Renaissance or reawakening marks the nineteenth century of Indian History. “Indian Renaissance was an attempt towards the rejuvenation of Indian cultural life that put on a new garb without completely being a drift from old moorings”. The rapid evolution of modem India is but an aspect of the Indian Renaissance that commenced in the nineteenth century. This Renaissance has profoundly stirred the Indian soul to its very depths and produced far- reaching remarkable changes in several spheres of Indian life. In India Renaissance was followed by reformation movements all over the country. It paved the path for national regeneration. During the later half of the nineteenth century many spheres of the Indian life were permeated with the spirit of renaissance and reformation. The spirit of re-awakening, revival and recreation spread from sphere to sphere of national life. It affected profoundly society, religion, literature, industries, crafts and politics.
The Indian Renaissance was at first on intellectual awakening and profoundly influenced our literature education though and art; in the next succeeding generation, it became a moral force and reformed Indian society and religion; and in the third generation from its commencement it has brought about the economic mordernisation of India and ultimately the political emancipation.
FEATURES OF THE INDIAN RENAISSANCE
(i) Socio-Religious Movements
In the beginning Renaissance led to the repudiation of Indian values and slavish imitation of all that the west stood for. It seems that the influence of the west in all spheres of life has been so overwhelming that Indians lost their own and became “sedulous apes”. Such a state of things roused in due course a strong reaction. Consequently a spirit of revival commenced and everything savouring of the past was supported whole-heartily, welcomed warmly and honoured enthusiastically. It was a defensive mechanism against extreme reaction. It was symbolised in the religious messages of Dayanand Saraswati, Ramkrishna Paramahansa and Vivekanands. It may be designated as the ‘revivalist group’. Between the two movements arose a new one. It sought compromise between the two. It was led by Raja Ram Mohan Roy and propagated by Rabindranath Tagore, Dr. Annie Besant and Ramkrishna Mission. This middle group’ aimed to assimilate the best and enduring features of European culture with those of Indian without eliminating or discarding the essential ingredients of the Indian culture and civilisation.
But the first decades of the twentieth century witnessed the birth of another unique spiritual movement in India, It was led by Shri Aurobindo. It interpreted Indian Renaissance as the rebirth of the soul of India into a new body of enthusiasm and energy, a new form of its innate and ancient spirit.
On account of these religious movements “there arose in the period a number of reformers, teachers, saints and scholars who have purified Hinduism by denouncing some of its later accretions, separated its essentials from non- essentials, confirmed its ancient truths by their own experience and have been carried its message to Europe and America.”
(ii) Recovery of Indian History
The Renaissance not only awakened and fortified the sense of the religious greatness, but brought the glories of the Indian history to light. The slow and patient labour of many European Scholar helped a good deal in the reconstruction of the lost story of India’s greatness. The work of archaeologists, epigraphists, numismatists and art critics like James Ferguson, Dr. Bulher, Dr. Fleet, Percy Brown, Sir John Marshall and Dr. Ananda Coomarswamy revealed the glory of India’s numerous ancient monuments scattered all over the country. They made Indians take pride in their past history. Gradually the Indians were awakened to the sense of their cultural greatness.
(iii) The recovery of India’s ancient literature
The Renaissance enabled Indians to recover their ancient literature Vedic, Buddhist, and Jain. It was the Europeans who printed the Vedic and the Buddhist literatures of India and revealed them to Indians.
European scholars who cultivated the study of Sanskrit literature opened the eyes of Indians to the great rich heritage that their ancestors had bequeathed to them. It was the enthusiasm of European scholars like Sir Charles Wilkins, Sir William Jones, Colebrooke, Wilson, Muir, Monier Williams, Max Muller and others for the culture of India that provided the first great impetus to the modern study of classics to the western world. Under the inspiration of Max Muller, a great German scholar in England, sacred books of India were translated and published and Indian Philosophy was studied with keen interest in the West. All this restored India’s classics to Indians, enabled the new middle classes in India to know of nobler and higher things in their own thought, helped to rouse the world’s interest in India and provided a great impetus to the sense of nationalism among Indians.
(iv) Growth of Indian Vernacular Literature
A significant feature of the Renaissance was the rapid growth of India s vernacular literature’s. At first there was the flowering of certain versatile genius and it was followed by the phenomenal growth of the vernacular literature’s. Bengal took the lead in this sphere. They formed a kind of seed-bed for the future creative genius, accomplished persons of fine critical ability and appreciative temper. All these writers were a prelude to the rise of Rabindranath Tagore who has contributed to all aspects of culture and literature, prose, poetry, drama, novel, essay, short story, music, painting, dancing etc. They introduced new styles, new technique and secularised the themes in the realm of prose.
As regards the different Indian vernacular literature’s it is a matter of great pride that the works of centuries have been crowd into a few decades in the evolution of modem literature’s of India. Before the Renaissance all the vernacular literature’s dealt with religious subjects. Mythological or heroic narratives figures very much. Expression was through poems and songs. The Renaissance provided a strong stimulus to the imaginative and nationalist writings to various languages. All branches of literature were developed considerably. As a result of the Renaissance Indian languages have become both simpler and harder at the same time for the expression of modem thought.
Various aspects of vernacular literature were changed and improved considerably. The Indian drama has been completely transformed since the middle of the nineteenth century. It is from the West that they have taken the art of criticism in the realm of literature. If the Indian Press has considerably popularised the vernacular literatures, the study of the Western literature has secularised them.
It awakened sense of nationality and has undoubtedly added a noble and glorious element to the Indian literatures. The novels of famous Bengali writer Bankim Chandra and the plays of well-known dramatist Dwijendralal drew in their inspiration from Indian history. The songs of Bharati, Tagore, works of famous Hindi poets Bharatendu Harishchandra and Maithilisharan Gupta and the early songs of celebrated Urdu poet Iqbal were intensely nationalist. The healthy growth of these different languages led to an integration of linguistic nationalities
(v) Growth of Scientific Research of Discovering India’s Past
One very striking feature of the Indian Renaissance is manifested in the scientific spirit of research and discovery. Since the foundation of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1784, a large number of Europeans as well as Indian scholars have been devoting themselves earnestly to the work of research, excavation, exploration and researches bring to light India’s glorious past.
The works of art-critics and archaeologists inspired many to cultivate the spirit of research. The Ancient Monument Preservation Act of Lord Curzon provided an impetus to the cause of study and research. Under the guidance of the Archaeological Department of the Government of India and a few other research institutions valuable scientific excavations, which have considerably modified the views of scholars about the ancient history of India, were undertaken on the pre-historic sites like Mohenjodaro, Harappa, Nalanda, Kaushambi. Hastinapur etc. There are some renowned Indians among the luminaries in the realm of archaeological researches.
(vi) Fine Arts
The spirit of Renaissance has also produced a finer appreciation and better cultivation of the fine arts such as painting, music, dancing, architecture, etc. A new era of considerable importance has dawned upon India through the reawakening of her art consciousness. The aesthetic eye of men has been opened to the immense splendour of ancient Indian art.
The renaissance revitalised all spheres of life and reawakened the nation from the slumber of ages. It brought about a marvallous reawakening and wonderful progress in the realms of political ideas, society, religion, literature, philosophy, science and industry.
The reawakening in the social sphere transformed entirely the social life of the country. Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Maharshi Davendranath Tagore, Keshav Chandra Sen, Swami Dayanand Saraswati Ramkrishna Paramahansa, Swami Vivekanand, Shri Aurobindo, Maharshi Raman and others reinstalled the ancient truths of the country. They remodelled morality and religion. They gave a new divine and spiritual message of India to the materialistic world.