Ram Mohan Roy - Encyclopedia

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RAM MOHAN ROY (1774-1833), Indian religious reformer, and founder of the Brahma Samaj or Theistic Church, was born at Radhanagar, in the district of Hugli, Bengal, in May 17 74. He was the son of a small landowner, and in his early life acquired a knowledge of Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit, besides his own vernacular, Bengali. At the age of sixteen he first assailed idolatry in his Bengali work, entitled The Idolatrous Religious System of the Hindus. This gave offence to his orthodox father, and Ram Mohan left home and spent some years in travel. At the age of twenty-two he began his study of the English language, and he also acquired a knowledge of other modern and ancient European languages. On the death of his father he obtained an appointment under the British government in 1800, from which he retired in 1814, settled down in Calcutta, and devoted himself to religious reform. He had already inaugurated a circle for discussing the absurdities of idol worship, and published a striking book in Persian called Tuhfat-al-Muwahhiddin (" A Gift to Monotheists"). On his settlement in Calcutta he established a little friendly society (Atmiya Sabha), which met weekly to read the Hindu scriptures and to chant monotheistic hymns. In 1820 he issued a selection from the Christian Gospels entitled The Precepts of Jesus the Guide to Peace and Happiness. He also wrote Bengali works on the Vedanta philosophy, translated some of the Upanishads, entered into controversies with Christian missionaries, and on the 23rd of January 1830 definitely established the Brahma Samaj "for the worship and adoration of the Eternal, Unsearchable, Immutable Being who is the Author and Preserver of the Universe." He gave his support to the governor-general, Lord William Bentinck, for the abolition of the suttee rite, i.e. the custom of permitting Hindu widows to burn themselves on the funeral pyre of their husbands. He also worked hard to spread education among his fellow-countrymen, and to improve the quality and the prestige of the native press. In 1830 the emperor of Delhi bestowed on Ram Mohan the title of raja, and sent him to England as his agent. Raja Ram Mohan Roy gave his evidence before the Select Committee of the House of Commons on the judicial and revenue systems of India. He presented petitions to the House of Commons in support of the abolition of the suttee rite, and had the satisfaction of being present in the House when the appeal against such abolition was rejected on the 11th of July 1832. As the first educated and eminent Indian who had come to England, he received a cordial welcome from learned men; and Bentham addressed him as an "intensely admired and dearly beloved collaborator in the service of mankind." Ram Mohan also visited France and contemplated a voyage to America, but a sudden attack of brain fever led to his death on the 27th of September 1833. He was buried at Bristol, where a tomb was erected by his friend Dwarka Nath Tagore.

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