Rajputs had drained the resources of the Mughal Empire.

Akbar had won over the Hindus by giving them religious toleration and opening careers to talent irrespective of caste, race or creed. He had enlisted Hindu Warrior tribes, chiefly the Rajput as reliable defenders of his throne. The Rajputs under him and his three immediate successors had carried the Mughal banner to the extreme corner of the subcontinent of India and also into the heart of Central Asia. But Aurangzeb reimpose the hated jiziya on the Hindus, distrusted the Rajputs and made an unworthy attempt to convert the heir to the gaddi of Marwar to Islam. Hence the Rajputs, were alienated and were determined to fight the Mughal

oppressor. The Rathors and Sisodias remained practically in rebellion till the downfall of the Empire. Their example was followed by the Bundelas and the Sikhs.

4. Demoralization of the Mughal Army:

The demoralization of the Mughal Army was the another major reason for the decline of the Mughal Empire the Mughal army which by origin and composition

was became weak and defective. It consisted chiefly of contingents recruited and maintained by the high offices and nobles who were assigned revenues of large tract of the country for their maintenance. On account of this the individual soldier looked upon his mansabdar as his chief and not as his officer. There was no touch between the emperor and the individual soldiers who were paid by their, commander or mansabdar and not directly from the Royal treasury. The inherent defects of this radically and sound system work aggravated during the reign of Aurangzeb and his successors.

As the authority of the later Mughul emperors relaxed, the great nobles or officers of the empire began to convert the assignment which they held for maintaining troops, into their hereditary possessions. This left the emperor without a strong body of personal troops to enable him to assert his authority. Besides, on account of the weakness of imperial authority the mansabdars became so jealous of one another that a commander often deliberately refrain from bringing three- fourth won battle or a siege to a successful conclusion, if he felt that another officer would share the credit of a success.

5. Economic Bankruptcy:

Shah Jahan’s zeal for construction had depleted the treasury. As well as Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb’s long war in the south had further drained the exchequer. They Increased the state demand to one half of the produce of the soil and as the revenue demand rose, the production fell in the same proportion. The cultivators began deserting their fields but they were compelled by force to carry on the cultivation. Bankruptcy began to stare the Mughal government in the face in the

times of Aurangzeb and his successors who had to fight many wars to gain the throne and retain it. The economic collapse came in the time of Alamgir II(1754- 1759 ) who was starved and the revenues even of the royal privy purse-estate were usurped by the unscrupulous Wazir Imad-ul-Mulk. A month and a half after his accession, AlamgirII had no suitable convenience to enable him to ride in procession to the Idgah and he had to walk on foot from the harem to the stone mosque of the Fort. The wonder is that the bankrupt Mughal government lasted for another 50 years

6. Invasions:

Foreign invasions sapped the remaining strength of the Mughals and hastened the process of disintegration. The invasions of Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali resulted in further drainage of wealth. These invasions shook the very stability of the empire.

7. Size of the Empire and Challenge from Regional Powers:

The Mughal Empire had become too large to be controlled by any ruler from one centre i.e. Delhi. The Great Mughals were efficient and exercised control over ministers and army, but the later Mughals were poor administrators. As a result, the distant provinces became independent. The rise of independent states led to the disintegration of the Mughal Empire.


8. Aurangzeb’s Deccan Policy:

Aurangzeb Deccan policy which cause the destruction of the best soldiers and undermined the Mughul prestige beyond repair, contributed materially to the downfall of his dynasty. He destroyed the Shia Kingdoms of Bijapur and Golconda and waged a long, endless war for extermination against the Marathas. This obliged the hardy Marathas to fight in self-defence and when success came to them they were encouraged to take up the offensive, cross the Narmada and invade the Mughal provinces in Northern India. The Hindus in Northern India were already alienated by Aurangzeb’s policy of religious persecution and the Hindu officers and vassals of the empire were either indifferent or secretly hostile to the mughal cause. This creates opportunity for the Marathas. They appealed to the common sentiments of Rajput and of the Hindus who secretly allied themselves with Bajirao when the latter boldly proceeded to execute his policy of striking at the withering trunk of the Mughal Empire in the belief that after the fall of that Empire the independent provincial Muslim dynasty would fall of them. Thus, within thirty one years of Aurangzeb’s death, his successor had to wage war with the sikhs, Jats,

Bundelas, Rathores, kachhwahas and Sisodias and no Hindu tribe of military value was left on their side.

