On May 22, the world celebrates the 246th birth anniversary of Raja Ram Mohan Roy, 'the father of Indian renaissance', the founder of 'Brahmo Samaj' and the man who tirelessly fought against the social evils prevailing in the Indian society. The country is paying tribute to this great social reformer and educationalist who also worked as the messenger for modern education in India during the British period.
Roy was the one who pioneered western education in India.
Roy was born on May 22, 1772, in a Brahmin family in the village of Radhanagar near Krishnanagar in Hooghly district (Bengal Presidency). His father, Ramkanta, was a Vaishnavite and mother, Tarinidevi, hailed from a Shivaite family. He did formal education from his village 'Pathshala', where he learned Bengali, Sanskrit and Persian. He also mastered in-depth knowledge of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Buddhism. During his studies, he was influenced by western culture and education system.
Born in a Hindu family and being a Hindu by faith, he mastered Vedas and Upanishads. With the influence of foreign religions like Islam and Christianity, he defined religion with reason and opposed idol-worship and ritualism that existed in Hinduism. He believed that every religion has truth in it. At the same time, he criticised the ritualism of Christianity and rejected Christ as the incarnation of God. He always wanted to renovate Hinduism.
In 1803, he published his first book, ‘Tuhfat-ul- Muwahhidin’, in which he argues for monotheism (the concept of single God). He supported the western concept of reasoning and scientific thought and tried to apply it in the Indian context. He fought against orthodox Hindus and fanatic Christian missionaries who never agreed to his beliefs.
Roy established the Brahmo Samaj on August 20, 1828, which acted against the evil practices that existed in the Hindu society, especially, the practice of ‘Sati’, wherein a woman jumps into the funeral pyre of her husband. Roy's sister was a victim of 'Sati'. His Samaj raised its voice against polygamy, child marriage, caste system, untouchability, superstitions and use of intoxicants. Meanwhile, Roy encouraged inter-caste marriages, women's education and widow re-marriages.
Roy started many learned societies and educational institutions in Bengal. He studied English language and the western education system. He also helped Lord Macaulay in starting schools and colleges in India. The Hindu College and the Vedanta College in Calcutta were a result of this. His remarkable contributions also reflected in the newspaper and magazine published by him. Roy also worked as the editor of Bengali newspaper “Sambad Kaumudi” (1821) and the Persian newspaper “Mirat-Ul-Akbar”.
Even though he hailed from a Zamindar background, he fought for the liberation of the poor tenants exploited by Zamindars. He continuously fought against the fixed revenue for the cultivators in Bengal and opposed heavy export duties imposed on Indian goods. He was the first one to figure out that The East India Company was flowing approximately three million pounds a year from India to England.
Roy lived in the era of freedom fighters and revolutionaries. Publicly, he never demanded independence for India, but still, he fought for the civil rights of the Indians and opposed the racial superiority of Europeans.
Roy and his 'Brahmo Samaj' had a vital role in renewing the Hindu society but it always focussed on Bengal. Later, it branched itself to Madras, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy died on September 27, 1833 in Bristol, United Kingdom and was buried at the Arnos Vale Cemetery in England.
After the death of Roy, Dwaraka Nath Tagore led Brahmo Samaj for some time.
Even today, Roy's powerful quotes are remembered and revered by Indians
Roy once said, "The greater our intercourse with European gentlemen, the greater will be our improvement in literary, social, and political affairs"
And on another occasion, he quipped, "Just consider how terrible the day of your death will be. Others will go on speaking and you will not be able to argue back"