The 19th Century Renissance In India

2123 words - 8 pages

The nineteenth century witnessed a cultural, religious and literary resurgence in India- the Indian Renaissance. It was a period of great social, cultural and political change. The Europeans, especially the British, who came to trade in India assumed the role of colonisers and greatly influenced the Indian life. Though the British rule caused much destruction to the wealth and culture of India it also brought forth a reawakening of the Indian spirit, with the introduction of the English language and education. The factors that led to the Indian Renaissance were the arrival of Christian missionaries, the introduction of English education, the Westernisation of Indians, the spread of Christianity and the fervent response of the Indians to these changes. The Western contact gave a jolt to India's traditional life and created "a new awareness, a sense of urgency, a flair for practicality, and alertness in thought and action" (Iyengar, page29). The reawakening of the Indian spirit not only led to a new life in literature but also to a revival of interest in ancient literature and native religion.

India in the latter years of the eighteenth century was in a state of intellectual and spiritual decadence. The nation was diseased and self-divided. The ancient glory of India was lost long ago. The ingredients of the ancient India according to Sri Aurobindo were "an ingrained and dominant spirituality, an inexhaustible vital creativeness and gust of life and, mediating between the, a powerful, penetrating and scrupulous intelligence combined of the rational, ethical, and aesthetic mind each at a high intensity of action" (qtd. in Iyengar, page29)- that is, the spirit, the intellect, and the life-impulse, all functioning at the highest pitch and yet working in the closest collaboration to create a nation rich in culture and heritage. But India under the foreign yoke was a different picture. India was politically and economically dominated by the Europeans and intellectually and spiritually conquered by a state of decay and stagnation.

The West comprised of the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British and the French. The foreigners fought many battles, among themselves and with the native rulers in order to establish their supremacy in India. The Battle of Plassey fought in 1757 marked the beginning of British rule in India, especially in Bengal. There were missionaries, soldiers, merchants, adventurers and administrators among them. The primary motive of the East India Company was not political domination or the proclamation of the Kingdom of Christ or the suppression of advancement of native culture but the economic domination of India.

Towards the beginning of the nineteenth century, India was showing signs of the Western contact. In 1813 the commercial monopoly of the British in India ended. The British assumed law enforcement functions, educative and civilizing functions in the country. Civil service, communication and transportation systems were...

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