Compare it in full detail with the original pdf. Where you find ‘red’ fonts, that’s where I’ve found something of interest in my initial cursory examination fo the text. The life and letters of raja rammohun roy

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“Babu K. C. Sen writes to me, ‘It is not true, as has been alleged, that the girl is a near relative of mine. She is of the same caste (Vaidya) and may be a distant connection of our family. But I never knew her, and I never heard of her before the events in question happened. She was not a member of the Brahmo Somaj before her conversion to Christianity, but was a Hindu.’ Babu K. C. Sen’s brother, Babu Krishna B. Sen, wiites to the Calcutta Daily Examiner to make precisely similar statements. The Indian Mirror^ the organ of the Brahmo Somaj Mission, also contradicts the report that the girl was in any way connected with the Brahmo Somaj, and doubts family relationship to its leader, and to the insinuation made by the missionaries that the B. Samaj had had some connection with the action taken by the plaintiffs for the recovery of the girl, the Mirror replies, ‘to this statement we are authorised to give an unqualified contradiction.’ Babu Keshub, also referring to the charge that the Brahmo Somaj persecuted the girl, writes to me This is simply untrue, and morally impossible. One or two individual Brahmos perhaps supported the case, as friends and relations of the mother of the girl, not as Brahmos. One of them was a cousin [Narendra IN ath Sen] who was engaged as the attorney for the prosecution/ It is probable that this circumstance combined with the fact that the girl’s family name was also Sen, gave rise to the idea that Babu Keshub’s relation and confraternity were persecuting her.

“2. But the further question arises supposing that a few Brahmos did interest themselves in the case, why were they arrayed against Christian Missionaries, unless from a bigoted repugnance to a native’s conversion? Because this appeared to be a cause, not of independent adult conversion, but of a young girl eloping from home under the clandestine persuasion of a zenana teacher. Her actual age was not proved one way or the other; her mother said she was fourteen, while she herself claimed to be over sixteen (the usual age of Hindu majority) , and the Judge believed himself to be bound in law to accept the latter statement as made by the missionaries in return to the writ of Habeas Corpus. Upon this narrow technical point the decision turned; but the Judge gave the following unfavourable estimate of the girl’s state of mind as the result of his private examination of her: ‘I could not help coming to the conclusion that the young lady is exceedingly ignorant and very illinformed upon that particular subject which she says has engaged her attention, and which has been the particular purpose of instruction for the last two years. It appears to me from that short interview that she does not possess a single tangible idea which can be called correct. Her ignorance of the one sacred Book is in itself simply marvellous, and I am not blind to the danger which exists when a girl so young, so ignorant, and so inexperienced, leaves the society of those amongst whom she has lived all her life, and goes to live in the society of those strangers whose names even she does not know.’ The Rev. Mr. Vaughn, who examined her previous to baptism, writes to the Indian Mirror saying that she was too frightened to give a clear account to the Judge of what she knew. On these points it is impossible to form a decision at a distance; but it is noteworthy that the course taken by the missionaries in this affair has been condemned by nearly all the Calcutta Press, and that Christian public opinion is increasingly setting against these conflicts with heathen parents for the bodily possession of juvenile converts.

“3. Of course Babu Keshub frankly states his disapproval of this ‘barrack system’, as it is called. But in opposing it, he does not feel that he is opposing the missionaries, but only some of their modes of conversion. That body for whom alone he is at all responsible, the ‘progressive Brahmos,’ are not, he says, enemies of Christianity. All the leading men among them honour Christ, and cannot, therefore, hate or persecute his servants. Trusting that these explanations may remove some of the misconceptions that are abroad,

I am, Sir, &c. S. D. Collet.”

