Shinde returned to India as a trained religious worker. Naturally, he plunged into the field of religious reform, particularly the movement of the Liberal religion which he made his guiding star.

Liberal Religion-

Rev. J. Estlin Carpenter traced the origin of the Liberal Religion to the conflict between orthodox Christianity based on the authority of Bible and Pope on one hand, and on the other, the progress made by science, philosophy and history during 19th century1.

The most important basic tenets and guiding principes of Liberal Religion are according to Carpenter:-

(i) the inquiry made by science, religion and philosophy is legitimate, and they be given free scope.

(ii) The fundamental truth of all religions is that God is spirit, and true worship of God is in spirit and truth; it is an act of mind that knits the soul and God into immediate relations.

(iii) The religion of the future will not depend on any book or priesthood. The basic principle of the Liberal Religion is the right of the soul to an open way to God. No church

1. W. Copeland Bowie (ed) : Liberal Religious Though at the beginning of the 20th centrury (Addresses and papers at the International council of Unitarians and other Liberal Religious thinkers and workers) held in London, May 1901, The President’s address by Rev. J. Estlin carpenter, M. A. (Oxford), (Published by philip Green, 5 Essex Street, Strand, London, 1901).


Can limit it to chartered channels. God’s grace is freely given to all His childeren who seek Him in love, humanity and trust.

(iv) The idea of conversion of the people of one country to any religious faith that was born in another country is rejected. Contact and sympathy may slowly modify the old instincts or create new social ideals.

(v) Yet the aspiration after unity cannot be repressed. Tentative unity can be achieved by forming larger groups of churches with broader liberties, discovery of sympathies and the hope of common ends. However, permanent unity of churches can be achieved only by comprehensive spiritual ideal, and the passionate conveiction that spiritual ideal pervades the universe. This conviction has received support of philosophy, science, history and Poetry. The task before the preacher of Liberal Faith is to disengage its underlying ideals, to give noble forms to the emotions it excites, and make them potent in conduct of life.

(vi) The three mighty objects that are always before us are the world, man and God. The ordered interpretation of nature done by the investigations of science stresses that the world wears the aspect of one phase or manifestation of the infinite mind, and the science thinks the thoughts of God after Him. Liberal Religion insists upon applying canons of science through the entire field of nature and history. Liberal Religion plants life firmly and faithfully on the world’s steadfastness, and it welcomes not only joys and beauties but also the sufferings with the conscience that if can still rely on the order and welfare of the whole. The Liberal Religion believes that ‘Harmony with the ever lasting will alone is peace.

(vii) Liberal Religion does not believe in the doctrine of ‘Depravity of Man’. It no longer considers morality as a positive command from heaven revealed by a supernatural law or supernatural person, but as a part of the social order, as social order is involved in the constitution of humanity itself. The Liberal Religion will be above all things ethical. It will demand the highest in personal character. It will palter with no favourite sins. The mighty causes of social justice, international right of popular welfare, temperance, purity must ever engage its unfalterig support. The Liberal faith that reposes its faith on God as the Author and Upholder of the world, the Creator, Guide, and sustainer of man, will draw unfailing guidance from the great historic religions, and will recognise the debt of the prophet-souls.

It is obvious from this brief account that the idea of Liberal religion could not be new or radical to any one brought up in the free religious atmosphers of India. V. R. Shinde was particularly brought up ina family that was exposed to various sectarian and cultural influences. The varkari system which was prevalent in the deccan and which shinde family had accepted. Was a powerful factor in fostering religious tolerance. Varkari sect is noted for its God-consciousness, devotion to God, liberality and truthfulness. This no doubt, provided a fertile ground for theready acceptance of Liberal Religion with similar principles. However, Vitthalrao could not remain firm in his Varkari tradition in his college career, when the teachings of the above sect were overpowered by agnosticism. The recovery of his faith in theism is credited to Max Muller’s Hibbert lectures by Vitthalrao himself2. Withhis faith thus reaffirmed, shinde had no difficulty in joining the Prarthana Samaj which was closely aligned to the Bhagavata dharma. However, it must be pointed out the liberal outlook of the Varkaris or the followers of the Bhagavata dharma was limited in its range. The devotees of vithal certainly did not discriminate on the basis of caste. But they had few opportunities of freely mixing with muslims or Christians. Though the Varkaris recognize all religions as true, this was only an intellectual acceptance but not their experience. So was the case with Shinde. He attained true liberal attitude-intellectual as well as emotional-only when he was part and parcel of the unitarian movement and was trained at the Manchester College of Theology, Oxford which was the principal seat of the Unitarian movement.

