Raja Ram Mohan Roy – Indian Social Reformer

Raja Ram Mohan Roy the founder of the Brahmo Samaj (one of the first Indian socio-religious reform movements) was a great scholar and an independent thinker. He was a religious and social reformer and is known as the ‘Father of Modern India’ or ‘Father of the Bengal Renaissance’.

This article talks about Raja Ram Mohan Roy – Indian Social Reformer. Download Raja Ram Mohan Roy notes PDF from the link given below.

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Raja Ram Mohan Roy Essay

Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1772 – 1833) – Key Facts

  • Born in Radhanagar, Hooghly District, Bengal Presidency in May 1772 into an orthodox Bengali Hindu family.
  • Education of Ram Mohan – He was sent to Patna for higher studies where he studied Persian and Arabic. He read the Quran, the Arabic translation of the works of Plato and Aristotle and the works of Sufi mystic poets. By the age of fifteen, Raja Rammohun Roy had learnt Bangla, Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit. He also knew Hindi and English.
  • He went to Varanasi and studied the Vedas, the Upanishads and Hindu philosophy deeply.
  • He studied Christianity and Islam as well.
  •  At the age of sixteen, he wrote a rational critique of Hindu idol worship.
  • From 1809 to 1814, he served in the Revenue Department of the East India Company also worked as a personal Diwan to Woodforde and Digby.
  • From 1814 onwards he devoted his life to religious, social and political reforms.
  • In his address, entitled ‘Inaugurator of the Modern Age in India,’ Tagore referred to Ram Mohan as ‘a luminous star in the firmament of Indian history’.
  • He visited England as an ambassador of the Mughal king Akbar Shah II (father of Bahadur Shah) where he died of a disease. He died in September 1833 in Bristol, England.
  • He was given the title ‘Raja’ by the Mughal Emperor of Delhi, Akbar II whose grievances he presents before the British king. Check out the list of Mughal Emperors on the linked page.

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Raja Ram Mohan Roy Contribution

Economic and Political Contributions by Raja Ram Mohan Roy

  • Raja Ram Mohan Roy was impressed and admired the civil liberties given to people under the British System of Constitutional Government. He wanted to extend the benefits of that system of government to the Indian people.
  • Reforms for Taxes –
    • He condemned the oppressive practices of Bengali zamindars.
    • He demanded fixation of minimum rents.
    • He called for a reduction of export duties on Indian goods abroad and demanded the abolition of taxes on tax-free lands.
    • He raised his voice for the abolition of the East India Company’s trading rights.
  • Press freedom: he spoke against the unjust policies of the British government especially the restrictions on press freedom. Through his writings and activities, he supported the movement for free press in India.
    • When press censorship was relaxed by Lord Hastings in 1819, Ram Mohan found three journals- The Brahmanical Magazine (1821); The Bengali weekly, Samvad Kaumudi (1821); and the Persian weekly, Mirat-ul-Akbar.
  • Administrative reforms: He demanded equality between Indians and Europeans. He wanted the Indianisation of superior services and separation of the executive from the judiciary. 
Social Contributions by Raja Ram Mohan Roy

  1.  He conceived reformist religious associations as instruments of social and political transformation
    • In 1814 he formed Atmiya Sabha, the Calcutta Unitarian Association in 1821, and in 1828 the Brahmo Sabha or Brahmo Samaj in 1828.
  2. He campaigned for rights for women, including the right for widows to remarry, and the right for women to hold property.
  3. His efforts led to the abolition of Sati in 1829 by Lord William Bentinck, the then Governor-General of India and oppsed the practice of polygamy.
  4. Raja Ram Mohan Roy campaigned against the caste system, untouchability, superstitions and use of intoxicants.
  5. He attacked child marriage, polygamy, illiteracy of women and the degraded state of widows. 
  6. He stressed on rationalism and modern scientific approach
  7. He fought against the perceived ills of Hindu society at that time.
  8. He started the Sambad Kaumudi, a Bengali weekly newspaper that regularly denounced Sati as barbaric and against the tenets of Hinduism.

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Educational Contribution by Raja Ram Mohan Roy

  1. He started many schools to educate Indians in Western scientific education in English.
  2. He believed that English-language education was superior to the traditional Indian education system.
  3. He supported David Hare’s efforts to find the Hindu College in 1817, while Roy’s English school taught mechanics and Voltaire’s philosophy.
  4. In 1822, he founded a school based on English education.
  5. In 1825, he established Vedanta college where courses in both Indian learning and Western social and physical sciences were offered.
Religious Contribution by Raja Ram Mohan Roy

  • Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s first published work Tuhfat-ul-Muwahhiddin (a gift to deists) published in 1803 exposed irrational religious beliefs. 
  • He opposed idolatry, and corrupt practices of the Hindus as the belief in revelations, prophets, miracles etc.
  • He was against the perceived polytheism of Hinduism. He advocated monotheism as given in the scriptures.
  • In 1814, he founded Atmiya Sabha in Calcutta to campaign against idolatry, caste rigidities, meaningless rituals and other social ills.
  • He criticized the ritualism of Christianity and rejected Christ as the incarnation of God. In Precepts of Jesus (1820), he tried to separate the moral and philosophical message of the New Testament, which he praised, from its miracle stories.
  • He translated the Vedas and five of the Upanishads into Bengali.