The Emperor’s long absence from Northern India lead too many provincial governors becoming independent, with some regions even turning turbulent .The long Deccan wars of Aurangzeb, thus, contributed to the decline of the Mughal Empire

9. The Jagirdari Crisis:

The Mughal emperor was a highly centralized bureaucratized structure with the emperor at the top his vitality depending upon the strength of the military aristocracy, who were placed just below him. With the introduction of the mansabdari system in civil and military organisation in the late 16th century Akbar, had accommodated the aristocracy within this structure. Those mansabdars who were not paid in cash were awarded a jagir or landed estate in lieu of salary. They were the jagirdars who were required to collect the revenue from the particular jagir of which one part would go to the state and the other two parts would cover his personal expenses and the maintenance allowances for his soldiers and horses. During the last years of Aurangzeb’s reign, the number of jagirdars appointed had risen to such a great number that there was a serious shortage of paibaqi land (land earmarked to be given as jagirs). This decrease in the resources of the Empire ruptured the functional relationship between the emperor and the aristocracy indicating the beginning of inefficiency within the imperial Mughal administrative system.

As a result of this economic crisis in the 18th century the various ethno-religious group within the aristocracy began competing each other. About four-fifths of the land revenue of the Mughal Empires was under the control of mansabdars and jagirdars; but this income was unevenly distributed among them, creating jealousies within the aristocracy- particularly at the time when the resources of the Empire were diminishing. This economic situation known as the ‘jagirdari crisis’ of the 18th century- has been defined by Satish chandra in the following words, ‘the available social surplus was insufficient to defray the cost of administration, pay for Wars of one type or another and to give the ruling classes a standard of living in keeping with its expectations’. In this situation the actual revenue

collection was much less than what had been estimated, there by diminishing the expected income of the jagirdars.

The crises increased during the last year of Aurangzeb’s reign mainly because of the Deccan war, since a greater number of mansabdars was required, the ensuing political turmoil made the collection of revenue a more difficult task .the jagirdari crisis lead to an unhealthy competition to gain control over the fertile jagir. This added to the already existing factionalism at Court after the death of Bahadur Shah in 1712A.D. the problem intensified as low ranking officials now found it difficult to maintain their lifestyle with the meager amount they got from the jagirs.

As a result of several diverse yet interrelated factors led to the decline of the Mughal Empire with dramatic suddenness within a few decades following the death of Aurangzeb. The period of the great Mughals, which constitutes a glorious era in medieval Indian history ended in this manner, yielding way to the establishment of many independent regional Kingdom in its wake

The Advent of the Europeans



Head Quarter / Capital

Portuguese East India Company


Cochin (1510 – 30), Goa (1530 – 1961)

English East India Company


West coast : Surat (1608 – 87), Bombay (From 1687)

East coast : Koromandal, Masulipattanum (1611 – 41), Madras (from 1641)

Bengal : Under Madras (upto 1700) Calcutta (from 1700)

Dutch East India Company


East Coast : Koromandal, Pulicut (upto 1690), Negapattanum (from 1690);

Bengal : Hugli (from 1655)

Danish East India Company


Serampur (Bengal) : 1676 – 1845

French East India Company


Sural (1668 – 73), Pondicherry (1673 – 1954)


  • Vasco da Gama discovered the Cape route from Europe to India. He reached the port of Calicut on May 17, 1498.
  • Trading stations at Calicut, Cochin and Cannanore were established.
  • Cochin was the first capital of the Portuguese in India. Later Goa replaced it.
  • The first governor of Portuguese was Francisco de Almeida. Almeida (1505-09) introduced ‘the policy of Blue water’.
  • The second governor of Portuguese was Alfonso d’ Albuquerque. He introduced ‘the policy of Imperialism’ and captured Goa from the ruler of Bijapur in 1510.
  • Nino da Cunha transferred his capital from Cochin to Goa in 1530 and acquired Diu and Bassein in 1534 from Bahadur Shah of Gujarat.
  • The famous Jesuit Saint Fransisco Xavier arrived in India with Martin Alfonso de Souza.
  • By the end of the 16th century, the Portuguese power witnessed a decline.
  • Portuguese lost Hugli in 1631 after being driven out by Qasim khan, a Mughal noble of Shahjahan.
  • The King of Portugal gave Bombay to Charles II of England as dowry when he married the former’s sister in 1661.
  • Salsette and Bassein were captured by Marathas in 1739. In the end they were left only with Goa, Diu and Daman which they retained till 1961.