The sequel to this story was, briefly, as follows: About three months after her baptism, Ganesh Sundari, for reasons variously stated and never clearly explained, ran away from the mission compound to her mother’s house. As her eldest brother refused to allow her to stay there, her uncle took her away. But the controversy in the Press continued for some time; and Miss Collet had to take up her pen every now and then. The lady was given shelter in a Brahmo home, as her Hindu relations would not admit her into their homes for fear of losing caste. This was made the occasion for fresh misrepresentations in the public press; and the Brahmos were accused of having enticed her away, of forging a letter in her name &c. A letter from one, Mr. Vaughn incriminating the Brahmos, having been reproduced in the Spectator of London, Miss Collet warmly defended her friends. She wrote: “It is true that she is now staying with a Brahmo, because no Hindu was found ready to receive her. In fact, the Brahmo gentleman did try if she might be taken under the protection of a Hindu, but in this he was not successful. Her mother could not v for fear of caste, continue to give her shelter at home, and Mr. Vaughn himself admits that she is accessible to Christian visitors in her Brahmo residence.” “It can be no pleasure to any Christian”, she added in conclusion, “to dwell upon those miserable contentions, and I only write of them to clear my Brahmo friends from misapprehension.”

In the midst of such unpleasant and vexatious controversies, Miss Collet continued her more serious literary work on behalf of the Brahmo Somaj. Her volume of Keshub Chandra Sen’s lectures being well received by the English public, she prepared, before the end of the year 1870, another edition of it with the addition of some sermons and prayers. In reviewing this book, the Glasgow Herald (January 12, 1871) announced the preparation of a History of the Brahmo Somaj by Miss Collet. “Miss Collet/’ wrote the Glasgow paper, “by whom this volume is edited and who has done much already to acquaint us with Indian Theism, has in preparation a History of the Brahmo Somaj, which we are sure will be looked for with much interest, especially by the readers of Keshub Chandra Sen’s Lectures and Tracts.”

Shortly afterwards, Miss Collet brought out another book under the title of “Keshub Chandra Sen’s English visit.’’ It was a volume of more than six hundred pages filled with reports of various public meetings which Mr. Sen had attended during his English visit and the sermons and addresses delivered by him on those occasions. It was a work involving great labour; and it is surprising how Miss Collet with her infirmities could accomplish it. But for her careful compilation much of these materials would have been lost. In reviewing it, the Spectator (March 25, 1871) wrote: “The indefatigable pen by whose instrumentality mainly Keshub Chandra Sen and his great Theistic movement in India have been introduced to the literary notice of the English public, has here been employed, chiefly we imagine for the benefit of the great Hindoo Missionary’s native followers, in preparing a tolerably complete record of his English visit, and all the more important receptions and addresses by which it was signalised. This volume will, no doubt, be read with great interest and gratification by those adherents of the Brahmo Somaj, and they are not few, who can read English; and it will indeed be to them a valuable testimony to the genuine sympathy felt with them in England.”

The interest awakened in England by the visit of Babu Keshub Chandra Sen led to the formation of a committee for rendering aid to the Brahmo Somaj. A meeting was held in London for the purpose on the 2ist July, 1871. Miss Collet was one of the leading organisers. The meeting resolved that their “first efforts should be to raise sufficient money for the purchase of an organ for Mr. Sen’s church in Calcutta, and do this at once as a beginning, so that at the great gathering in Calcutta in January 1872 this organ might be played, and so join all voices in one harmony.” The result was the organ which is still in use at the Bharatbarshiya Brahma Mandir in Calcutta.

By this time the Brahmo Somaj was in the full swing of the controversy regarding the Brahmo Marriage Bill. The measure met with the successive opposition of the orthodox Hindus and the members of the Adi Brahmo Somaj. Miss Collet, with her characteristic energy, threw herself on the side of the progressive Brahmos. She advised and encouraged the Indians in England to send up a memorial in support of the Bill, and herself wrote in the newspapers to remove misconceptions. Allen’s Indial Mail, which in those days was an influential journal about Indian questions, remarked thus in one of its issues: “It is evident that the provisions of the Bill must be modified, so as to ensure the older Brahmos perfect freedom to marry in their own way 9 and the title and preamble of the Bill must be so altered as to leave them no fair ground for complaint.” In reply to this, Miss Collet wrote (September 26, 1871): “If you examine the Bill, you find that it does not in any respect interfere with the freedom of the older Brahmos to marry in their own way. The preamble states: Whereas it is expedient to legalise marriages between the members of the sect called the Brahmo Somaj, when solemnised according to the provisions of this Act &c.’ thus leaving the question entirely open whether marriages between Brahmos solemnised in other ways require legislation or not.”

