The Biography of Famous Personalities of India will tell you about the controversies, the dark sides of a person that you may have never heard of.
Abolition of Sati and England Visit of Ram Mohan Roy
Abolition of Sati
Ram Mohan Roy played a major role towards abolition of sati system. When Ram Mohan’s brother—Jagmohan Roy died, his wife Alakamanjari had to observe ‘Sahagamana’ (that is, she was to be burnt alive with the dead body). All arrangements were made for cremation. Ram Mohan objected and begged his sister-in-law not to observe “Sati”. All people were against Ram Mohan Roy, A and Alakamanjari was forced to the funeral pyre with the corpse. The pyre was set on fire.
This scene touched Ram Mohan Roy and thus instigated him to fight again? the system of Sati. Many people opposed Roy, but he did not flinch. Even the people of the West, who saw all this wondered, when even the government was afraid to interfere in this matter, Ram Mohan Roy risked his life and fought against this evil practice. In the end, he won and the government made ‘Sati’ ritual a crime. Along with the fight against Sati, Ram Mohan Roy started a strong movement in favour of women education and women’s right to property. He showed that woman enjoyed equal freedom with man according to Hinduism.
Ram Mohan Roy submitted a petition to the governor general in 1818 to stop this inhuman practice. And he appealed to the British government to treat Sati as murders and urged the punishment for compelling widows to burn themselves. He requested the government to stop it.
He argued : “Those who have no reliance on the Shastras and those who take delight in the self-destruction of women may well wonder that we should oppose that suicide which is forbidden by all Shastras and by every race of man”.
He also organized vigilance committees to keep a check on people who encouraged widows to commit Sati and himself tried to persuade the relatives of widows to give up their plan of self immolation. In this way he created an atmosphere and aroused enlightened public opinion for the abolition of the barbarous practice.
Ultimately Lord William Bentinck, the Governor-General, declared ‘Sati’ as illegal and punishable by court on 4th December 1829. The law provided that persons who were even associated in any way with the commission of Sati to be regarded as criminals.
When the orthodox Hindus protested and sent a petition to the British authorities in England against abolition, Raja Ram Mohan Roy submitted a counter petition approving of measure and appealing for its approval, and new regulation was approved. He was also present in England when case was taken up by the Privy council in 1832.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy gave before the people a correct interpretation of the Hindu scriptures. He was also the best admirer of community development. He always tried to do the best for the upliftment of this community. He emphasized more on women’s Education and worked for their progress. He also took care on the right of women to the property of her father.
It was the custom especially in Bengal that if a man died, his widow if she had borne sons, was not entailed to any share. Raja Ram Mohan Roy made a humble appeal for the defence of women’s right.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s visit to England was crucial in the perspective of breaking the taboo in the then Indian society. There was a time when an Indian going to the foreign lands was considered wrong, and there was religious connotation as well. Those days, it was considered a sin and irreligious for a Hindu to cross the sea.
It was Raja Ram Mohan Roy who actually rejected this very idea and went to England. The British government granted the allowances to Akbar the Second, the Mughal King of Delhi. But it was really a very small amount. The King Akbar-II decided to send Ram Mohan Roy to England at his own expense to submit a representation to the King of England to increase the same. Before Roy left for England, the King conferred him to the title of “Raja”. Thus Ram Mohan Roy was called Raja Ram Mohan Roy thereafter.
Another crucial reason for Raja Ram Mohan Roy to visit England was to plead before the British parliament for the complete abolition of ’Sati’ in India.
There were many people, during that time, who objected vehemently to the visit of Ram Mohan Roy to England. There were people from the British government who also strongly opposed him visiting England. But by that time, he was very popular and his fame had already reached England.
On 15 November, 1830, Raja Ram Mohan Roy sailed for England by the steamer Albion, arriving there on 8 April, 1831. However, his fame had preceded him. In 1816 when his first English work on the Vedanta, An Abridgment of the Vedant, came out, it was reviewed at length by the Monthly Repository of Theology and General Literature of England. When his arrival in Liverpool was made known, almost all the celebrities of the town called on him.
William Roscoe, the famous historian of the Medcis, who was seriously ill at that time, sent his son requesting Raja Ram Mohan Roy to visit him. Raja Ram Mohan Roy visited Roscoe in his sick-room and both of them held a most intimate and warm conversation. Roscoe’s son, who was present during this interview, has left a memorable account of it:
“The interview will never be forgotten … after his usual gesture of Eastern salutation, Raja Ram Mohan Roy said, “Happy and proud am I, proud and happy to behold a man whose fame has extended not only over Europe but over every part of the world.” “I bless God”, replied Roscoe, “that I have been permitted to live to see this day.” Roscoe who was in a state of paralysis for years, died soon after.
The object of Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s visit to England was threefold. First, he wanted to submit a memorandum to the king of Great Britain on behalf of Akbar the Second the then Emperor of Delhi. Secondly, to present a memorial to the House of Commons for the abolition of Sati, and thirdly, to be present in England during the approaching discussion in the House of Commons on ‘the Renewal of the East India Company’s Charter.
From Liverpool Raja Ram Mohan Roy went to London without any delay so that he might be present in the House of Commons at the second reading of the Reform Bill. He reached London late in the evening and being tired he had turned in. When he was in London Jeremy Bentham the great British philosopher, called on him at a Hotel. Finding that Raja Ram Mohan Roy had already retired, Bentham left a note for him :
‘Jeremy Bentham to his friend, Raja Ram Mohan Roy’. Bentham admired Raja Ram Mohan Roy so deeply that on another occasion he left a note addressing Raja Ram Mohan Roy as his “intensely-admired and dearly-beloved collaborator in the service of mankind”.
In London, Raja Ram Mohan Roy was busily engaged meeting the distinguished men of England and holding political discussion with them. The Duke of Cumberland, the brother of the King of England, introduced him to the House of Lords. And as per James Sutherland ‘it was the Raja’s urgent solicitations which prevented the Tory Peers voting against the Indian Jury Bill.’
Raja Ram Mohan Roy developed an intimate friendship with Lord Brougham, the champion of the abolition of slavery and the great upholder of popular education. The Directors of the East India Company entertained Raja Ram Mohan Roy on 6 July, 1831, at a dinner at the city of London tavern. The Chairman of the East India Company presided and proposed the health of Raja Ram Mohan Roy, complimenting him for the vast services he had rendered to the Indian community.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy was assigned a seat at the coronation of William IV among the ambassadors of the crowned heads of Europe. The royal Asiatic society of London invited him to take part in its annual meeting where Raja Ram Mohan Roy proposed a vote of thanks to Henry Thomas Colebrooke, the great Orientalist. Raja Ram Mohan Roy also met Robert Owen, the humanitarian socialist, who tried his best to win over him to his point of view.