Manchester College-

The Manchester College of Theology, “the most truly liberal institution in the country” was run by Unitarians. However, it was open for training to missionaries of any religious denomination, and from any country on the surface of the earth. Thus the training in Manchester College liberated the missionary from orthodoxy and bigotry. The motto of the College was ‘Truth’ Liberty and Religion’.  The certificates issued to V. R, Shinde by Principal Drummond and Prof. Carpenter reveal that Vitthalroa wrote ‘excellent fortnightly papers on the History of Religion in India’, ‘a very thoughtful essay on the Theories of Incarnation in “Vaishnavism and Buddhism”. Read Pali texts of Buddhism, and sutdied with special interest Hinduism, Mohamedanism, zoroastrinism, and Religions of China. He studied Old Testament, philosophy and Doctrinal Theology. Vitthalrao was very much impressed by the Unity of thought and practice which the great teachers like principal  Taylor, Dr. Martineau, and Dr. Drummond exhibited in their life. Taylor’s advice to the students was to apply the knowledge of scriptures and his own conscience to the study of religion and to be liberal to all other sects of Christianity, and keep one’s mind free from partisanship or obstinacy Dr. Martineau insisted on keeping one’s system of thoughts in conformity with the widening knowledge and thought. Dr. Drummond’ emphasised on developing individual ability to conduct the search for Truth and Religion3. These teachings went a long way in moulding the thoughts and character of V. R. Shinde.

The Unitarian Society-

The Unitarian Society in England is described by Vitthalrao as the “ enlightened conscience of the civilized society in western world”. At the beginning of the 19th century, Unitarianism was a Biblical Religion accepting miracles and rejecting non-Biblical creeds, resting its hope on external revelation and attaching little importance to promises of Natural Religion. This position was


3. V. R. Shinde: Art. Manchester College in ‘Subodh Patrika’ (17-8-1902).
4. B. B. Keskar (ed.): Shinde Yanche Lekh, Vyakhyana Va Upadesh,
    Art. ‘Unitarian Samaj’ P. 45.


Radically changed due to development of scientific knowledge, and knowledge of Biblical and Historical criticism during the 19th century aided by influence of new thinkers and preachers. As a result of the work of William Ellery Channing and Theodore Parker in the U.S. A., J, J, Taylor (1757-61), J., Hanittan Thom, and above all James Martineau (1897) in Great Britain, and Raja Ram Mohan Roy in India (1830), Unitarianism became a spiritual religion, finding the seat of authority and leligion, in religious history and human experience of the divine. Interpreted by Reason and Conscience of Manking, welcoming the result of modern Biblical criticism5. Vitthalrao very aptly remarks, “The Religion of Unitarians was based on science, and nonetheless  their science was based on religion”. Moreoveer, a peculiar characteristic of the free churches like Unitarians and Universalists into which Shinde had dived deep, disarm certain natural prejudices against religion by allying the religion with common sense, with the best instincts of the heart, and with the happy service of brotherhood of man, They took for granted the divine life, and the longing of the hearts of men and women for it; and they seek to quicken it by association, common work and worship7, Unitarians’ belief that all men are offspring of God led to thenatural corollary of their urge for social service and public welfare schemes for the uplift of fallen fellowmen. This convinced Shinde of the indivisibility of the social work from religon8. Shinde was very happy to note that Unitarians were


5. Raymond V. Holt : The Unitarian Contribution to Social Progress in England (George Allen and Unwin Ltd., Museum Street, London, 1938, PP. 341-44; also see keskar (ed.), Op. cit,, P. 45.
6. V. R. Shinde; Op. cit.
7. P. H. Hugen holtz, Jr. (ed.): ‘Religion and Liberty’ (Addresses and Papers at the Second International Council of Unitarians and other Libera I Religious thinkers and workers, held at Amsterdam, 1903), paper by Rev. Samuel A. Eliot: Liberal Christianity In U. S. P. 121.
8. Alfred Hall : Fifty Points in favour of Unitarianism (British and Foreign Unitarian Association, Essex Hall, Street, Strand, London, 1920), PP. 114-115., also
B.B. keskar (ed.), Op. Cit., Art: Englandatil Dharma Vishayak Chalval and Liverppol Yethil Traivarshik Parishad, PP. 48-49.


Seeking to co-operate with non-Biblical religions, one of which was Brahmo Religion in India’.