With her usual thoroughness, Miss Collet prepared and published a pamphlet on “Brahmo Marriages, their past history and present position” indicating the difficulties of the progressive Brahmos. The Spectator thus reviewed the pamphlet: “The author explains very clearly the difference between the old idolatrous marriages and those which the Indian Theists have celebrated and the doubts which have arisen as to the legal validity of the latter. She shows how difficult it was to remedy the mischief without bitterly alarming native public opinion how any remedy which only required persons anxious to enter into a valid marriage without idolatrous rites, to disclaim adhesion to the orthodox religious systems of India, would have the effect of subverting caste, because not compelling those who made such a disclaimer to regard themselves wholly outcasts from Hindu Society. On the other hand, the proposal to legalise only the marriages of persons who should declare themselves adherents of the Brahmo faith alarmed the old school conservative Brahmos, who profess to believe their marriages (though not idolatrous) quite legal, and who fear greatly any wider breach between themselves and Hinduism. On the whole subject Miss Collet passes a very clear judgment and shows herself altogether much more mistress of the question than the writer who not long agodiscussed it, not too liberally in ThePallMall Gazette” The Indian Mirror (Oct. 26,1871) wrote: “Among the pamphlets we have received by the last mail is one entitled Brahmo Marriages: their past history and present position’ by Miss S, D, Collet. It is gratifying to find that the able author, whose name is quite familiar to our readers, has taken up the most important topic of the day in India and treated it in so exhaustive and convincing a manner as is most likely to influence public opinion in England. The pamphlet exhibits an amount of research which is truly remarkable.” This pamphlet, the narrative portion of which was subsequently embodied by Miss Collet in her Brahmo YearBook for 1879, remains the clearest and fullest history of that exceedingly interesting episode in the reform movement of modern India viz., emancipation from the tyranny of caste and priesthood in matters of matrimony. It records how, step by step, the present law regulating reform marriages came to be enacted.



Now we pass on to a more elaborate and sustained effort on the part of Miss Collet to present the work and activities of the Brahmo Somaj to the public. This was her compilation of the “Brahmo YearBook,’’ which came out year after year for seven years from 1876 to 1882. Considering the fact that the compiler was not herself a member of the community, nor had she any direct personal acquaintance with the churches the minutest details of the work and organisation of which she undertook to chronicle from a distance of many thousand miles, the work must be pronounced a marvellous monument of labour and the power of keeping accurate information. The seven volumes of Miss Collet’s Brahmo YearBook are together a storehouse of information about the Brahmo Somaj during a most important epoch in its history. They include the period of the zenith of Babu Keshub Chandra Sen’s ascendancy in the Brahmo Somaj, immediately preceding the Cooch Behar marriage and the troubled times that followed until the practical conclusion of the disastrous agitationWhen Miss Collet commenced the work, she had no idea of the coming catastrophe. Her object in undertaking the compilation has been told in the preface to the first volume: “The Brahmo Somaj or Theistic Church of India is an experiment hitherto unique in religious history. It has been received with warm sympathy by some observers, with suspicion and dislike by others; but very little is generally known of its actual condition or principles beyond what may be gleaned from the speeches and writings of a few of its leaders who have visited England; consequently, the most absurd misapprehensions exist on the subject in many quarters. The object of the present publication is to supply periodically recent and reliable information on the chief representative features of this Church, so interesting alike to the practical Christian and religious philosopher.” It will thus be seen that the main object of Miss Collet was to enlighten the British public about the Brahmo Somaj. But the Brahmo YearBook, must have been not much less illuminating to the Indian reader and even to Brahmos themselves. For, Miss Collet, with a marvellous patience and perseverance, collected and set forth every scrap of information regarding even the smallest Brahmo congregations and institutions scattered throughout the length and breadth of India, the existence of many of which had not been known to Brahmos themselves in other parts of the country, so that Miss Collet’s publications came as a revelation to contemporary Brahmos; and to succeeding generations of Brahmos they will always be a most valuable and interesting record of their church at a very critical epoch. The work must have involved an enormous amount of correspondence and a very careful reading of the periodicals and publications of and about the Brahmo Somaj: and it is a wonder how Miss Collet, with her chronic illhealth, could manage it in the way she did. The assiduousness of her labours will be understood from the fact that no one could continue the work after she had been compelled to give it up on account of increasing infirmities, though repeated efforts were made by persons in actual contact with the work of the Brahmo Somaj.

