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Raja Ram Mohan Rai Essay


“Raja Ram Mohan Roy was a great reformer, a great scholar. He tried to create a new Hindu religious philosophy and enfolded in it the existence of one God and other beliefs which were then not the predominant features in Hinduism. He attacked some Hindu traditions and features among them caste system, child marriages, Sati – burning of the live wife over her dead husband’s pyre, idolatry and other beliefs. He tried to change the popular Hindu traditions and claimed that the popular Hindu traditions were different from the real Hindu beliefs.”

Raja Ram Mohan Roy was born in Radhanagar village in Bengal’s Hooghly district on 22nd May 1772, to conservative Bengali Brahmin parents. Ram Mohan’s parents, Ramakanta Roy and Tarini Mukherjee, were devout Hindus. His father worshipped Vishnu. Ram Mohan showed a religious disposition from an early age. At the age of 14, he wanted to be a ‘sanyasi’, a hermit, but his mother persuaded him otherwise. Another example of his devoutness was his habit of not having even water each morning until he had recited a chapter from the Bhagvata Purana. Ram Mohan was reputed to have a ‘tenacious memory’, and showed signs of intelligence at an early age. He learnt Bengali at school first. He also went to Tibet to learn about Buddhism. He learnt Persian, which was the court language. This gave him the ability to read the mystic poetry and philosophy of the Persian Sufis. He also learned Arabic. During this period, he came across the translations of Aristotle and Euclid, and of the Koran. On his mother’s prompting, he went to Banaras to learn Sanskrit. He started to learn English when he was 24 years old.

In 1803, he secured a job with the East India Company and in 1809, he was posted to Rangpur. He learnt about Jainism and studied the Jain texts. Roy was drawn to certain aspects of Christianity that led some of the followers of the Christianity to suggest that he should convert; but he politely declined.

Roy’s understanding of the different religions of the world helped him to compare them with Vedantic philosophy and glean the best from each religion. Sufi mysticism had a great influence on Roy. He loved to repeat three of their maxims: “Man is the slave of benefits”; “The enjoyment of the worlds rests on these two points—kindness to friends and civility to enemies”; and “The way of serving God is to do good to man”.

Roy resigned from the East India Company a few years later and came to Calcutta in 1815. He was a humanist and a religious reformer. He left the company to devote his time to the service of the people. Profoundly influenced by European liberalism, Ram Mohan came to the conclusion that radical reform was necessary in Hinduism and in the social practices of the Hindus. He founded the Brahma Samaj at Calcutta in 1828, which was initially known as the “Brahma Sabha.”

Raja Ram and his organization ‘Brahma Samaj’ tried to change the social order in India. He established newspapers and schools all around India. He convinced the British in 1829 to outlaw Sati. But, during that period there wasn’t yet an Indian ethos among the Indians. Indians were never one nation but always a collection of different entities. They were under different rulers including non- Indians. From their point of view the British were just another ruler over them. But, the main contribution of the Brahma Samaj to the Indian society was that it evoked issues that were common to people all around the Indian sub-continent. The notions of this organization were the inspiration for other organizations and various secular political parties, like the Indian National Congress, which were later on created in India.

Roy’s efforts to abolish the practice of Sati were largely driven by his concern for the moral dimensions of religion. It was the sight of the burning of his brother’s widow on her husband’s funeral pyre and his inability to save her had spurred Ram Mohan into action. He delved into the scriptures in great detail and proved that the practice of Sati could not gain moksha for the husband as each man was responsible for his own destiny. He also realized that very often it was greedy relatives interested in the property of the dead husband who were behind promoting the practice.

His relentless efforts in the form of petitions, writings and the organizing of vigilance committees paid off when the William Bentinck administration passed a law in 1829, banning the practice of Sati. Roy also succeeded in starting a revolution for women’s education and women’s right to property. By delving into Hindu scriptures, he showed that women enjoyed equal freedom with men.

Among Roy’s other efforts was the publishing of a newspaper in an Indian language. The Atmiya Sabha brought out a weekly called the ‘Bengal Gazette’. He also published a newspaper in Persian called ‘Miratul-Akhbar’ and a Bengali weekly called ‘Sambad Kaumudi’. Roy placed a great deal of importance on the development of his mother tongue. His ‘Gaudiya Vyakaran’ in Bengali is rated highly among his writings in prose.

