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Several contemporary groups, collectively termed Hindu reform movements, strive to introduce regeneration and reform to Hinduism. Although these movements are very individual in their exact philosophies they generally stress the spiritual, secular and logical and scientific aspects of the Vedic traditions, creating a form that is egalitarian that does not discriminate based on Jāti (caste or subcaste), gender, or race. Thus, most modern Hindu reform movements advocate a return to supposed ancient, egalitarian forms of Hinduism, and view aspects of modern Hinduism, such as discrimination and the caste system, as being corrupt results from colonialism and foreign influence.[1]



Active Hindu communities are to be found in all parts of the world. In particular, countries of the former Soviet Union and Poland have thriving Hindu communities due to the missionary work of the Hare Krishnas. Most of the Hindu movements, with the exception of the Hare Krishna movement, reflect a more Smarta-like ideology.

There are groups in India that are actively engaged in getting women and those from socially disadvantaged jātis to become priests of Vedic ritual.

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 new movements look up to Swami Vivekananda; Rabindranath Tagore; Ramana Maharshi; Shri Aurobindo (for his Integral Yoga); A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (founder of the modern Hare Krishna movement); Swami Sivananda, Swami Rama Tirtha; Narayana Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda; Shrii Shrii Anandamurti and for inspiration. More recently, the work of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Sathya Sai Baba, Shirdi Sai Baba, Swami Muktananda, Swami Chinmayananda, Maharishi Dayananda Saraswati, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and Mata Amritanandamayi has inspired millions to create new centers of spiritual development. In the intellectual field, the writings of Ananda Coomaraswamy, Ram Swarup, Stephen Knapp, Sita Ram Goel, Subhash Kak and David Frawley have been influential.

In social work, Mahatma Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave, Baba Amte and Shrii Shrii Anandamurti have been most important. Sunderlal Bahuguna created the chipko movement for the preservation of forestlands according to the Hindu ecological ideas.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS was founded by Keshav Baliram Hegdewar in 1925. The goal was to unite Hindus, make them rise over their caste differences and work to achieve a Hindu Rashtra; the ideology of the Sangh, closely associated with political Hinduism, came to be known as Hindutva.

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 samgeet.

Hinduism and the West

Since the counter-culture revolution of the 1960s, there have been an increasing number of Western devotees of various Hindu lineages and practices. These have come about not only through the Hare Krishnas, but also through the Universalist teachings of such Hindu figures as Sri Ramakrishna, and the yoga teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar. The growing number of Indian immigrants relocating into the West, and the subsequent building of Hindu temples to meet the spiritual needs of these newly established Hindu communities, has also resulted in Westerners having ready access to traditional teachings. Many Western converts were introduced to Hinduism after attending the Western temples and then embracing the tradition. There can also be no doubt that the fitness revolution's ecstatic love-affair with yoga in the 1990s has helped spur on new interest in the teachings of Hinduism in the West.

More and more texts are being written by Western-born Hindu converts specifically for a new Western audience, the vast bulk of which have little to no experience with Sanskrit which renders traditional literature all but useless. Some of the more notable instructional texts are the Shaivistic teaching series of the Western-born Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami's Himalayan Academy, which includes a book on how to convert to Hinduism.

Along with the traditional Hindu lineages that are opening their doors to Westerners, there are also many non-traditional spiritualities that are also embracing the beliefs and practices of Hinduism to varying extents. The Unitarian Universalist Church often makes room in their schedule to host events tied to Hindu holidays and celebrations, during which non-Hindus can learn more about the tradition and begin to take part in the observances. There are also several Neopagan and Wiccan traditions, such as SHARANYA, which teach traditional Shakta Tantra within a Western, Wicca-influenced context.

The German Indologist Axel Michaels in his 1998 book about Hinduism distinguished founding, proselytizing religions, "guru-ism" as religious groups originating in India, but also widespread in the West, founded by charismatic persons with a corpus of esoteric writings of gurus predominantly in English: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Transcendental Meditation, Sathya Sai Baba and the Sathya Sai Organization, Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and ISKCON, Guru Maharaj Ji and the Divine Light Mission, Rajneesh Chandra Mohan and the Sannyasi movement in Poona, et cetera. These founding, proselytizing religions, "guru-ism" are according to the book one of the three subgroups of founded religions of Hinduism. The other two being sectarian religions and syncretically founded religions. The founded religions in turn are, according to the book, one of the three Hindu religions that comprise Hinduism. The other two Hindu religions that comprise Hinduism are Brahmanic-Sanskritic Hinduism, and folk religions and religions of social communities (subcastes, castes, tribes); Hindu folk or tribal religions.[2]

See also

Notable personalities


  1. ^ "The Reform Movements". Retrieved 2008-11-16.  
  2. ^ Alex Michaels "Hinduism Past and Present" (2004) Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-08952-3, translated from German "Der Hinduismus" (1998) page 22


  • John Nicol Farquhar, Modern Religious Movements in India, Kessinger Publishing (2003), ISBN 0766142132.
  • Kenneth W. Jones, Socio-Religious Reform Movements in British India, The New Cambridge History of India, Cambridge University Press (1990), ISBN 0521249864.
  • J. Zavos, Defending Hindu Tradition: Sanatana Dharma as a Symbol of Orthodoxy in Colonial India, Religion (Academic Press), Volume 31, Number 2, April 2001, pp. 109-123.
  • Ghanshyam Shah, Social Movements in India: A Review of the Literature, New Delhi, Sage India, 2nd ed. (2004) ISBN 0761998330

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