Conference of Unitarians at Liverpool-

While attending the 8th Triennial Conference of Unitarians at Liverpool in 1903, Vitthalrao got very valuable insight as to how public opinion is formed by means of associations, and periodical conferences. He also got the enlightenment as to the importance of the central executive committee and the office of the permanent secretary in a public association. By this time, Unitarians were thinking of consolidating their church organisation, Triennial Conferences of the Unitarians were held with this view. Till 1903, ‘The British and Foreign Unitarian Association’ had voluntarily taken up the responsibility of acting as a central organisation of Unitarians, and was looking after the various activities organised by local churches of the Unitarians. In the triennial conference of the Unitarian Conference was elected and the executive took over the charge of the work form ‘the British and Foreign Association’. The person holding the post of permanent secretary of the executive committee was granted a sumptuous salary to enable him to work as a fulltime dedicated worker. He was to do the work of Co-ordinating the activities of different local churches. Shinde was very much impressed by the actual working of the Conference. The main Characteristics of the Conference were the orerly discussion of the various issues, appreciation of the papers representing divergent thoughts of the members, and the serence univocal singing of the prayer by all. It gave valuable guidance for shinde10. In his movement which he was to undertake in India afterwards.

While the manchester College and Unitarians moulded Vitthalrao’s ideas of Liberality in religion, it was the second International Council of Unitarians and other religious, thinkers and workers that gave definite didection to his activities.


9. Alfred Hall: Fifty Points in favour of Unitarianism, P. 113.
10. Ibid.


The International Council-

The International Council of Unitarians and other Liberal religions thinkers and workers was founded in 1900 and it provided a common platfrom for all the scattered liberal congregations in isolated thinkers and workers for religious freedom. The meeting which was held for this purpose at Bostom (U.S.A.) at the time of the anniversary of the American Unitarian Association was addressed by Pratapchandra Muzumdar of India, Rev. Clay Macaulay of Japan, spreading the idea of brotherhood of the people of the world. The idea could not be carried out due to economic difficulties. However, when the course in Manchester college was completed in 1903, Shinde prepared a practiableand methodical plan for his future religious career in India. Vitthalrao presented this plan in the form of a paper entitled “Liberal Religion in India” while representing the Brarmo Samaj of India, in the ‘International Council of Liberal Religious thinkers and workers’ held at Amsterdam in 1903(12). The paper is valuable as it indicates Vitthalrao’s understanding of the religious condition in india, and his plans for religious reform.

In the paper “Liberal Religion in India”. Vitthalrao seprates the religion of the individual from institutional Hindu religion in India, Shinde states that the Hindu religion suffers from the drawbacks and evils which are peculiar to it. As for the scriptures which are considered infallible, they are quite elastic in meaning. As for the worship. It is localised and symbolised to the utmost in the agelong temples and house-wise sacred case in which chosen gods are worshipped, As to the discipline, the religion has never


12. P.H. Hugenhotz Jr. (ed.): Religion and Liberty: Addresses and Papers at the Second International Council of Unitarians and other Liberal Religiou Thinkers and Workers, held at Amsterdam, September, 1903 (British ad Foreign Unitarian Association, Essex Hall, Essex Street, Strand, London, 1904), Paper by V. R. Shinde ‘Liberal Religion in India’,  P. 179 ff.   


Been organised in a church in the western sence. Being a slow development from ethincal times, the present system of discipline is an elaborate system of castes based more on social and family considerations than spiritual13. The episcopacy of Shankaracharya that came into existence in 8th century. Is mainly to safeguard traditions and ritual laws of Hinduism through the machinery of castes and not to minister to the spiritual wants. Only the Brahmanas and especially the professional priests. are required to live up to certain religious observances, while the rest of the population are beyond the caste rules, free to follow their own forms of customary piety as fasts, vows and ceremonies14. The real controlling tyrant who holds that in a hopeless subjection is neither the priest nor the scriptures but the custom, which keeps the masses under its hypnotic influence.  Hinduism is waiting for greater purification and restoration in the higher synthesis of the religion of manking growing out of the soul of its native land.

Shinde mentions that there are in India. Similar to the Western countires, the reformist liberal religious movements as Brahma Samaj and the Theosophical Society. Of these three. Shinde Considers Brahma Samaj as the most fully representing the Liberal Religions as understood by the ‘Council’ and preparing the ground for the higher synthesis which India was in need of.

“Raja Ram Mohan’s relgion”, said Shinde, “is not mere belief or emotion, but life all-around, politics, economics, social and religious reform.”15 The important principles of Brahmo relgion. Emphasised by Vitthalrao are universalism, rationalism, Spiritualism and practicalism.16 Raja Ram Mohan Roy, the first investigator of comparative religion in the world, found the seed of Universal Religion in all the great relgions. The Trust Deed of the first Brahmo place of worship opened it to all people without distinction for the worship of the Eternal, Inscrutable Being, Author and preserver of the Universe. The Universalism of Raja Ram Mohan was further more and more


13. Ibid., p.180
14. Ibid., p. 181
15. Ibid., p. 182
16. Ibid., pp. 183, 184 and 185.


Actualsed by his desciples. Devendranath Thankur discarded the old theory of infallbility of Vedas. However, he considered Vedas and also the sacred literature of the wide world with reverence as common divine treasure. Keshab Chandra Sen, through his New Dispensation brought out clearly the fundamental harmony of all the prophets. He delivered discourses on the lives of the prophets as an essential feature of the programmes of Brahma Samaj. A Brahao is undoubtedly a rationalist accepting the results of modern research in all branches of the study of religion. However, he is mystic in religion, and idealist in thought. The main source of his consciousness is the spirit and not mind. This spiritualism was cultivated by Keshab Chandra Sen. The practicalism of the Brahmo Samaj is seen in the fact that a true belifollower of Brahmo Samaj is not satisfied only with thoughts and feelings. He is anxious to prove his religion to himself and to the world by his activities of social reform which has been the primary need of India.