The series begins with the year 1876. The first volume opened with a general introduction giving a brief sketch of the history of the Brahmo Somaj from its foundation and an account of its ideals and existing organisation. Then followed a general survey of the Brahmo Somajes and their work with a complete list of Theistic congregations in India and a detailed account of the more important among them. The next volume was prepared on the same plan, with the addition of an account of Brahmo literature and of new developments in the Samaj. But soon after the publication of the second volume, the Brahmo Somaj was swept over by the whirlwind of the Cooch Behar marriage controversy, and necessarily the greater part of the third volume was occupied with it. The incident proved a great shock to Miss Collet. We have seen with what warm adMiration she regarded Babu Keshub Chandra Sen at first and how zealously she defended him against attacks in the press. The change from that feeling must have been most painful. In after life she used to call it her greatest “idolbreaking.” But her interest in the Brahmo Somaj did not diminish with her disappointment in Keshub Chandra Sen. Even in the darkest days of that trouble, she did not lose her faith in the Brahmo Somaj. With the most anxious solicitude she watched the progress of the schism and chronicled it year after year with the utmost scrupulousness and marvellous insight. She did not thrust her own opinion on the readers, but in disputed matters gave the versions of both the pat ties, leaving the reader to draw his own conclusion. The Brahmo YearBook for 1878 will remain as the fullest source for the history of the second schism in the Brahmo Somaj.

With the gradual subsidence of the agitation the points at issue could be more clearly seen and the resulting situation better understood. Miss. Collet did not share the popular European notion that with the breakup of the power of Keshub Chandra Sen the Brahmo Somaj had suffered a total shipwreck. But she had the insight to see a renewed vitality of the Brahmo Somaj in this momentous struggle for principle. Miss Collet watched with great satisfaction the gradual development of the Sadharan Brahmo Somaj. In the preface of the YearBook for 1880, she writes: “Now it is perfectly clear that the Sadharan Brahmo Somaj have fairly entered upon this constitutional course, and are really acquiring habits of mutual help and combined action which have already accomplished excellent practical results and are in themselves a most wholesome discipline.” She could now look upon the future of her favourite Theistic movement in India with hope and assurance. She quoted with hearty approval the judgment of Count Goblet d’Alveila that the Sadharan Brahmo Somaj “appears to be henceforth unquestionably called to take the direction of the movement which the church of Keshub seems to have lost beyond recall.”

In the volumes for 1880 and 1881 Miss Collet gives detailed accounts of the development of Mr. Sen’s views in his later life leading to the adoption of the name ‘New Dispensation.’ Babu Pratap Chandra Mazumdar, the Asst. Secretary of the Brahmo Somaj of India, criticised some of the statements in the volume for 1880. To this Miss Collet replied in the volume for 1881; and she substantiated her statements by quotations from the authoritative publications of the Brahmo Somaj. At the same time, where she had been wrong, she frankly admitted and apologised for her misstatements. As a historian, Miss Collet was scrupulously fair and impartial, and her aptitude and passion for collecting facts marvellous. Many Samajes bore testimony to the accuracy of her statements and passed resolutions conveying their gratitude to her for her self imposed, disinterested labours in compiling the Brahmo Year Book. It is much to be regretted that she did not write a complete History of the Brahmo Somaj which the Glasgow Herald had announced in 1871 that she had been preparing, The reason for the nonfulfilment of this project was her extreme scrupulousness as a historian. She would, not write a single sentence for which she had not unquestionable authority. But though she did not herself write a History of the Brahmo Somaj, it is to her initiative that we owe Pandit Sivanath Sastri’s two recent volumes on the subject. For, she it was who induced Pandit Sastri during his visit to England to write a complete History of the Brahmo Somaj. Besides the article in the Contemporary Review already noticed, she published two other pamphlets bearing on the history of the Brahmo Somaj, one in 1871, called An Historical Sketch of the Brahmo Somaj, and the other in 1884 under the heading, Outlines and Episodes of Brahmic History. Not only are they very convenient sketches of the modern Theistic movement in India for the ordinary public unacquainted with the history of the Brahmo Somaj, but even many Brahmos will find in them many incidents and episodes to interest them in the history of their church, not known to them before.

