Raja Ram Mohan Roy was known as ‘Father of Modern India’, ‘Father of the Bengal Renaissance and ‘Father of Indian Renaissance’.’ Raja Ram Mohan Roy was a prominent Indian social reformer and the founder of the Brahmo Samaj.These reformers played a huge role in awakening Indian Society and bringing them closer to today's Modern India. These were prominent part of India Freedom Struggle which is part of UPSC mains GS paper 1.
- RAJA RAM MOHAN ROY
RAJA RAM MOHAN ROY
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy is considered as the pioneer of modern Indian Renaissance for the remarkable reforms he brought in the 18th and 19th century India.
- The title 'Raja' was bestowed upon him by the Mughal emperor Akbar II, in 1831. Though Roy was modernist in his approach, he always tried to link modernity with tradition.
- He attempted the creative combination of secularism and spirituality, of Western and Eastern philosophy. He wanted to present the concept of universal religion by combining the best features of all leading religions of the world.
- He was of the opinion that rationality and modernity needed to be introduced in the field of religion and that "irrational religion" was at the root of many social evils.
- This concept of universal religion meant not merely religious tolerance, but also transcending all the sectarian barriers of separate religion He was the founder of Liberal tradition in lndian political thought.
EARLY LIFE & INFLUENCE
- The 'Maker of Modern India' Raja Ram Mohan Roy was born on August 14, 1774 to Ramakanta Roy and Tarini Devi in Radhanagar village of Hoogly district, Bengal Presidency.
- Among his efforts, the abolition of the brutal and inhuman Sati Pratha was the most prominent. His efforts were also instrumental in eradicating the purdah system and child marriage.
- Besides Bengali and Sanskrit, Roy had mastered Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, Greek, Latin and 17 other leading languages spoken in the world. Roy's familiarity with such diverse languages exposed him to a va'riety of cultural, philosophical and religious experiences.
- He studied Islam thoroughly. The rationality and the logical consistency of Arabic literature in general and the mutajjil in particular impressed Roy greatly.
- The Sufi poets like Saddi and Haafiz made a deep impact on Roy's mind. The Quaranic concept of Tauhid or Unity of God fascinated Roy. Roy also had .studied the teachings of the Buddha Dhamma.
- It is said that in the course of his travels he reached Tibet. There he was pained to see how the principles of Buddhism were blatantly violated and how idol-worship, which had no place in the Dhamma of Lord Buddha, had come to be accepted. Roy admired the Bible as much as he did the Vedanta and the Quran.
- Many of his critics thought that two major features of Roy's Brahmo Samaj, namely, the opposition to idol-worship, and the practice of collective prayer were borrowed from Christianity.
- He also compiled "The Precepts of Jesus” with a view to proving how the teachings of Christ could be better adapted to rational man's use.
- The Brahmo Samaj (1828- The society of God) was the first attempt by Indians in the nineteenth century to reform Hindu society. It is a cosmopolitan religious organization based on the positive sides of all the prevailing religion.
- Initially, the reform was named as ‘Brahmo Sabha’ in 1820 but later in 19th century, it was renamed as Adi Brahmo Samaj meaning the society of men believing in the worship of supreme power in spirit form but opposing the idol worship of the Almighty.
- The Brahmo Samaj was essentially a monotheistic reform movement in the Hindu religion.
- The Brahmo Samaj was a reflection of the Bengal Renaissance and took active participation in social emancipation, which included the abolition of sati, the caste system, child marriage, dowry and the betterment of the status of women in society.
- The core of the Brahmo Samaj was to understand that all human beings were related at a human level and hence no discrimination should be practiced, be at the level of caste, religion or gender.
- The Bhahmo Samaj propagated the oneness of God, brotherhood, morality and charity and was against idol worship, polygamy, caste system, sati, child marriage and other meaningless rituals.
- The prominent leader of the Brahmo Samaj Keshad Chandra Sen, Jagdish Chandra Bose, Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis, Satyajit Ray, Rabindranath Tagore, Debendranath Tagore.
