Lessons From Indian Thinkers: Raja Rammohan Roy

Raja Rammohan Roy

Raja Ram Mohan Roy is hailed as the father of modern India. Throughout his life, he fought for ridding the society of the various evil practices. He tried to rediscover the foundational unity of the various religions. He wanted to combine the best in the East and the West, through the introduction of the English Education in India. He wanted to inculcate the western spirit in the Indian minds, so as to rid the Indian society of the various evil practices.

On Religion

He made a deep study of, not only the ancient Indian sculptures, but also of various other religions. Roy appreciated the materialistic spirit in the West. He attacked the dominance of the priestly class, which, according to him, was the cause of the ill practices in Hinduism. Thus, he advocated that study of the religious scriptures should open to everyone. He attacked the priestly class by arguing that they have introduced many costly ceremonies and offerings, making Hinduism alienated from the poor masses, and hiding the real spirit of Hinduism.

On Social Customs

Roy was against the practice of purdah, sati, restriction on women, child marriage, and division of the Hindu society into various castes. These ill-practices have created a division in the society, and driven a wedge among the different communities. We wanted India to experience the same Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution, which the western world has witnessed.

Brahmo Samaj

As a part of his social activism, he founded the Brahmo Samaj, in 1828, to further the cause of upliftment of the women and enlightenment of the society. The main principles advocated by the Brahmo Samaj are:

  1. There is only one God, who is formless and nameless;

  2. The human soul is immortal and capable of unlimited progress;

  3. Loving God and carrying out his will in all concerns of life, constitutes his worship;

  4. No created object, or statue shall be worshiped as God. God is formless and shapeless.

Religious Reforms

Roy realized that the foundational principles of every religion are the same. The end of all religions are the same. He believed that these foundational principles constitute the original truths of Hinduism. He thought that mankind could be united if the elements of various religions could be united. Roy wanted to provide a rational basis for the religion. He believed that all religious conflicts are due to ignorance. His conception of religion was based on monotheism and humanism.

He declared that in its purity, Hinduism could not be distinguished from any other religion. A true religion is the one that inculcates knowledge, love of God and sympathy for the fellow beings. It must soften the attitude and inculcate human feelings.

An important principle of the Brahmo Samaj was to get rig of the caste system. The Brahmo Samajists began the campaign against the sacred thread, as a symbol of break with tradition.

Roy played an important role in fighting against Sati, and subjugation of women. Due to his role in the Movement against sati, EIC passed the law banning the practice of Sati. Similarly, he campaigned aggressively in favor of Widow Remarriage.

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