Raja Ramohan Roy was a social reformer, one of the masterminds who built the foundations of Indian Renaissance. He is the founder of Atmiya Sabha and Brahma Samaj which played crucial roles in creating breakthroughs in the social uplift of this nation crippled by its own burden and the disgrace of foreign rule.
He was born on May 22nd of 1772 in Radhanagar village of Hooghly district in West Bengal. His father Ramkanto Roy was a Vaishnavite, while his mother, Tarini, was from a Shakta background. Raja Ram Mohan Roy was sent to Patna for higher studies. By the age of fifteen, Raja Rammohan Roy had learnt Bangla, Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit. A learned scholar Rammohan was against superstitions, religious bigotry, conservatism, which lead to his dispute with his orthodox Brahmin father. He left home for this reason for the Himalayas and traveled extensively in Tibet and other places.
Works and Contribution:
Rammohan Roy ushered the age of reason in Bengal. He adopted western practices to get rid of the narrow mindedness of his fellow countrymen. He founded the Atmiya Sabha in 1815, a philosophical gymnasium where great minds like Prince Dwarakanath Tagore of Jorasanko, Prasanna Kumar Tagore of Pathuria, Kalinath and Baikunthanath Munshi of Taki, Raja KaliShankar Ghosal of Bhukailash etc, who were also rich and influential, exchanged thoughts and devised decisive plans of reform for this society, read ancient scriptures, sang songs composed by Rammohan. Subhramanya and Raja Rammohan Roy staged a brilliant and thought provoking debate on idol worship, the later being on the opposition, in front of leading citizens. This circle evolved into the “Brahma Samaj” through free discussions of theological concepts.
Rabindranath Tagore once said, “Raja Rammohan Roy inaugurated the modern age in India. He was the father of Indian Renaissance and the prophet of Indian nationalism.” In 1811 Rammohan Roy was devastated to see his brother’s wife burn alive in the funeral pyre of his dead brother and started relentless protests abolish this henious practice. Finally in 1829, Sati Daho was declared a homicide and punishable under law by Lord William Bentick, the then Governor-General of India. He also challenged child marriage, dowry, polygamy, untouchability and purdah system which diseased the society then.
He started a chain of schools for English education along with David Hare because he did not believe in the oriental education imparted to the natives then. He was strong proponent of women education and the study of Science and Technology. He preached love for mankind and towards this purpose started the “Sambad Kumudi” magazine.
He published the Vedanta (1815), Ishopanishad (1816), Kathopanishad (1817), Moonduk Upanishad (1819), The Precepts of Jesus – Guide to Peace and Happiness (1820), Sambad Kaumudi – a Bengali newspaper (1821), Mirat-ul-Akbar – Persian journal (1822), Bengali Grammar (1826), Brahmapasona (1828), Brahmasangeet (1829) and The Universal Religion (1829).
1817 he set up the Hindu College collaborating with David Hare.
1822 he founded the Anglo-Hindu school, followed four years later by Vedanta College, which propagated monothiestic doctrines along.
He was the main force behind the abolition of “Shoti Daho” System.
He visited Bristol at the invitation Miss Mary Carpenter in 1833 and breathed his last on 27th September at the Beach House in Stapleton Grove suffering from meningitis. He was buried in Arnos Vale Cemetery in Southern Bristol.
He interpreted and tallied Sufi writings with Vedanta scriptures.
Between 1796 and 1797 Raja Rammohan Roy, William Carrey, Hariharananda Bidyabagish fabricated a spurious religious work known as the Mahanirvana Tantra or Book of the Great Liberation and passed it off as an ancient religious text to “one true God” actually the holy spirit of Christianity masquerading as Brahma. This synthesis formed the basis of Ram Krishna Math which was later formed by Swami Vivekananda.
He was first to compose Dhrupad songs in Bengali. He composed 32 of them and introduced them in the “Brahma Samaj”.