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‘Ram Mohan Roy effect’ on Hindu Bengali

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Raja Ram Mohan Roy was undoubtedly the morning star of Indian Renaissance in general and Bengal Renaissance in particular. He was born in Radhanagar of Hooghly district of present day West Bengal during 1772 and died in Stapleton, Northern Bristol of UK in 1833 and was buried there. He was given the title of ‘Raja’ by Akbar II, the then titular Mughal Emperor.

Roy was a multilingual person. He was proficient in Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, English, Bengali and Hindi. He had read and gathered good knowledge of Islam and Islamic scriptures. He became interested in Christianity and learned Hebrew and Greek in order to read the Old and New Testaments. In 1820 he published the ethical teachings of Christ, excerpted from the four Gospels, under the title Precepts of Jesus, the Guide to Peace and Happiness.

Ram Mohan was an intellectual of a superb order and still simple and bold. His ideas and ideals inspired nationalism in India too. Against all hazards, Ram Mohan carried on his socio-religious reform works and set standards for other Indians to follow. In true sense of the term, Raja Ram Mohan Roy acted as a bridge between the East and West in early phase of British rule in India.

Raja Ram Mohan Roy supported the ideas to spread the knowledge of Western education in the country and bring about greater freedom and equality for women. Ram Mohan’s major social contributions included: abolition of ‘Sati’, raising voice against idolatry and Hindu rituals, opposition to Hindu caste system, and advocating of Western education. He was also a champion of women liberty, and father of Indian Journalism.

Roy was against the idol worship of Hinduism and propagated the idea of oneness of God through ‘Brahmo Samaj’. He founded the ‘Brahmo Samaj’ at Calcutta in 1828. It was a monotheistic sect of Hinduism. But the sect died by mid-twentieth century. His efforts actually led to the resumption of the ethical principles of the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy. He co-founded the ‘Calcutta Unitarian Society’. Ram Mohan’s influence was apparent in the fields of Indian politics, public administration, education and Hindu religion.

Ram Mohan Roy opened too many fronts in too little time for his reform works among Hindu Bengali community. He succeeded in some, and failed in others. His hyper-promotion of Western education helped in bringing in Macaulay’s policy and erased the Indian Sanatani heritage, values and educational system and texts. His promotion of monotheism and unnecessary appreciation of Christianity led to conversion of many Hindu Bengalis to Christianity also.

Ram Mohan’s aversion and hostility towards idolatry and Hindu rituals created a large group of self loathing Hindu Bengali. He was unable to bring in the then Muslim community for reformation. That had developed into a differential value system among Hindus and Muslims of Bengal, which is observable even today with odd consequences.

‘Ram Mohan Roy effect’ of promoting monotheism along with aversion towards idolatry and Hindu rituals among Hindu Bengali community was not long lasting. But it created a permanent fault line at intellectual level among Hindu Bengali society. His fight against Hindu caste system was path breaking. But even after 200 years of Ram Mohan, the system had weakened a little but prevailed. Caste system was such a complex and unique system of Indian society that, even Muslims of South Asia practiced a virtual caste system of Ashraf, Ajlaf and Arjal.

Ram Mohan Roy made Vadanta the core of his ‘Brahmo Samaj’ movement. But Sanatan Dharma was multifaceted and multidimensional. It was too diverse and all encompassing to be restricted by Vadanta philosophy alone. However, he could make a fertile space among Hindu Bengali community, which was exploited by Communists first and then TMC of West Bengal, to demean Hinduism. 

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