- The Brahmo Samaj is credited with being one of the most important reform movements in India which led to the foundation of modern India.
- Its educational and social reform activities instilled a new confidence which, in turn, contributed to the growth of national movement. A number of Brahmo Samajists were later prominent in the struggle of Independence.
CONTRIBUTION AND SOCIAL REFORMS
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy was a great social reformer. He modernized Indian society in many ways. Ram mohan as the 'first modern man' of India realized early that social reform was the precondition for the regeneration of the people of our country.
- Roy believed in, the progressive role of the British rule in India and sought government held in the matter of social reforms, especially in the form of socially progressive legislations.
- Roy's aim was the creation of a new society based on the principles of tolerance, sympathy and reason, where the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity would be accepted by all, and where man would be free from the traditional shackles which had enslaved him for ages.
- He yearned for a new society which would be cosmopolitan and modern.
- Roy's methods of social reform were multifaceted. He combined all possible means, including even those which were commonly believed to be incompatible. His reforms have been discussed below:
Abolition of Sati
- Sati is described as a Hindu custom in India in which the widow was burnt to ashes on her dead husband's pyre. Basically the custom of Sati was believed to be a voluntary Hindu act in which the woman voluntary decides to end her life with her husband after his death.
- But there were many incidences in which the women were forced to commit Sati, sometimes even dragged against her wish to the lighted pyre. The Brahmins and other higher castes in the society encouraged it.
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy raised his voice against the Sati system. A few rulers of India tried to ban this custom. In 1818, Roy wrote his first essay on sati in which he argued that the woman had an existence independent of her husband and hence, she had no reason to end her life on the demise of her husband.
- The society had no right over her life. Right to life of both man and women was equally important. Roy found that ignorance of the women about their legitimate rights, their illiteracy, customary denial of the property rights to the widow and the consequent helplessness, dependence, misery and humiliation were some of the causes behind this practice.
- According to Roy, Sati was nothing short of murder and was therefore a punishable offence under the law. It was Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s efforts, bore fruits and this practice was stopped by an Act passed in 1829 during Lord William Bentinck. Thus, a long prevailing ugly practice of the Hindus was uprooted.
- Ram Mohan raised his voice against idolatry. In his book Tuhfat-ul-Muwahhidin’ he championed the cause of Monotheism. He criticized idol-worship by the Hindus.
- He rejected polytheism, idol-worship and rituals of different religions. He advocated monotheism or unity among gods. He also advised people to be guided by the conscience.
- He inspired men to cultivate rationality. To all he appealed to observe the principle of unity of God. Further, he formed ‘Atmiya Sabha’ in 1815 to carry on discussions among scholars on religion and philosophy. Through this, he raised his voice against religious and social malpractices,
Champion of Women Liberty
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy was a champion of women's rights in India. He laid the foundations of the women's liberation movement in this country.
- He revolted against the subjection of women and pleaded for the restoration of their rights. Raja Ram Mohan Roy advocated the liberty of Women. He was determined to give women her proper place in the society.
- Besides abolishing Sati, he advocated in favor of widow remarriage. In 1822, Roy wrote a book entitled Brief Remarks Regarding Modern Enchroachments on the Ancient Right of Females.
- He argued that like the sons, daughters have also their right over parental property.
- He also influenced the British government to bring necessary modification in the existing law.
- He raised voice against child-marriage and polygamy.
- He was the advocate of women education.
- Brahmo Samaj which he founded paid special attention to women's education. Thus, he advocated women’s liberty out and out and awakened them.
Opposition to Caste System
- The caste system was a very ugly practice prevailing in Indian society right from the later Vedic age.
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy's strongest objection to the caste system was on the grounds that it fragmented society into many divisions and subdivisions.
- The higher castes like Brahmins and Kshatriyas looked down upon the Sudras, Chandalas and other aboriginals. Ram Mohan opposed this ugly system of the Indian society.
- To him, Caste divisions destroyed social homogeneity and the integrated texture of society and weakened itpolitically. To him everybody was a son or daughter of the God.