The Brahmo Samaj, loyal to its principles is not ready to come to any sort of compromise with the conventions of Hindu orthodoxy, it is thoroughly undogmatic in its own faith. The Brahmo Samaj has no sect; its doors are open to all.17 The Samaj has no professional ministers as such; there is a Central Training Institute at Calcutta for giving training to the Missionaries. The Social reform programme included the obolition of caste-system and the custom of early marriage; prmotion of female education and widow-remarriage. From the very beginning Brahmo Samaj was having very sympathetic relation with Unitarians of England and America.

The Arya Samaj, the second theistic religion was founded in 1875 by Swami Dayanand, a Brahmana monk of powerful personality. He was conversant with vedic literature. He regarded the four Vedas as the only authorities and totally rejected all subsequent scriptures. His teachings were based on the Vedas alone. He gave his own interpretation of the Vedas.

The Arya Samaj accepts the infallibility of Vedas, nonetheless they ingeneously interpret the text of the Vedas to bring it in com


17. Ibid., pp. 185 and 186


Plete harmony with modern thought which is the more dominant element in their faith than the text.18 In condemning idolatory, and in promoting social reform in all its aspects the Aryas are as sincere as the Brahmas.19 In spite of their exclusive regard for Vedas their enthusiasm at times glows to the white heat of Universal Religion. Lala Ralla Ram, one of their exponents, considers Christianity as embodied in the high ideals of Christ, and not in the Church dogmas; the Islam not a faith of fire and sword but of peace and goodwill to true believers; buddhism with its ethical loftiness, personal purity andresignation as the inherited treasures for Arya Samaj. Arya Samaj preaches universal brotherhood of men and fatherhood of God,20 Shinde very admiringly spoke of their marvellous progress in thought, organisation and propogation, extending to 250 congregations, and two big institutions where they were training their missionaries They accept converts even from Christianity and Islam.

The Theosophical society. The third theistic organisation. Which first arose in Americal, but afterwards settled its headquarters in India having 220 centres in India, out of 714 in the whole world. Its dogmatism and occultism apart, it has a largely liberalising influence of its own. Its objects are to form a neucleus of the universal brotherhood and to encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy and science. It has brought Hindus, Buddhists, Mahomedans, Parsees and Christians together; still they keep up their old connections. Making it a matter of boast for the society and a puzzle for others.21 But in as much as the work of the society brings about real spiritual re-awakening, religious toleration, and mutual understanding between various sections of humanity, its work is welcome to all friends of progress. However, the methods of the Teeosophical Society are doubtful as it dabbles too much in the dry bones of orthodoxy and ventures too far and too easily on the firbidden reguib of the Unseen.22 Nonetheless. Their practical and earnest efforts to uplift the fallen people by such means as the Central


18. Ibid., p.188
19. Ibid.
20. Ibid.
21. Ibid., p. 189
22. Ibid.


Hindu College at Varanasi and poor Pariash School at Madras, will command respect from all.23

Shinde remarks that all these three theistic movements are in origin independent and in fellowship apart from each other. Of these three, Brahma Samaj, most fully represents the Liberal Religion as understood by this council, However, the other two are not against the Liberal movement. Shinde hoped that in time to come they would all be conscious of the larger unity of which the Council was conscious.24 Moreover, Shinde expressed his faith that Brahma Samaj, if efficiently organised would offer basis for the operation of a wider movement in the East, for developing fellowship between the Liberal Buddhists of Japan, Burma, Siam and Ceylon on one hand and the Liberal Mohamedans of India and Basis of persia on the other.25 For the realisation of that dream, Shinde desired that the East and the West would have to co-operate. Till this time, the orthodox Christianity battled in vain against equally obstinate orthodox religions. Hence forward, Shinde hoped, the Liberal Christianity will be co-operating with other liberal movements, for the future sttuggle would be not between isms but between warm and palpitating life on one hand, and the cold fossils of all mere “isms” on the other.26 He considered the ‘Council’ as the sign


