Despite the economic retrogression and political convulsions the first century of British rule in India (1757-1858) is in certain respects a memorable epoch in her history. During this period India spotted a remarkable explosion of intellectual activity in India and a profound transformation in her religious and social ideas. Raja Ram Mohan Roy was one of those social reformers whose ideology helped many people of India.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy: A Great Reformer
- The new energy of this age is prominently illustrated by the life and career of Raja Ram Mohan Roy, a remarkable personality, the hundredth of whose death(1833) was celebrated some years back all over India.
- The Raja started his reforming exercise by preaching the unity of God, and bashing the prevalent Hindu belief in several gods and the worship of their images with labored rituals.
- He tried to illustrate that his views were in congruence with the old and true scriptures of the Hindus, and that the modern anomalies from them are due to superstitions of a later age without any religious and moral sanction behind them.
- Ram Mohan’s perspectives stirred Hindu society to its depths, which led to bitter controversies that were followed.
- In order to protect his thesis, Ram Mohan published Bengali translations of ancient scriptures, almost single-handed, by the publication of a large number of Bengali tracts.
- Ram Mohan was a great scout of English education. Not only did he himself found institutions for that purpose, but he always given a helping hand to others who endeavored to do so.
- Ram Mohan’s reforming activity was also directed against the social abuses of Hindu society, notably the rigours of caste and the degrading position of women.
- He also endeavored to ameliorate the condition of helpless widows in various ways, notably by changing the Hindu laws of inheritance about women and giving them proper education.
- He was opposed to polygamy and various other abuses in the social system of Bengal. He also advocated re-marriage of widows under specified circumstances.
- His ideals of womanhood and of man’s duty towards them, preached in forceful language in various tracts, were far ahead of his age and were inspired by the memories of the golden age of India.
- On the whole he struck the true keynote of social reform in India by uploading the cause of women and denouncing the rigours of caste rules, the two main lines on which all social reforms have proceeded since.
In the field of Indian politics also, Raja Ram Mohan was the prophet of the new age. He laid down the lines for political agitation in a constitutional manner which ultimately led to the birth of the Indian National congress are surprisingly modern,and in essential features represent the high-water mark of Indian political thought of the nineteenth century.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy Principles
The basic principles of Ram Mohan’s politics were “love of freedom, amounting to the strongest passion of his soul’,and a sincere belief that the people of India have the same capability for improvement as any other civilised people. The political ideals of the Raja are thus described by his English biographer:
“The prospect of an educated India, of an India approximating to European standards of culture, seems to have never been long absent from Ram Mohan’s mind; and he did, however vaguely, claim in advance for his countrymen the political rights which progress in civilizations inevitably involves. Here, again, Ram Mohan stands forth as the tribune and prophet of New India”
The Raja had a clear grasp of the political machinery by which India was ruled and fully realised the importance of presenting India’s case before the Home authorities when the question of the renewal of the Company’s Charter in 1833 was being considered by Parliament. This was one of the house of Commons and although he declined to appear in person, he submitted his considered views in the form of several “communications to the board of Control”. These documents enable us to gather the viewpoint of Raja Ram Mohan and of the advanced Indian thinkers of his time, on the burning questions of the day.
The Raja strongly championed the cause of the peasants. He pointed out that under the Permanent Settlement, the zamindars had increased their wealth, but the exorbitantly high rents exacted from their tenants had made the lot of the ryots a miserable one. He advocated a reduction of the rent to be paid by the tenants by means of a corresponding reduction in the revenue, he suggested, should be met by a tax upon luxuries or by employing low-salaried Indians as collectors, instead of high-salaried Europeans. The Raja favoured the Permanent Settlement but he rightly urged that the Government should fix the maximum rent to be paid by each cultivator.