Mozoomdar at Sea

Contributors: Nick Tackes

This digital exhibit chronicles the voyage from Kolkata to Chicago of Protap Chunder Mozoomdar (PCM), a Bengali religious reformer who belonged to a religious community known as the Brahmo Samaj.

Mozoomdar was one of the first Indians to command an audience in the United States of America, perhaps best-known for his participation in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. A prominent member of the Brahmo Samaj, a Bengal-based community of Hindu reformers, Mozoomdar first captured the imagination of Europeans and Americans in 1883. At that time, his lectures across America’s eastern seaboard (not to mention the publication of his book, The Oriental Christ) enamored liberal Christians such as Jenkin Lloyd Jones, a Unitarian minister who would help organize the World’s Parliament of Religions to be held in conjunction with the Chicago World’s Fair.Note: 1Sunrit Mullick, The First Hindu Mission to America: The Pioneering Visits of Protap Chunder Mozoomdar (New Delhi: Northern Book Centre, 2010), 95. PCM attended and addressed this parliament in order to rally support for the New Dispensation, a Brahmo Samaj project of global religious confraternity that he hoped would mark the end of religious sectarianism and restore the prominence of an emotional, rather than intellectual, pursuit of God. 

Mozoomdar’s narrative is generally told in order to account for nineteenth-century Indian religious responses to British colonialism or Christian missions. Even within such histories, however, his influence is often eclipsed by the dueling shadows cast by Swami Vivekananda and Keshub Chunder Sen. Thus, PCM has rarely been the subject of his own story. By attending to Mozoomdar’s private life in the months that prefaced his addresses at the World’s Parliament of Religions, based especially on the letters he wrote to his wife Saudamini, “Mozoomdar at Sea” enables a fuller appreciation of these Chicago lectures, his hope for the New Dispensation, and the legacy of his religious mission.

Cover art: Bird’s eye view of 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition grounds, by Childe Hassam, 1893. Colored pencil and watercolor.