On his arrival in India on 6 October. 1903 Vitthalrao decided to devote himself entirely to the cause of the Liberal Religious movement in India. He planned his work very systematically with the view to (i) achieving co-ordination of the Liberal religious movement in differnet parts of India as a step for co-ordinating it with the International movement, and (2) working out the liberal religious movement in the locality in all its aspect, and prmoting the material and spiritual welfare of the masses

For fulfilling his objective shinde worked through various old oranisations, viz., All India Theistic Conference, Prarthana


23. Ibid., p. 190.
24. Ibid.
25. Ibid.
26. Ibid.


Samja. Brahma Samaj of Bengal, Satya Shodhak Samaj, and founded the ‘Family Prayer Association’ (Kautumbika Upasana Mandala), Theistic orainsation of Depressed Class Mission, and Brahma Samaj of Wai.

The ideal of Liberal Religion with its spiritualism, lack of dogma and priesthood, fellow-felling, interest in social justice and social welfare. International right, and social consciousness remained a premanent source of inspiration and guiding star for all of Vitthalrao’s activities, as can be seen by a brief review of his career with the differnet religious reform organizations.

All India Theistic Conference-

On his arrival, simulataneously with the work of Missionary of prarthana Samaj, Vitthalrao took up the work of All India Theistic Conference which he accomplished very skillfully during 1904-1914.

The All India Theistic confernece orginated as a wing of the indian National Congress, and was held for the first time in 1888. Justice M. G. Ranade. Who was the main injtiator, presided over the first session. The sessions of the Theistic Confernece also coincided with those of the Indian National Congress. The confernece can be called a truly national movment which aimed at brining together all the local and provincial theistic Churches. The Brahma Samaj of Bengal, with all its proto-types in different provinces was an important force in the organisation, and this proved its main weakness also. The confernece could not flourish due to the bitter schisms and division in Brahma Samaj in Bengal. There was no regular constitution for the Confernece. Between 1888 to 1903, the session was not held in 1893,  1897, 1899 and 1900 and it had no regularly appointed Secretary from 1893 till 1901. Further, the tendency for separate provincial conferneces, on the lines of provincial confenreces became strong.27

On his arrival in India, Vitthalrao attended the Theistic Conference of 1903 at Madras and decided to reorganise it with a


27. V. R. Shinde (ed.) : The Theistic Directory and A Review of the Liberal Religious Thought and work in the Civilised World, p. 46.


view to uniting the religious efforts and to promote liberal religious movemnet in India on a national basis, Vitthalrao’s experience of the Unitarian Triennial Conference of Liverpool gave him the necessary confidence and skill,

Vitthalrao took care to establish personal contract with the leaders in this activity particularly Vireshlingam Pantalu, Pillai and Vyankat Ratna Naidu of Andhra, Kailasan Pillay of Tinnevelly, Shivanath Shastri, Pratapchandra Mujumbar, Devendranath Tagore, and Hemchandra Sarkar of Bengal, and Prakashchandra Dev of Punjab, for winning their Co-operation,28 The Arya Samajists were entreated by Vitthalrao to join the Conference, As a result of these efforts on the part of Vitthalrao, the Theistic Conference of 1904 that was held at Bombay was a grand success which was admired by many, Consequently, Shinde was urged to work as Genereal Secreatary for all the future sessions.30 Shinde shouldered the responsibility till 1914 except in 1906 and 1911.  

The first important need of the Conference was a constitution for the Conference was a constitution for the Conference. The schismatic division of Brahma Samaj into Adi Brahma Samaj, Navavidha Brahma Samaj and Sadharana Brahma Samaj was a great stumbling block. Shinde gradually evolved the constitution of the Confernece from a social gathering to a ‘deliberative body tc suggest ways and means of progress to several samajas, and to promote spirituality by means of united prayers and conversation’ in 1905.31 Till, 1909, the work continued on this basis. Which was, though limited in nature yet wide enough to comprehend all the samajas, so far as representation and attendance were concerned. Between 1905 1909 the conference went round the country holding its annual sessions at Varanasi, Calcutta, Surat, Madras and Lahore respectively and made the representatives of  different samajas conscious about the common need of all. Thus, completing


28. V. R. Shinde: Mazya Athavani Va Anubhav, pp. 157-59.
29. E.K. Ghorpade: Karmaveer Bhaurao Patil, Charitra Va Karya, (Shree Lekhan Vahan Bhandar Poona, 1941), p. 20.
30. V.R. Shinde: Op. Cit., p. 188.
31. V.R. Shinde (ed.): The Theistic Directory, Article by Shinde: ‘All India Theistic Confenece’, P. 46.


