See P. K. Sen, Biography of a New Faith (2 vol., 1950-54); K. C. Sen, The Voice of Keshub (1963); P. V. Kanal, An Introduction to Dev-Samaj (1965).
Monotheistic movement within Hinduism, founded in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1828 by Ram Mohun Roy. It rejected the authority of the Vedas and the doctrine of avatars, did not insist on belief in karma or rebirth, denounced polytheism and the caste system, and adopted some Christian practices. Roy's intention was to reform Hinduism from within, but his successor, Debendranath Tagore, rejected Vedic authority. In 1866 Keshab Chunder Sen organized the more radical Brahmo Samaj of India, which campaigned for the education of women and against child marriages. After Keshab nonetheless arranged a marriage for his underage daughter, a third group, Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, was formed in 1878. It gradually reverted to the teaching of the Upanishads but continued the work of social reform. The movement, always an elite group without significant popular following, lost force in the 20th century.
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Brahmo Samaj (Bengali ব্রাহ্ম সমাজ Bramho Shômaj) is the societal component of Brahmoism. "It is without doubt the most influential socio-religious movement in the evolution of Modern (Greater) India. It was conceived as reformation of the prevailing Bengal of the time and began the Bengal Renaissance of the 19th century pioneering all religious, social and educational advance of the Hindu community in the 19th century. From the Brahmo Samaj springs Brahmoism, the most recent of legally recognised religions in India and Bangladesh, reflecting its non-syncretic "foundation of Rammohun Roy's reformed spiritual Hinduism (contained in the 1830 Banian deed) and scientifically invigorated by inclusion of root Hebraic - Islamic creed and practice.
The Brahmo Samaj is a community of people assembled for orderly public meeting, discussion or worship of the Eternal, Immutable Supreme Being, Author and Preserver of the Universe, "but not under or by any other name designation or title peculiarly used for and applied, to any particular being or beings by any man or set of men whatsoever".
"The Brahmo Samaj, represents a body of men who are struggling, in India, to establish the worship of the Supreme Being in spirit as opposed to the prevailing idolatry of the land.
Brahmo (ব্রাহ্ম bramho) literally means "one who worships Brahman", and Samaj (সমাজ shômaj) mean "community of men".
On 8 January 1830 influential progressive members of the closely related Kulin Brahmin clan (scurrilously described as Pirali Brahmin ie. ostracised for service in the Mughal Nizaamat of Bengal) of Tagore (Thakur) and Roy (Vandopādhyāya) zumeendar family mutually executed the Trust deed of Brahmo Sabha for the first Adi Brahmo Samaj (place of worship) on Chitpore Road (now Rabindra Sarani), Kolkata, India with Ram Chandra Vidyabagish as first resident superintendent.
On 23 January 1830 or 11th Magh, the Adi Brahmo premises were publicly inaugurated (with about 500 Brahmins and 1 Englishman present). This day is celebrated by Brahmos as Maghotsab (মাঘোৎসব Maghotshôb "Magh celebration").
In November 1830 Rammohun Roy left for England.
By the time of Rammohun's death in 1833 near Bristol (UK), attendance at the Sabha dwindled and the Telugu Brahmins surreptitiously revived idolatry. The zumeendars, being preoccupied in business, had little time for affairs of Sabha, and flame of Sabha was almost extinguished.
After controversies, including the controversy over Keshub Chunder Sen's daughter's child marriage rituals wherein the validity of Brahmo marriages were questioned and split the Brahmo Samaj of India, the Brahmo Samaj Marriage Bill of 1871 was enacted as the Special Marriages Act of 1872 and set the age at which girls could be married at 14. All Brahmo marriages were thereafter solemnised under this law which required the affirmation "I am not Hindu, nor a Mussalman, nor a Christian". The Special Marriages Act 1872 was repealed by the new Special Marriages Act in 1954 which became the secular Marriage law for India. The old Special Marriages Act of 1872 was allowed to live on as the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 for Hindus - Brahmo Religionists are excluded from this Act; which is applicable, however, to Hindus who follow the Brahmo Samaj. On May 5 2004 the Supreme Court of India, by order of the Chief Justice, dismissed the Government of West Bengal's 30 year litigation to get Brahmos classified as Hindus. The matter had previously been heard by an 11 Judge Constitution Bench of the Court (the second largest bench in the Court's history). As of 2007 the statutory minimum age for Brahmos to marry is 25(M)/21(F) versus 21(M)/18(or 15F) for Hindus.
It also supported social reform movements of people not directly attached to the Samaj, such as Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar’s movement which promoted widow re-marriage.