. The dawn of the nineteenth century witnessed the birth of a new vision—a modern vision among some enlightened sections of the Indian society. This enlightened vision was to shape the course of events for decades to come and even beyond.
Impact of British Rule
The presence of a colonial government on Indian soil played a complex, yet decisive role in this crucial phase of modern Indian history. The impact of British rule on Indian society and culture was widely different from what India had known before. Most of the earlier invaders, who had come to India settled within its frontiers, were either absorbed by its superior culture or interacted positively with it and had become part of the land and its people.
Religious and Social Ills
Indian society in the nineteenth century was caught in a vicious web created by religious superstitions and social obscurantism. Hinduism had become steeped in magic and superstition. The priests exercised an overwhelming and, indeed, unhealthy influence on the minds of the people. Idolatry and polytheism helped to reinforce their position, and their monopoly of scriptural knowledge imparted a deceptive character to all religious systems. There was nothing that religious ideology could not persuade people to do.
Depressing Position of Women
Social conditions were equally depressing. The most distressing was the position of women. Attempts to kill female infants at birth were not unusual. Child marriage was another bane of society. The practice of polygamy prevailed and in Bengal, under Kulinism, even old men took very young girls as wives. Several women hardly had a married life worth the name, yet (at least among the higher castes) when their husbands died they were expected to commit sati.
New Awareness among Enlightened Indians
The impact of modern Western culture and consciousness of defeat by a foreign power gave birth to a new awakening. There was an awareness that a vast country like India had been colonised by a handful of foreigners because of weaknesses within the Indian social structure and culture.