- So, there is no difference among men. He was in favour of inter caste and inter-racial marriages, which he thought, could effectively break the barriers of the caste divisions.
- There should not exist hatred and animosity among them. Everybody is equal before God. Thus, ignoring differences among themselves they should embrace each other ignoring differences.
- Then, the true purpose of God will be materialized. By advocating this equality among men, Ram Mohan became the eyesore of many higher caste Indians.
- Ram Mohan Roy was educated in traditional languages like Sanskrit and Persian. He came across English much later in life and learned the language to get better employment with the British.
- But a voracious reader, he devoured English literature and journals, extracting as much knowledge as he could.
- He realised that while traditional texts like Vedas, Upanishads and Quran provided him with much reverence for philosophy, his knowledge was lacking in scientific and rational education.
- He advocated the introduction of an English Education System in the country teaching scientific subjects like Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and even Botany.
- He paved the way to revolutionizing education system in India by establishing Hindu College in 1817 along with David Hare which later went on to become one of the best educational institutions in the country producing some of the best minds in India.
- His efforts to combine true to the roots theological doctrines along with modern rational lessons saw him establish the Anglo-Vedic School in 1822 followed by the Vedanta College in 1826.
Advocate of Western Education
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy was a great scholar having sharp intellect in the Vedas, Upanishads, Quran, Bible and several other holy scriptures.
- He very well realized the importance of English language.
- He could visualize the need of a scientific, rational and progressive education for the Indians. During his time, when controversy was going on between the orientalists and occident lists, he sided with the latter and advocated in favour of the introduction of the English system of education.
- He liked Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Botany, Philosophy. At the same time he also desired that the Indian Vedic studies and philosophical systems were to be studied and analyzed properly.
- He supported the move of Lord Macaulay and championed the cause of the English system of education in India. His motto was to take Indians the path of progress.
- He established English school in 1816 and Vedanta College in 1825. He wanted to introduce modem system of education. Of course, he could not live to see the introduction of English system of education in India in 1835. However, his efforts and dreams were materialized into reality even after his death.
Freedom of Press
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy was the ‘Father of Indian Journalism’. He believed in the freedom of press. He fought for the rights of vernacular press. He edited a newspaper in Bengali named ‘Sampled Kaumudi’.
- He was also the editor of Mirat- ul-Akbar. When restrictions were imposed on the publications of newspapers, he reacted sharply and criticized the British authorities vehemently. In his editorials, he reflected important social, political, economic, religious and other problems with which the Indians were grossly entangled.
- This brought public consciousness. His writings were so powerful that people were deeply moved by this. He could express his view in powerful English.
Champion of Nationalism
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy believed in the political freedom of man. In 1821 he had written to J.S. Buckingham, the editor of the ‘Calcutta Journal’ that he believed in the freedom of European and Asiatic countries.
- He advised Indians to have self-freedom in thought and action. He showed a bright example by condemning the Jury Act of1826 which had introduced religious discrimination in the law courts.
- According to this Act a Hindu or a Mohammedan could be tried either by a European or a native Christian but not vice versa. Ram Mohan protested against it.
- Thus, his nationalism was blatant He definitely fought for the legitimate rights of the Indians and championed the cause of Indian nationalism.
- Further, Ram Mohan Roy himself proceeded to London to plead a case on behalf of Akbar n, the Mughal Emperor. This reflected his nationalism.
The synthesizer of religion and morality
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy was a noble soul. He brought a perfect blending between religion and morality. According to him a man must possess virtues like merry, morality, catholicity, forgiveness and so on.
- These qualities will purify his soul. Further, man will be regulated by these qualities. By cultivating these noble qualities a man can acquire divine knowledge and devote for the welfare of the society at large.
- Further his religious catholicity will further bloom by the cultivation of these qualities. Thus, Raja Ram Mohan Roy was undoubtedly a synthesizer of religion and morality which aimed at the welfare of the society at large.
