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.
Ram Mohan is The Maker of Modern India and A Unitarian Journalist
Maker of Modern India
Raja Ram Mohan Roy was a great social reformer. His basic approach was to social reforms as for religion and culture. He opposed the barrier of caste system which was most prevalent in the society. He felt piety on this heinous social evil. He took more care on the divisive nature of the caste system and its harmful effect on the social and political life in India.
According to Raja Ram Mohan Roy, social and political problem were inter-linked. He believed that caste barrier was responsible for many social evils. It divided community and also stagnated the country’s development. He argued that if a Brahmin, however ill educated or immoral, would receive the respects of the people, but a Shudra would always remain in the bottom, although he was well educated, highly cultured and has a very good character.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy felt that India has been the foot stool of foreign invaders on account of the existence of the caste system. He wrote in his Brahmanical Magazine, “We have been subjected to such insults for about nine centuries and causes of such degradation has been over excess in civilization and abstinence from the slaughter even of animals, as well our division into caste, which has been the source of want of unity, among us”.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy always opposed caste system and never feared to argue against it. He wrote a tract in 1827, it contained the basic principles and arguments to the institution of caste system. He said that “a Brahmin was he who had the experience of God or had felt God at any moment of his life. A non-Brahmin could also be a Brahmin if experiences God”. According to, him the quality of man was resolved by his character and attainments.
He felt it very much that Indian progress was so slow because of the rigid caste system which kept man separate from man, sect from sect, province from province. He clearly saw that with a rigid caste system, national unity could not be achieved and political emancipation would always remain distant. Raja Ram Mohan Roy was fully against this vital evil and was the first man to destroy the roots of caste system. He wanted to form caste and creed and those ills of recent growth, which he wanted to counter by means of synthesis of the Eastern and Western Idealism.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy touched and influenced every aspect of human life. He worked hard and dedicated his whole life for betterment of the society and country also. Bengal was one of the provinces groaning under the curse of Sati, child marriage and polygamy. The system of polygamy was spread specially in the higher class of the society. Due to system of polygamy, position of women in the society was poor. Raja Ram Mohan Roy also faught incessantly against child marriages and for female education, attacked polygamy and advocated re¬marriage of widows.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy said in his own words, “The accusation of the want of virtues knowledge is an injustice, observe what pain, what slighting, what contempt and what afflictions their virtue enable them to support ! How many Kulin Brahmins are there who marry ten or fifteen wives for the sake of money that never see the greater number of them after the day of marriage, visit others only three or four times, in the course of their life.
Still amongst those women, most, even without seeing of receiving any support from their husbands, living dependent on their fathers or brothers, and suffering much distress, continue to preserve their virtue and when Brahmins or those of other tribes, bring their wives to live with them what misery do the women not suffer? At marriage the wife is recognized as half of her husband, but in after-conduct they are treated worse than inferior animals. For the woman is employed to do the work of a slave in the house, such as, in her turn, to clean the peace very early morning, whether cold or wet, to scour the dishes to wash the floor, to cook night and day, to prepare and serve food for her husband, father, mother in law, sister in law, brother in law and friends and relatives.
Where Brahmins and Kayasthas are not wealthy, their women are obliged to attend to their in laws and to prepare cowdung cakes to burn. In afternoons they fetch water from the river or tank and at night perform the duty of menial servants in making the beds. In case of any fault or omission in performing of those jobs they receive injuries treatment. Should the husband acquire wealth he indulges in criminal amours to her perfect knowledge, and almost under her eyes, and does not see her perhaps once in a month. As long as the husband is poor, she suffers every kind of trouble, and when he becomes rich, she is altogether heart-broken. All this pain and affection their virtue along enable them to support.”
Raja Ram Mohan Roy criticized bitterly the practice of evils of polygamy. According to him, “The consequences that a woman, who is looked up to as the sole mistress by the rest of the family, on day, on the next, becomes dependent on her sons and subject to the slights of her daughter in law”.
He had also encouraged intercast marriage. Caste system was prevalent in the entire society of Bengal. And also casteism was in its worst position.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy had much more regard of women. He always did better for the upliftment of women in the society. He totally criticized caste based marriage. He suggested that “Inter-caste marriage would remove the system of polygamy and other social evils. It could also stop selling of daughters and sisters by the Brahmins. He felt that by the introduction of intercast marriage the crusade of Sati would also be besotted”. He also supported the ‘Shiva marriage’ and said; “There is no discrimination of age and caste or race in Shiva marriage”. Raja Ram Mohan Roy also opposed the child marriage.
In the economic sphere Raja Ram Mohan Roy espoused the cause of the cultivators who, he felt, had been placed at the mercy of the Zamindars under the permanent settlement. He was the first to draw attention to the economic drain of India carried on systematically by the British rulers. He supported the setting up of industries by the English in Bengali countryside so that peasants groaning under the constant tyranny of the Zamindars could get employment.