The first stage of development by 1909 Vitthalrao presented the suggestion of framing a Constitution consisting of a permanent office and staff, and funds to implement the resolutions adopted in the Conference.32 The draft Constitution was framed by the Committee of 4 members viz., Hemachandra Sarkar, Nrityagopal Rai, Lala Raghunath Sahai and V. R. Shinde.33 It was readily accepted in December, 1911, The constitution named the Conference as ‘The All India Theistic Conference’, and gave it the objectives of promoting theism and servie to humanity. The Conference was to be held annually; it was to elect its president, standing committee of 10 members one each from Bombay, Madras, Punjab, U.P. or C. P, Bihar, Assam, and four from Bengal. One or two Secreataries were elected to look after the work and a Local Committee was to be appointed to hold the Conference in the city of its venue.34

A very important activity which the All India Theistic Conference was guided to undertake was the compilation of the Theistic Directory, the work of which, of course, was taken up by V.R. Shinde, This Directory was compiled in two parts, The first part contained descriptive descriptive notes on provincial and international Liberal Theistic Churches as the ‘Brahmo Samaj in Bengal’ by Shivanath Shastri, ‘The Punjab Brahmo Samaj’ by Lala Raghunath Sahai, ‘Southern India Brahmo Samaj’ by padam Raj Naidu, ‘The Khasi Hill Mission’ by Baba Umesh Chandra Chaudhari, ‘Liberal Religion in Japan’ by Zenno Suke toyosaki, and ‘Theism in Western India’, ‘The All India Theistic Conference’, ‘The Depressed Classes Mission Society of India’. ‘The New Light of Persia’ describing Liberal Bahai Movement in Persia, ‘The Liberal christianity in Europe, The Unitarianism in England and America’ all by V.R. Shinde. In addition to these enlightening chapters, the detailed account of each of the 168 local Samajas of all the Indian provinces and of the Theistic Church of Rev. Charles Voysey of London with the names of secretaries, number of practising or active members and sympathisers, the timing of meetings, the establishment of the prayer hall. funds institutions and a short history is given in mini print.


32. Ibid., P.47; C/f. Subodh Patrika, 30 January, 1912.
33. V. R. Shinde: athavani Va Anubhav, P. 200.
34. Ibid.


The Directory published in 1912 as a memorable work, was very much  admired in all quarters heloped creation of fellowship among the layment of Theistic Samajas in India and in other countries of the world, and was really a revolutionary force fostering sympathy for one another. The Theistic world was brought closer for all the intersted people in India and outside and thereby prepared them for an International Conference of the Liberal religion.

In 1911, the All India Theistic Conference passed the resolution of holding the session of the International Council of Council of Unitarian and other Liberal Religious thinkers and workers in India in 1914.35 The sessions of the All India Theistic Conference were being attended from time to time by the representatives from British and Foreign Unitarian Association. And from other western countries. Mr, G, Browne, in 1906, Prof, T, Davies, in 1908, both of British and Foreign Unitarian Association, Dr, Rudolf Otto of Gottingen University in 1911 were the notable representatives, In 1913, Rev. Dr. J. T, Sunder and of U, S, A, attended the Conference and was honoured with presidential chair with the view of making preparation for the International Confernece.36 A Special feature of the work by Shinde was that, though Shinde never had ready money in his hand, Shinde started the work with confidence that money would come only when the work is undertaken. This time too after taking decision to hold the Conference fund was collected by the workers of Liberal religion in India, America and Europe for meeting the expenses of the Conference.37 The Conference was to be held not only in one place but in four places, viz, Madras, Bombay, Lahore, and Calcutta, Dr. Vyankataratnam Naidu, V. R, Shinde, Prof. Sanchiram Sahani and Hemachandra Sarkar were appointed Secreataries for the four places respectively, Shinde as the General Secreatary published pamphlets for propaganda in India and western countries and busied himself with correspondence with the notable workers and thiners of liberal religion. The most prominent philosopher of Europe of that time Prof. Rudolf

35. V. R. Shinde: Athavani Va Anubhav, P. 202.

36. Ibid., P. 201.
37. Ibid., P. 203.


Oiken informed Shinde that he would be attending the Conference.38

However, all the enthusiasm and preparation were ravaged when the world war broke out in August, 1914. Not only that the International Conference could not be held but warconditions made even holding of the All India Theistic Conference henceforth impossible due to the rising tide of political upheavals.

