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Several contemporary groups, collectively termed Hindu reform movements or Hindu revivalism, strive to introduce regeneration and reform to Hinduism, both in a religious or spiritual and in a societal sense. The movements started appearing during the Bengali Renaissance.
The religious aspect mostly emphasizes Vedanta tradition and mystical interpretations of Hinduism ("Neo-Vedanta"), and the societal aspect was an important element in the Indian independence movement, aiming at a "Hindu" character of the society of the eventual Republic of India.
From the 18th century onward India was being colonialised by the British. In contrast to the Muslim domination,[dubious ] this colonialisation had a huge impact on Indian society, where social and religious leaders tried to assimilate western culture and modernise Hindu culture. During the 19th century, Hinduism developed a large number of new religious movements, partly inspired by the European Romanticism, nationalism, and esotericism (Theosophy) popular at the time. Conversely and contemporaneously, India had a similar effect on European culture with Orientalism, "Hindu style" architecture, reception of Buddhism in the West and similar.
In social work, Mahatma Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave, Baba Amte and Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar have been most important. Sunderlal Bahuguna created the chipko movement for the preservation of forestlands according to the Hindu ecological ideas.
One of the foremost movements in breaking the caste system and educating the downtrodden was the Lingayat movement spearheaded by Basavanna in the 12th century in Anubhava Mantapa in Kalyani of Karnataka. The less accessible Vedas were rejected and parallel Vachanas were compiled.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or VHP, was founded in 1964 by the second sarsanghachalak (chief) of the Rashtriya Svayamsevak Sangh, Shri Madhav Golwalkar, with the core objective of consolidating and strengthening Hindu society and also to eradicate the caste system among Hindus, which they claim had "crept in during medieval times" and to unite Hindus. The VHP has openly advocated appointing Dalits (lowest strata in Hindu society) as priests in temples and also runs several medical camps, hospitals, schools and hostels in remote regions of India, primarily inhabited by Dalits and tribals.
In recent years the VHP has emerged as one of the most active Hindu missionary organisations and has organised several mass conversion programs of Christians and Muslims who, they claim, were Hindus once upon a time back to Hinduism.
The Brahmo Samaj is a social and religious movement founded in Kolkata in 1828 by Raja Ram Mohan Roy. The Brahmo Samaj movement thereafter resulted in the Brahmo religion in 1850 founded by Debendranath Tagore — better known as the father of Rabindranath Tagore.
The Arya Samaj is a monotheistic Hindu reform movement founded in India by Swami Dayananda in 1875 at Bombay. He was a sannyasin (ascetic) who believed in the infallible authority of the Vedas. Members of the Arya Samaj believe in one God and reject the worship of idols. Dayanand's interpretation of the Vedas was both unique and radical; for example he taught that the Vedas unambiguously advocate monotheism. He stressed that the Vedas do not contain any mention of idol worship, because they teach that God is a non material, formless and metaphysical spirit and, further, emphasise the doctrine of karma and reincarnation, the ideals of brahmacharya (chastity) and sanyasa (renunciation). Dayananda claimed that the Veda is the only true scripture because God reveals His true word at the outset of creation (otherwise He would be imperfect by having deprived many human generations of true knowledge until the inception of today's various religions) and that, most definitely, there is no place in it of a discriminatory or hereditary caste system.
It aimed to be a universal structure based on the authority of the Vedas. Dayananda stated that he wanted 'to make the whole world Aryan', i.e. he wanted to develop missionary Hinduism based on the universality of the Vedas. To this end, the Arya Samaj started Shuddhi movement in early 20th century to bring back Hinduism to people converted to Islam and Christianity, set up schools and missionary organisations, and extended its activities outside India.Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India in his book, The Discovery of India credits Arya Samaj in introducing proselytization in Hinduism
The Samaj has branches around the world and has a significant number of adherents among people of Indian ancestry in Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, the Caribbean, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Swami Vivekananda was a central personality in the development of neo-Hinduism (also called Neo-Vedanta) in late 19th century and the early 20th century. His ideals and sayings have inspired numerous Indians as well as non-Indians, Hindus as well as non-Hindus. Among the prominent figures whose ideals were very much influenced by them were Rabindranath Tagore, Gandhi, Subhas Bose, Satyendranath Bose, Megh Nad Saha, and Sister Nivedita.
In Indonesia several movements favour a return to Hinduism in Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan, and Sulawesi. Balinese Hinduism, known as Agama Hindu Dharma, has witnessed great resurgence in recent years. Shrii Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar (founder of Ananda Marga) initiated a new renaissance in the Indian world of sangeet.
The Hindu traditions also influenced western religiosity. Early in the 19th century the first translations of Hindu texts appeared in the west, and inspired western philosophers such as Arthur Schopenhauer. Helena Blavatsky moved to India in 1879, and her Theosophical Society, founded in New York in 1875, evolved into a peculiar mixture of Western occultism and Hindu mysticism over the last years of her life.
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