The founding of the Brahma Samaj was among Roy’s most important contributions. Beginning in 1828, as a small group, the Samaj played a major role in Renaissance Bengal of the 19th century by attracting luminaries like Keshub Chandra Sen and Rabindranath Tagore and other members of the Tagore family. The objectives of the Samaj were to follow theism of Hinduism combining the best of what Roy inculcated through his exposure to other religions. Even today, in Brahma prayer halls all over the country, people meet once a week, most often on Sundays and worship the one God or Brahma. At these gatherings, discourses are offered, Vedic texts recited and hymns sung. Present-day followers try to inculcate his words: “Testing, questing, never resting, with open mind and open heart.”

Roy felt strongly for the downtrodden and his belief in the universal brotherhood of man led him to support many causes and reform movements. A 100 years before the establishment of the League of Nations, Roy expressed the need for a similar institution. He said that just as two individuals resorted to a court of law to settle major disputes, there should be an organization that could help to settle differences between two countries.

However, ten days after arriving in Bristol, he fell ill with meningitis and died on 27th September, 1833. He was initially buried in the grounds of Beech House, but ten years later his friend Dwarakanath Tagore had him reinterred at Arno’s Vale. A chattri was designed by William Prinsep and built with sponsorship from Dwarakanath Tagore. In 1997, a statue of Raja Ram Mohan Roy was also built at Bristol.



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The central figure in the socio-cultural awakening of 19th century was Raja Rammohan Roy. He has been regarded as the morning star of renaissant India. He was the first great leader of modern India. According to Mis Colet. " Rammohan stands in history as the living bridge over which India marches from her unmeasured past to her incalculable future.

He was the arch which shimmed the gulf between ancient caste and modern humanity, between superstition and science, between despotism and democracy, between immobile custom and conservative progress, between a bewildering polytheism and a pure, if vague, theism." In the same way Nandalal Chaterjee describes Raja Rammohan Roy as "the human link between the unfading past and the dawning future, between vested conservatism and radical reform, between superstitious isolationism and progressive sysntehesis, in short, between reaction and progress."

His Life:

Raja Rammohan Roy was born on 22nd May, 1774 in an orthodox, well-to-do brahmin family of village Radhanagar in Burdhaman district of West Bengal. The name of h father was Ramakanta Roy and mother was Tarini Devi. His father was working as a Zamindar under Nawab of Murshidabad.

The childhood of Rammohan passed admist the environment of social orthodoxy and blind belief. At the tender age of nine, he had been forced to marry two times and was required to marry a third time after sometime. He had also the tragic horrifying experience in his childhood how the widow of his brother was burnt alive as a sati on the funeral pyre of her dead husband.

These experiences of childhood had a deep impact on him and made him a crusader against all socail vices. Exceptionally intelligent in the very childhood he had learnt Parsi, Arabic and Sanskrit. Raja Rammohan Roy says in his autobiographical sketch, "When about the age of sixteen, I composed a manuscript calling in question the validity of the idolatrous system of Hindus this together with my own sentiment on the subject, having produced a coolness between me a my immediate kindred, I proceeded on my travels and passed through different countries, chiefly within, but some beyond the bounds of Hindustan."

The travel helped him to move to patna, Banaras and Tibet and enough knowledge on Tibettian, English, Italy and Greek language. It also provided him golden opportunity to study different religuous belief and philosophy. He also made an in-depth study of Veda, Upanishad, Bible, Koran, Zend Avesta and different Buddhist texts. Rammohan published a book called the "percepts of Jesus" where he rejected the divinity of Jesus but was impressed by his ethical teachings. On the death of his father in 1503, he moved to Murshidabad and wrote a treatise entitled "Tuhabat -ul- Muwahidin" or a gift to monotheist, a work protesting against idolatries and superstitions of all creeds. From 1805 to 1814 Rammohan served an English concern which managed Zamindari system on behalf of District collectors.

After the death of h father the nawab of Murshidabad in 1809 appointed him as Sheristadar and Rammohan discharged that responsibility till 1814. In 1814 Rammohan resigned from the service of the company, puchased a Zamindari from which he had annual income of Rs. 10,000 and settled permanently at Calcutta. The rest twenty years of his life were dedicated to the cause of socio-cultural awakening of India which provided him great fame in history of modern India. In 1815 he founded Atmiya Sabha and a college for the dissemination of Vedic knowledge. In 1819 he defeated a great scholar named Subramaniam Sastri on the question of idol worship.

In 1821 William Adam, a Christian missionary began to have faith in the doctorine od Advaita being influenced by Rammohan. As a result of this William Adam founded the Calcutta Unitarian Committiee that led to bitter relationship between Ramohan and Christian missionaries who earlier were encouraged by his attack against idolatry. In 1828 Rammohan Roy founded the Brahmo Samaj. In 1831 he went to England on a special mission to champion the cause of Mughal Emperor of delhi where he died on 27th Septmber, 1833. He was given the title of Raja by the Mughal emperor.