Political Conflict-

Political conflict was not a speciality only of the Indian National Congress and the British Government. It spread over even to the participants of Liberal Religious movement. In spite of the high-sounding principles of ‘social justice and international right’ held as ideals of Liberal Religion, Dr. Drummond, the son of the famous Principal Drummond and the representative of British and Foreign Unitarian Association, could not feel the international injustice done by the British Government in evading the just demands of Indians for truly representative Government. V. R. Shinde felt the awkward pinch of the situation very bitterly and both of them agreed to differ on it and not to discuss it.39

However, V.R. Shinde’s efforts did not go waste, (i) Shinde effectively revived and reorganised the All India Theistic Conference and gave it an independent existence by giving it a constitution, its own funds and a permanent office, (ii) He intergrated the efforts of the workers of liberal religion in India, checked the separatist and localising tendency of the provincial religious Conferences and organised them on national basis opening its doors on International Liberal Religion Movement of a wider outlook. Shinde was carrying forward the effort of Ram Mohan Roy and keshab Chandra Sen,Devendranath Nath and Pratapchandra Muzumdar, who were inspired with the sames outlook. For this purpose, thecentre of gravity of the religion shifted from Calcutta to Bombay. A very notable achievement


38. Ibid.
39. Ibid., P. 352.


Of V. R. Shinde was that the successfully harnessed not only the provincial Samajas but also the schisamatic divisions of Brahma Samaj for a noble purpose of united effort for promoting the Liberal outlook of religion. Moreover, Shinde worked as a guide to rejuvenate the interest of this All India Theistic Conference workers in social work as famine relief work in U.P, and nation-wade agitation foreliminating the denial clause in the Civil Marriange Act, III of 1872,40 A very notable achievement of V. R. Shinde was that the religious activity continued its existence along with the National movement and was saved from its eclipse by the political movement between 1904 to 1914.

In the International Liberal Religious movement, Shinde made a very notable contribution. It was Shinde who suggested Dr. Sunderland to institute a scholarship for the benefit of Indian missionaries who desire training in Manchester College of Theology, in U.K., or Mediaeval Institute of Training in U.S.A. He himself was benefited by this scholarship. He revived the All India Theistic Conference that brought all the Liberal Religious Movement together under its auspices. The All India Theistic conference became such a strong organisation that Shinde could extend invitation to the International Liberal Religious Council to hold its Conference of 1914 in India. In this Conference, the All India theistic Conference was to add a feather of success to its cap by plying the host to the International council. The close intimacy between British and Foreign Unitarian Association and Prarthana Samaj was established through Shinde who instituted postal Mission and Liberal religious reaing classes in Prarthana Samaj. He sent a condolence letter on the death of Booker Te Washington, the Negro Reformist to his institute at Tuskejee, Alabama State, America.41

Thus, Shinde realised his dream of establishing co-operation between East and West in promoting Liberal religious thought and practice to a considerable extent. This whole movemet brought Shinde nearer to all important personalities in this and allied fields. More significant, Shinde grew into a true liberal in


40. V. R. Shinde (ed.): The Theistic Directory, P. 49.
41. Bombay Chronicle, 22-11-1915, Cf. C. B. Khairmode:
“Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar”, Vol, I, (1952), P. 205.


Respect of not only religion but also in his approach to social, economic and political problems.

Prarthana Samaj-

As compared to connections of Shinde with picked men of higher understanding in the All India Theistic Conference, Shinde’s relationship with the men of Prarthana Samaj was rather a hard struggle as Shinde tried to improve the machinery of the institution and to improve the tone of its programme. Shinde found that it was not very easy to inject the spirit of Liberal religion in the rather unreceptive body of Prarthana Samaj. Prarthana Samaj. though, osternsibly at least, founded at the instance of Keshab Chandra Sen, Assumed a markedly different character from the Brahma Samaj. With Prarthana Samaj, the principles of monism, praer, rejection of idol-worship, and equality and fraternity of men42 were observed more in thought than in actual life. Though Prarthana Samaj at first made an effort to imbibe the revolutionary ideas of Paramhamsa Sabha, afterwards much modification and slowing down was introduced under the guidance of M.G. Ranade and R, G, Bhandarkar, who decided to bring about reforms that appeared to be in continuity with the old traditions.43 However, Ranade’s instistance on all-round progress in politics, economics, social and religious matters was almost forgotten after his death.

In 1872, Babu Pratap Chandra Mujumdar’s services were lent by Brahma Samaj of Calcutta to Prarthana Samaj for six months. During this period, Pratap Chandra Instituted the Bombay Theistic Association, a separate organisation from Prarthana Samaj to attract people of other denominations to it. Under its auspices he conducted ‘Arya Mahila Samaj’ for the benefit of women, ‘Moral training classes’ for the benefit of children, Night schools for the benefit of working men, and Subodh Patrika as a fortnightly publication. Afterwards, the Bombay Theistic Association faded out of existence and all the above activities were resumed by the Prarthana Samaj.44


42. D. G. Vaidya : Op. cit.
43. V. R. Shinde (ed.) Theistic directory, V. R. Shinde’s article “Theism in Western India”. P. 32.
44. D. G. Vaidya : Op. cit., pp. 96, 99 and 100.