  • The company formed in March 1602, by a charter of Dutch parliament. It was formed with powers to make wars, conclude treaties, acquire territories and build fortresses.
  • They set up factories at Masulipattam in 1605, Pulicat in 1610, Surat in 1616, Bimilipatam in 1641, Karaikal in 1645, Chinsura in 1653, and Cochin in 1663.
  • The Dutch replaced the Portugueseas the most dominant power in European trade with the East, including India.
  • Pulicat was main centre in India till 1690, after that Negapatam replaced it. They conceded to English after their defeat in the battle of Bedera in 1759.


  • John Mildenhall, a merchant adventurer, was the first English man who arrived in India in 1599 by the over-land route, ostensibly for the purpose of trade with Indian merchants.
  • ‘The Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies’, popularly known as the English East India company, was formed in 1600.
  • Captain William Hawkins arrived at Jahangir’s court in 1609 to seek permission to open a factory at Surat. A Farman was issued by Jahangir permitting the English to build a factory at Surat in 1613.
  • Sir Thomas Roe came to India in 1615 as ambassador of James I to Jahangir’s court to obtain the permission to trade and erect factories in different parts of the empire.
  • The English East India Company acquired Bombay from Charles II on lease.
  • Job Charnock established a factory at Sutanati in 1690 and the zamindari of the three villages of Sutanati, Kalikata and Gobindpur was acquired by the British in 1698. These villages later grew into the city of The factory at Sutanati was fortified in 1696 and this was named Fort William in 1700.
  • The British parliament passed a resolution giving equal rights to all Englishmen to trade in the East in 1694.
  • The final amalgamation of the company came in 1708 under the title of ‘The united company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies’. This continued its existence till 1858.


  • The French East India Company was formed by Colbert in 1664.
  • Francois Caron established the first French factory at Surat in 1668.
  • A factory at Masulipatam was set up in 1669.
  • The French power in India was revived under Lenoir and Dumas (governors) between 1720 and 1742. They occupied Mahe in the Malabar, Yanam in Coromandal and Karaikal in Tamil Nadu 1739.
  • The arrival of Dupleix as French governor in India in 1742 saw the beginning of Anglo-French conflict (Carnatic Wars) resulting in their final defeat in India.

Anglo-French Conflict/Carnatic Wars

  • An instance of Anglo-French rivalry.
  • First Anglo-French war (1746-48): The French besieged Madras. At St. Thome battle the Nawab of Carnatic’s army was defeated by French under Dupleix.
  • The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748 ended the war of Austrian succession and First Anglo-French war in India.
  • Second Anglo-French war (1749-54): Dupleix aligned with Muzaffar Jung (Hyderabad) and Chanda Sahib (Carnatic/Arcot). After initial reverses, Robert Clive emerged victorious.
The British East India Company, which is also referred to as “John Company”, was formed as a Joint- Stock Company that was established as The Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies, in 1600. That was the time when other trading companies, that were established by the Portuguese, Dutch, French, and Danish were active in the region.
British Company began functioning in India in year 1612 after they were  granted the rights to establish a factory in Surat. Sir Thomas Roe who was a representative diplomat of Queen Elizabeth 1st of England went to the court of Mughal emperor Jahangir to seek permission.
Thereafter the formal British rule in India commenced in 1757, after Battle of Plassey, when the Nawab of Bengal surrendered his dominion to the British East India Company.

Regulating Act of 1773

This act was of great constitutional importance as:

  • it was the first step taken by the British Government to control and regulate the affairs of the East India Company in India;
  • it recognised, for the first time, the political and administrative functions of the Company; and
  • it laid the foundations of central administration in India.

