Raja Ram Mohan Roy: Father of Indian Renaissance

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    Recently, the 249th birth anniversary of Raja Ram Mohan Roy was celebrated .

    Raja Ram Mohan Roy

    Early life 

    • He was born on 22 May 1772 in a Hindu Brahmin family in Radhanagar village in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district, Bengal. 
    • He studied Persian and Arabic along with Sanskrit, which influenced his thinking about God. He read Upanishads, Vedas and the Quran and translated a lot of the scriptures into English
    • He worked as a moneylender in Calcutta, and from 1809 to 1814 and  served in the Revenue Department of the East India Company.
    • Gopal Krishna Gokhale called him the ‘Father of Modern India’.
    • Several historians consider him as one of the pioneers of the Indian Renaissance. 
    • He was bestowed with the title of Raja by Akbar II, the Mughal emperor.

    Image courtesy:Explore art 

    Social Reforms and Ideology 

    • He opposed superstitious practices, customs such as Sati, polygamy, child marriage, the rigidity of the caste system and its excesses, and sought property inheritance rights for women. 
    • He was in favour of inter-caste marriages, women’s education and widow remarriages
    •  In 1814, he formed Atmiya Sabha (Friendly Society)
      • Atmiya Sabha tried to initiate social and religious reforms in the society. 
    •  In 1828,he set up the Brahmo Samaj, a reformist movement of the Hindu religion that aimed at fighting social evils that were prevalent in society.

    Brahmo Samaj 

    • Raja Ram Mohan Roy founded Brahmo Sabha in 1828, which was later renamed as Brahmo Samaj.
    • Its chief aim was the worship of the eternal God. It was against priesthood, rituals and sacrifices.
    • It focused on prayers, meditation and reading of the scriptures.
    •  It believed in the unity of all religions.
    • It was the first intellectual reform movement in modern India. 
    • It  led to the emergence of rationalism and enlightenment in India which indirectly contributed to the nationalist movement.
    • It was the forerunner of all social, religious and political movements of modern India.
    • It split into two in 1866, namely Brahmo Samaj of India led by Keshub Chandra Sen and Adi Brahmo Samaj led by Debendranath Tagore.
    • Prominent Leaders: Debendranath Tagore, Keshub Chandra Sen, Pt. Sivnath Shastri, and Rabindranath Tagore
    • He actively opposed the Sati system .
    • As a result of his hard work in fighting Sati, the governor of the Bengal Presidency, Lord William Bentinck, formally banned the practice  in the year 1829.
    • In 1830, Raja Ram Mohan Roy traveled to the United Kingdom as an ambassador of the Mughal Empire to ensure that Lord William Bentinck’s Bengal Sati Regulation, 1829 banning the practice of Sati was not overturned.

    Educational Reform 

    • He advocated the study of English, Science, Western Medicine and Technology.
    • He established a number of schools to popularise a modern education system in India
    • He was instrumental in setting up several institutions including the Hindu College in Calcutta in 1817, in collaboration with David Hare; the Anglo-Hindu School in 1822; and the Vedanta College to spread his teachings of Hindu monotheism. 
    • He also helped establish the Scottish Church College in 1830.  

    Economic and Political Reforms

    • Raja Ram Roy was impressed and admired the British system of constitutional government for the civil liberties it gave to the people. He wanted to extend the benefits of that system of government to Indian people.
    • He supported the movement for free press in India. 

    Writings 

    • He published   his first book Tuhfat-ul-Muwahhidin (A Gift to Monotheism) in 1803.
    • He started the first Bengali language weekly newspaper and the first newspaper in an Indian language, called Sambad Kaumudi, in 1821.
      • The weekly newspaper advocated reading habits, the importance of discussion as well as the need for education for all.
    •  He  published an English weekly called the Bengal Gazette and a Persian newspaper called Miratul-Akbar

    Taxation Reforms

    • He condemned oppressive practices of Bengali zamindars and demanded fixation of minimum rents. He also demanded the abolition of taxes on tax-free lands.
    • He called for a reduction of export duties on Indian goods abroad and the abolition of the East India Company’s trading rights.

    Administrative Reforms

    • He demanded the Indianisation of superior services and separation of the executive from judiciary. He demanded equality between Indians and Europeans.

    Death

    • He died of Meningitis in Stapleton near Bristol on September 27, 1833 while he was on his visit to Britain.
    • The British government named a street in Bristol as ‘Raja Rammohan Way’ in the memory of Roy.

    Source: News 18