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Hindu reformers and Indian nationalism

Swami Vivekananda and the Ramakrishna Movement

The Ramakrishna movement was established by Swami Vivekananda, who was a disciple of a Hindu saint Ramakrishna. The success of Swami Vivekananda began when he represented Hinduism at an international religion congress, which was held in 1893 in Chicago, USA. Vivekananda demonstrated India as a tolerant society, which allows different sects to live together under one roof of Hinduism and as a society, which also accepted in it people of other religions. He claimed that all religions eventually prayed to the same one God and the goal of all religions is the same, to reach God. He began his speech by referring to other delegates as ‘brothers and sisters’ and so proving his point that all the human race was one big family. His messages about humanity attracted many people of European culture and many claim that he started the European phenomenon of cults with Indian gurus.

After his success in America he returned to India and established the Ramakrishna movement with an aim to preserve the Indian culture. This movement considered the Indian culture as the most humanistic and spiritual culture in the world. This movement succeeded in establishing pride in Indian people about their culture which, they didn’t had before. His philosophy affected many nationalist leaders and they interpreted his philosophy so that it could be adjusted to Indian nationalism. For example the Ramakrishna movement believed in the existence of Supreme Being but Swami Vivekananda did not reject idolatry and claimed that the different idols were different ways to reach the same Supreme Being. This was interpreted to connect Goddess Earth (Mother India) and Goddess Kali whom many worshipped in Bengal. The message was sacrificing oneself for Mother India was like sacrificing for Kali. Some of Swami Vivekananda’s preachings were interpreted also by the British as hints to act against the British. For example Vivekananda preached that the path to realize God was not only worshipping idols in spiritual way but also through intellectual and physical action. The British thought that by saying physical action, Vivekananda meant terrorist actions against them.


©Aharon Daniel

1999-2000

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