Features of this Act

  • It designated the Governor of Bengal as the ‘Governor- General of Bengal’ and created an Executive Council of four members to assist him. The first such GovernorGeneral was Lord Warren Hastings.
  • It made the governors of Bombay and Madras presidencies subordinate to the governor-general of Bengal, unlike earlier, when the three presidencies were independent of one another.
  • It provided for the establishment of a Supreme Court at Calcutta (1774) comprising one chief justice and three other judges.
  • It prohibited the servants of the Company from engaging in any private trade or accepting presents or bribes from the ‘natives’.
  • It strengthened the control of the British Government over the Company by requiring the Court of Directors (governing body of the Company) to report on its revenue, civil, and military affairs in India.

Amending Act of 1781

  • In a bid to rectify the defects of the Regulating Act of 1773, the British Parliament passed the Amending Act of 1781, also known as the Act of Settlement.

Features of this Act

  • It exempted the Governor-General and the Council from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court for the acts done by them in their official capacity. Similarly, it also exempted the servants of the company from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court for their official actions.
  • It excluded the revenue matters and the matters arising in the collection of revenue from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
  • It provided that the Supreme Court was to have jurisdiction over all the inhabitants of Culcutta. It also required the court to administer the personal law of the defendants i.e., Hindus were to be tried according to the Hindu law and Muslims were to be tried according to the Mohammedan law.
  • It laid down that the appeals from the Provincial Courts could be taken to the Governor-General-in-Council and not to the Supreme Court.
  • It empowered the Governor-General-inCouncil to frame regulations for the Provincial Courts and Councils.             

Pitt’s India Act of 1784

The next important act was the Pitt’s India Act of 1784.

Features of this Act

  • It distinguished between the commercial and political functions of the Company.
  • It allowed the Court of Directors to manage the commercial affairs, but created a new body called Board of Control to manage the political affairs. Thus, it established a system of double government.
  • It empowered the Board of Control to supervise and direct all operations of the civil and military government or revenues of the British possessions in India.
  • Thus, the act was significant for two reasons: first, the Company’s territories in India were for the first time called the ‘British possessions in India’; and second, the British Government was given the supreme control over Company’s affairs and its administration in India.

Act of 1786

In 1786, Lord Cornwallis was appointed as the Governor-General of Bengal. He placed two demands to accept that post, viz.,

  • He should be given power to override the decision of his council in special cases.
  • He would also be the Commander-in-Chief.

Accordingly, the Act of 1786 was enacted to make both the provisions.             

Charter Act of 1793

Features of this Act

  • It extended the overriding power given to Lord Cornwallis over his council, to all future Governor-Generals and Governors of Presidencies.
  • It gave the Governor-General more powers and control over the governments of the subordinate Presidencies of Bombay and Madras.
  • It extended the trade monopoly of the Company in India for another period of twenty years.
  • It provided that the Commander-in-Chief was not to be a member of the Governor-General’s council, unless he was so appointed.
  • It laid down that the members of the Board of Control and their staff were, henceforth, to be paid out of the Indian revenues.

Charter Act of 1813

Features of this Act

  • It abolished the trade monopoly of the company in India i.e., the Indian trade was thrown open to all British merchants.
  • However, it continued the monopoly of the company over trade in tea and trade with China.
  • It asserted the sovereignty of the British Crown over the Company’s territories in India.
  • It allowed the Christian missionaries to come to India for the purpose of enlightening the people.
  • It provided for the spread of western education among the inhabitants of the British territories in India.
  • It authorised the Local Governments in India to impose taxes on persons. They could also punish the persons for not paying taxes.

Charter Act of 1833

This Act was the final step towards centralisation in British India.

Features of this Act

  • It made the Governor-General of Bengal as the Governor- General of India and vested in him all civil and military powers. Thus, the act created, for the first time, Government of India having authority over the entire territorial area possessed by the British in India. Lord William Bentinck was the first Governor-General of India.
  • It deprived the Governor of Bombay and Madras of their legislative powers. The Governor-General of India was given exclusive legislative powers for the entire British India.
  • The laws made under the previous acts were called as Regulations, while laws made under this act were called as it ended the activities of the East India Company as a commercial body, which became a purely administrative body. It provided that the Company’s territories in India were held by it ‘in trust for His Majesty, His heirs and successors’.                     
  • The Charter Act of 1833 attempted to introduce a system of open competition for selection of civil servants and stated that the Indians should not be debarred from holding any place, office and employment under the Company. However, this provision was negated after opposition from the Court of Directors.

