Keshab Chandra Sen (1838-84) was one of the most powerful and
controversial figures in nineteenth-century Bengal. A religious
leader and social reformer, his universalist interpretation of
Hinduism found mass appeal in India, and generated considerable
interest in Britain. His ideas on British imperial rule, religion
and spirituality, global history, universalism and modernity were
all influential, and his visit to England made him a celebrity.
Many Britons regarded him as a prophet of world-historical
significance. Keshab was the subject of extreme adulation and
vehement criticism. Accounts tell of large crowds prostrating
themselves before him, believing him to be an avatar. Yet he died
with relatively few followers, his reputation in both India and
Britain largely ruined. As a representative of India, Keshab became
emblematic of broad concerns regarding Hinduism and Christianity,
science and faith, India and the British Empire. This innovative
study explores the transnational historical forces that shaped
Keshab's life and work. It offers an alternative religious history
of empire, characterised by intercultural dialogue and religious
syncretism. A fascinating and often tragic portrait of Keshab's
experience of the imperial world, and the ways in which he carried
meaning for his contemporaries.
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