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Raja Ram Mohan Roy

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Raja Ram Mohan Roy

Raja Ram Mohan Roy
Raja Ram Mohan Roy portrait
Born (1772-05-22)22 May 1772
Radhanagore, Bengal, British India
Died September 27, 1833(1833-09-27) (aged 61)
Stapleton, Bristol, England, UK
Cause of death Meningitis
Resting place Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol, England
Other names Rammohun, Rammohan, or Ram Mohan
Ethnicity Bengali Hindu
Occupation Social reformer
Known for Bengal Renaissance, Brahmo Samaj
Height 1.75 mts
Weight 56 kg
Successor Dwarkanath Tagore
Religion Hinduism
Spouse(s) Uma Devi
Parents Ramakanta Roy (father)
Signature Ram_Mohan_Roy_Signature.jpg

Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ram Mohun also spelled Rammohun, Rammohan, or Ram Mohan (Bengali: রাজা রামমোহন রায়; 22 May 1772 – 27 September 1833), was an Indian religious, social, and educational reformer, and humanitarian, who challenged traditional Hindu culture and indicated the lines of progress for Indian society under British rule. He is called the "Maker of Modern India" and also as "Father of Modern India."[1] He is also regarded as the "Father of the Bengal Renaissance." He, along with Dwarkanath Tagore and other Bengalis, founded the Brahmo Sabha in 1828, which engendered the Brahmo Samaj, an influential Indian socio-religious reform movement during the Bengal Renaissance.

His influence was apparent in the fields of politics, public administration, and education, as well as religion.


Early life and education (1772–1792)

Roy was born in a Bengali Hindu family in Visnagar, Hooghly, Bengal (now West Bengal),May 22, 1772,[2] into the Rarhi Brahmin caste of Sandilya Gotra (family name Bandyopadhyay).[3]His great grandfather Krishna Chandra Banerjee aquired the title 'Roy'. His family background displayed unusual religious diversity; his father Ramkanto Roy was a Vaishnavite, while his mother Tarinidevi was from a Shaivite family. This was unusual for Vaishanavites did not commonly marry Shaivites at that time. Thus, one paren dedicated to the laukik, which was secular public administration.[4] He wandered around the Himalayas and went to Tibet.

Early political and religious career (1792–1820)

Raja Rammohan Roy's impact on modern Indian history concerned a revival of the ethics principles of the Vedanta school of philosophy as found in the Upanishads. He preached about the unity of God, made early translations of Vedic scriptures into English, co-founded the Calcutta Unitarian Society, founded the Brahmo Samaj, and campaigned against sati. He sought to integrate Western culture with features of his own country's traditions. He established schools to modernise a system of education in India.

During these overlapping periods, Ram Mohan Roy acted as a political agitator and agent,[5] while being employed by the East India Company and simultaneously pursuing his vocation as a Pandit.

In 1792, the British Baptist shoemaker William Carey published his missionary tract An Enquiry of the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of Heathens. In the following year, William Carey landed in India to settle. His objective was to translate, publish and distribute the Bible in Indian languages and propagate Christianity to the Indian peoples.[6] He believed the "mobile" (i.e. service classes) Brahmins and Pundits were most able to help him in this endeavour, and he began gathering them. He learned the Buddhist and Jain religious works as a means to improve his argument in promotion for Christianity in the cultural context. In 1795, Carey made contact with a Sanskrit scholar, the Tantric Hariharananda Vidyabagish,[7] who later introduced him to Ram Mohan Roy; Roy wished to learn English.

In 1799, Carey was joined by missionary Joshua Marshman and the printer William Ward at the Danish settlement of Serampore.

From 1803 to 1815, Rammohan served the East India Company's "Writing Service", commencing as private clerk "munshi" to Thomas Woodforde, Registrar of the Appellate Court at Murshidabad,[8] whose distant nephew, also a Magistrate, later made a living off the spurious Maha Nirvana Tantra under the pseudonym Arthur Avalon. In 1815, Raja Ram Mohan Roy formed "Atmiya Sabhan", and spent many years at Rangpur and elsewhere with Digby, where he renewed his contacts with Hariharananda. William Carey had, by this time, settled at Serampore and the trio renewed their association with one another. William Carey was also aligned with the English Company, then headquartered at Fort William, and his religious and political ambitions were increasingly intertwined.