Now we turn to the last but not the least of Miss Collet’s manifold services to the Brahmo Somaj her Life of the Founder. Rammohun Roy died in 1833. Nearly fifty years passed away but no adequate biography of the great religious reformer of modern India was written. In 1866, just on the eve of her visit to India, Miss Mary Carpenter published a small volume, entitled “The Last Days in England of the Rajah Rammohun Roy,” but it was not a complete biography. The necessity of compiling such a biography was suggested at the second of the memorial meetings organised by the endeavours of the newly constituted Sadharan Brahmo Somaj in January 1880. In 1881, Babu Nagendra Nath Chatterjee brought out a Life of Rammohun Roy in Bengali. It was a comparatively small volume. In the subsequent editions, however, the author greatly enlarged it, in which task he was largely indebted to the researches of Miss Collet. But as yet there was nothing which could be given to the non Bengali reader. How early Miss Collet conceived the idea of writing a Life of the Raja cannot now be definitely ascertained, but from her ardent adMiration for Rammohun it would seem that she had had the work long in view. In the Brahmo Year Book for 1882, while reviewing the Bengali Life of the Raja by Babu Nagendra Nath Chatterjee, she wrote: “The author has kindly granted me permission to make use of it in the biography of the Raja which I hope soon to compile.” But the book was not quite ready even at the time of her death, which took place on the 2/th March, 1894. The long delay is another proof of her scrupulous desire to be thorough and accurate as a historian. Mr. N. Gupta, perhaps the last Indian gentleman to whom she could speak, writes to me to say that on her deathbed she told him “her only regret was that she could not finish the Life of Rammohun, though she had neglected her own affairs for the purpose.” But she would not allow the work to appear before the public until she should have satisfied herself that all available sources had been consulted. For twelve long years she worked incessantly, and devoted to this work every moment that she could snatch in the midst of her failing health. To verify one date she would work six months. With what conscientious scrupulousness she used to write will be abundantly clear from the published fruit of her labours. She consulted every available authority in England and in India. She never rested satisfied with secondhand information, but always tried to get at the original sources. Her Life of Rammohun Roy is an ideal of conscientious biography. Thoroughness, passion for perfection, was the most prominent feature of Miss Collet’s character. We may, in this connection, transcribe the following interesting confessions of Miss Collet, kindly supplied by one of her nieces as having been written by Miss Collet when it was the fashion to get one’s friends to write their confessions in one’s album:

“Your favourite virtue Thoroughness.

Your favourite qualities in man Faithfulness to a noble ideal, blended with sense and spiced with humour.

Your favourite qualities in woman Sweetness and sense, bracketed equal, with conscience to take care of them’ Your favourite occupation Writing theology. Your chief characteristic Enthusiasm streaked with cowardice.

Your idea of happiness Listening to perfect music perfectly executed.

Your idea of misery Toothache in the middle of the night. Your favourite colour and flower Blue. White garden lily. If not yourself, who would you be? An accomplished

M. A. Oxon, just beginning active life.

Where would you like to live? In the suburbs of London. Your favourite prose authors R. H. Hutton, F. W. Newman, Emerson Colonel Higginson.

Your favourite poets Tennyson, Matthew Arnold,

Whittier, Lowell. Your favourite painters and composers Raphael, Guido,

Handel, Mendelssohn, Miss Flower.

Your favourite heroes in real life St. Augustine, Mendelssohn, Mr. Gladstone, Keshub C. Sen. Your favourite heroines in real life Vivia Perpetua and

Mrs. Adams

Your pet aversion Hypocrisy and overbearingness. What character in history do you most dislike? John Calvin. What is your present state of mind? Tranquil satisfaction. Your favourite motto “Open to the light.” (November 27. 1876 (Signed) Sophy Dobson Collet.

