RAJA RAM MOHAN ROY
RAJA RAM MOHAN ROY
- Ram Mohan Roy was a great religious, social, and educational reformer. He questioned orthodox Hindu practices.
- He is known as the ‘Maker of Modern India’, ‘Father of Modern India and the Father of the Bengal Renaissance’.
- Raja Ram and Dwarka Nath Tagore established the Brahmo Sabha in 1828, an influential Indian socio-religious reform movement. He worked tirelessly to abolish sati (practice in which the widow immolated herself on her husband’s funeral pyre) and Child marriage.
- Roy was born in a Bengali Hindu family in West Bengal. Ram Mohan Roy tried to revive the principles of the Vedanta school of philosophy contained in the Upanishads. He preached about the unity of God, made early translations of Vedic scriptures into English, co-founded the Calcutta Unitarian Society.
- He attempted to combine Western culture with Indian traditions. He established schools to modernize the system of education in India.
- From 1803 to 1815, Ram Mohan Roy served the East India Company’s “Writing Service”. He formed Atmiya Sabha in 1815.
- Interestingly, Ram Mohan Roy assessed wealth which was being drained out of India. He predicted that around half of the total revenue collected in India was sent out to England. Thus, he anticipated the ‘drain of wealth theory’ which later nationalists formulated. Ram Mohan Roy’s tireless advocacy was important in William Bentinck’s decision to abolish Sati.
- In 1830, he visited England and was the first educated Indian to break the taboo on crossing the seas. Roy was an ambassador of the Mughal emperor Akbar II, who conferred on him the title of Raja to lobby the British government for the welfare of India.
- Roy felt that social and religious reforms will politically strengthen Hinduism. He wrote:
- “The present system of Hindus is not well calculated to promote their political interests…. It is necessary that some change should take place in their religion, at least for the sake of their political advantage and social comfort.”
- Ram Mohan Roy realized during his interactions with the British that Hindu traditions were often not respected or thought as credible by Western standards. He tried to justify traditions by showing that “superstitious practices which deform the Hindu religion have nothing to do with the pure spirit of its dictates” The “superstitious practices” Ram Mohan Roy objected included sati, caste rigidity and polygamy and child marriages.
- Such practices gave British officials a sense of moral superiority over the Indian nation. Ram Mohan Roy’s religious reforms aimed at creating a fair and just society by implementing humanitarian practices similar to Christian ideals. This process would enhance the prestige of Hinduism in the world.
RELIGIOUS REFORMS BY RAJA RAM MOHAN ROY
- The religious reforms of Roy form part of the tenets of the Brahmo Samaj. These basic ideas are found in every religion. Brahmos believe in the existence of One Supreme God, and worship Him alone.
- Brahmos believe that worship of Him needs no fixed place or time. Ram Mohan Roy declared the building housing Brahmo Samaj.
- “.. as a place of public meeting of all sorts and descriptions of people without distinction, as shall behave and conduct themselves in an orderly, sober, religious and devout manner for the worship and adoration of the Eternal, , Unsearchable and Immutable Being who is the author and preserver of the Universe,..”
- While proclaiming this Universalist religious principle, the declaration adds:
- Prayer should not invoke any name of individual or group.
- Images or idols should not be worshipped
- No rituals should be performed.
- Prayer should not ridicule forms of worship of other creeds.
- “The discourses and songs should be such as have a tendency to the promotion of the contemplation of the Author and Preserver of the Universe to the promotion of charity, morality, piety, benevolence, virtue and the strengthening of the bonds of union between men of all religious persuasions and creeds.”
- The above ideas reflect the liberal religious views of Ram Mohan Roy.
- Roy demanded property inheritance rights for women. As we have mentioned, he set up the Brahmo Sabha. It is movement of reformist Bengalis to fight against social evils. Throughout his life, Ram Mohan Roy battled against ignorance, helplessness and oppression. He is the first Indian who protested vehemently against the iniquitous treatment of women as he was a true believer in the equality of sexes and toiled to raise the status of women
- Roy regarded educational reform as a supplement to social reform. In 1817, in collaboration with David Hare he set up the Hindu College. He founded the Anglo-Hindu school and later the Vedanta College.
- His teachings of monotheistic doctrines were incorporated with ‘modern, western curriculum’. Vedanta College’s courses synthesized Western and Indian learning. Ram Mohan Roy supported inclusion of western learning into Indian education.
He recommended the study of English, science, western medicine and technology. He spent his money to translate his ideas on education into practice.
- Ram Mohan Roy’s journalistic activities spanned publication of magazines in English, Hindi, Persian, and Bengali.
- He also published Mirat-ul-Akbar in Persian. Sambad Kaumudi, news weekly, covered topics such as freedom of press, induction of Indians into high ranks of service and separation of the executive and judiciary. Sambad Kaumudi continued for 33 years.
- He registered strong protest against the introduction of Press Ordinance of 1823. The ordinance prescribed that a license from the Governor General-in-council would be mandatory to publish any newspaper.
- When the English Company censored the press, Ram Mohan composed two memorials against this in 1829 and 1830. He strongly upheld the freedom of press and the right to individual expression of opinions.
C) Religious Catholicity
- Ram Mohan Roy was by birth a Brahmin held high in social scale. But he wrote religious treatises in various languages including Persian. In his work, The Principles of Jesus he says:
- “This simple code of religion and morality is so admirably calculated to elevate men’s ideas to high and liberal notions of one God. . . and is also well-fitted to regulate the conduct of the human race in the discharge of their various duties to God, to themselves and to society, that I cannot but hope the best effects from its promulgation in the present form.”
- Ram Mohan Roy possessed an acute mind, broad religious sympathies, a very powerful personality and great drive for reforms. Both his range of interests and sphere of activities were wide.
- He fought relentlessly against the abuses and corrupt practices that crept into Hindu doctrine. He looked beyond India’s political downfall, loss of independence and humiliation. He looked towards a radiant future based on absorption of Western culture and democratic discipline.