Raja Ram Mohan Roy: With the west without forgetting the Past
Raja Rammohun Roy (1772-1833) tried to reform our society and religion by adopting positive things of western thought and culture. His role in this sense was similar to that of Martin Luther (1483–1546) in the Western context.
Just as Luther set the Bible the standard against medieval degradation and corruption, Rammohan regarded the Vedas as the standard, as he found it to be the oldest Hindu scripture, sacred and unadulterated.
But he differed from Luther in the sense that he incorporated into Hinduism and thought what he found superior and useful in other civilizations, cultures and religions.
For example, while he was attracted to monotheism because of his association with Muslims, he was also influenced by the moral teachings of Christianity and believed that spiritual contemplation did not require asceticism or dispassion.
Subhas Chandra Bose underlined that Rammohan was the first person who linked Indian culture with the scientific culture of the West. According to Susobhan Sarkar, ‘The Indian Renaissance was possible because of the development of the notion that India could mingle with the modern civilization of the outside world without forgetting its past.’
Rammohan was the most influential example of the early period of the Indian Renaissance. According to historian Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, the achievements of all the important ideas and activities related to society, religion and politics of the 19th century were due to Rammohan.
As important as Hegel was to Western society, Rammohan is equally important to Indian society.
Rammohan Roy found during the study that the ancient Vedic age was a good period, but the worse changes in the later era gave rise to social evils like idol worship, polytheism, child marriage, ban on widow marriage, sati system, caste system and Brahminism.
He vehemently argued that the Vedas and Upanishads do not mention these widely prevalent contemporary practices, so the revival of the original traditions should be our most important goal. But this reform and revival was a very difficult task and the British government had to play a big role in social progress.
The government should have taken steps broadly in two areas: first, banning inhuman social practices and promoting freedom of expression.
Government-supported education could play an important role in this process, as only education could remove the acceptance of social evils that had arisen in society due to ignorance.
There was an atmosphere of turmoil all around. In such a situation, the British administration could have been the most suitable means to remove the serious social evils prevailing in the country, which considered its rule as such a far-sighted and kind step through which India could achieve social progress and ultimately independence.
The first step of the British was liberal legal reforms in the fields of marriage, succession, revenue, criminal law and justice system.
The indigenous system of education had to be replaced by western education, as Indian education could not have practical application in society.
Rammohan adopted modern philosophy, chemistry, anatomy and other essential sciences. Similarly, he founded the Brahmo Samaj to get rid of idol worship, caste system and Brahminism.
To spread modernity in the country, Rammohan was associated with the establishment of the Hindu College, which later became famous as the Presidency College. The importance of Rammohan can be understood from this that all the reforms related to the 19th century in the country were related to him.
On the contribution of Rammohan behind these splendid achievements, Ranade says, ‘He was at the same time a social reformer, founder of a great religious movement and a statesman.
His performance in all these three areas was so dazzling that even the best talent of this field dwarfs him in today’s era.
Some thinkers have also outlined certain limitations of Rammohan. As such his religious reform was fanatical and artificial. However, this is not true, as Rammohan wrote against religious fanaticism.
It is also said that he could not realize the true spirit of Hindutva. The second is that he could not prepare any framework for national education. But the fact cannot be denied that the educated section of the country was influenced by Rammohan. He equipped Indian education with science.
Thirdly, there was no imagination in his political views. Similarly, his intellectual leadership was confined to the upper strata of society.
Rammohan was virtually a modern secularist devoted to the colossal goal of human liberty, equality and happiness. That is why Subhash Chandra Bose called him ‘the prophet of the new era‘, then Rabindranath followed in his footsteps.