Ram Mohan Roy, also written as Rammohun Roy, or Raja Ram Mohun Roy (Bangla: রাজা রামমোহন রায়, Raja Ram Mohon Ray), (May 22, 1772 – September 27, 1833) was the founder of the Brahmo Samaj, one of the first Indian socio-religious reform movements. His remarkable influence was apparent in the fields of politics, public administration and education as well as religion. He is most known for his efforts to abolish the practice of sati, a Hindu funeral custom in which the widow sacrifices herself on her husband’s funeral pyre. Rammohan is regarded as one of the most important figures in the Bengal Renaissance.
Early life and education
Roy was born in Radhanagar, Bengal in 1772. His family background displayed an interesting religious diversity, his father Ramkant,was a Vaishnavite, while his mother, Tarini was from a Shakta background. Rammohan learnt successively Bangla, Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit by the age of fifteen.
In the history of social reform in India, Ram Mohan Roy’s name will always be remembered in connection with the abolition of Sati (the immolation of widows, often termed suttee in historical works). Ram Mohan Roy also made people aware of the fact that polygamy, which was extremely prevalent in his day, was in fact contrary to law. Challenging the authority of Hindu priesthood he pointed out that it was only under specific circumstances (e.g. if a wife is infertile or has an incurable disease) that a man was permitted to take a second wife while the first was still alive.
In the social, legal and religious reforms that he advocated, Roy was moved primarily by considerations of humanity. He took pains to show that he was not out to destroy the best traditions of the country, but was merely brushing away some of the impurities that had gathered on them in the days of decadence. He respected the Upanishads and studied the Sutras. He condemned idolatry in the strongest terms. He stated that the best means of achieving bliss was through pure spiritual contemplation on and worship of the Supreme Being, and that sacrificial rites were intended only for persons of less subtle intellect.
In 1831 Ram Mohan Roy travelled to the United Kingdom as an ambassador. He also visited France.
He died at Stapleton near Bristol in 1833 and is buried in Arno’s Vale Cemetery in Bristol. A statue of him was erected in central Bristol in 1997.
- Alexander Duff
- Presidency College, Kolkata
- Scottish Church College