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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 3, January 7, 2023

Rammohan Roy on 250th Birth Anniversary | Jayanta Kumar Ghosal

Saturday 7 January 2023

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by Jayanta Kumar Ghosal *

In the year of 250th birth anniversary of Raja Rammohan Roy, the inaugurator of Modern Age in India, we remember the ‘Luminous Star’ who through the dynamic power of his personality and ‘his uncompromising freedom of the spirit’ became the path maker of this country removing the obstacles on the way of our progress at every step and placed us in the path of world wide co-operation of humanity. He was the only person in his time, in our country, to realise completely the significance of the Modern Age. To every sphere of our national existence, as Tagore said, ‘he brought the sagacity of a comprehensive vision, the spirit of self-manifestation of the unique in the light of the Universal’. He fought boldly against the forces of mediaevalism in India which has given him the honour of being the Father of Indian Renaissance.

Raja Rammohan Roy, who placed the interest of humanity above everything always kept nationalism at the central point of all his activities. For this reason he sought to work out the problems of economics by economic methods, along their own natural lines, to solve financial and political questions by the highest principles of the science of politics and government, to shape education for its own purpose. Thus he wanted to build a free mind of his country men.

During those days social customs and practices had been more or less connected with the religious beliefs of the people. In the name of religion many evil customs as imposed by society used to be the subjection of women. It is to be noted that in all countries and specially in India, social reform consists chiefly the fight against these evil customs laid upon the women by men. The degraded condition of the women was a great hindrance for social progress.

Raja Rammohan Roy stood up for many of the rights of the Indian womanhood. Degrading the women to a lower status of life, marked by inferiority, denying her the right of education and inheritance of property subjecting her married life to the most insulting disgrace by the husband’s right to polygamy, crippling the development of her natural powers by the system of child-marriage and his fight for abol ition of the ‘Sati’ system, at a time when social reform movements had not assumed definite and well reasoned forms even in the West. He strongly admitted women’s right to property. Rammohan knew well the crisis and the demand of his own time and responded to it accordingly. He took religious reformation as his field. His strivings for social reforms had their source not merely in the softness of his heart, or in his ideal of philanthropy or in the principle of altruism. They had a deeper and a more unifying background. He realised the Divine in man, “and found it equally in the male and female” which is also the secret of the great practical religion he preached.

In this universally known 1823 letter, Rammohan Roy wrote how he was initially delighted to learn that British were planning to introduce education in those “useful science” which were behind the progress of European Countries.

Rammohan was the pioneer and promoter of modern education in India. He himself set up and helped others in setting up schools. He took an active part in the great educational controversy between the ‘Orientalists’ and the ‘Anglicists’ and supported the latter. His ‘Letter on English Education’ to Lord Amherst, is still remembered as a convincing production. Modern India is obviously indebted to Raja Rammohan for the direct and indirect benefits of Western Education. He was a staunch fighter against the forces of mediaevalism. He aimed to free his country from it with his many sided activities. In the above universally known 1823 letter, Raja Rammohan Roy wrote how he was initally delighted to learn that British were planning to introduce education in those “useful sciences” which were behind the progess of European countries.

In short to describe the life long activities of Rammohan -he was the initiator of the fight against Indian mediavalism, pioneer of modern education and social reform. From the abolition of suttee to vernacular journallism, freedom of Press, Civil Law, status of women he stands before us as a ‘Luminous Star’. He has remained the symbol of revolt against India’s social evils. Founder of first association of modern education, journalism, champion of press freedom, women’s right, spokesman of modern methodology in science and politics. Moreover, he developed two fundamental concepts - comparative religion and freedom of the people. He also visualised the idea of a league of Nations and a great admirer of the people of different countries fighting for liberation.

We pay our homage to the great path maker of modern India. Brajendra Nath Seal, the great Indian Philosopher, rightly said – “Rammohan Roy was a man of a thousand years” as the messages Rammohan gave to us no doubt will guide us for coming years.

* (Author: Jayanta Kumar Ghosal is a Literacy Activist)

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