The East India Company was taking money from India at a rate of three million pounds a year in 1838. Ram Mohan Roy estimated how much money was being driven out of India and where it was headed towards. He predicted that around half of the total revenue collected in India was sent out to England, leaving India to fill taxes with the remaining money.[9]

Middle "Brahmo" period (1820–1830)

Commenting on his published works, Sivanath Sastri wrote that Roy was part of a second appeal to the Christian Public. Brahmanical Magazine Parts I, II and III, with Bengali translation and a new Bengali newspaper called Sambad Kaumudi, was processed in 1821. In 1822, A Persian paper called Mirat-ul-Akbar contained a tract entitled "Brief Remarks on Ancient Female Rights"; a book in Bengali called Answers to Four Questions was released the same year. The third and final appeal to the Christian public took place in 1823. Roy wrote a letter to Rev. H. Ware on the "Prospects of Christianity in India" and an "Appeal for Famine-Smitten Natives in Southern India" in 1824. A Bengali tract on the qualifications of a God-loving householder, a tract in Bengali on a controversy with a Kayastha, and a Grammar of the Bengali language in English were written in 1826. A Sanskrit tract on "Divine Worship by Gayatri" with an English translation, the edition of a Sanskrit treatise against caste, and the previously noticed tract called "Answer of a Hindu to the Question" was released in 1827. A form of divine worship and a collection of hymns were composed by Roy and his friends in 1828. In 1829, "Religious Instructions founded on Sacred Authorities" was published in English and Sanskrit; a Bengali tract called "Anusthan" was also published that year. A petition against Suttee also took place in 1829. In 1830, Roy was in charge of a Bengali tract, a Bengali book concerning the Bengali language, the trust deed of the Brahmo Samaj, an address to Lord William Bentinck congratulating him for the abolition of Sati, a document in English of the arguments regarding the burning of widows, and a tract in English on the disposal of ancestral property by Hindus.[10]

One of the controversial issues that embittered the Bengali community was his stand on European settlement. He and his followers joined the European mercantile community to push for abolition of restrictions on land holdings by the Europeans in the mufassal. Even officials of East India Company in addition to a large section of the Bengali community opposed that. At the end this motion was not approved.[11]

Life in England and death (1830–1833)

In 1830, Ram Mohan Roy travelled to England from the Khejuri Port, then the sea port of Bengal and is currently in East Midnapore, West Bengal.[12] He was the first educated Indian to sail to England in 1830.[13] At the time, 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 and to ensure that the Lord Bentick's regulation banning the practice of sati was not overturned. Roy also visited France.

Roy died in Britain at Stapleton, Bristol, on 27 September 1833. The cause of his death was meningitis; he was cremated in Arnos Vale Cemetery in southern Bristol.

At the annual Commemoration for Raja Rammohun Roy on 22 September 2013 at Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol, England, a previously unknown but magnificent miniature ivory portrait bust of Raja Rammohun Roy by the famous English nineteenth-century ivory carver, Benjamin Cheverton (1796-1876), was unveiled. The commemoration marked the anniversary of the death of Rammohun Roy, in Bristol in September 1833. This exceptionally rare and extremely important ivory bust is raised on a Rosso Antico-type marble plinth, the ivory, including turned socle, 11 cm (4 21/64 inches) high; 18 cm (7 3/32 inches) high overall including marble plinth.The best and most accurate three-dimensional likeness of Rammohun Roy in existence, this ivory bust was made by the famous nineteenth-century ivory carver Benjamin Cheverton in London in 1832. It is based on a bust of Rammohun Roy modelled from the life in London by the eminent sculptor George Clarke in 1832 and carved in marble by him in 1833. Clarke is the only sculptor to whom Rammohun Roy gave sittings. By use of his famous sculpture reducing machine, and with the sculptor’s agreement, Cheverton translated the exact features of Clarke’s bust to this reduced–size ivory replica. Clarke’s bust of Rammohun Roy is un-located, presumed lost, but a (damaged) plaster cast of it survives in India.[14]


Ram Mohan Roy was married two times before his teens . His third wife, Devi Uma, outlived him.

Roy's political background influenced his social and religious to reforms of Hinduism. He wrote: "The present system of Hindus [sic] 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."[15]

Rammohan Roy's experience working with the British government taught him that Hindu traditions were often not respected or thought as credible by Western standards; this affected his religious reforms. He wanted to legitimize Hindu traditions to his European acquaintances by proving that "superstitious practices which deform the Hindu [sic] religion have nothing to do with the pure spirit of its dictates! [sic]"[16] The "superstitious practices" Rammohan Roy objected included sati, caste rigidity, polygamy and child marriages.[17]

Religious reforms

The religious reforms of Roy contained in beliefs of the Brahmo Samaj expounded by Rajnarayan Basu[18] are: Brahmos believe that the fundamental doctrines of Brahmoism are at the basis of every religion, followed by man; 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.

