Raja Ram Mohan Roy
“He is the Father of modern India”- S. Radhakrishna
Raja Ram Mohan Roy was born in Radhanagar, Hoogly, Bengal on 14th August 1774 and died on 27 September 1833 at the age of 61.He was an Indian religious, social and educational reformer. He denounced the practice of Sati and child marriage calling it barbaric. He along with Dwarkanath Tagore and other Bengalis formed the Brahmo Samaj : a socio-religious reform movement at that time. Prior to that he also opened a college known as the Presidency College in 1828 .He published the Sambad Kaumudi (1821) a weekly newspaper and a Persian newspaper Miratul-Ul- Akhbar (1822). He knew English, Bengali, Persian, Arabic, Greek and Latin.
The Bengal Renaissance is said to have been started with Ram Mohan and ended with Rabindranath Tagore. Reformers during this period started questioning the existing Hindu practices and superstitions. Two of the major reasons which led to the Bengal Renaissance was the formation of communities, organisations and societies. Second was the growth of publications and journals. Ideas of Nationalism were spread by the elite to the masses.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy was born to an upper caste Brahman family. He was sent to Patna for learning Arabic and Persian which was the language of administration. He went to Tibet to learn Buddhism and then to Banaras to learn Sanskrit. He wrote his first book in Persian, Arabic called Vedanta Grantha .He translated the Vedanta into Bengali and English in 1815 when we returned back to Calcutta. He was also the first writer of prose in Bengali, he wrote the grammar of the Bengali language. Apart from knowing a plethora of languages he also knew Hebrew, studied Jainism with the help of Jain scholars and learned Sufism from Muslim scholars in Banaras. He questioned Hindu customs and traditional practices which include the practice of Sati.
The first instance when the thought of abolishing such a practice entered his mind was when he saw his elder brother’s wife willingly immolating herself on her husband’s pyre. He saw the agony on her charred face, heard her screams and saw her body ablaze. In that very instance he decided to eradicate such a practice from the Hindu religion.
He started a weekly publication called the Sambad Kaumudi. It was started in 1821, in the first half of the 19th century and was published in English and Bengali. Sambad Kaumudi was a pro-Reformist publication. It ran for 33 years.It was ceased in 1836. It regularly ran editorials denouncing the practice of sati and calling the practice barbaric and un-Hindu. Ram Mohan in the newspapers prospectus published an appeal to its readers which said, “the support and patronage of all who feel themselves interested in the moral and intellectual improvement of our countrymen”.
In a book tilted British Orientalism and the Bengal Renaissance: The Dynamics of Indian Modernization, 1773-1835 By David Kopf it states that, “Rammohun’s Sambad Kaumudi (Mirror of the News) represented his views both in the presentation of news items and in editorials”.
Role and contribution in the Newspaper Sambad Kaumudi:
• The Sambad Kaumudi regularly ran editorials denouncing the practice of Sati.
• The Kaumudi often reflected the sentiments of the missionaries on all issues regarding the “native improvement”.
• The editorials in Kaumudi usually talked about “new educational schemes” and calling for public support of existing ones.
• Caste prejudices and religious excesses were constantly attacked.
• The Kaumudi strongly upheld Indian needs and aspirations.
• In 1817, he wrote a tract on the ‘abolition of sati’.
• On March 24,1822, in an editorial possibly written by Rammohun, the Kaumudi called for the “Indianisation of the Higher Ranks of civil service”
• It also ran articles concerning with the brutality inflicted by the Europeans on the Indians.
• As Rammohun was opposed to the worship of idolatry form of worship some of his editorials also talked about the monotheism.
He also founded and edited a weekly called Miratul-Ul-Akbar in Persian. He wrote an article about how women should get equal property rights as men in their families.
In 1823 a regulation was passed by the Chief Secretary John Adam which required pre-censoring of all journals and weekly. He shut down his weekly in protest of this law.
Ram Mohan Roy’s contribution as a Journalist and Social Reformer:
• Rammohun published his first journal Brahmmunical Magazine (1821) which was a bilingual. The articles expressed the purpose of defending his concept of monotheistic Hinduism against the contrary views of the Serampore missionaries.
• In 1818 Rammohun started publishing articles opposing Sati. In his words:
“In times of want the wife works like a slave
In times of affluence the husband takes another wife
And enjoys wordly pleasures
Very often the wife is beaten up,
Discarded,accused of disloyalty
All because the husband feels that he has the right to do so”
• In 1825 the Parliament passed an East India Jury Bill that only allowed Christians to serve on grand juries. Rammohun wrote articles about this discrimination in Sambad Kaumudi.
His ‘Gaudiya Vyakaran’ in Bengali is rated highly among his writings in prose.
• He started the Hindu College now called the Presidency College in Calcutta to impart education in Science and Technology. Subjects like English, Science, Mathematics were taught. It was formed to impart practical knowledge to the people. The tutions were free of cost.
• He founded the Bramho Samaj in 1828. It was a social reform movement aimed at curtailing the myths and miracles surrounding Hindu idol worship. He believed in monotheism and thus the group preached the existence of a single god.