Day 3 – Q 1. Do you think the 19th-century social reform movements had an intrinsic dichotomy when it came to the question of embracing modernity versus restoring the ancient glory of the country? Comment. (10 Marks)

  • IASbaba
  • February 2, 2022
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Current Affairs, GS 1, Indian History & Post-Independence, TLP-UPSC Mains Answer Writing
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1. Do you think the 19th-century social reform movements had an intrinsic dichotomy when it came to the question of embracing modernity versus restoring the ancient glory of the country? Comment. (10 Marks)

क्या आपको लगता है कि जब आधुनिकता को अपनाने बनाम देश के प्राचीन गौरव को बहाल करने के सवाल की बात आई तो 19वीं सदी के सामाजिक सुधार आंदोलनों में एक आंतरिक द्वंद्व था? टिप्पणी कीजिए।


Candidates need to write about the Buddhist literature, highlighting its key features with suitable example is the demand of question. 


From the early 19th century, debates and discussion about social customs and practices took a new character due to the development of new forms of communication. There was intrinsic dichotomy between Reformist and revivalist ideas in the mind of reformers. Few were keen to spread knowledge of modernization others were interested in highlighting past glory and customs. 


Reformist view towards social reforms:

  • Blind adherence to western ideology wasn’t practices but reform indigenous culture. Thus modernization was the aim of the reformers. 
  • The movements believed in rationalism and religious universalism. 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.
  • 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.
  • These movements contribute towards the liberation of the individual from the conformity born out of fear and from uncritical submission to Exploitation by the priests and other classes. E.g. Brahmo Samaj and its Variants.
  • Various agitations in all parts of India eg. Temple entry movement were meant to achieve social equality between dalits and upper castes, and also made efforts to treat dalits in a more humanely way. Narayan Guru from Kerala played a very important role.

Revivalist view: 

  • The Theosophists advocated the revival and strengthening of the ancient religions of Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and Buddhism. They recognised the doctrine of the transmigration of the soul.
  • Dharma Sabha in 1830, in order to counter the ideas of Brahamo Samaj and advocated status quo and opposed abolition of Sati.
  • The Arya Samaj followed the motto “Go Back to Vedas” and the Shuddhi movement whereas Tabligh movement aimed to reach out to ordinary Muslims and revive their faith.
  • Revivalist movements believed that the western thinking and missionary propaganda would ruin Indian culture and ethos, and thus there was a need to protect the religion.
  •  They were also influenced by the rich cultural heritage of India brought to light by the western scholars, and found that it was even superior to the western culture.
  • Wahabi Movement was a revivalist movement with slogan to return to pure Islam. Jihad was declared with the prime objective of converting Dar-UL-Harb (land of infidels) into Dar-UL-Islam (land of Islam).
  • The tendency to look backwards, appeal to past greatness, and rely on scriptural authority. 
  • Appeals to past greatness created false pride and smugness, while the habit of finding a ‘Golden Age’ in the past acted as a check on the full acceptance of modem science and hampered the effort to improve the present.
  • The evil aspects of this phenomenon became apparent when it was found that, along with a rapid rise of national consciousness, another consciousness – communal consciousness – had begun to rise among the middle classes.


Socio-religious reforms were a reaction against colonial judgement and native backwardness. The movement arose and declined, but with lasting impact on society and the public sphere of ideas. It helped Indians to have comparatively more self-confidence, self-respect and the feelings of patriotism. From these, humanity and morality among the common people spread and the feelings of political freedom and modern development raised.

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