Raja Rammohan Roy
Raja Rammohan Roy was born in 1777 in the British ruled
Bengal. He belonged to a prosperous but orthodox Brahmin family. Roy developed
unorthodox religious ideas at an early age. As a youth, he travelled
widely outside Bengal. Roy studied different languages and religions. He
developed a liberal attitude towards different religions. He opposed idol
worship. This attitude forced him to leave his home.
Roy supported himself by lending money. He managed his small
estates. He also worked for the British East India Company. In 1805, he was
employed by John Digby, a Company official as his assistant. Through Digby, he
was introduced to the western culture and literature.
Roy studied Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, English, French,
Latin, Hebrew and Greek. He studied the Upanishads and translated them into
Bengali. He believed in the doctrine- of one God. In 1815, he founded the
short-lived Atmiya Sabha (Friendly Society) to propagate his doctrine and ideas.
He read the Bible, especially the Old and the New Testaments. In 1820, he
published the ethical teachings of Christ under the title, Precepts of Jesus,
the Guide to Peace and Happiness.
Roy was a religious as well as social reformer. He sought to
eradicate the prevalent social evils. He sought to introduce what was good for
the society and the people. In 1816, Roy founded the Vedanta College in order to
teach his Hindu monotheistic doctrines. He opined that classical Indian
literature would not prepare the youth for a modem life. He proposed for a
modern, western educational curriculum. He was a pioneer` in the introduction of
western education in India. With the support of Justice Sir Hyde East, he
founded the Hindu College in 1817. Later, it was renamed as Presidency College.
In 1822, Roy founded the Anglo Hindu School. Rammohan was a great pioneer of
English education. Not only did he himself found institutions for that purpose,
but he always lent a helping hand to others who endeavoured to do so.
Roy believed in the freedom of the press. The press became a
vehicle for his campaign for reforms. Roy established two papers named
Mirat-Akbar and Jame-Jahmm-Nurma in Persian. His journal Saimbad Kaunmdi
expressed his liberal ideas powerfully. Roy is often considered the Father of
Roy founded the ‘Brahmo Samaj’ in 1828. It aimed at removing
the evil practices of the Indian society. Rammohan’s reforming activity was
directed against the social abuses of Hindu society, notably the rigours of
caste and the degrading position of women. He endeavoured to ameliorate the
condition of helpless widows in various ways, notably by changing the Hindu laws
of inheritance about women and giving them proper education. Roy denounced the
practice of sati. Through his sustained efforts, sati was banned by Lord William
Bentinck (Governor-General) in 1829. It was declared a legal offence. He also
stood against polygamy, child marriage, purdah system, etc. He defended
the cause of widow-remarriage and women’s education.
In 1829, Roy went to England as the unofficial representative
of the titular king of Delhi. The king granted him the title of Raja.
Roy wanted political freedom for India. But he knew the
weaknesses of the Indian society. So, he was not in favour of an immediate
demand for freedom. He was a keen observer of the British methods of political
agitation. He advised the Indians to follow the same.
Roy defended the peasants. He blamed the British as well as
the Zamtimdars, for the condition of the peasants. He advocated reduction of
rent for the tenants. Roy suggested that the loss in revenue should be made up
by levying” tax on luxury goods. He also suggested that low salaried Indian
Collectors be appointed in place of highly-paid Europeans. The Raja favoured the
Permanent Settlement but he rightly urged that the government should fix the
maximum rent to be paid by each cultivator.
Roy advocated Indianisation of the British Indian Army and
separation of the judiciary from the executive. He suggested codification of
criminal and civil laws. He also suggested the British to consult Indians before
initiating any law for India. He also urged for the substitution of English in
place of Persian as the official language of the Courts of Law.
Thus, Raja Rammohan Roy succeeded in reforming the Indian
society to some extent. He pioneered the cause for western education in India.
He died in 1833. He had a charismatic personality and became a model for several
generations of social reformers and modernizers all over India. Raja Rammohan
Roy has been rightly called the `Father of modern India’. His English biographer
truly remarks that Raja Rammohan Roy “presents a most instructive and inspiring
study for the new India of which he is the type and pioneer… He embodies the
new spirit…” He laid the foundation of all the principal movements for the
elevation of the Indians.