Brahmo-Somaj is the name of a theistical society in India. Its founder was a well-known Brahmin, named rajah Ram Mohun Roy, a man of great ability, born near Burdwan in 1774. Besides exerting himself for the abolition of Suttee, or the burning of Indian widows with their deceased husbands, and the promotion of native education, he preached everywhere pure monotheism, endeavoring to prove that the idolatry of the Hindus was contrary to the practice of their ancestors, and to the precepts of the Vedas; but he used the Indian name Brahma for the supreme being, and called the society he founded the Brahmo-Somaj, or Society of God. Its doctrines were, in fact, founded on a monotheistic interpretation of the Vedas. After the death of Ram Mohun Roy (at Bristol, in 1833), his friend Dvaraka Nath Tagore, a man of great weight and influence, gave his support to the Brahmo-Somaj, but it languished without a leader till his son Debendra Nath Tagore formed the nucleus of a new community, now called the Adi Somaj, or First Church. He propagated a pure deism, renounced idolatry, and declared his belief in the one God, as defined in the Vedanta. Then a third great leader arose, Keshub Chunder Sen, ,who confessed a revealed deism, answering more the religious than the speculative need of man. He rejected entirely the Hindu system. His society is called the Progressive or New Somaj. The creed of this party may be described as "a belief in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of mankind," and its theology might be well expressed by the first part of the first article of the Church of England: "There is but one living and true God — everlasting, without body, parts, or passions, of infinite power, wisdom and goodness, the maker and preserver of all things." Keshub's doctrines were carried by missionaries to different parts of India with such a success that, in 1876, one hundred and twenty-eight congregations belonged to the New Somaj, or Progressive Society, in opposition to the Conservative, or Adi Somaj of Debendra. Their worship consists in reading, on Sunday, portions from the Vedas, Avesta, Bible or Koran, which are discussed. In 1870 Keshub founded the Reform Association at Calcutta, for propagating a moderate and moral life, to disseminate literature and ameliorate the condition of women, the latter especially with the help of the "Native Marriage Act" passed in 1871, and which legalized marriages by Brahmaic rites, required that the bridegroom should be at least eighteen, and the bride fourteen years old, and made bigamy a penal offence for any one marrying under the act. But Keshub's tendency towards mysticism, and, his marrying in 1878 his daughter to a maharajah, caused a split in the society, and a new one according to purely rationalistic principles was formed, approaching more the conservative society under the leadership of Debendra. The theistical societies, of whatever shade they may be, are the present Protestants of India. See Leonard, A History of the Brahmo-Somaj, from its Rise to the Present Day (Calcutta, 1879); D'Alviella in the Revue des Deux Mondes, September 15, 1880; Brockhaus, Conversations-Lexikon (13th ed.) s.v. "Brahmasomadsch;" Williams, Hinduism, page 149 sq. (B.P.)

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