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Raja Ram Mohan Roy

Raja Ram Mohan Roy - Frank Parlato Jr.











Ram Mohan Roy, also written as Rammohun Roy, or Raja Ram Mohun Roy ( Bangla : রাজা রামমোহন রায়, Raja Rammohon Rae ), ( May 22 , 1772 – September 27 , 1833 ) was the founder of the Brahmo Samaj , one of the first Indian socio-religious reform movements. His remarkable influence was apparent in the fields of politics , public administration and education as well as religion . He is most known for his efforts to abolish the practice of sati , a Hindu funeral custom in which the widow sacrifices herself on her husband’s funeral pyre.

In 1828, prior to his departure to England , Rammohan founded, with Dwarkanath Tagore the Brahmo Samaj which came to be an important spiritual and reformist religion movement that has borne a number of stalwarts of the Bengalee social and intellectual reforms. For these contributions to the society, Raja Ram Mohan Roy is regarded as one of the most important figures in the Bengal Renaissance .

Early life and education

Roy was born in Radhanagore , Bengal , in 1772. His family background displayed an interesting religious diversity. His father Ramkant, was a Vaishnavite , while his mother, Tarini, was from a Shakta background. Rammohan learnt successively Bangla , Persian , Arabic and Sanskrit by the age of fifteen.

As a teenager, Roy became dissatisfied with the practices of his family, and travelled widely, before returning to manage his family property. He then worked as a moneylender in Calcutta, and from 1803 to 1814 > was employed by the British East India Company .

Social reformer

 In the history of social reform in India , Ram Mohan Roy's name will always be remembered in connection with the abolition of Sati (the immolation of widows, often termed suttee in historical works). Ram Mohan Roy also made people aware of the fact that polygamy, which was extremely prevalent in his day, was in fact contrary to law. Challenging the authority of Hindu priesthood he pointed out that it was only under specific circumstances (e.g. if a wife is infertile or has an incurable disease) that a man was permitted to take a second wife while the first was still alive.



In the social, legal and religious reforms that he advocated, Roy was moved primarily by considerations of humanity. He took pains to show that he was not out to destroy the best traditions of the country, but was merely brushing away some of the impurities that had gathered on them in the days of decadence. He respected the Upanishads and studied the Sutras. He condemned idolatry in the strongest terms. He stated that the best means of achieving bliss was through pure spiritual contemplation on and worship of the Supreme Being, and that sacrificial rites were intended only for persons of less subtle intellect.

Roy campaigned for rights for women, including the right for widows to remarry, and the right for women to hold property. As mentioned above, he actively opposed polygamy, a system in which he had grown up.

He also supported education, particularly education of women. He believed that English-language education was superior to the traditional Indian education system, and he opposed the use of government funds to support schools teaching Sanskrit. In 1822, he founded a school based on English education.

To overcome the social and religious evils, as he perceived them, he started a religious group known as the Brahmo Samaj. The Samaj borrowed beliefs and practices from several religions, and was eclectic in its philosophy.


Late Life

In 1831 Ram Mohan Roy traveled to the United Kingdom as an ambassador of the Mughal Empire. He also visited France.

He died at Stapleton near Bristol in 1833 of meningitis and is buried in Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol. A statue of him was erected in central Bristol in 1997.

There is a blue plaque commemorating him on his house in Bedford Square, London.


Some opinions

Rabindranath Tagore

" When Rammohun Roy was born in India, the darkness of a moonless night was reigning. Death was roaming in the skies…When Rammohun Roy awoke and spread his sight on Bengali society it was an abode of the spirits…At that time, only the ghost of the living ancient Hindu religion held its sway in the funeral grounds. It had no life, it had no vitality, it only had its strictures and threats…In the days of Rammohun, the tattered foundations of Hindu society, with thousands of holes filled with creatures, progressively growing from generation to generation, was bulging with the impact of age and immobility. Rammohun proceeded fearlessly to free society from the serpent-like bondage … Today even our youngsters will kick such dead serpents with a smile on the face, we will laugh them off as common field snakes without any poison – we have forgotten their enormous power, the magnetic attraction of their eyes and the dangerous embrace of their long tails. …When the Bengali students came out of Hindu College, imbibed with the new English education, a certain type of intoxication grew in them… They took the blood that oozed from the deeply injured heart of the ancient Hindu society and used it as a plaything… To them nothing was good or sacred in Hindu society, they did not even have that respect for ancient Hindu society that they should pick up its skeletons, scattered hither and thither, cremate them properly and return home with a heavy heart after sprinkling the ashes in the waters of the Ganges… Considering the conditions of the period, they cannot be blamed that much…But the man who scotched the first flames of revolutionary fire in the present Bengali society, that Rammohun Roy was not intoxicated in that manner. He observed everything, good and bad, patiently. He enlightened the dark Hindu society of those days, but did not light the all-consuming fires of cremation. That was the greatness of Rammohun Roy. "

Brajendra Nath Seal

" The period in which the Raja was born and grew up was, perhaps, the darkest age in modern Indian history. An old society and polity had crumbled down, and a new one had not yet been built in its place. Devastation reigned in the land. All vital limbs of society were paralyzed; religious institutions and schools, village and home, agriculture, industry and trade, law and administration, all were in a chaotic condition. An all-round reconstitution and renovation were necessary for the continued existence of social life and order. But what was to be the principle for organization? For there were three bodies of culture, three bodies of civilizations, which were in conflict, - the Hindu, the Moslem, and the Christian or Occidental; and the question was, - how to find a rapport, of concord, of unity, amongst these heterogeneous, hostile and warring forces. The origin of Modern India lay there. The Raja by his finding of this point of concord and convergence became the Father and Patriarch of Modern India, an India with a composite nationality and a synthetic civilization; and by the lines of convergence he laid down, as well by the type of personality he developed in and through his own experiences, he pointed the way to the solution of the larger problem of international culture and civilization in human history, and became a precursor, an archetype, a prophet of coming Humanity."

Friedrich Max Muller

"Rammohun Roy was to my mind a truly great man, a man who did a truly great work, and whose name, if it is right to prophesy, will be remembered for ever, with some of his fellow-labourers and followers, as one of the great benefactors of mankind…And, therefore, whatever narrow-minded critics may say, I say once more that Rammohun Roy was an unselfish, an honest, a bold man, - a great man in the highest sense of the word."









- www.vivekananda.net edited by Frank Parlato Jr.

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