The History of Brahmo Samaj commences with Raja Rammohun Roy who was born on 22nd. May 1772. Whilst going thru his studies, his eyes were opened to the errors of Hindu idolatry and his mind was convinced about the superiority of Monotheism as a creed. In 1815, he founded a society called “Atmiya Sabha” or the “society of Friends” for discussion of religious truth and translation of many Sanskrit monotheistic treatises. Atmiya Sabha at times staged public discussion on religious and social question such as abolition of Suttee which roused wide-spread opposition against the Reformer.

Rammohun Roy organized a purely theistic service in the northern part of Calcutta on 20th. August 1828 this is considered the formal beginning of Brahmo Samaj movement. Theistic Chapel was formally consecrated on 23rd January 1830. The formal opening of Brahmo Samaj was attended with the suppression of the Suttee by Lord Bentick in preceding December in which Rammohun Roy had a large role.

After the departure of Rammohun Roy for England (1830) and his premature death there (1833) Brahmo Samaj gradually reached a moribund condition though its name, theology and social ideas continued to live and prosper among certain group of people. The munificence of Rammohun’s friend

Dwarkanath Tagore and single minded devotion of Pandit Ram Chandra Vidyavagis enabled it to tide over the period of crisis and new life was infused into Brahmo movement. Devendranath Tagore’s initiation into Brahmoism on 21st. December 1843 (Bengali 7 Poush, 1765) a memorable day in the cultural history of Bengalis still celebrated annually at Santiniketan. A monthly journal called “Tattwa Bodhini Patrika” was published with Devendranath Tagore at its head that year and began to publish translation of Vedas and Upanishad. It soon grew into a common platform for the intellectual and cultural elite of mid-nineteenth century Bengal. Devendranath Tagore started a course of propagandistic activity visiting different parts of the country and establishing new Samaj. He also succeeded in creating a band of preachers who carried light to different moffusil area.

Brahmo Samaj of India

The Brahmo movement gained momentum when dynamic Keshab Chandra Sen joined in 1857. Under the combined influence of both Devendranath Tagore and Keshab Chandra Sen, Brahmo Samaj entered into a new career of unusual activity. Keshab Chandra Sen established Indian Reform Association. A number of radical and far-reaching social reforms like female education and total eradication of class distinction started taking place. Since the foundation of Brahmo Samaj of India, a number of reformed marriages began to multiply which led to the enactment of Indian Marriage Act, initially drafted as Brahmo Marriage Act which validates inter-caste marriage in March 1872. In the beginning of 1878 Brahmo community was surprised to know that the eldest daughter of Keshab Chandra Sen who had till then not completed the age required by Law, was going to marry young Maharaja of Cooch-Behar who himself was till then a minor. The surprise was soon converted into active opposition and earnest protest poured in from many Samaj and individual Brahmos.

Sadharan Brahmo Samaj

A second schism took place in the samaj in May 1878 when a band of Keshab Chandra Sen’s follower led by distinguished personalities like Shibchandra Deb, Ananda Mohan Bose, Sivanath Shastri, and Umesh Chandra Datta started Sadharan Brahmo Samaj. Trust Deed of Samaj was executed in July. In 1880 Sadharan Brahmo Samaj also formulated Rules and Constitution on which future work of Samaj would be based. They started a weekly English journal called Brahmo Public Opinion which later merged with Indian Messenger in 1883 and is doing valuable work till now. A fortnightly Bengali journal called Tattwa-Kaumudi was also brought into existence.

In all fields of social reform including abolition of Caste System and the Dowry System, Emancipation of women and improving the Education system, Brahmo Samaj reflected the ideologies of Bengal Renaissance. In reality Brahmo Samaj does not discriminate between caste, creed or religion and is an assembly of all sorts and description of people without distinction. Mantle of enduring this ideology has descended on Sadharan Brahmo Samaj which continues to serve the society in various fields.

Below is given a chronology of the history of the Brahmo Samaj movement. While not all important events could be placed in this list, care has been taken to list the events that had a profound effect on the Brahmo Samaj movement.