It is because of his contributions in Social, Religious, Political, Economical and educational spheres that Raja Ram Mihan Roy is known as the ‘Father of Modern India’ and Father of Indian Renaissance’.

Brahmo Samaj

In 1828, Raja Ram Mohan Roy founded the Brahmo Sabha-

  • Brahmo Samaj’s chief aim was the worship of the eternal god. It was against priesthood, rituals and sacrifices. It focused on prayers, meditation and reading of the scriptures. Basically Brahmo Samaj was started to expose the religious hypocrisies.
  • It was the first intellectual reform movement in modern India where social evils then practised were condemned and efforts made to remove them from society.
  • It led to the emergence of rationalism and enlightenment in India which indirectly contributed to the nationalist movement.
  • The Brahmo Samaj believed in the unity of all religions.
  • Prominent Leaders of Brahmo Samaj was Debendranath Tagore (father of Rbindra Nath Tagore), Keshub Chandra Sen, Pt. Sivnath Shastri, and Rabindranath Tagore.
  • Later in 1866, Brahma Sabha was split into two, namely Brahmo Samaj of India led by Keshub Chandra Sen and Adi Brahmo Samaj led by Debendranath Tagore.
  • Raja Ram Mohan Roy and his Brahmo Samaj played a vital role in awakening Indian society to the pressing issues plaguing society at that time.
  • It was the forerunner of all social, religious and political movements of modern India.

Ideologies of Raja Ram Mohan Roy

  • Influenced by western modern thought Ram Mohan Roy stressed rationalism and the modern scientific approach.
  • He believed that religious orthodoxies instead of tending to the amelioration of the condition of society have become causes of injury, a source of trouble and detrimental to social life and bewilderment to the people.
    • He believed that sacrifices and rituals cannot restitute the sins of people; it can be done through self-purification and repentance. He also believed that religious reform is both social reform and political modernization.
  • His immediate problem was the degeneration of the religious and social conditions of his native Bengal.
  • He was a strong opposer of the caste system and believed in the social equality of all human beings.
  • Ram Mohan was attracted to Islamic monotheism and believed that monotheism supported one universal model for humanity. He said that monotheism is also the fundamental message of Vedanta.
    • His idea of a single, unitarian god was a corrective to the polytheism of orthodox Hinduism and to Christian trinitarianism. 
  • He stressed that  Hindu society can not progress unless women were freed from unhuman forms of oppression like illiteracy, Sati, purdah,  child marriage, etc.
    • He characterized sati as the violation of every humane and social feeling and as symptomatic of the moral debasement of a race.

Raja Ram Mohan Roy – Literary Work

Literary Work Year
Tuhfat-ul-Muwahhidin 1804
Vedanta Gantha  1815
Kenopanishads, Translation of an abridgment of the Vedanta Sara, Ishopanishad  1816
Kathopanishad  1817
A Conference between the Advocate for, and an Opponent of Practice of Burning Widows Alive (Bengali and English)  1818
Mundaka Upanishad  1819
The Precepts of Jesus- The Guide to Peace and Happiness , A Defence of Hindu Theism  1820
Bengali Grammar  1826
History of Indian Philosophy , The Universal Religion  1829
Gaudiya Vyakaran 1833

Raja Ram Mohan Roy (UPSC Notes):- Download PDF Here

Frequently Asked Questions about Raja Rammohan Roy

What is the contribution of Raja Ram Mohan Roy?

Raja Ram Mohan Roy conceived reformist religious associations as instruments of social and political transformation. He founded the Atmiya Sabha in 1815, the Calcutta Unitarian Association in 1821, and the Brahmo Sabha in 1828 which later became the Brahmo Samaj

What were the social reforms of Raja Rammohan Roy?

Roy founded the Atmiya Sabha and the Unitarian Community to fight the social evils, and to propagate social and educational reforms in India. He was the man who fought against superstitions, a pioneer in Indian education, and a trend setter in Bengali Prose and Indian press.

  • Crusaded against Hindu customs such as sati, polygamy, child marriage and the caste system.
  • Demanded property inheritance rights for women.
  • In 1828, he set up the Brahmo Sabha a movement of reformist Bengali Brahmins to fight against social evils.

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