Encounter and Acculturation in 19th-Century Bengal: Bhaktivinoda Thakur and the Unitarians

How to Cite

David P. Carter (Hladini Shakti Das). (2022). Encounter and Acculturation in 19th-Century Bengal: Bhaktivinoda Thakur and the Unitarians: Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Journal of Vaishnava Studies, 23(1), 77–101. Retrieved from https://ivsjournal.com/index.php/jvs/article/view/325


Bengali polymath Bhaktivinoda Thakur (BVT), eclipsed in his day by celebrated bhadralok “superstar” Ram Mohan Roy (born 1772),
nevertheless forged a legacy equally powerful and yet distinct from Roy’s. BVT accomplished this in three ways: first, by bringing traditional Vaishnava religious culture into productive conversation with the rigorous intellectual standards of modernity; second, by his prodigious literary output; and third, by inaugurating his numerous and popular Nama-hatta Sangas (Emporiums of the Holy Name). Now, upon the hundredth anniversary of his death, BVT’s contribution to Indian and world culture may be viewed as being at
least equal to if not greater than Roy’s. What distinguishes the two legacies is the uniquely transmodern religious/spiritual approach BVT developed, an approach significantly distinct from Roy’s because of its theistic content developed, in part, as a result of his years of study in Calcutta with Unitarian missionary Rev. Charles Henry Appleton Dall, and greatly influenced by BVT’s deep appreciation of the writings of leading Unitarian thinkers of his day— William Ellery Channing, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Theodore Parker, and Francis
W. Newman.

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