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.
Liberal Political Thinker, Humanism and Universal Religion of Mohan
A Liberal Political Thinker
Early political life of Raja Ram Mohan Roy had immense impact on modern Indian history. It actually led to the complete revival of ethical principle of Vedanta school of philosophy as found in Upanishads. He preached about the oneness of God and also made translation of Vedic scriptures into English and co-founded Calcutta Unitarian Society, founded the Brahmo Samaj and also campaigned against Sati. He also sought to integrate Western culture with features of Indian traditions. He also set up schools to modernize education in India.
During this period Roy also worked as political agitator and agent while also being employed by British East India Company and simultaneously pursuing his vocation as a Pandit. In the years spanning from 1796 and 1797 the troika of Carey, Vidyavagish and Roy made-up a religious work known as the Maha Nirvana Tantra (or “Book of the Great Liberation”) and tried to depict it as an antique religious manuscript to “the One True God”.
The judicial section of the document was used in the law courts of the English settlements in Bengal as Hindu Law for adjudicating upon property disputes of zamindari. However, British magistrates and collectors began to suspect it as forgery and its usage as well as the dependence on pundits as sources of Hindu Law was quickly denounced. Vidyavagish had a nasty fall-out with Carey and separated from the group but also maintained ties to Ram Mohan Roy. The importance of Maha Nirvana Tantra for Brahmoism lay in the riches that accumulated to Dwarkanath Tagore and Ram Mohan Roy by its judicial use, and not due to any religious wisdom within.
In 1799, Carey was joined by missionary Joshua Marshman and the printer William Ward at the Danish settlement of Serampore. From 1803 to 1814 Ram Mohan worked in the British East India Company and provided writing service, commencing as private clerk “munshi” to Thomas Woodforde, Registrar of the Appellate Court at Murshidabad, whose distant nephew, also a Magistrate, later made a living off the spurious Maha Nirvana Tantra under the pseudonym Arthur Avalon.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy, in 1815 formed “Atmiya Sabha”, and spent many years at Rangpur and elsewhere with Digby, where he renewed his contacts with Hariharananda. William Carey had, by this time, settled at Serampore and the trio renewed their association with one another.
British East India Company was extracting money from India at a very high rate (about three million pounds a year) in 1838. Raja Ram Mohan Roy estimated how much money was laundered with and what is the exact amount that is driven out of the country. He also predicted that around half of the total revenue collected in India was sent out to England, leaving India to fill taxes with the remaining money.
In the beginning of 19th century, after the Battle of Plassey and Buxar (population of the Muslim community decreased considerably) posed a political threat to the Company. Ram Mohan Roy was now chosen by Carey to be the agitator among them. In the next two decade, after Carey’s secrete tutelage, Ram Mohan Roy started his attack against the citadels of Hinduism of Bengal, namely his own Kulin Brahmin priestly clan (then in control of the many temples of Bengal) and their priestly excesses.
The theological and social issues Carey chose for Ram Mohan Roy were also calculated to weaken the hold of dominant Kulin class most importantly for younger disinherited sons forced into service who formed the mobile gentry or “bhadralok” of Bengal, from the Mughal zamindari system and align them to their new overlords of Company. The Kulin excesses targeted included child marriage and dowry. In fact, Carey tried to convert Roy to Christianity and appointed a religious priest to try to convert him, although the priest himself later accepted Hinduism.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy had a passionate attachment to the concept of liberty. He urged the necessity of personal freedom. Liberty is a priceless possession of the human being and, hence, he was a champion of personal freedom. But liberty is also needed for the nation. Roy had a passion for liberty and equality, yet he showed his respect for property and believed in the freedom of contract. Indeed, he pleaded for state intervention in suppressing evil practices in society and held that it was the duty of the state to protect tenants against the oppression of the landlords.
Ram Mohan Roy accepted the immutable sanctity of natural rights. He believed not only in the natural rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of property, but also championed the moral rights of the individual. His theory of natural rights, however, was constructed in the prevailing Indian conditions. Thus although an exponent of the theory of Natural Rights and freedom, he also advocated state legislation for social reform and educational reconstruction.
