As is said earlier, the impact of the West on India was to some extent destructive. Hinduism, as it was understood and practised in those days, was unable to withstand the terrific forces of the Western onslaught. Many of its ideas, institutions and practices were unable to stand those examinations and scrutiny and were therefore summarily rejected by the young men of Bengal who had received Western education. They became English in taste, opinions, words and intellect and the dream of Macaulay was being realized to some extent.
The educated youth became denationalised and began to ape European manners and to look with irreverence, if not with contempt, upon the past civilization of the Hindus. As Lord Ronald says that westernisation became the fashion of the day and westernism demanded its votaries that they should cry down the civilisation of their own country. The more ardent their admiration for everything European, the more vehement became their denunciation of everything Eastern.
But fortunately, this spirit did not spread widely. It failed to filter down to the masses nor could it affect all the educated youngmen. The factor which India could receive from complete westernisation was that she lives centrally in the spirit, with less buoyancy and vivacity and therefore with a less ready adaptiveness of creation, but a greater, intenser, more brooding depth. In this respect India differs greatly from Japan who lives centrally in her temperament and in her aesthetic sense and has therefore been more rapidly assimilative of Western culture.
When men like Raja Ram Mohun Roy in Bengal and Mahadev Govind Ranade in Maharashtra who had some knowledge of the past to react differently to the West, by way of looking upon the past culture from a new angle and tried to understand and reshape it in the light of new ideas and knowledge to suit the modern society, there arose Indian renaissance. They became the pioneers of social reforms and initiated the liberal tradition in Indian thought. Though Raja Ram Mohun Roy and Justice Ranade are famous as great social reformers, they were no less interested in political and educational matters where they showed remarkable towers of their minds. Of course, for several reasons they could not exercise their powers in these fields at large.
We have to look to men like Dadabhai Naoroji, Pherozeshah Mehta, Gopala Krishna Gokhale and Surendranath Banerjee who with many others, introduced, formulated and strengthened the Western pattern of the so-called liberal tradition in the political thinking of modern India. This, without any hesitation, may be regarded as the first phase of the Indian renaissance which was the outcome of Western impact on Indian spirituality.
The contrast feature, as it could be said the next phase of the renaissance, is said to have been carried on by Swami Dayauanda Saraswati who did not know English at all. Thus this patriot remained uneffected from the influence of English civilisation and asked his countrymen to go back to the purity of the Vedic civilization. The Arya Samaj founded by him was mainly responsible for the awakening among the people of Northern India as well as for social and religious reform.
During the third phase, there arose a great figure in the personality of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa who laid emphasis on the recovery of the old spiritual knowledge and experience in all its splendour, depth and fullness as the first and the most essential work of the religious and the social reform. His great disciple, Swami Vivekananda, carried out the flag flying adding a new dimension by interpreting Vedanta scientifically and uplifting the masses by channelising their thought in political and philosophical realm.
In the pronouncements of Rabindranath Tagore and Sri Aurobindo we see the fourth stage of Indian renaissance. Their contribution through literature helped Indian renaissance to become fuller and more self-conscious, and nationalism purer and nobler. The tradition both in Indian renaissance and political thinking of Modern India finds its high water-mark in Tilak, Lajapat Rai and Bepin Chandra Pal.
The most significant phase starts with Mahatma Gandhi. He contributed immensely towards giving a new direction and form to the Renaissance Movement and brought forth into active life some of the old and characteristic features of ancient Indian culture. He was mainly responsible for turning the national struggle for independence into new channels and thereby made a rich addition to social, religious and political ideas.