When V. R. Shinde was appointed missionary of Prarthana Samaj in Nov. 1903, he found it in a disorderly condition, The Prarthana Samaj has no constitution to regulate the relations between its main centre at Bombay and the branches at Poona, Satara, Ahmednagar, and Ahmedabad. The work of preaching and propaganda had considerably suffered due to failure of the Samaj to make wholesome financial provision on a permanent basis.45 Moreover, almost the entire generation of the capable, progressive founder members such as Mama Paramanand, V. B. Navarange, V. A, Modak, Atmaram pandurang, and M. G. Ranade had Passed away46   and very few men in Prarthana Samaj could have the perspective of Liberal Religion Movement of which Prarthana Samaj was considered to be important unit in western India.

The members did not accept Shinde’s repeated suggestion of a definite constitution.47 Nor was proper arrangement made for the provision of the expenses of missionary work. The earlier missionary S.P. Kelkar was paid Rs. 40 plus the expenses of travelling, Still he complained that he could not undertake the work as the travelling expenses were not made available to him in time. Ultimately, he left the missionary work of Prarthana Samaj and became a missionary of Brahamo Samaj.48

Shinde, as referred previously, had received systematic training in Manchester College and had seen bow the religious institutions could develop only with a proper constitution, wellpaid conscientious missionaries for the spread of the ideas, and a well-paid, devoted, full-time secreatary to co-ordinate the work of different centres. He felt very much embarassed to see that none of these existed here. However, some senior members Sheth Damodardas Sukhadwalla, DR. Bhandarkar Sir Chandavarkar, Dinanath Madgaonakar and Shivarampant Gokhale,expressed the hope that a trained missionary such as V. R. Shinde, could certainly make the work of Prarthana Samaj much more glorious. Shinde was given a salary of Rs. 60 inclusive


45. Ibid., pp. 129, 130 and 131.
46. V. R. Shinde: Mazya Athavani Va Anubhava, P. 152.
47. Ibid.
48. D. G. Vaidya : Op. cit., pp. 124, 129 and 130.


Of all travelling expenses and allowances; and was provided good housing in the newly constructed Ram Mohan Ashrama which consisted of an assembly hall of Prarthana Samaj, guest house, library and the living rooms of missionary. Congsequently. Shinde who was already pressed by expenses of a big family, was required to extend hospitability to well-placed important personalities who lodged in Prarthana Samaj during the period of their work. Some members like Sir Narayan Chandavarkar, dinanath madgaonkar, Navarange, Kelkar, D. G,Vaidya, Laxmibai Ranade, and Korgaonkar rendered valuable help to Shinde in his economic difficulties at times, but no regular arrangement for meeting the extra burden was made by the managing council.49 Yet, this did not hamper Shinde’s idealism and zeal for work.

With unceasing effort and working with the available resources, Shinde introduced order in the chaotic conditions. He was able to gather some good workers such as Vamanrao Sohoni, who took up the work of supervising the night-schools, D. G. Vaidya, who looked after editing of ‘Subodh Patrika’, Korgaonkar, who looked after accounts, K. R. Bhonsle, who took up the responsibility of the Fondling house and orphanage at Pandharpur. Thus relieved of the burden of routine work. Shinde devised new projects such as Religious Reading Class for youths,50 the Brahmo Postal Mission,51 and compiled a handy, prayer-book ‘sulabha Sangita’ for the students’52 He introduced new practices in the Divine Service.53 by including Hindi devotional songs from Sindh, and Bengali songs of Rabindranath Tagore with proper translation into Marathi. He initiated the practice of reciting devotional songs for half an hour before the Divine service; boys sang before the service, while women sang the songs during the process of Divine service. Sulabha Sangita became so popular that it was issued in 5 editions. The Brahmo Postal Mission distributed books and tracts on the principles of Brahmo Religion and its way of Divine Service (Upasana). The Liberal Religious reading class encouraged the young students to read sacred literature of


50. D. G. Vaidya: Op. cit., P. 175.
51  Ibid., pp. 178-179.
52. V. R. Shinde: Op. cit., P. 171.
53. Ibid., P. 170.


Various religions, and particularly such books as Armstrong’s God and Soul, Paul Deussen’s Philosophy of Upanishads, and the books by Emerson.The Brahmo Postal Mission and the Liberal Religious Reading Class received additional financial support from British and Foreign Unitarian Association, and Shinde was able to distribute 3,438 books and 12,700 tracts of Brahma Samaj, and 633 books and 5,000 tracts of Unitarian Samaj among the earnest followers. The Young Theists Union which was founded in 1905, was guided by V. R. Shinde, It trained the youths to conduct the sacraments according to Brahma religion for their family, and secured a reliable means of maintaining continuity of Anushtanic membership of the family through this process. These activities of Shinde won admiration as a ‘new ear’ in the history of the Prarthana Samaj.