Philosophy and Reforms:

Raja Ramohan Roy was aware of country's weakness and conscious of her strength. He had great admiration and respect for the traditional philosophic system of the East; but at the same time believed firmly that modern culture alone would help to regenerate Indian society. Rammohan Roy represented a synthesis of the thought of East and west.

According to Bipan Chandra, "……there was to be no blind reliance on India' this own pats or blind aping of the west. On the other hand he put forward the idea that new India, guided by reason should acquire and treasure all that was best in the East and the West.

Thus he wanted India to learn from the West, but this learning was to be intellectual and creative process through which Indian culture and thought were to be renovated, it was not to be an imposition of western culture of India.

He therefore, stood for the reform of Hinduism and opposed its suppression by Christianity." Rationalism, scientific temper, humanism and the basic principle of social democracy moulded the philosophical vision of Rammohan Roy. Rammohan Roy relied ultimately on the power of human reason which was in his view the final touchstone of the truth of any doctoring, eastern or western.

Raja Rammohan Roy was not a utopian dreamer. He believed in execution of his ideas. There was hardly any aspect of nation-building which he left untouched. As a social reformer he undertook relentless crusade against all social evils to purge traditional social order with a view to meet the challenge of the age.

His crusade against sati, child marriage, the prohibition of widow remarriage brought a new sensation. Ramohan Roy vehemently stood for liberation of women and their rightful place in the society. Rammohan Roy also propagated for the introduction for modern western education which in his opinion could be a major instrument for social transformation. He gave wholehearted cooperation to David Hare when the later founded the famous Hindu college at Calcutta. In the field of journalism Rammohan Roy was a pioneer. He was the editor of a Bengali journal "Sambad Kaumudi" and Urdu daily "Mirat-Ul-Akhbar".

Rammohan Roy represented the first glimmering of the rise of national consciousness in india. He became the pioneer of public agitation on political question in the country. Rammohan Roy also enkindled the spirit of internationalism and free cooperation between nations. For all practical purposes Raja Rammohan Roy was the first great leader of modern India.

Rabindranath Tagore has rightly remarked, "Rammohan was the only person in his time, in the whole world of men, to realise completely the significance of the Modern Age. He knew that the ideal of human civilisation 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." Rammohan Roy was also a prolific writer.

His famous works are texts on Vedenta, Vedentasar, Kathopanishad, Ishopanishad, the precepts of Jesus, the guide to peace and happiness." Raja Rammohan Roy by his multi dimensional creativity inaugurated the modern age in India. He has also been regarded as the father of Indian Renaissance and the prophet of indian nationalism.

Raja Rammohan Roy felt the necessity of an institution to translate his dreams into practice. On 20th August 1828 he founded the Brahmo Sabha which became famous as Brahmo Samaj in 1830. It was the culmination of his earlier Atmiya Sabha of 1814.

The purpose of the establishment of Brahmo Samaj became evident in the Trust Deed of Samaj by Rammohan in 1830. He made it clear that he aspired only to establish a strict monolatrous worship of the Supreme Being, worship of the heart and not of the hand, a sacrifice of self and not of the possession of the self.

The Brahmo Samaj championed the worship of one God and the brotherhood of men. It advocated the respect for all religions and their scriptures. To love human beings and to have love towards them is the supreme religion. There is no place for idol worship, animal sacrifice offering Bhog and ritualism in the Brahmo Samaj.

The evils like sati system, child marriage, ingfanticide, Pardah System, caste system and untouchability were opposed by the Brahmo Samajists. Owing to the preachings of the founder of Brahmo Samaj Widow Remarriage and intercast marriage began to take place.

The reformative and rational approach of Brahmo Samaj created a great sensation. The conservation and orthodox elements in the society sharply reacted to the progressive views of Rammohan. The orthodox citizens of Calcutta started a rival organization named Dharma Sabha with its organ, the Samachar Chandrika which opposed Ramohan Roys' Bengali Weekly "Samvada Kaumudi." Undeterred by the critics Ramamohan spread his message and attracted many progressive Indians to the fold of Brahmo Samaj.

After his death Maharsi Dwarakanath Tagore, Devendranath Tagore and Keshab Chandra Sen became the real spirit behind the movement. Though towards the close of the 19th century, the Brahmo movement lost much of its newness, retained its social and educational mission.


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