Sen, Keshab Chunder
(1838–1884)
   social reformer and philosopher
   Keshab Chunder Sen was a philosopher and social reformer, whose career reflected the variety of responses to the modern world that emerged in Hindu society.
   Sen was born on November 19, 1838, into a wealthy family in Calcutta (Kolkata) who were very involved in both Bengali and Western cul-tural movements. He was recruited at age 19 by Debendranath Tagore, father of the poet RABIN-DRANATH TAGORE, to the celebrated BRAHMO SAMAJ reform movement, which attempted to purify Hinduism from practices such as caste, child mar-riage, purdah (seclusion of women), ill treatment of widows, and particularly idol worship. He became secretary of the movement in 1859. Sen broke away in 1865 because of personal disagree-ments and formed the Brahmo Samaj of India. This organization also split after Sen married his daughter to a maharajah when she was only 14 years old, an action that was seen as a major betrayal of the movement’s principles.
   In 1878 Sen formed the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj. His views had changed under the influ-ence of the teacher RAMAKRISHNA, who persuaded him to accept image worship and see the Hindu pantheon in a new light, as a way for the ordinary devotee to engage the divinity concretely.
   His New Dispensation, which he announced in 1879, has often been taken as tantamount to his conversion to Christianity, but it is more complicated. He considered his movement to be on a par with the Jewish and Christian traditions and as a fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy. He also believed that his movement would lead to the harmonization of all religions. Though he referred to himself as Jesudas, servant of Jesus, he empha-sized Christ’s Asiatic character and saw Christ in a VEDANTIC light as the one god, who is worshipped under different names by all those who worship God.
   He died on January 8, 1884.
   Further reading: Keshub Chunder Sen in England: Dia-ries, Sermons, Addresses and Epistles (Calcutta: Writers Workshop, 1980); Glyn Richards, ed., A Source Book of Modern Hinduism (London: Curzon Press, 1985); David C. Scott, ed., Keshub Chunder Sen: A Selection (Madras: Christian Literature, 1979).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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