Charter Act of 1853

This was the last of the series of Charter Acts passed by the British Parliament between 1793 and 1853. It was a significant constitutional landmark.

Features of this Act

  • It separated, for the first time, the legislative and executive functions of the Governor-General’s council. It provided for addition of six new members called legislative councillors to the council. In other words, it established a separate Governor-General’s legislative council which came to be known as the Indian (Central) Legislative Council. This legislative wing of the council functioned as a mini-Parliament, adopting the same procedures as the British.
  • Thus, legislation, for the first time, was treated as a special function of the government, requiring special machinery and special process.
  • It introduced an open competition system of selection and recruitment of civil servants. The covenanted civil service was, thus, thrown open to the Indians also. Accordingly, the Macaulay Committee (the Committee on the Indian Civil Service) was appointed in 1854.
  • It extended the Company’s rule and allowed it to retain the possession of Indian territories on trust for the British Crown.
  • But, it did not specify any particular period, unlike the previous Charters. This was a clear indication that the Company’s rule could be terminated at any time the Parliament liked.
  • It introduced, for the first time, local representation in the Indian (Central) Legislative Council. Of the six new legislative members of the Governor General’s council, four members were appointed by the local (provincial) governments of Madras, Bombay, Bengal and Agra.                        


The policy of Ring Fence

  • Warren Hastings followed a policy of ring-fence which aimed at creating buffer zones to defend the Company’s frontiers. Broadly speaking, it was the policy of defense of their neighbours’ frontiers for safeguarding their own territories.
  • The states brought under the ring-fence system were required to maintain subsidiary forces that were to be organized, equipped and commanded by the officers of the Company who, in turn, were to be paid by the rulers of these states.

Subsidiary Alliance

  • Wellesley’s policy of subsidiary alliance was, in fact, an extension of the ring-fence system which sought to reduce the Indian states into a position of dependence on the British government.
  • Under the system, the allying Indian state’s ruler was compelled to:
  • Accept the permanent stationing of a British force within his territory
  • Pay a subsidy for its maintenance
  • Accept posting of a British resident in his court
  • Not employ any European in his service without the prior approval of the British.
  • Not negotiate with any other Indian ruler without consulting the governor general
  • In return for all this, the British would defend the ruler from his enemies and adopt a policy of non-interference in the internal matters of the allied state.

Doctrine of Lapse

  • It stated that the adopted son could be the heir to his foster father’s private property, but not the state; it was for the paramount power (the British) to decide whether to bestow the state on the adopted son or to annex it.
Though this policy is attributed to Lord Dalhousie (1848-56), he was not its originator. It was a coincidence that during his governor generalship several important cases arose in which the ‘Doctrine’ could be applied. Dalhousie showed too much zeal in enforcing this policy which had been theoretically enunciated on some previous occasions.
  • It was a formula devised by Lord Dalhousie, governor-general of India (1848–56), to deal with questions of succession to Hindu Indian states. It was a corollary to the doctrine of paramountcy, by which Great Britain, as the ruling power of the Indian subcontinent, claimed the superintendence of the subordinate Indian states and so also the regulation of their succession.
  • According to Hindu law, an individual or a ruler without natural heirs could adopt a person who would then have all the personal and political rights of a son. Dalhousie asserted the paramount power’s right of approving such adoptions and of acting at discretion in their absence in the case of dependent states. In practice this meant the rejection of last-minute adoptions and British annexation of states without a direct natural or adopted heir, because Dalhousie believed that Western rule was preferable to Eastern and to be enforced where possible. Annexation in the absence of a natural or adopted heir was enforced in the cases of
  • Satara (1848), Jaitpur and Sambalpur (1849), Baghat (1850), Chota Udaipur (1852), Jhansi (1853), and Nagpur (1854). Though the scope of the doctrine was limited to dependent Hindu states, these annexations aroused much alarm and resentment among the Indian princes and the old aristocracy who served them. They have generally been regarded as having contributed to the discontent that was a factor in the outbreak (1857) of the Indian Mutiny and the widespread revolt that followed.


Although religion reform was the integral part of these movements none of them were totally religious in character. They were humanist in aspiration and rejected salvation and otherworldliness as the agenda. They focused on worldly existence. The socio cultural regeneration in 19thcentury was influenced by colonial state but not created by it. 

