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Dharma Sabha, The


Dharma Sabha, The was an association of orthodox Hindus which was established in Calcutta in January 1830 opposing the government regulation to abolish the age old Hindu practice of sati. Hindu widows were required to burn themselves alive on the funeral pyre of their dead husbands and many orthodox Hindus believed the practice as an act of piety. The government of the east india company following the traditional policy of the earlier Muslim rulers had refrained from interfering in the social and religious life of the people. But during the early decades of the 19th century many liberal-minded European officials, businessmen and Christian missionaries as well as several Hindu reformers like rammohun roy had been advocating the abolition of this cruel and inhuman practice. Lord william bentinck's government finally ventured to abolish the sati only after a strong body of public opinion had been created in favour of its abolition.

But the conservative section of the Hindu community led by Raja radhakanta deb did not like this action. They strongly opposed any interference by an alien government in the social and religious life of their community. Their primary object was to send, through the Dharma Sabha, a petition to the Privy Council in England urging repeal of the anti-sati regulation. The Sabha also took upon itself the task of defending the traditional Hindu religious and social system from onslaughts from various quarters. It received support from many wealthy Hindu zamindars who held orthodox views and were for various reasons dissatisfied with the government's revenue policy. The chief public organ of the Dharma Sabha was the Bengali newspaper Samachar Chandrika whose editor Bhawani Charan Banerji was himself the Secretary of the Dharma Sabha. The Dharma Sabha had branches in many district towns of Bengal. [AF Salahuddin Ahmed]