When the practice of sati was legally abolished in 1829, the credit for its abolition was given to the Governor General, Lord William Bentinck. However, as a contemporary English observer, herself a woman, pointed out - the legislation could not have been brought about 'but for the powerful though unacknowledged aid of the great Hindu philosopher Ram Mohan Roy. Roy's' great contribution towards this reform was to demonstrate that sati was not a religious duty sanctioned or upheld by Hindu scriptural tradition.
Through the 1820s, Roy's ideas were being propagated through his Bengali newspaper, which was called the Sangbad Kaumudi, or the 'Moon of Intelligence'.
In December 1921, the Calcutta Journal, a periodical of (and for) the English in India, wrote of Roy's newspaper that 'she will be the means of the moral and intellectual renovation of India'. Nine years later, a London magazine described the Sangbad Kaumudi as 'the Morning Chronicle of India, advocating freedom, civil and religious, opposed to corruption and tyranny, and labouring, we are happy to say effectively and extensively, to eradicate the idolatrous rites of the Brahmins, and awaken the Hindus to a sense of the degradation and misery into which they have been plunged'.
In 1830 Ram Mohan Roy was sent by the now much-weakened Mughal emperor to England, to petition the King to increase his allowance and perquisites. Raja Ram Mohan Roy's visit to England made a lot of difference in the social structure of India. There he met with officials of the East India Company, lobbied with members of Parliament, was granted an audience with the King and wrote and published books on Indian economics and law. He exchanged views with British Utilitarians and English Socialists and also travelled to Paris. His biographer Sophia Dobson Collet remarks that 'as he had interpreted England to India, so now he interpreted India to England'. In London, he watched with interest from the sidelines as Parliament passed the Reform Bill of 1831, which extended the franchise to a greater number of British men.
Abolition of Sati System
Ram Mohan played a major role towards abolition of sati system. When Ram Mohan's brother - Jagmohan died, his wife Alakamanjari had to observe 'Sahagamana' (that is, she was to be burnt alive with the dead body).All arrangements were made for cremation. Ram Mohan objected and begged his sister-in-law not to observe "Sati". All people were against Ram Mohan, and Alakamanjari was forced to the funeral pyre with the corpse. The pyre was set on fire.
This scene touched Ram Mohan and thus instigated him to fight against the system of Sati. Many people opposed Ram Mohan, but he did not flinch. Even the people of the West, who saw all this wondered, when even the government was afraid to interfere in this matter, Rammohan risked his life and fought against this evil practice. In the end, he won and the government made 'Sati' a crime. Along with the fight against Sati, Ram Mohan started a strong movement in favour of women education and women's right to property. He showed that woman enjoyed equal freedom with man according to Hinduism.
Formation of Atmiya Sabha
Ram Mohan lived in a period when child marriage and sati was highly practised among the people in society. Wives were burnt along with the dead husband whether she was willing or not. Girls were married off when they were five or six years old. Ram Mohan was sick and tired of these practises. Though he had high regard for Hindu religion but he felt that Hindus had yet to know about the religion correctly. He preached for equality among men and women, and people should also give up superstitious beliefs.
He tried to bring about a change in society and as a result gathered few like minded people for the process. An association of such close friends was formed. It was called 'Atmiya Sabha' (The Society of Friends). Religious discussion took place there. The members had to give up idol-worship. They had to spread the Society's views on religion among the people.
Ram Mohan's Reforms for the Poor
When Roy was in Kolkata, he made immense contributions for the betterment of the poor people. He visited the houses of poor and needy people, in slums and talked to them and helped them out with food and money.
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