Hinduism in today's world is a reflection of the continuous and progressive changes that have occurred in its various traditions and institutions throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
By the end of eighteenth century, many ill-practices had crept into the religion, such as superstition, rigid rituals, social obscurantism, tyrannical polytheism and rites like animal sacrifice. Women were put through many tortures and injustices in the name of Hinduism. The Caste System had led to segregation and untouchability. It was the reformist changes to such practices that brought about the emergence of modern Hinduism.
The reform process was influenced by rational thought, exposure to Western Culture and modern education and also by the ideals of humanism, rationalism and religious universalism. This ‘awakening’ had different strands combating the conservative elements, imbibing a rational western outlook, adopting a western education system, countering Christian missionary criticism, supporting revivalist tendencies, reforming the legal system and improving social work.
Westerners also contributed to Hinduism. Orientalists and Indologists, like William Jones and Max Muller, brought in an awareness of the past while others, such as the Theosophical Society, contributed more directly. Theosophy was a mix of religion, philosophy and occultism. It stood for universal brotherhood and a more spiritual life and subscribed to the philosophy of Hinduism and its doctrines of Karma and the transmigration of the soul. The society became most famous during the time of Annie Besant (1847-1933). It also contributed to social work and education.
The Twentieth Century also saw the emergence of many philosophers and saints. Important among them were Aurobindo Ghosh (Auroville, Pondicherry), S. Radhakrishnan and J. Krishnamurti. Modern reformers and philosophers have generally emphasised Vedanta which represents the culmination of the long Vedic tradition into the finest philosophy of the Upanishads, the Bhagawad Gita and the Brahma Sutras. Vedanta (or Uttara Mimansa) incidentally is only one of the six systems of orthodox Hindu philosophy.
Outside India an example of change is Indonesia (as in Bali), where Hinduism in the form of ‘adat’ (tradition) has reconstructed itself to ‘agama’ (religion), which can be seen as an Indonesian variety of Hinduism.