UPSC Exam Preparation: This Day in History – Jan 08

8 January 1884

Social reformer Keshub Chandra Sen passed away.


What happened?

On 8 January 1884, Hindu philosopher, Brahmo Samajist and social reformer Keshub Chandra Sen died in Calcutta.

Biography

  • Keshub Chandra Sen (also spelled Keshab Chunder Sen) was born in an affluent family of Calcutta on 19 November 1838. He lost his father Peary Mohan when he was ten and was then brought up by his uncle.
  • In 1854, he became the secretary of the Asiatic Society. He also worked as a clerk in a bank but monotonous clerical work did not interest him.
  • In 1855, at the age of 17, he established the British India Society. In 1857, he joined the Brahmo Samaj and took up studying philosophy.
  • He read the works of and was influenced by Theodore Parker, an American Transcendentalist and delivered speeches on religion and morality.
  • He also set up the ‘Goodwill Fraternity’ in his house. He developed a great rapport with Debendranath Tagore, the head of the Samaj.
  • Sen was inspired by Christian teachings and sought to fuse Christian teachings into the Hindu framework. He thought that only the Christian doctrine would help instill new life into Hindu society. He was also impressed with the discipline of Christian missionary work and started following it himself.
  • In 1865, this lean towards Christianity caused a rift between him and Tagore and he broke away from the Samaj and formed the Bharat Barshiya Brahmo Samaj (Brahmo Samaj of India). The old Brahmo Samaj was now called the Adi Brahmo Samaj.
  • Sen preached against child marriage and advocated widow remarriage and inter-caste marriages. He was also instrumental in getting native marriages legalised.
  • In 1870, he met the British monarch Queen Victoria and expressed acceptance of the British rule which angered people at home. His acceptance of the British rule was from a theological perspective, nevertheless, he was criticised severely in India.
  • Sen founded the Indian Reform Association in 1870 after returning from a Europe visit. The chief areas of activity of this association were female improvement, inexpensive literature, education, temperance and charity. In his later years, he delivered lectures that were against the Europeanising of Asia and also against western sectarianism.
  • He was criticised when he got his daughter married to the prince of Cooch Behar. His daughter was then under 14 and the prince about 15 years of age. His associates ridiculed him for his supposed stance against child marriage and his actual actions.
  • He formed the Nabo Bidhan (New Dispensation) in 1881 which intended to incorporate the best principles of Christianity and western spirituality with Hinduism.
  • While many members of Brahmo Samaj rejected it, many appreciated it as well. His critics thought that Sen had strayed away from the core ideologies of the Samaj whereas his supporters opined that he was realising Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s philosophy of a universal religion.
  • Sen died in Calcutta on 8 January 2018 1884 aged 45.
Also on this day

1895: Birth of Ramchandra Sakharam Ruikar, pioneer of the Indian labour movement. 1995: Death of Madhu Limaye, national leader.

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.

Also read: