Timeline History

Ram Mohan Roy

Ram Mohan Roy, also written as Rammohun Roy, or Raja Ram Mohun Roy, (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.
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.
As a teenager, Roy became dissatisfied with the practices of his family, and travelled widely, before returning to manage his family property. He then worked as a moneylender in Calcutta, and from 1803 to 1814 was employed by the British East India Company
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.
Roy campaigned for rights for women, including the right for widows to remarry, and the right for women to hold property. As mentioned above, he actively opposed polygamy, a system in which he had grown up.
He also supported education, particularly education of women. He believed that English-language education was superior to the traditional Indian education system, and he opposed the use of government funds to support schools teaching Sanskrit. In 1822, he founded a school based on English education.
To overcome the social and religious evils, as he perceived them, he started a religious group known as the Brahmo Samaj. The Samaj borrowed beliefs and practices from several religions, and was eclectic in its philosophy
In 1831 Ram Mohan Roy travelled to the United Kingdom as an ambassador of the Mughal Empire. He also visited France.
He died at Stapleton near Bristol in 1833 of meningitis and is buried in Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol. A statue of him was erected in central Bristol in 1997.

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