A word or two about Miss Collet’s religious views will perhaps be looked for here. From her enthusiasm for the Brahmo Somaj one is likely to conclude that she was a pure theist; but that impression would notbe correct. Miss Collet was, as we have seen, born in a Unitarian family. But her religious views underwent many changes. She had passed through many and interesting phases of religious experience. When she had passed out of her inherited Unitarian convictions, she was for some time a sceptic. Subsequently she came under the influence of the late Mr. R. H. Hutton, the editor of the Spectator, who had been in his earlier life trained for the Unitarian ministry. With Mr. Hutton she approached, if not actually joined, the Church of England, though of course she was always very broad and liberal. She has left an autobiographical sketch describing the successive phases of her religious experience. Unfortunately, however, it has not been published.

The object of this brief sketch would not be fulfilled without a grateful acknowledgment of Miss Collet’s warm reception o^ and valuable help to, successive batches of Indians who went to England from the time of the visit of Keshub Chandra Sen and Ananda Mohan Bose down to the date of her death. Brahmo gentlemen in London found in her a most kind friend and wellwisher, ever ready to assist them with sound advice and guidance, How cordial was that relation and how valuable her help will be understood from the following letter written to Miss Collet by the late Mr. Ananda Mohan Bose, when leaving England at the end of his four year’s stay. He wrote from the 5. S. Hindustan: “I sit down to send a few lines bearing my love and kindest remembrances to you. How sorry I felt at the shortness of our parting interview, when I had had to tear myself away for another engagement, and at my inability to see you again, as I had some faint hopes of doing! * * * But however short the time, I could see you at the last; amongst the pleasantest of all the memories I carry with me of the years I have spent in England will be the thought of the happiness and pleasure I have derived from your acquaintance and friendship. A recollection of this will ever be engraved in my heart, and often and often I shall look back with regretful joy on those days when I have been with you, and derived a strengthening and cheering influence from your example and words.’’ Miss Collet kept up regular correspondence with many Brahmo friends. Though not in complete agreement with the Brahmo Somaj in theology, she had completely identified herself with it in interest. The Brahmo Somaj was uppermost in her heart and mind. The Brahmos felt her to be one of themselves. She used to write in Bengali very affectionately to many Brahmo ladies whom she had never seen. The Brahmo Somaj never had a warmer friend and more sincere wellwisher. Miss Collet’s memory should be cherished with the kindest regard by successive generations of Brahmos for the many and valuable services she rendered to their cause.

INTRODUCTION. BY THE EDITOR

The history of India falls into three broad, clearly marked divisions. There are the early days of exuberent vitality, creative vigour, many sided progress, stretching far into the dim past the India of the Rishis, of the Upanishads, of the Buddhist gospel of love and service, the India of the epics and the schools of philosophy. We might denote the whole of this long period by the one comprehensive name of Ancient India. This was followed by a long era of gradual decline, of intellectual and spiritual stagnation, of moral and social degradation, of superstition and servitude a veritable dark age which might be called Mediaeval India. Since contact with the West awakened the country from this long deathlike slumber, a fresh career of honour and distinction, of intellectual power and spiritual grandeur, of social regeneration and national progress has been ushered in. This new era has been significantly called the Rammohun Roy epoch; for he it was who heralded this era embodying as he did the purest and loftiest aspirations of New India in his own wonderful life and giving inspiring expression to them with his prophetic voice.

Rammohun Roy was truly an epochmaking man. No epoch in the history of a nation can be more fittingly named after a man than modern India after Raja Rammohun Roy; and no man has a juster right to be called the prophet of an era than the Raja of the present epoch in India. Rammohun Roy was born at a momentous juncture in the history of , India and was, under the providence of God, destined to mould the national life in all its bearings, as few have done in the history of the race. The political, social and religious life of New India has been permanently stamped with the personality of Rammohun Roy and his name will remain indissolubly associated with the history of modern India.

