Adi Dharm refers to the religion of Adi Brahmo Samaj (Bengali: আদি ব্রাহ্ম সমাজ, Adi Brahmô Shômaj), a Hindu reform movement that appeared during the Bengali renaissance. It is the first development of Brahmoism and includes those Sadharan Brahmo Samajists who were reintegrated into Brahmoism after the 2nd schism of 1878 at the instance of Hemendranath Tagore. This was the first organised casteless movement in British India and reverberated from its heart of Bengal to Assam, Bombay State (modern Sindh, Maharashtra and Gujarat), Punjab and Madras, Hyderabad, and Bangalore.
It was never conceived as an "anti-caste" movement, but stood for repudiation of all "distinctions between people" and foundation of a modern educated secular Indian nation under the timeless and formless One God, and its adherents as Adi-Dharmis (or worshipers of the ancient formless indivisible One god Brahma or the Parambrahma "The One without a Second" or EkAdavaitam). Although the doctrine of Adi Dharma is superficially similar to other reformatory "sects" of Hinduism which speak of "different paths to One God", the core beliefs of Adi Dharm irrevocably place Adi Dharm and Brahmoism as the youngest of India's none religions beyond the pale of "Hinduism's catholicism and elasticity".
The core Adi-Dharma doctrinal beliefs differing from Hinduism include:
- There is only One "Supreme Spirit", Author and Preserver of Existence. (... Beyond description, immanent, transcendent, eternal, formless, infinite, powerful, radiant, loving, light in the darkness, ruling principle of existence .... Polytheism is denounced. Idolatry i.e. worship of images is opposed.)
- There is no salvation and no way to achieve it. ("Works will win". Worshipful work is the way of existence. Work is for both body and soul. All life exists to be consumed. The soul is immortal and does not return to this World. There is neither Heaven nor Hell nor rebirth)
- There is no scripture, revelation, creation, prophet, priest or teacher to be revered. (Only the Supreme Spirit of Existence can be revered – not the Vedas, Granths, Bibles or Quran etc. Worship consist of revering the "inner light within" i.e. enlightened conscience)
- There is no distinction. (All men are equal. Distinctions like caste, race, creed, colour, gender, nationality etc. are artificial. There is no need for priests, places of worship, long sermons etc. "Man-worship" or "God-men" are abhorrent to the faith and denounced since there is no mediator between man and God).
The Adi Dharma religion was originated by the Bengali Brahmin Thakur clan of Ram Mohan Roy, Debendranath Tagore and Prasanna Kumar Tagore who were Rarhi Brahmins of the Vandhopadyaya (Sandilya gotra) division.
This Adi Brahma religion Adi Dharma was originally propounded by these highest caste Kulin Brahmins of Bengal who were excommunicated from Hindu faith for opposing social and priestly evils of the time (18th and 19th centuries). Previously the original ancestors (5 legendary Brahmin scholars of Kannauj Kanyakubja school deputed to the King of Bengal) of all these highest caste twice born Bengali Brahmins had been excommunicated from Kannauj (Uttar Pradesh) in the 10th/11th century AD after their return from Bengal.
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The Adi Dharma founders were regularly tainted and scandalised by orthodoxy as Pirali Brahmin and defamed as being officially banned from entering temples like Jaganath Temple (Puri) by Govt regulations of 1807. Subsequently their families also faced great difficulty in arranging marriages for some of their children such as India's poet-laureate Rabindranath Tagore who could only manage a Pirali Brahmin bride unlike his brothers who married high caste Brahmin brides. This ultimate exclusionary weapon of Hindu orthodoxy resulted in endogamous (i.e. casteist) tendencies in Adi-Dharm marriage practice between these two branches of Adi Dharma in the Tagore family, placing Satyendranath Tagore and Rabindranath Tagore and their families against their exogamous brothers. The noted Adi Brahmo historian Kshitindranath Tagore (son of Hemendranath Tagore) who succeeded Rabindranath Tagore as editor of the Adi Dharma organ, has written that it was Rabindranath who destroyed many family documents.
Indira Devi Chaudhurani, daughter of Satyendranath Tagore and very close to Rabindranath, wrote: "In those days the practice of having Gharjamai was in vogue in our family, mainly because we were Piralis and then became Brahmos; therefore, there was no possibility of somebody from a good Hindu family marrying into our (ie. the endogamous branch) family .. the system of marriages amongst relatives was started. .. it became almost impossible to get our children married. Our being ostracised by the Hindu society provided us with a certain freedom in absorbing western influences, and at the same time the Adi Brahmo Samaj was a branch of Hindu society in all respects except the practice of idolatry. Maharshi always expressed a hearty desire to establish this, and as such all the rituals and customs of Hindu society were followed in his family, and that environment prevailed at least till he was alive."
"Mobility", i.e. leaving the home and being exposed to external influence, meant loss of caste for Brahmins (a social device to conserve meagre land holdings and priestly incomes). Mobile scholars of priestly Brahmin clans such as these in contact with (or in the service of) foreign rulers – like the Mughals or European companies or Indian princelings – were deliberately ostracised by their "fixed" priestly Hindu clan peers (relatives) ensconced within the numerous temples of Bengal and denied their shares of ancestral undivided properties and incomes. As a consequence ghastly social evils like Sati (or the burning alive of Hindu widows) were encouraged, primarily by the fixed priestly class. The mobile clan members banded into associations (Sabhas) to oppose these un-Brahmic practices colliding head on with orthodox ("fixed") Hindu society in Bengal. The Mughal 'Raja' Ram Mohan Roy was the first Indian to cross the seas to Britain in 1833, followed by 'Prince' Dwarkanath Tagore in 1842. Ram Mohan Roy died of meningitis at Bristol.
- Hindu reform movements
- Timeline of Adi Dharm
- Brahmo Samaj
- Bodo Brahma Dharma
- Sadharan Brahmo Samaj
- Brahmo Conference Organisation
- Arya Samaj
- Gayatri Mantra
- History of Bengal
- Tattwabodhini Patrika
- Particularly those Sadharan Brahmos who accept the core 1830 Adi Dharma Trust Principles
- "31 Cal 11" Indian legal citation Rani Bhagwan Koer and Ors v. J.C.Bose and Ors.
- Dwarkanath Tagore was most astounded in his First Voyage to England by the long lectures delivered as sermons at the Episcopal Kirk in Scotland. Little did he know that back home his son Debendranath was plotting a similar tradition of long sermons for Brahmos. Source: Dwarkanath tagore:A Life – Krisha Kriplani. p191.
- Note By Dr. B. R. Ambedkar To The Indian Franchise Committee, (Lothian Committee) on the Depressed Classes, Submitted on 1 May 1932. "IV. Depressed Classes in Bengal", ".. (10) Rajbansi, (II) Pirali, (12) Chamar, (13) Dom, .."
- Dwarkanath Thakurer Jibani publ. Rabindra Bharati University, Calcutta
- Indira Devi Chaudhurani. Smritisamput Vol I (1997/2000), in Bengali, Rabindra Bhavan, Visva Bharati, p. 18-19. "The Autobiography of Debendranath Tagore" is also "attributed" to Satyendranath Tagore and this daughter.
- Jones, Kenneth W. (1989). Socio-Religious Reform Movements in British India. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-24986-7.
- Kopf, David (2015). The Brahmo Samaj and the Shaping of the Modern Indian Mind. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-1-4008-6989-3.