Love for Liberty and Constitutionalism
- Liberty and constitutionalism were the two important aspects upon which Raja Ram Mohan emphasized. He preferred a constitutional form of Government for every nation.
- Despotism or autocracy, he hated from the core of his heart. He told that a constitutional government could only give guarantee of Individual freedom. Thus, he advocated individual liberty and constitutionalism. This clearly project that Ram Mohan was a champion of human liberty.
Champion of Internationalism
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy was the champion of internationalism. He wanted universal religion, synthesis of human culture and ideas, end of imperialism and peaceful co-existence of nations.
- Thus, he became the harbinger of a modem age. No Indian by that time had seriously thought about it what Ram Mohan advocated.
- He really advocated the principle of collaboration of mankind. Rabindranath Tagore commented that “Ram Mohan was the only person in his time to realize completely the significance of the modem age.
- He knew that the ideal of human civilization does not lie in isolation of independence but in the brotherhood of interdependence of individuals and nations.”
ROY'S POLITICAL LIBERALISM
- Liberalism is a political doctrine that takes protecting and enhancing the freedom of the individual to be the central problem of politics. Liberalism had emerged as the most valuable product of renaissance and reformation in Europe.
- Liberalism in politics is associated with non- authoritarianism, the rule of law, constitutional government with limited powers, and the guarantee of civil and political liberties.
- A liberal society is tolerant of different religious, philosophical, and ethical doctrines and allows individuals to freely form and express their conscientious convictions and opinions on all matters and live according to their chosen purposes and life paths.
- In economic terms, liberalism is associated with an unplanned economywith free and competitive markets, as well as private ownership and control of productive resources.
- Raja Rammohan Roy was one of the most outstanding personalities of the 19th century, as a pioneer of modernity, and a visionary of Liberal Democracy.
- It became the dominant ideology of the first phase of religious and social reform in' India. Liberalism, in brief, stands for the value and dignity of the individual personality; the central position of Man in the historical development; and the faith that people are the ultimate source of all power.
- Roy advocated liberal principles in all walks of life. In the religious field Roy stood for tolerance, a non- communal approach to all problems and secularism.
- He valued the freedom of the individual to follow the dictates of his conscience and even to defy the commands of the priestly class.
RAJA RAM MOHAN ROY- FATHER OF INDIAN JOURNALISM
- The Press is aptly referred to as the fourth pillar of democracy other three pillars are Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. We consider press as free from bias and prejudice.
- Press reflects the realities of this world as wished by social and political world. Rammohan was a great champion of the freedom of the Press. Raja Ram Mohan Roy was described by Jawaharlal Nehru as a founder of the Indian press.
- His efforts to liberate the Press were made with the aim of education Indians about the affairs of the nation in their true perspective. He himself published newspapers in English, Bengali and Persian for the purpose of creating mass consciousness as a veritable check against the British authoritarianism.
- Besides being a great social reformer Ram Mohan also made a valuable contribution to Bengali literature and he is regarded as the father of Bengali prose.
- He was the first to realize the value of the newspapers as an instrument for diffusing intellectual light. He founded the Sambut Kaumudi (moon of intelligence) in 1821 in Calcutta.
- Due to the success of another rival newspaper named Samachar Chandrika Roy was forced to close it down in 1822. However it was revived the following year. Roy also started a newspaper in Persian ‘Mirut ul Akhbar’(mirror of news)in 1822.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy is hailed as "the Father of Modern India". He attempted to combine the western and eastern philosophy. His writings and ideas are an example of a synthesis of ancient Indian ideas with modern Western Political Principles. According to Roy, another factor responsible for the deteriorating political and social milieu was the social decadence of the Indian society. He wanted to build a new Indian society where principles of tolerance, sympathy, reason, liberty, equality and fraternity would be honoured. A multi-faceted personality, Roy carried on a relentless crusade against all kinds of injustices, exploitative practices and superstitions.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy is known as the 'Maker of Modern India' and 'Father of Indian Renaissance'. He campaigned for abolition of the practice of Sati and caste system, and demanded property rights for women. To read more articles on Modern India History click here