As a champion of freedom and democratic rights and a believer in parliamentary democracy, Roy whole-heartedly supported the reform Bill agitation in England. In his opinion, the struggle between the reformers and anti-reformers was nothing but a struggle between liberty and tyranny throughout the world, between justice and injustice and between right and wrong. It should be remembered that Ram Mohan Roy championed the struggle for freedom and democratic rights, not for Indians alone but for the entire human beings in the world.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy had a keen appreciation of the uncompromising freedom of the creative spirit. He wanted the people of India to develop a sense of self confidence, and was a crusader against unreason and superstition. He admired the English people who not only enjoyed civil and political liberty but were interested in promoting freedom, social happiness and rationalism in the areas where their influence extended.
Bipin Chandra Pal while assessing the contribution of Raja Ram Mohan Roy to Indian freedom wrote :
“Raja was the first to deliver the message of political freedom to India. He so keenly felt the loss of this freedom by his people that even as a boy, yet within his teens, he left his country and travelled to Tibet, because he found it difficult to tolerate the domination of his country by another nation, though, subsequently, with close acquaintance with culture and character of the British people, who seemed to him to have been more intelligent, more steady and moderate in their conduct…”
Similarly, Raja Ram Mohan Roy felt quite happy to hear the news of the introduction of constitutional government in Portugal. He supported the struggle for freedom of the Greeks against the Turks. Again, Roy was opposed to the British occupation of Ireland. He collected funds for the relief of the famine stricken people of Ireland.
Humanism and Universal Religion
Being a champion of freedom and rights, Ram Mohan Roy was a great humanist and believed in cooperation, tolerance and fellowship. Roy established the ethical concept of universal love on the basis of the doctrine of ethical personality of God. He was also the exponent of cosmopolitanism and stood for brotherhood and independence.
He had begun with the study of comparative religion but later come to visualize the necessity of a universal religion. Finally, he formulated the scheme of a fundamental spiritual synthesis stressing the unity of religious experience based on the worship of a monotheistic God. Thus he carried forward the traditions of social and spiritual synthesis stressed by Guru Nanak, Kabir and other saints.
Roy believed in universalism and regarded humanity as one family with the different nations and tribes as its branches. In his famous letter written to the French Foreign Minister in 1832, he suggested the establishment of a ‘Congress’ for the settlement of commercial and political disputes. He was a humanitarian and universalist, and like David Hume he also subscribed to the doctrine of universal sympathy. Jeremy Bentham admired Ram Mohan’s Universalism and humanitarianism, and in a letter to him, he said :
” Your works are made known to me by a book in which I read a style which but for the name of the Hindu I should certainly have ascribed to the pen of a superiorily educated and instructed English man.”
Ram Mohan Roy advocated liberal humanitarian nationalism. Emancipation of man from the bondage for ignorance, and social tyranny, his freedom of thought and conscience and his equality with other fellow men were considered as the fundamentals of liberalism. Such free and emancipated individuals, with feeling towards their mother land, could create national unity.
It was through a spiritual and mental revival that Ram Mohan Roy wanted to regenerate the Indian people and unite them into a national fraternity.
- 1772 : Born on 22nd May at Hooghly, West Bengal
- 1803-1809 : Served with Revenue Deptt. at Calcutta
- 1809-1814 : Served East India Company as Dewan
- 1815 : Formed Atmiya Sabha
- 1817 : Set up Hindu College at Calcutta
- 1821 : Published Sambad Kaumudi
- 1822 : Founded first English School & Vedanta College
- 1828 : Founded Brahmo Samaj
- 1828 : A Collection of Hymns composed by him
- 1829-30 : Composed two memorials against muzzling the press by East India Company
- 1829 : Petition against Sati rite
- 1830 : Helped establish General Assembly Institution
- 1830 : Travelled to United Kingdom as an ambassador of Mughal Empire and to ensure the success of Bengal Sati Regulation, 1829
- 1833 : Died of meningitis on 27th September at Stapleton, northeast of Bristol, England