Maghotsav - Carrying on the legacy of Rammohun and the Tagores

Maghotsav - Carrying on the legacy of Rammohun and the Tagores

February 7, 2014

Maghotsav, the main festival of the Brahmos, is celebrated on Magh 11 each year according to the Bengali calendar to mark the anniversary of Brahmo Samaj. The celebration commemorates the inauguration of the first Brahmo Samaj by Raja Rammohun Roy on January 23, 1830, which was Magh 11 according to the Bengali calendar.

The first great revival of Brahmo Dharma took place under the leadership of Debendranath Tagore. The Brahmo Samaj as an organisation had gradually reached a moribund condition after Rammohun departed for England. Under Debendranath and the Tattwabodhini Sabha, rituals and ceremonials were formulated.

A notable doctrinal change that took place was the abandonment of the belief in the infallibility of the Vedas. It was declared that the basis of Brahmoism would henceforth be no longer any infallible book but ‘the human heart illuminated by spiritual knowledge born of self-realisation.’

Rammohun Roy (left) and Debendranath Tagore, two of the stalwarts of Brahmo Samaj

Maghotsav is celebrated with traditional fervour and gaiety by Brahmos all over the world. Prayers are conducted and devotional hymns are sung. In Kolkata, which is the main seat of Brahmoism, week-long celebrations are held. Food is served at the Samajs on the special days of the celebrations. The food is traditional and consists of khichudi, a mixture of rice and lentil, mixed vegetables and chutney. After the celebrations the focus shifts to the provincial Samajs scattered all over Bengal.

236, Rabindra Sarani is where the Brahmo movement was born. In 1830, Raja Rammohan Roy, the father of the Bengal Renaissance, initiated the spiritual movement here. Like the European Renaissance, where the Protestant movement was born out of the bitterness towards ritualistic Catholicism, the Brahmo movement was born out of the passionate protest against overtly-ritualistic Hinduism. Many a luminary of the Bengal Renaissance would flock to this house for meditation. On every Maghotsav, this house used to be a pilgrimage for Brahmos.

The present state of 236 Rabindra Sarani, now a marble godown

Maghotsav is celebrated at Brahmo Samajs not just in West Bengal but all over India, and also in the Brahmo educational institutions. It is also a major occasion in Tagore's Shantiniketan. Rabindranath Tagore had composed the song Jagate tumi raja 126 years ago for the Maghotsav congregations at the Adi Brahmo Samaj Mandir. The song stands testimony to an era and a class of people that held high spiritual ideals. Maghotsav reinforces the close connect between man and nature, an aspect established in the founding principles of Shantiniketan.

The emblem of Brahmo Samaj

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