Social reforms of Raja Ram Mohan Roy

Roy demanded property inheritance rights for women and, in 1828, set up the Brahmo Sabha, which was a movement of reformist Bengali's formed to fight against social evils.

Roy's political background influenced his social and religious to reforms of Hinduism. He wrote: "The present system of Hindus [sic] 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."[15]

Rammohan Roy's experience working with the British government taught him that Hindu traditions were often not respected or thought as credible by Western standards; this affected his religious reforms. He wanted to legitimize Hindu traditions to his European acquaintances by proving that "superstitious practices which deform the Hindu [sic] religion have nothing to do with the pure spirit of its dictates! [sic]"[19] The "superstitious practices" Rammohan Roy objected included sati, caste rigidity, polygamy and child marriages.[17] These practices were often the reasons British officials claimed moral superiority over the Indian nation. Ram Mohan Roy's ideas of religion sought to create a fair and just society by implementing humanitarian practices similar to Christian ideals and thus legitimize Hinduism in the modern world.


Roy believed education to be an implement for social reform. In 1817, in collaboration with David Hare, he set up the Hindu College at Calcutta. In 1822, Roy founded the Anglo-Hindu school, followed four years later by the Vedanta College, where he insisted that his teachings of monotheistic doctrines be incorporated with "modern, western curriculum"; Vedanta College offered courses as a synthesis of Western and Indian learning.[20] In 1830, he helped Alexander Duff in establishing the General Assembly's Institution, by providing him the venue vacated by Brahma Sabha and getting the first batch of students. Roy supported induction of western learning into Indian education. He advocated the study of English, science, western medicine and technology. He spent his money on a college to promote these studies.


Roy published magazines in English, Hindi, Persian, and Bengali. He published Brahmonical Magazine in English in 1821. One notable magazine of his was the Sambad Kaumudi, published in 1821. In 1822, Ram Mohan published Mirat-ul-Akbar in Persian language.

Brahmonical Magazine ceased to exist after publication of few[weasel words] issues. But Sambad Kaumudi, a 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 became bi-weekly in January 1830 and continued for 33 years.

He published newspaper to register his protest against the introduction of Press Ordinance of 1823. The ordinance stated that a license from the Governor General in council would be mandatory to publish any newspaper. When the English Company censored the press, Rammohan composed two memorials against this in 1829 and 1830 respectively. Being an activist, he steadily opposed social issues like Sati and child marriage.[21][22]


A museum, on the life and times of Raja Ram Mohan Roy, stands on Raja Ram Mohan Sarani (Amherst Street), Calcutta, India, in a mansion built by Raja Ram Mohan Roy. The museum is elaborate, very well documented (in English and Bengali), and well illuminated. Lack of air-conditioning in the Exhibition Halls make a summer visit avoidable. The museum is on the west flank of Amherst Street, very close to the junction of Amherst and Sookea Streets.


The tomb was built by Dwarkanath Tagore in 1843, 10 years after Rammohan Roy's death in Bristol on 27 Sep 1833; it is located in the Arnos Vale Cemetery on the outskirts of Bristol. In 1845 Dwarkanath Tagore arranged for Rammohan's remains to be returned to India through Roy's nephew, who had accompanied Dwarkanath for this purpose to Britain. Rammohan's relics were cremated near Kolkata on 28 February 1846 by his family.[23]

In September 2006 representatives of the Indian High Commission and the mayor of Kolkata came to Bristol to mark the anniversary of Ram Mohan Roy's death. During the ceremony Hindu, Muslim and Sikh women sang Sanskrit prayers of thanks.[24] Following this visit the Mayor of Kolkata, Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, decided to raise funds to restore the cenotaph, and in June 2007 businessman Aditya Poddar donated £50,000 towards the restoration.[25] In June 2008 the Arnos Vale restorers confirmed that they could not locate Roy's remains at the site after searching for it by digging. stated, "To everyone`s surprise the coffin was not to be seen under the chattri."[26]

Further reading

  • Ram Mohan Roy, The English Works of Raja Rammohun Roy (1906)
  • S. D. Collett, The Life and Letters of Raja Rammohun Roy (1900)
  • Ram Mohan Roy, a Present To the Believers in One God (ca. 1803)
  • Phillip Medhurst, Rammohun Roy. Monotheist-Philanthropist (2012) ISBN 978-1479362654

See also


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