The Brahmo Dharma Debate: Part 1

  • Deepa Nag Haksar


From the perspective of philosophy of religion, Part 1 of this essay examines the original vision of the faith ‘Brahmo Dharma’ as ‘Reform Hinduism’, a ‘sect’ within the larger religious tradition as ‘Vedantic monotheism’ founded by Raja Rammohun Roy in 1828—with the nineteenth-century ‘Bengal Renaissance’ in the background. Roy questioned the authority of revelation given in the Brahmanas in the Vedic Scriptures and endeavoured a democratization of the Vedanta, rejecting the caste system as well as idolatry. It charts the transition of the Faith from ‘Reform Hinduism’ to Debendranath Tagore’s Codification given in his book Brahmo Dharma, 1850, interpreting it as an ‘independent religion’, not adhering to the authority of the Vedas including the Vedanta or any other religious scripture. This essay marks the recent legal claim in Supreme Court of the Brahmo Samaj that its Faith ‘Brahmo Dharma’ is non-Hindu, and as an ‘independent religion’, it is deserving of ‘minority’ status. The role of British colonialism pertaining to the legal history of ‘Brahmo Dharma’ is reviewed here to bring forward Brahmo Samaj’s contemporary claim of ‘Brahmo Dharma’ being ‘non-Hindu’. Focusing on ‘religious reform’ as primary to ‘social reform’, in this context, this essay reflects upon the interpretation of the Faith—arguing that ‘reform in religion’ ought to be recognizable in law, not merely customs and rituals, considering ‘the Spirit of the Faith’ which is essentially ‘Upanishad–Vedanta’.


Reform Hinduism Brahmo Dharma/Brahmoism Vedantic monotheism Bengal Renaissance Natural theology Minority non-Hindu religion 


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© ICPR 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of DelhiDelhiIndia

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