The Theosophical Society was first founded by a Russian lady, Madam H.P. Blavatsky and a former English army officer, Colonel H .S. Olcott in the United States of America in 1875.
But they considered India as a suitable place for theosophical movements. Under their inspiration the Theosophical Society of India came into being at Adyar in Madras in 1886.
Mrs. Annie Besant made the movement very popular in India. It represented both Indian and international character.
The word theosophy came from two Greek words, theos and sophia which means God and wisdom. The main aim of that philosophy was to attain wisdom in order to realize the Godhood. It was a Western concept and a very ancient one. The Theosophists discovered that the Hindu Upanishads were the storehouse of wisdom for the realization of the absolute truth and divinity.
This idea appealed to the thinking mind. Mrs. Annie Besant put it “The needs of India are, among others, the development of a national spirit, an education founded on Indian ideals and enriched not dominated by the thought and culture of the West.”
The society conducted researches on Hindu religious thoughts, translated and published Hindu scriptures which helped the process of intellectual awakening of India. The Theosophical Society established the greatness of the Hindu metaphysical doctrines and created a national pride in the minds of educated Indian youths, which gave birth to the modern concept of nationalism.
Ahmadiya Movement and the Aligarh Movement:
This new awakening generated by the Theosophical Society influenced the Indian Muslims to a great extent. In 1889 Mirza Gulam Ahmad united some likeminded Muslims under the banner of Ahmadiya Movement. This movement preached the gospel of universal religion for all men based on national principles. Mirza Gulam Ahmad strongly criticized the theory of holy war (jihad) against non-Muslims and advocated for universal brotherhood.
This movement further wanted to reform the attitude of the Muslims under the influence of Western liberal education by establishing schools and colleges for new learning. The followers of this movement became bold to criticize the orthodox conservatives. Another movement among the Muslims became famous as the Aligarh Movement. Sayyad Ahmad Khan of Bareli wanted to bring the Muslims to the grip of Western influence and Western education.
The Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College was established at Aligarh in 1875 to train the minds of the Muslim youths, so as to forget the ideology of conservatism. This movement got its name of that place. Later on, this Anglo-Oriental College became the nucleus Aligarh Muslim University in 1920.
Saiyad Ahmad Khan revolutionized the religious and the political outlook of the Muslims, affected boldly a change in the method and carried out social reforms in the Muslim community. He formed a turning point in the history of Indian Islam from the old to the new. Saiyad Saheb along with Maulvi Chirag Ali raised their voice against child marriage, polygamy, parda and other social abuses present in the Muslim Society. Many educated Muslim youths took this banner and tried their best to reform the Muslim orthodoxy and conservatism.
Under the influence of religious awakening Sikhs also tried to purify their sect and society. The revivalists established a Khalsa College at Amritsar in 1890. The Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee was founded by the progressive Sikhs to get rid of the corrupt Mahants and to reform the Gurudwaras.
The Chief Khalsa Diwan was created as a central association and the Singh Sabhas were established with an aim to purify the life of the Sikhs in order to strengthen the Sikh Committee. They also championed the cause of the promotion of Western education and social reforms. All these movements provided a new lease of life for Indians with an reformative background to generate the flow of national consciousness that resulted in the formation of Modern Indian Nationalism.