Biography of Raja Ram Mohan Roy Essay

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Biography of Raja Ram Mohan Roy


Raja Ram Mohan Roy (also Rammohan Roy) was a great  social and religious reformers.  At a time when the West knew very little about India, Ram Mohan Roy worked as a link between the East and the West.

The task of Raja Ram Monan Roy as a religious and social reformer was not an easy one. He had to face the hostility of orthodox Hinduism on the one hand and aggressive Christianity on the other. The orthodox Hindus in India ridiculed him as an eccentric innovator, while the English people also suspected him.

His friends were very few, and the value of his work was not acknowledged for along time. But he was a man of self-confidence and firm determination. He was confident that a day would arrive when his endeavors would ultimately be recognized with gratitude. Though Ram Mohan Roy remained constantly steadfast in his conviction, and it went against his grain to compromise on fundamentals, he was completely free from personal bitterness in controversies, resulting from social and religious reforms which he sought to bring about in the country.

There had been many social reformers before him, who tried to reform the religious and social life of India to grow further. But none of them had such clear vision for the future of India. The contribution of Raja Ram Mohan Roy can never be denied.

His Life, Works and social Reforms

Raja Ram Mohan Roy was born on 22nd May, 1772. His father, Ramakanta Roy, was an orthodox Hindu Brahmin strictly following the Sastras, and his mother, Phulthakurani, was a woman of intelligence and considerable firmness of character. Both father and mother played a dominant role in molding the character of Ram Mohan Roy, after finished his school education, he was sent to Patna, the then seat of Islamic learning where he studied Arabic and Persian.

He also studied there the Koran and Islamic theology, as also what could be had through Arabic translations of Euclid and Aristotle. He was much impressed by the democratic teachings of the Koran and by the development of logic in Arabic thought and the rationality of some of their schools of thought, notably the Mutazilas and the philosophy of the Sufis.

After his return from Patna, Ram Mohan Roy wrote a book calling in question the validity of idolatry and superstitions prevailing in the Hindu society. Being orthodox in his views, his father did not like the sentiments of his son against the Hindu practices, and asked him to leave the house. Ram Mohan Roy wandered from place to place. During his wanderings he visited Tibet, where he incurred the displeasure of the Tibetan Lamas by his criticism of the idolatry that had crept into Buddhism. At the end of some years’ wandering, Ram Mohan Roy went to Varanasi where he studied Sanskrit. Within a few years, he had all the scriptures at his finger-tips, particularly the Upanishads and the Gita.

His knowledge of ancient religious, secular and philosophical literature was so comprehensive that he could easily enter into polemical discussions with the pundits. A short while after the death of his father in 1803, Ram Mohan Roy went to Murshidabad and renewed his Arabic studies. There he wrote Tuhfat-ul-Muwahhidin (a gift to the monotheists) in Persian with an ‘Introduction’ in Arabic. In his introduction to the book, he attempted to show the general unity of thought among mankind regarding the existence of One Being. The differences among them appear only when they start giving peculiar attributes to that Being.

He tried to bring out the fact that faith in the unity of Reality and recognition of human values are the cardinal principles of all religions. Subsequently, the acceptance of the fundamental unity of all religions becomes a leading feature of the Indian thought. This is evident in the writings of Vivekananda, Tagore and Radhakrishnan.

Brahmo Samaj

The most important event which brought fame to Ram Mohan Roy was the establishment of Brahmo Samaj in 1828. After the failure of the Unitarian association, the followers of Ram Mohan felt the urgent necessity of establishing an institution solely devoted to Unitarian and monotheistic worship. As a result, the Brahma Sabha, later knows as the Brahmo Samaj, came into being on August 20, 1828. It is clear from the text of the Trust deed of the Sabha that Ram Mohan did not contemplate the Brahma Sabha as an institution of a new religious sect. he wanted the monotheists of all religions to use the premises of the Sabha as their own. He also wished this institution to be a meeting ground of the people of all religious denominations who believed in one God, who is formless, eternal, unsearchable and immutable.

Ram Mohan Roy called himself a follower of the Universal Religion. He told one of his friends that after his death the Hindus would claim him as their own, the Muslims would do the same, and as also the Christians, but he belonged to no sect as he was the devotee of Universal religion.

The ideas of the Brahmo Samaj gradually spread far beyond Bengal and created an atmosphere of liberalism, rationalism and modernity which greatly influenced Indian thought. ‘If there is ever to be a new religion in India”, said Max Muller about half a century later when the Brahmo Samaj was already being shaken to its foundations by schisms, ‘It will, I believe, owe its very life-blood to the large heart of Ram Mohan Roy and his worthy disciples, Debendranath Tagore and Keshab Chandra Sen”. But Max Muller’s prophecy could not be fulfilled, because the condition attached to it – the emergence of a ‘new religion’ in India – was impossible of realization. Hinduism proved strong enough to counteract the growing influence of Brahmoism as it had done in the case of Buddhism. In other words, Hinduism gradually rose superior to Brahmoism.

However, the philosophy of Brahmo Samaj left its decisive influence on the Indian thought. Today its followers are few in number, but that is because the needs that necessitated its origin and growth have been fulfilled. Since its mission has been accomplished during the course of time through the efforts of many distinguished persons and devout social reformers, it has now lost its importance. But about a century back it did a commendable service to the Hindu society and to the country at large.

As a Progressive and Liberal Thinker

Ram Mohan Roy thus dealt with various problems of his day and led the country to progress and modernity. He was only the pioneer of all the progressive movements in India, but was also responsible for the constitutional agitation in the country. He has been called the father of modern India, the first earnest-minded investigator of the science of comparative religion, one of the greatest reformers of his time and the harbinger of the idea of universal humanism.

If we follow the right line of his development we shall find that he led the way from the orientalism of the past towards a civilization which is neither western nor eastern, but something vastly larger and nobler than both.

Raja Ram Mohan Roy died at Stapleton Hill near Bristol (England) on the 27th September, 1833.


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