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A Bengali Brahmo or the traditional Bengali elites are Bengal's upper class. They form the bulk of the historical colonial establishment of eastern India. Educated mostly in a select few schools and colleges, they were one of the wealthiest and most anglicised communities of colonial India. Presidency College's control over the development of and continued influence on the Brahmos and vice versa was complete in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Drawn from the ranks of the newly emerging colonial ruling class, considered to be junior partners in the enterprise of the British Empire, the Brahmos were typically employed as Bengal Presidency governors, high court judges, commissioners, collectors, magistrates, railway managers, Presidency College and Calcutta Medical College principals and professors, as well as those who made their major profits in big business. Politically, they were considered to be moderates in nationalist politics, with the aim of joining council politics for the furtherance of the constitutional question within the framework of the Empire. Influenced by the teachings of the Upanishads, most of them also drew inspiration from the Unitarian church.
A Brahmo (Bengali: ব্রাহ্ম) is either an adherent, with or without a diksha, of Brahmoism to the exclusion of all other sects, castes and even religions, except Hinduism, or a person with at least one Brahmo parent or guardian and who has never denied his faith. This definition has evolved from legal acts and juristic decree since previously "the word Brahmo did not admit of a clear definition."
The 2001 Census of India  counted only 177 Brahmos in India, but the number of followers (Brahmo Samajists) who constitute the wider community of Brahmo Samaj (assembly for Brahmo worship) is significantly higher, and reliably estimated at about 20, 000 Sadharan Brahmo Samajists, 10, 000 other Brahmo denominations and 8, 000,000 declared Adi Dharmists. Since the Brahmo Samaj does not sanction caste, many low caste Brahmo converts in Upper India, benefiting under India's social development policies, prefer to declare themselves as followers of Adi Dharm, a practice fostered by the Brahmo Samaj of North India since the 1931 census. A state-wise study by the Brahmo Conference Organisation has tabulated 7. 83 million Adi Dharm declarants in the 2001 Census.
A recent publication describes the disproportionate influence of Brahmos on India's development post-19th Century as unparalleled in recent times, It states that the "... Brahmos are amongst the elite groups of modern India, along with the Parsis of Bombay, the Chitpavans of Pune, the Iyers,Nairs and Ayyangars of the South, the Kashmiri Pandits of Uttar Pradesh and the Kayasthas of the Punjab and Bihar..." This publication further states that the Brahmos are "... the most cosmopolitan, having been overwhelmingly drawn from three castes - Brahmins, Vaidyas and Kayasthas - while the others were from a single caste..." It was the Brahmos who played an important role in organizing the Indian Political Association, which was the forerunner to the Indian National Congress.
The Brahmo Samaj refers to the wider socio-religious community either following the principles for Brahmo worship or subscribing to membership of a Brahmo Samaj, which is an association established for maintaining premises for assembly and worship of Brahma. A follower or subscriber member of this community is referred to as Brahmo Samajist.
One aspect of Brahmoism is recognition that not only explicit faith and worship makes for a Brahmo, but also genealogy, which is implicit. People with even a single Brahmo parent or a Brahmo guardian are treated as Brahmos until they absolutely renounce the Brahmo faith. This often causes tension within the Samaj, for example, when an offspring of a Brahmo follows communism or atheism or another religious belief without renouncing Brahmoism formally. There are differing views between the Theist and Deist streams of Brahmoism on the retention of such people within the fold. Additionally, a Brahmo who opts not to subscribe to membership of a Brahmo Samaj remains a Brahmo but ceases to be a Brahmo Samajist.
Brahmoism does not forbid its followers from retaining other faiths like Islam or Christianity. Neither is formal conversion to Brahmoism required nowadays, thereby affirming a very well settled legal controversy between Sir J.C. Bose and Rani Bhagwwan Koer which states that a non-Brahmo Brahmo Samajist does not cease to be (say) a Hindu or Sikh by following the Samaj.