The newly emerging middle class and the traditional or western educated intellectuals were responsible for it. The movements started with Raja Rammohan Roy.

Religion as a tool to Reform

The religious reform was a pre requisite for social reforms as social life of both Hindus and Muslims were influenced by religious tenets.Hinduism was dominated by superstitions and priests. Idolatry, animal sacrifice, physical torture was common to appease god. Social life too was depressing. Sati, female infanticide, child marriage and social boycott of widows were common. Caste system had created divisions in the society making it difficult to support a united mass movement. Untouchability was prevalent too.

Reformists sought to create a climate of modernization. They used faith to challenge such practices. They referred to the period of past where no such practices existed but they used it as only an aid and an instrument. Thus they wanted to prove that no practice like sati, child marriage etc were sanctioned by religion.


The movements believed in rationalism and religious universalism [god is one and all countrymen are brethren]. They emphasized the role of religion in progress of the society. However reform wasn’t always based on religious consideration. A rational and secular outlook was more important to prevalent social practices. E.g. medical opinion was cited as an aid to oppose child marriage.


Blind adherence to western ideology wasn’t practices but reform indigenous culture. Thus modernization not westernization was the aim.

Abolition of Sati

    • Influenced by the frontal attack launched by the enlightened Indian reformers led by Raja Rammohan Roy, the Government declared the practice of sad or the burning alive of widows illegal and punishable by criminal courts as culpable homicide.
    • The regulation of 1829 was applicable in the first instance to Bengal Presidency alone, but was extended in slightly modified forms to Madras and Bombay Presidencies in 1830.

Female Infanticide

    • The practice of murdering female infants immediately after birth was common among upper class Bengalis and Rajputs who considered females to be an economic burden.
    • But it was mainly due to the efforts of Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820-91), the principal of Sanskrit College, Calcutta, that the Hindu Widows’ Remarriage Act, 1856, which legalised marriage of widows and declared issues from such marriages as legitimate, was passed by the Government.
    • Vidyasagar cited Vedic texts to prove that the Hindu religion sanctioned widow remarriage.
    • Jagannath Shankar Seth and Bhau Daji were among the active promoters of girls’ schools in Maharashtra. Vishnu Shastri Pandit founded the Widow Remarriage Association in the 1850s. Another prominent worker in this field was Karsondas Mulji who started the Satya Prakash in Gujarati in 1852 to advocate widow remarriage.

Child Marriage

    • The Native Marriage Act (or Civil Marriage Act) signified the coming of legislative action in prohibiting child marriage in 1872. It had a limited impact as the Act was not applicable to Hindus, Muslims and other recognised faiths.
    • The relentless efforts of a Parsi reformer, B.M. Malabari, were rewarded, by the enactment of the Age of Consent Act (1891) which forbade the marriage of girls below the age of 12.
    • The Sarda Act (1930) further pushed up the marriage age to 18 and 14 for boys and girls respectively. In free India, the Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act, 1978 raised the age of marriage for girls from 15 to 18 years and for boys from 18 to 21.

Factors which Undermined Caste Rigidities under British rule

    • The pressure of British rule in India unleashed certain forces, sometimes through direct administrative measures and sometimes indirectly by creating favourable circumstances.
    • . For instance, the creation of private property in land and free sale of land upset caste equations.
    • A close interlink between caste and vocation could hardly continue in a state of destruction of village autarchy. Besides, modern commerce and industry gave birth to several economic avenues while growing urbanisation and modern means of transport added to the mobility of populations.
    • The British administration introduced the concept of equality before law in a., uniformly applied system of law which dealt a severe blow to social and legal inequalities, while the judicial functions of caste panchayats were taken away.
    • The administrative services were made open to all castes and the new education system was on totally secular lines.
    • But the struggle against caste could not be successful during the British rule. The foreign government had its limitations—it could not afford to invite hostile reaction from the orthodox sections by taking up any radical measures. Also, no social uplift was possible without economic and political upliftment.
    • All this could be realised only under the government of a free India.

