Raja Ram Mohan Roy
Raja Ram Roy was born in Radhanagar village in Bengal’s Hooghly district on May 22, 1772, to conservative Bengali Brahmin parents. Ram Mohans’ parents, Ramakanta Roy and Tarini Mukherjee were devout Hindus. His father was a worshipper of Lord Vishnu. Ram Mohan showed a religious disposition from an early age.
At the age of 14, he wanted to be a “sanyasi” hermit, but his mother persuaded him otherwise. Another example of his devoutness was his habit of not even having water each morning until he had recited a chapter from the Bhagavata Purana. Ram Mohan was reputed to have a “tenacious memory”, and showed signs of intelligence at an early age.
He Learnt Bengali at school first. He also went to Tibet to learn about Buddhism. He learned Persian, which was the court language. This gave him the ability to read the mystic poetry and philosophy of the Persian Sufis. He also learned Arabic. During this period, he came across the translations of Aristotle and Euclid, and of the Kuran. On his mother’s prompting, he went to Banaras to learn Sanskrit. He started to learn English when he was 24 years old. In 1803, he secured a job with the East India Company and in 1809 he was posted to Rangpur.
He learned about Jainism and studied the Jain texts. Roy was drawn to certain aspects of Christianity that led some of the followers of Christianity to suggest that he should convert, but he politely declined. Roy’s understanding of the different religions of the world helped him to compare them with Vedantic philosophy and glean the best from each religion. Sufi mysticism had a great influence on Roy.
He was a humanist and religious reformer, he left the Company to devote his time to the service of the people. Profoundly influenced by European liberalism, Ram Mohan came to the conclusion that radical reform was necessary for Hinduism and in the social practices of the Hindus.
He founded the Brahmo Samaj at Calcutta in 1828 which was initially known as the “Brahmo Sabha.” Raja Ram and his organization ‘Brahmo Samaj’ tried to change the social order in India. He established newspapers and schools all around India. He convinced the British in 1829 to outlaw Sati. But during that period there wasn’t yet an Indian ethos among the Indians. Indians were never one nation but always a collection of different entities. They were under different rulers including non-Indians.
From their point of view, the British were just another ruler over them. But the main contribution of the Brahmo Samaj to Indian society was that it evokes issues that were common to people all around the Indian subcontinent.
The notions of this organization were the inspiration for other organizations and various secular political parties, like the Indian National Congress, which was later on created in India. Raja Ram Mohan Roy was one of the famous and main social reformers of that time he was very much frustrated by the Sad Pratha (this was an old Hindu tradition in which when the husband of any woman died then his wife must be burnt with the dead body of her husband, in early days it was done by the will of the wife but later on the family members of husband pressurized wife to burn with the dead body of her husband). Raja Mohan Ray was decided to finish this bad tradition from the society, he wanted to aware of the people against this. But the old fundamentalists Hindus criticized him a lot and some of them were trying to kill him but all these incidents could not demoralize him.
In 1828 Lord William Bentinck became the Governor-General of India, Ram Mohan Roy meet William Bentinck and told him the handless and bad effects of this “Sad Pratha” and requested him to ban Sati Pratha by law and then on 1829 by the brilliant efforts of Ram Mohan Roy Governor-General-Williarn Bantink completely banned Sad Pratha by law. William BentinIc declared that “If anyone pressurized any women to bum with the dead body of her husband then the Government consider it as a murder and then the punishment of a murderer is declared for this man”. So with the law Sad Pratha slowly eliminate society. This is the greatest achievement from Raja Ram Mohan Roy. Among Roy’s other efforts was the publishing of a newspaper in Indian. language.
The Atmiya Sabha brought out a weekly called the Tangal Gazette’. He also published a newspaper in Persian called `Miratul-Akhbar’ and a Bengali weekly called `Sambad Kaumudi’. Roy placed a great deal of importance on the development of his mother tongue. His `Gaucliya Vyakaran’ in Bengali is rated highly among his writings in prose. The founding of the Brahmo Samaj was among Roy’s most important contributions for reforming society. Beginning in 1828 as a small group, the Samaj played a major role in the Renaissance of Bengal of the 19th century by attracting luminaries like Keshub Chandra Sen and Rabindranath Tagore and other members of the Tagore family.
The objectives of the Samaj were to follow theism of Hinduism combining the best of what Roy inculcated through his exposure to other religions. Even today, in Brahmo prayer halls all over the country, people meet once a week, most often on Sunday, and worship the one God or Brahma. At these gatherings, discourses are offered, Vedic texts recited and hymns are sung. Present-day followers try to inculcate his word: “Testing, questing, never resting, With an open mind and open heart” Roy felt strongly for the downtrodden and his belief in the universal brotherhood of man led him to support many causes and reform movements. A 100 years before the establishment of the League of Nations, Roy expressed the need for a similar institution. He said that just as two individuals resorted to a court to law to settle major disputes, there should be an organization that could help to settle differences between two countries. However, ten days after arriving in Bristol (U.K.) he fell ill with meningitis and died on September 27, 1833. He was initially buried in the grounds of Beech House, but ten years later his friend Dwarakanath Tagore had him reinterred at Arno’s Vale. A chattri was designed by William Prinsep and built with sponsorship from Dwarakanath Tagore. In 1997 a statue of Raja Ram Mohan Roy was also built at Bristol.