He felt that socio-religions reforms would lead to the political advancement of India. The path he showed was the constitutional method that was initially followed half a century later by the India National Congress. He was the first in India to take note of world officers and took keen interest in international events. He championed the struggle for freedom and democratic rights like liberty, nationalism and free expression and was vehemently opposed to tyranny and injustice. More over he was the only person in his time in the whole world of man to realize the significance of modern age.
Nehru describes Roy as a “new type” of thinker “combining in himself the old learning and the new.” “Deeply versed,” wrote Nehru, “in Indian thought and philosophy, a scholar of Sanksrit, Persian and Arabic, he was a product of the mixed Hindu-Muslim culture” of that part of India.
To Frederick Max Muller “he was an unselfish, an honest and a bold man—a great man in the highest-sense of the word.”
Rabindranath Tagore described him as “the great path- maker of this century.
It is undouted that he was a great and noble son of India. There was perhaps hardly any field of activity which he did not touch upon in order to elevate the life of the people – religious, social, educational, literary and political aspects.
In several respect his work was that of a pioneer, though in certain others he was a continuer or reformer. Some of his ideas and activities might have been sponsored or suggested by individual predecessors. But what is really significant is that in that transitional age he, amongst our country men, endeavoured almost single handedly to renovate so many different facades of the life of people during a short span of mere fifteen years or so. In this sense he was not only a herald of new age but one of the architects of modern India.
A Unitarian Journalist
Ram Mohan Roy established the Unitarian Mission Press in 1824 in Calcutta. At this time, he came into conflict with the Christian Missionaries and published a series of pamphlets—The Precepts of Jesus’, ‘Appeal to the Christian Public’, The Ideal Humanity of Jesus’. He argued against the doctrine of Atonement. He also opposed the doctrine of Trinity. He said that Christ was not God and he did not claim himself equal with God. Jesus was a manifestation of God’s love and showed us that love was the way of life and happiness. These writings resulted great controversy with the Christian missionaries of Serampore.
Ram Mohan Roy published his Brahmanical magazine at this time and the Calcutta Unitarian Committee was formed by him in 1821 as protest against the Christian Missionaries. This did not get sufficient response from the public and soon Roy thought of establishing an institution in the light of Unitarianism and on August 20,1828, he founded the Brahmo Samaj which meant to be an assembly of all who believed in the unity of God and discarded the worship of idols.
Ram Mohan Roy was not against Christianity or Hinduism. He was only against the corrupt and degenerated forms of religions and customs. The establishment of Brahmo Sabha was the most important effort of Ram Mohan Roy for the practice of a purified religion, specially Hinduism. Although he lived for only four more years, the ideas and ideals of Brahmo Sabha became most influential institution of liberation, rationalism and modernity which revolutionised Indian thought.
Among the other measures advocated by him that may be mentioned are the Indianisation of the British-Indian army, trial by Jury, separation of the offices of judge and magistrate, codification of civil and criminal laws, consultation with the Indian leaders before enactment of new laws, and the substitution of English for Persian as the official language of the courts of law in India.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy was one of the earliest champions of the freedom of the press. Like Milton and other scholars who fought for freedom of press, Roy championed the concept of freedom of written expression. Along with Dwarakanath Tagore, Harchandra Gosh, Gouri Charan Banerjee, Ram Mohan Roy had written a petition in 1823, addressed to the Supreme Court, for the freedom of the press.
He strongly believed that not only would the freedom of press provide a device for ventilation of grievances it would also enable the government to adopt steps for their redressal before they caused damage to the administration.
Roy also felt that the uncritical acceptance of British liberal values was probably the best possible means of creating democratic institutions in India. He appreciated the British rule as ‘a boon in disguise’ because it would eventually transplant democratised governance in India.
In the early 1820s, Roy assisted the Baptists at Serampore in their work of Bible translation. He worked closely with several missionaries, including a missionary from Scotland, William Adam (1796-1881), who had arrived in India in 1818 and had studied Bengali and Sanskrit in order to join the translation team. He was already making common cause with them in their campaign against Sati, since his own sister-in-law committed Sati in 1812. From this period, Roy also championed gender-equality.
In 1920, Roy published his book on Jesus, The Precepts of Jesus. He depicted Jesus as a great teacher of ethics, whose will was in harmony with the will of God. However, he denied Jesus’ divinity, just as he denied the existence of avatars or human manifestation of the divine in Hinduism. He also extracted miracles from the gospels, since these contravened reason.
In 1822, William Adam, with financial help from Roy and later from Unitarian in the United States and Britain, formed the Calcutta Unitarian Society. Roy also funded the Society’s printing press. However, although he identified Unitarianism as closer to the ethical-monotheism he espoused, he wanted to ground his religious ideas in the cultural context of India. Roy corresponded with some eminent Unitarians in this period.