I must say that my visit to Bengal in the past six days was fruitful and insightful. Maharshi Dayananda had visited Bengal in 1872 just before he established the Arya Samaj in 1875. He wanted to have a first-hand, face-to-face review of the strategies employed by the powerfully organized Brahmo Samaj in reaching out to the common masses with their simple, impactful message of reform in Hindu Society. He met with top Brahmo leaders like Keshav Chandra Sen, Devendranath Tagore, Akshay Kumar Datta, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, and others. These leaders were all intellectuals and their contribution to the Bengali Renaissance was substantial. Let’s not forget that the undivided Bengal Presidency was the first region in India where the British had landed. England left its indelible print in India through proselytizing Christian missionaries and advancing the British East India Company, both of whom saw rich dividends coming their way. 

In studying Rishi Dayananda, I followed the close interactive discussions he had with the Bengalis, and I soon developed a deep appreciation for the Brahmo Samaj and their communication strategies. This explains one of the reasons why I came to visit Bengal now for the first time since I first arrived in India in 1977. This visit was long overdue. And, guess what? I even visited one of the devotion sessions of the Brahmo Samaj in Kolkata City. While in the Brahmo temple, I felt psychologically connected to the hallowed memory of the first Brahmo leaders. Coincidentally, the buildings of Brahmo Samaj and Arya Samaj are opposite each other in Kolkata City. 

There is another Samaj, called Prarthana Samaj, established before the Arya Samaj. Its headquarters are in Poona, near Mumbai. One of its leaders was Chief Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade. He was so impressed by Rishi Dayananda’s ideas for elevated humanity that he ultimately became Rishi’s friend and disciple. 

Our second mission in Bengal is to recruit ten scholarly students for Guyana Gurukula. We have been successful with three such students so far. Wish us well as we seek to recruit seven more. 

Namaste Lovely Bengal. 

DR SATISH PRAKASH