Leaders of the Emerging Nation

A.   Raja Ram Mohan Roy: father of Indian Renaissance

1.      Title of Raja was given to him by Mughal Emperor Akbar – II.

  1. Established Brahmo Samaj [initially the Atmiya Sabha] in 1828 to purify Hinduism and preach monotheism.
  2. He was called the first modern man of India. He was the pioneer of socio religious reforms.
  3. His Biggest Achievement – He helped Bentinck outlaw sati. He preached against female infanticide. He wanted equal rights for women and female education.
  4. His second most important contribution – He promoted western sciences and English education.
  1. Roy was a gifted linguist He knew more than a dozen languages including Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, English, French, Latin, Greek and Hebrew. A knowledge of different languages helped him broadbase his range of study.
  2. As a pioneer in Indian journalism, Roy brought out journals in Bengali, Hindi, English, Persian to educate and inform the public and represent their grievances before the Government.
  3. He stood for cooperation of thought and activity and brotherhood among nations. His understanding of the international character of the principles of liberty, equality and justice indicated that he well understood the significance of the modern age.

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar

    • The great scholar and reformer, Vidyasagar’s ideas were a happy blend of Indian and western thought.
    • He was determined to break the priestly monopoly of scriptural knowledge, and for this he opened the Sanskrit College to non-brahmins. He introduced western thought in Sanskrit College to break the self-imposed isolation of Sanskritic learning.
    • Vidyasagar started a movement in support of widow remarriage which resulted in legalisation of widow remarriage. He was also a crusader against child marriage and polygamy.
    • He was one of the pioneers of higher education for women in India.

Bal Shastri Jambekar

    • He attacked brahminical orthodoxy and tried to reform popular Hinduism
    • He started the weekly Darpan in 1832, Students’ Literary and Scientific Societies also called the Gyan Prasarak Mandalis.
    • They had two branches — Marathi and Gujarati—and were formed by some educated young men in 1848.
    • These Mandalis organized lectures on popular sciences and social questions. One of their aims was to start schools for girls.

Paramhansa Mandalis

    • The founders of these Mandalis believed in one God.
    • They were primarily interested in breaking caste rules. At their meetings food cooked by lower caste people was taken by the members.
    • These Mandalis also advocated widow remarriage and women’s education.

B.  Henry Derozia and Young Bengal movement:

  1. Founder of young Bengal movement. His followers were derozians. They attacked idol worship, casteism and superstitions.
  2. Movement was more progressive than any other of that period. The derozians wrote poems about Nationalism and love of the country, such things werent known before.

C.  Swami Dayanand Saraswati:

  1. He was founder of arya samaj. He believed Vedas were source of true knowledge. He advocated “Back to the Vedas”.
  2. He attacked casteism, idol worship and child marriage. He attacked inter caste marriage and widow remarriage.
  3. He was first to put forth ideas like ‘Swadeshi’ and ‘India for Indians’ and hence was called ‘Martin Luther of Hinduism’.

D.  Prathana samaj:

  1. It was an off shoot of brahmo samaj. It was founded by Atmaram Pandurang in Bombay.
  2. It promoted inter dining, inter caste marriage, widow remarriage, upliftment of women and depressed classes.
  3. Justice Ranade was an integral part of it. He was also called Nyaymurti. He wrote the book Rise of Maratha Power. Poona Sarwajanik Sabha was started by him to criticize legislative and administrative decisions.

E.   Swami Vivekananda:

  1. Original name was Narendranah Dutta. He was the follower of Ramakrishna Paramhansa.
  2. He too was against superstitions and caste system.
  3. He founded Ramakrishna mission as a charitable and social organization.

F.  Theosophical society:

  1. Founded by Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Alcott.
  2. The main objectives were to form a universal brotherhood of men and fight distinctions on grounds of race, religion, color, caste and creed. They also promoted study of ancient religion and philosophies.
  3. Annie Besant took over the leadership from Alcott. She founded the central Hindu school which later became Banaras Hindu University.

G.  Jyoti Rao Phule:

  1. He founded Satyasodhak samaj to fight the caste system i.e. free lower caste from oppression of brahmins. He pioneered widow remarriage movement in Maharashtra.
  2. He and his wife Savitribai Phule founded the first girl’s school in pune. His work was inspired by Thomas Paine.
  3. Called the Father of Indian Social Revolution.

Deoband School:

  1. The orthodox sections of the ulemas organized the Deoband movement.
  2. Its objective was to teach Muslims the lessons from Koran and hadis. To keep alive the spirit of jihad amongst Muslims against foreign rulers. The liberal interpretations of Islam created a political awakening amongst Muslims.

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