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Debendranath Tagore

(1817—1905)


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(1817–1905)

A Bengali social and religious reformer. His brahmin father, Dwarkanāth, was an immensely wealthy Calcutta businessman and philanthropist who was a friend and supporter of Rāmmohun Roy. Educated in one of Roy's schools and at the westernized Hindu College, Debendranāth took over the leadership of the Brāhmo Samāj after Rāmmohun's death. Like his mentor, he was adamantly opposed to ‘idolatry’, and in a reorganization of the Samāj in 1843, he instituted a ‘Brāhmo Covenant’, requiring the now specific membership to worship one God. His attempts to justify this position as consonant with an essentially Advaitin reading of the authority of the Veda proved untenable, although he remained associated with the more traditionally Hindu wing of the Samāj. After Keshub Chandra Sen's more radical group (the ‘Brāhmo Samāj of India’) split away in 1866, Tagore remained in charge of the renamed Ādi Brāhmo Samāj (‘Original Brahman Association’), which over time dwindled into little more than an association of family and friends, based around his rural retreat at Śāntiniketan, northwest of Calcutta. Alongside an attempt to formulate a pattern of non-idolatrous ritual, Tagore compiled a selective anthology of what he considered to be true Hindu dharma, his religious perspective increasingly underwritten by his own experiences of direct revelation. He was the father of Rabindranāth Tagore. See also Brāhmo Samāj.

Subjects: Hinduism.


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