History of movemnets - 16

The domestic and social life of the members of the samaj is slowly and steadily conforming to the princi­ples of their faith. The domestic rites are mostly performed according to the Theistic ideals; early marriage has been abolished. Recently there have been a few notable inter-caste and inter-race marriages in the Samaj which are being much appreciated even by the sympathisers of the Samaj. The Pritibhojans or the Communal Dinners during the anniversary celebrations are being more and more largely attended by members and by a few sympathisers, ladies of the Samaj freely taking part in them.

Since the last six years some leading members of the Samaj have inaugurated quite a new movement under the name “The Depressed Classes Mission Society of India” for the radical social and spiritual betterment of the millions of the so-called “untouchable” populations of India. The Mis­sion is not organically connected with any local Samaj and though it is conducted on the most uncompromisingly liberal principles of the social and religious reform in India, earnest minded men and women not belonging to any Samaj are openly and enthusiastically coming forward to render both pecuniary help and personal service to the Mission in its several centres; while on the other hand in the several sessions of the All-India Theistic Conference the work of the Mission was heartily recognised as Theistic and warmly commended to the sympathy and support of the Brahma world.  In five places viz., in Thugaon in Berar, Bombay, Poona, Satara and Kolhapur, Theistic Con­gregations are organized by the members of the De­pressed Classes themselves under the auspices of this Mission and weekly services are regularly held.*  

Ahmadabad. —In the hall of the Gujarath Train­ing College a unique public meeting was held on the 17th of December 1871 to offer prayers for the re­covery of the then Prince of Wales ( the late King Edward ) at the invitation of some local theists. The form of prayers adopted on that occasion so pleased all present, that the reformers took advantage of the moment and founded the Ahmadabad Prarthana Samaj on that very day. Rao Bahadur Sirdar Bholanath Sarabhai was the first president and Rao Saheb Mahipatram Rupram, C. I. E., the first Se­cretary. Mr. S. N. Tagore I. C. S. and Rao Bahadur Gopal Hari Deshmukh the then Judge of the Small Causes Court exerted their best to develop the Samaj. But the main spiritual impetus and strength of the Samaj was derived from the devotional spirit of the worthy president Bholanath Sarabhai Diwatia. His Prayer book Prarthana Mala has found its place in the homes and hearts of the Gujarati people and hymns from it are sung even in the orthodox Hindu temples. Influential men of the city such as a mill manager Mr. Ranchodlal Chotalal were attract­ed by the sweetness of the president and in a short period of 5 years the present beautiful Mandir was built and (* See pages 152, 139, 150, 145 of the Directory for detailed descriptions of these congregations.) opened on the 3rd May 1876 at a cost of Rs. 12,000 of which Shet Bechardas Umbadas, C. S. I. of Ahmadabad contributed Rs. 4,000. The next few years seem to be the most active period and we read in the Secretary’s report for 1879 :—“The Samajists directed their attention to issuing vernacular tracts and a serial called Dharma Tatva was started in 1877. Babu Satyendranath Tagore delivered excel­lent sermons in Gujarati and the Samaj published them. The president visited the Kaira Samaj and the Secretary nine others in the districts viz. Nariad, Petlad, Sojitra, Baroda, Broach, Ankleshwar and Surat. Great sympathy was shown by the conduc­tors and members of the Samajes and he addressed very crowded meetings in each place.” But all this activity seems to have led to no permanent results; for a few years afterwards the Ahmadabad Samaj was left alone and till now is the only Samaj in Gujarat. The reason of this failure might be that the movement in all probability was conducted by men of official position which fact has been in many other places and other parts, a great drawback to permanent progress. In the early reports of the energetic Secretary we see again great stress laid upon the work more or less of a con­troversial nature. Customs and practices of the ortho­dox Hindus seem to have been treated rather roughly from the pulpit. We find in the report for 1887,  “The fiction about the intercalary month called Adhika Mas of which so much is made by all the interested Brahmans and which happened to fallwithin this year was taken up for a series of  discourses; the Ekadasi, the Ramnavami and other holidays on which people observe fasts and vigils were also made subjects of lecures delivered on those days in the Mandir.”