Raja Ram Mohan Roy

Raja Ram Mohan Roy was born in a Brahmin family of Bengal. He knew many languages and had read Quran, Bible and the New Testament along with Hindu scriptures in great depth. Liberal education exposed him to different cultures and philosophies. Deeply moved by the plight of his brother’s widow, who had been forced to commit Sati, he was determined to uproot this social practice.

This led him to challenge other unfair social and religious practices prevalent at that time. He founded Brahmo Samaj in 1828. He was the first person to take an initiative to challenge the practice of Sati and it soon became his life-long crusade. He mobilized public opinion and cited the scriptures to show that this practice had no sanction in Hindu religion.

In the process he faced displeasure and enmity of orthodox Hindus. In his efforts he was supported by the then Governor General of India, Sir William Bentinck. A law was passed in 1829 making Sati illegal and punishable. He also made efforts to advocate widow re-marriage and condemned child marriage.

He represented a synthesis of the Eastern and the Western thoughts. An authority on the Vedas, Vedantas and Upanishads, he also took up the best in all religions as he was well versed in the scriptures. He advocated the importance of Vedas in reforming religion and upheld the fundamental unity among all religions. He held that all the principal ancient texts of the Hindus preached Monotheism (worship of one God) and opposed Polytheism (belief in more than one God). He was critical of idol worship and observance of meaningless rituals.

He strongly advocated the learning of English language, literature, scientific advancement and technology to modernize India. He maintained an English school in Calcutta at his own cost. Subjects like mechanics and philosophy were also taught among other subjects.

A Vedanta college was opened in 1825. Raja Ram Mohan Ray helped in the opening of the Hindu college in Calcutta for higher learning.