RAJA RAM MOHAN ROY
- REFORMER PAR EXCELLENCE
Raja Ram Mohan Roy, one of the great
reformers of renaissance India has commanded respect to the point
of veneration and has been acclaimed as a versatile presence on
the Indian historical firmament. All his life, he fought to reform
the society because he believed that social and religious reform
was the very foundation of political advancement. A harbinger
of the idea of universal humanism, an apostle of monotheism, the
founder of the Brahmo Samaj, an advocate of the freedom of the
Press and a champion of women’s cause, Ram Mohan Roy was indeed,
what Gopal Krishna Gokhale called him, "the maker of modern
Mohan Roy was born on 22nd
May 1772 in Radhanagar, a village in
of West Bengal. That was a time when the Muslim rule was on the
decline, law and order was at the lowest ebb, social values and
religious institutions were shaken and economy was in chaos. It
was a time when an all-round reconstruction and renovation was
necessary for the continued existence of social life and order.
Mohan received his elementary education in the village school
as was the practice in those days. He acquired knowledge of his
mother tongue – Bengali – which he perfected through self-study.
His father sent him to Patna to learn Persian and Arabic. This
proved a boon, as Ram Mohan could study the Sufi writers and glean
gems from them to be tallied with the Vedantic philosophy. Thus,
his mental field was broadened. It brought him out of the narrow
confines of religious views. Three maxims that Roy loved to repeat
were from the Sufi thoughts. These were "Man is the slave
of benefits;" "The enjoyment of the worlds rests on
these two points – kindness to friends and civility to enemies;"
and the third one, " The way of serving God is to do good
of the most endearing traits of Ram Mohan Roy’s personality was
his tolerant attitude to all religions. He had studied Hinduism,
Islam, Christianity and Judaism. During his pilgrimage to Tibet
he got acquainted with Buddhism and from the Marwaris at Rangpur,
he learnt the precepts of Jainism.
year 1815 turned to be a decisive year in the life of Ram Mohan
Roy. He formed the "Atmiya Sabha",the inner circle,
to discuss theological subjects and also to translate the Upanishads.
The "Atmiya Sabha" met once a week. The discussions
soon led to the establishment of the Brahmo Samaj to secure freedom
from the bondage of ignorance and superstitions.
started his crusade against Sati after a heart-rending
experience that shook him to the roots. In 1811, on the death
of his brother, Jag Mohan, his wife was forced to commit Sati.
Ram Mohan was filled with unbearable pity, rage and remorse. He
determined to end the abominable practice. Roy raised his voice
against Sati and after several attempts succeeded in drawing
the government’s attention. The orthodox society turned anti-Roy
but with dogged determination he persisted. In December 1828 the
famous regulation was passed which declared the practice illegal
and punishable as a criminal offence.
Sati was abolished, women’s lot drew Ram Mohan’s attention.
It was a time when women had no voice. They were considered inferior,
unworthy of trust and devoid of knowledge. He wrote extensively
on women’s rights and once again incurred the wrath of the orthodox
plea for the rights of females shows that he was a strong supporter
of women’s uplift. He fought for their legal rights to property;
he took up the cause of the destitute women; he raised his voice
against the sale of daughters to prospective husbands due to pecuniary
interests and he condemned the system of polygamy.
1830 he sailed for England along with his adopted son, Raja Ram,
then a boy of 12, and two servants. He visited Manchester, Bentham,
and Liverpool besides London. The main objective of his visit
to England was to press for certain important reforms for India.
After his stay in London, he went to Bristol where he died on
September 27, 1833, after a brief illness. His passing away was
deeply mourned by his admirers. He believed in the divine unity
of mankind because he was deeply religious and had faith in the
divinity of man irrespective of caste or creed. (PIB Features)