1772 Rammohun born in Radhanagore, Bengal on 22nd May.
1815 Rammohun settles down in Calcutta. Starts the Atmiya Sabha, translation of Vedantapublished.
1816 Translation and publication of the Kena and Isha Upanishads in Bengali and English. Abridgement of Vedanta in English, Hindusthani and Bengali. Translation of Katha and Mandukya Upanishads in Bengali.
1818 A Bengali tract on Suttee. A tract explaining the meaning of Gayatri. English translation of the tract on Suttee.
1819 Celebrated verbal duel between Subrahmanya Sastri and Rammohun at the house of Behari Lal Chaubey in Barrabazar.
1820 English translation of the second tract on Suttee. The Precepts of Jesus, the Guide to Peace and Happiness published.
1823 Establishment of the Calcutta Unitarian Committee by Rammohun Roy, Dwarkanath Tagore, and William Adam
1825 Establishment of the Vedanta College for the teaching of the monotheistic doctrines of the Upansihads
1828 Establishment of the Brahmo Dharma on 20th August, 6th Bhadra 1234 B.E. at the house of Feranghi Kamal Bose which was rented for the occasion
1829 Lord William Bentinck passes the abolition of Sutte act on 4th December 1829. The orthodox Hindus go up in arms against Rammohun and Raja Radhakanta Deb formed a rival association called Dharma Sabha
1830 Rammohun Roy opens the door of the first theistic church on 23rd January 1830 (11th Magh 1236 B.E.). Leaves for Europe on 19th November.
1833 Rammohun Roy breathes his last on 27th September at Beech House in Stapleton Grove in Bristol
1839 Tattwabodhini Sabha, or truth-teaching society, started by Debendranath Tagore to arrest Trinitarian Christian conversions in Bengal.
1843 Debendranath and 20 of his associates are formally initiated in the Brahmo Samaj by Ramchandra Vidyabagish on December 21, (7th Paush 1765 B.E.). Birth of Brahmo Samaj when Debendranath institutionalizes Rammohun’s ideology of Hindu reform. Vedanta accepted as the authentic scriptural source of Hinduism
1851 Akkhoy Kumar Datta convinces Debendranath to give up Vedanta as the “book” of the Hindus.
1855 Renewal of Unitarian influence on Brahmoism when Charles Dall, American Unitarian missionary arrives in Calcutta. The British India Society established with Rev. James Long and Rev. Charles Dall. Dall was the only non-Indian member of the Brahmo Samaj, to remain in Calcutta to his death in 1885
1857 Keshub Chandra Sen, charismatic theistic reformer, joins the Brahmo Samaj as disciple of Debendranath
1859 Tattwabodhini Sabha abolished after Pt. Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, its famous secularist reformer and secretary, resigns in protest against Keshub. Keshub sets up the Brahmo School where weekly lectures were delivered and these lectures were widely attended.
1860 Keshub begins publishing tracts which were the trumpet call of the new Brahmoism and the first chapter was called,”Young Bengal, this is for you”. Establishment of the Sangat Sabha.
1861 Keshub and the younger Brahmos try to convince older Brahmos of the need for practical social reforms and a mission society. Debendranath’s eldest daughter Sukumari was married according to the reformed rites of the Brahmo Samaj on 26th July. Keshub starts a fortnightly called The Indian Mirror.
1862 Debendranath elevated Keshub Chandra Sen to the post of Minister or Acharya of the Samaj on 13th April and confers upon him the tite of Brahmanand.
1866 Formal schism between liberal younger Brahmos and conservative older Brahmos leads to creation of the Brahmo Samaj of India under Keshub at a meeting held in the house of the Calcutta College on 11th November.
1867 Brahmo missionaries first propagate the Hindu reformation across the subcontinent, making use of the railway system. Bijoy Krishna Goswami persuades Keshub to use Vaishnavism in the service of Brahmoism
1868 Keshub laid the foundation stone of his new church – the Tabernacle of New Dispensation on 24th January.
1869 Keshub consecrates the newly constructed chapel was on 22nd August
1870 Keshub visits England as a spokesman for the Hindu reformation. Keshub establishes the Indian Reform Association on 29th October, primarily to publish cheap literature for the poor, fight against alcoholism and to educate women.
1872 Marital reform among the Brahmo community finally wins approval of the government with the enactment of Act III, the Brahmo Marriage Act. The new tradition of reformed Hinduism is forcefully articulated before orthodox Hindu leaders of Calcutta by Adi Brahmo Samaj president, Rajnarian Bose, in a lecture entitled “The Superiority of Hinduism.”
1874 Liberal faction within Brahmo Samaj of India organizes the Samadarshi party to counter Keshub’s growing conservatism. Keshub abandons Unitarian gospel of social reform, turning instead to the intellectual study of all major Eurasian religions. He and his disciples begin a series of elaborate seminars known as “Pilgrimages to the Saints.”
1876 Political-minded members of the Samadarshi party found the Indian Association in support of the moderate nationalist ideology of Surendranath Banerjee. The movement leads a decade later to the formation of the Indian National Congress.
1878 Marriage of Keshub’s eldest daughter, Suniti, to the Maharaja of Cooch Behar, Prince Nripendra Narayan, in violation of the Brahmo Marriage Act of 1872, becomes exciting cause for a second major schism in Brahmo history. Samadarshi party reconstitutes itself as the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj.
1879 Keshub and his loyal followers inaugurate the Nava Vidhan, or New Dispensation Church, with Keshub as prophet of a universal religion.
1884 Death of Keshub followed by renewed factionalism within the New Dispensation between the Vaishnava-dominated Durbar and the Christian Unitarian group headed by P C Moozomdar
1886 Resignation of Bijoy Krishna Goswami as Missionary, indicative of factional struggle within the Sadharan Samaj between devout Vaishnava theists and the rationalist Vedantists led by Sitanath Tattvabhusan. Differences are reconciled, however, by Sivanath Shastri, Sadharan Brahmo Samaj spiritual leader.
1891 Brahmo philanthropy among Bengal’s urban and rural poor considerably extended with the creation of the Das Ashram under the direction of Ramananda Chatterji
1893 P C Moozomdar invited by American Unitarians to help organize the first world Parliament of Religions in Chicago.
1907 Bengali Brahmos start the Society for the Improvement of Backward Classes, which is the earliest pioneering movement in India dedicated to ameliorating the conditions of Hindu untouchables.
1911 Rabindranath Tagore assumes leadership of the Adi Brahmo Samaj, and becomes charismatic hero of younger generation of Brahmos. His action arrests growing tendency of Brahmos to defect to revolutionary nationalism./td>
1912 According to Sivanath Shastri, the peak of Brahmo expansion is reached by this year, when 232 Samajes were reportedly active throughout the subcontinent.
1913 Rabindranath honoured with Nobel Prize in Literature for his work Gitanjali (Song Offerings).
1921 Rabindranath Tagore formally inaugurates Visva Bharati University at Shantineketan as an expression of Brahmo universalism.
1941 Death of Rabindranath on 7th August signifies end of an era and the decline of the Brahmo Samaj per se. But his philosophic program of fusing Hinduism with Brahmo ideas and ideals lives on among the progressive middle-class Hindus of contemporary India.
Acknowledgement : David Kopf – The Brahmo Samaj and the Shaping of the Modern Indian Mind