(Last Updated on : 10/07/2012)
Ram Mohan Roy was born in 1774 in a rich family of Bengal. As a student he studied Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit languages
. In his youth he had differences with his father about his religious views. He eventually came to Varanashi
and expectedly studied the English language. His father died in 1803 and the same year he published his first book 'Tohfat-ul-Mohiddin' in which he criticized idol worship and declared that all religions had full faith in one God. From 1805 to 1814 he served an English concern, which managed the Zamindari system on behalf of the District Collectors. In 1814 Ram Mohan purchased a Zamindari from which he had annual income of Rs. 10,000 and he settled permanently in Kolkata
Social Reforms of Raja Ram Mohan Roy
Raja Ram Mohan Roy worked as a Social Reformer. He rejected the barriers of caste divisions and stood forth as the high priest of Universalism and Love. The best example of his life-long crusade against social evils was the historic agitation he organized against the inhuman custom of women becoming Sati
. When the orthodox Hindus petitioned to Parliament to withhold its approval of Bentinck's action of banning the rite of Sati, he organized a counter-petition of enlightened Hindus in favour of Bentinck's action. He was a champion of women's rights. He attacked polygamy and the degraded state to which widows were often reduced. To raise the status of women he demanded that they be given the right of inheritance and property.
Social reforms of Ram Mohan Roy
have had a huge impact in the Indian society over the past century. In 1815 he founded the Atmiya Sabha. In the weekly meetings of the Sabha the members discussed the basic principles of Hinduism. In 1819 he defeated a great scholar named Subrahmanya Sastri on the question of idol worship. Since then the Christian missionaries extended their full support to Ram Mohan Roy. In 1821 William Adam, a Christian missionary began to have faith in the doctrine of Advaita i.e. unity of individual and universal soul. William Adam had close contact with Ram Mohan Roy and he founded the Calcutta Unitarian Committee. Since then the Christian Missionaries parted company from Ram Mohuna and they did not agree with the doctrine of Advaita of which Ram Mohan was a great advocate.
Religious Reforms of Raja Ram Mohan Roy
Religious reforms of Raja Ram Mohan Roy
have helped India as a nation to get rid of many religious superstitions. His Religious and Philosophical Ideas were somewhat different. He vigorously opposed worship of idols and prevalence of meaningless religious rituals. He held that all the sacred books of the Hindus preached worship of one God. According to him human reason was the final standard of truth of any doctrine. It can be Eastern or Western. He believed that the philosophy of Vedanta was based on reason. He did not confine his application of the rational approach to Indian religions and the traditions alone. He insisted on applying this rational approach to Christianity as well. He did not accept the elements of blind faith even in Christianity. This earned for him the hostility of the Christian missionaries. He vigorously defended Hindu religion and philosophy from the ignorant attacks of Christian missionaries. He believed that basically all religions preach a common message. He represented a synthesis of the thought of the East and the West.
Educational reforms of Ram Mohan Roy
Views of Ram Mohan on Education was very clear and modern. He was in favour of modern education and provided wholehearted co-operation to David Hare when the latter founded the famous Hindu College at Kolkata
. He also maintained at his own cost an English School in Kolkata from 1817. Through his translations, pamphlets and journals he helped evolve a modern and elegant prose style for Bengali.
Ram Mohan was a public Agitator on Political Questions, and condemned the oppressive practices of the Bengal Zamindars, that had reduced the peasants to a miserable condition. He demanded that the maximum rents paid by the actual cultivators of land should be permanently fixed so that they too would enjoy the benefits of Permanent Settlement of 1793. He demanded the abolition of the British East India Company
's trading rights and the removal of heavy export duties on Indian goods. He also raised the demands of Indianisation of the superior services, separation of the executive and the judiciary, trial by jury and judicial equality between Indians and Europeans.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy can be called as the first great leader of modern India. Rabindranath Tagore
has rightly remarked "Ram Mohan was the only person in his time, in the whole world of man, to realize completely the significance of the Modern Age. He knew that the ideal of human civilization does not lie in the isolation of independence, but in the brotherhood of interdependence of individuals as well as nations in all spheres of thought and activity."
Ram Mohan Roy took a keen interest in the international events. Everywhere he supported the cause of liberty, democracy and nationalism and opposed injustice, oppression and tyranny in every form. All his life he fought against social injustice and inequality even at great personal loss and hardship. In his life of service to society he often clashed with members of his family, with rich zamindars and powerful missionaries and with high officials and foreign authorities as well. Yet he never showed fear nor shrank from his chosen course. It was Ram Mohan Roy who heralded the New Age, but he never totally rejected the old. Synthesis of the old and the new, of East and West, was the characteristic feature of Ram Mohan's life.