Renaissance and Reform Movements in Bengal During British Period


  • What is Renaissance?
  • Bengal Renaissance
  • Background of Bengal Renaissance
  • Causes of the Reform Movement
  • Social and Religious Reform Movement
  • Reform Movement of Science , Art and Literature
  • Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Brahmo Samaj
  • Young Bengal Movement and Henry Vivian Derozio
  • Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
  • Hazi Muhammad Mohsin
  • Nawab Abdul Latif
  • Syed Ameer Ali
  • Begum Rokeya
  • Conclusion

What is Renaissance?

  • Renaissance is a French word meaning “rebirth.”
  • It refers to a period in European civilization that was marked by a revival of Classical learning and wisdom.
  • The Renaissance is often said to be the start of the "modern age".
  • A person who is clever at a great number of things is sometimes called a "Renaissance man".

Bengal Renaissance

  • The Bengal Renaissance, was a cultural, social, intellectual, and artistic movement that took place in the Bengal region of the British Raj, from the late 18th century to the early 20th century.
  • The setting for the Bengal Renaissance was the colonial metropolis of Calcutta.
  • The Bengal renaissance can be said to have started with Raja Ram Mohan Roy(1772– 1833) and ended with Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941).

Background of Bengal Renaissance

  • Victory of the British East India Company at the 1757 Battle of Plassey.
  • Before 1830, earlier than any other Asian city, Calcutta already had a school system using European methods of instruction and textbooks.
  • Newspapers, periodicals, and books were being published regularly in English and Bengali.
  • Orientalists: The products of the eighteenth-century world of rationalism, classicism, and the Enlightenment.
  • The College of Fort William, an Orientalist training center for British civil servants in India founded in Calcutta by Governor General Wellesley in 1800.

Causes of the Reform Movement

  • The intellectual flood of European knowledge, particularly history, philosophy, literature, and science, transmitted through the medium of English education.
  • The growth of religious superstitions.
  • Position of women.
  • Caste System.
  • Weaknesses and Drawbacks of Indian social institutions.
  • Gradual emergence of public opinion due to the introduction of western education and ideas.

Social and Religious Reform Movement

  • Propagation of the basic unity of all religions.
  • Reform movements against caste system and the custom of child marriage.
  • Improvement of the status of girls and women in society.
  • The need for female education.
  • Unify the people of into one nation.
  • The reform movements fostered feelings of self-respect, self-reliance and patriotism.

Reform Movement of Science, Art and Literature

  • Scientific advances during the Bengal Renaissance included pioneering work in a number of fields by Bengali physicist, biologist, archeologist, botanist and science fiction writer Jagadish Chandra Bose.
  • Other notable Bengali and Indian scientists from this era are Satyendra Nath Bose, Meghnad Saha and Upendranath Brahmachari.
  • The Bengal School of Art was led by Abanindranath Tagore.
  • For literature, Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam leaded the reform movement.

Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Brahmo Samaj

  • The father of Indian Renaissance.
  • SambadKaumudi: A Bengali weekly newspaper editorialized against Sati, denouncing it as barbaric and un-Hindu.
  • ‘BrahmoSamaj’ (The society of God).
  • TatvabodhiniSabha by Debendranath Tagore.
  • ‘BrahmoSamaj of India’ and ‘AdiBrahmoSamaj’.

Young Bengal Movement and Henry Vivian Derozio

  • During the late 1820s and early 1830s, there emerged a radical, intellectual trend among the youth in Bengal, which came to be known as the ‘Young Bengal Movement’ leaded by Henry Vivian Derozio.
  • Derozio was perhaps the first nationalist poet of Modern India.
  • Derozio was removed from the Hindu College in 1831 because of his radicalism.

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar

  • The great scholar and reformer.
  • In 1850, he became the principal of Sanskrit College.
  • He started a movement in support of widow remarriage which resulted in legislation of widow remarriage.
  • He was also a crusade against child marriage and polygamy.

Hazi Muhammad Mohsin

  • He was born in 1732 A.D in Hoogly in West Bengal.
  • After his sister died, he became the possessor of her vast property.
  • He built a school in Hoogly and developed ‘Madrashas’.
  • In 1836 A.D. Hoogly Mohsin College Fund, Hoogly Charitable Hospital and in 1848 A.D. Imambara in Hoogly were established.

Nawab Abdul Latif

  • For educating the Muslims of their English education, he arranged an essay competition entitled, “The benefits of English education for Muslim students” in 1853 A.D.
  • In the madrasah established by him, English and modern western education were introduced together with religious education.
  • Mohammedan Literary Society established in 1863.

Syed Ameer Ali

  • First Muslim leader in Bengal.
  • Welcomed the establishment of Muslim League in 1906 A.D and made Secretary of Muslim League in 1912.
  • Wanted to make social and individual development of the Muslims of Bengal through western education and to improve political consciousness.

Begum Rokeya

  • The pioneer of women freedom.
  • Established ‘Shakhawat Memorial Urdu Primary School’ in Kolkata in 1911 A.D.
  • For the establishment of the rights of women, she established ‘Anjuman Khauatine Islam’ in Kolkata in 1916 A.D.


Certainly, the Bengal Renaissance was an exciting time in Bengali history, with contributions by innovative and motivated people benefiting subsequent generations.


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