At the time of Rammohun Roy’s birth a dense cloud of darkness was brooding over the country. For centuries together the muses of India had been silent. No voice of commanding genius relieved the silent monotony of this long period. The great masters of Sanskrit literature had long since disappeared, while the vernacular literature of none of the provinces had secured any eminence or recognition. The profound speculation of the Indian mind had become a thing of the past; the schools of philosophy were extinct and in their place pedantic wrangling on trivial technicalities passed lor profundity of thought and learning. The fountain of religious inspiration was not indeed quite dried up. The inmost spring of India’s national life welled up again and again, but only to be lost in the surrounding wilderness. The fate of the great religious teachers and movements of this dark age served only to bring into clearer view the evil days which had fallen on the land. Their message of spiritual religion was not understood and their followers soon degenerated into sects, intensifying the very evils which the Masters had striven to eradicate. The last of the prophets was Sri Chaitanya of Nadia, who flourished in the fifteenth century; his gospel of love gradually sank into hollow sentimentalism in the hands of his unworthy followers.

With the decay of knowledge and the deadening of conscience moral corruption and social degeneracy passed unchallenged in the country. Blind superstition and gross idolatry reigned supreme from one end to the other. Outward ceremonials, scrupulousness about eating and drinking, signs and symbols had usurped the place of living faith, cleanliness of heart and integrity of conduct. Personal purity in the I male sex was not considered necessary at all. The sense of justice was dead. Men could marry any number of wives successively or even simultaneously; but women, even little girls of five or six, if they happened to lose their husbands, whom perhaps they had never seen except at the hour of the ‘socalled wedding, were not allowed to marry again, but were condemned to drag on a miserable existence deprived of all the comforts of life, or, what was still more inhuman, burnt alive on the funeral pyre of their husbands. In some parts of the country female children were killed as soon as they were born; and the first born were not unoften thrown into the rivers in propitiation of the gods.

Politically, the country was passing through the confusion of a transition period. The Mahommedan sovereignty had collapsed. The Mahrattas proved unequal to holding the falling sceptre. The sovereignty of the land was inevitably passing into the hands of the East India Company. By the time Rammohun Roy reached manhood the chapter of this conquest was practically completed. But the British people had not yet fully assumed the duties and responsibilities of sovereignty. Their main concern was yet commerce and acquisition of wealth, The Mahommedan system of administration was allowed to continue with as little disturbance as possible. The new masters of the country were sorely apprehensive of losing their recently acquired territories by a sudden rising of the fanatical orientals. They seemed to have been mortally afraid of exciting the religious prejudices of the people. Successive Governors, though keenly aware of the inhuman cruelty of Sati, dared not intefere with it, lest the Company’s rule should be in danger, Education was not yet considered to lie within the province of Government. There were no schools throughout the length and breadth of the country, except the Tols and Maktabs and Pathsalas where Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian were taught with the elements of arithmetic.

Such was the condition of the country when Raja Rammohun Roy was born. We cannot explain his career and work by his environments. Rammohun Roy was undoubtedly not the product of his age. Rather, the age was largely his creation. Rammohan Roy had none of the benefits and facilities of education which the young men of a generation or two later enjoyed, mainly through his labours. .Politically, socially and educationally there was not yet any glimpse of light. The greatest glory of Rammohun Roy lay in this, that in the midst of thick, brooding darkness he saw afar the vision of a New India and bravely laboured against large odds, as will be seen in the following pages, to bring it nearer. Rammohun Roy seems to have early realised the mission of his life and steadily prepared himself for it. Before he completed his sixteenth year the religious degradation of his country disclosed itself to him and he wrote against the current idolworship with such force that it led to the expulsion of the boy of sixteen from his ancestral home. Rammohun Roy cheerfully accepted the ordeal and proceeded to utilise it in preparing himself for his lifework. The four years of exile were spent in the study of the religious systems of the past under the reputed guardians of the ancient lore and a personal survey of the condition of the country, In the course of his wanderings Rammohun Roy went up as far as Tibet to study Buddhism. Soon after his return home he again proceeded to Benares and spent about 12 years in close and earnest study in that ancient seat of Hindu learning and orthodoxy and it must have been here that the foundation was laid of his vast erudition in Sanskrit literature. Towards the latter half of this period he began to learn English; possibly his chief object in this was the investigation of the Christian scriptures, for at this time he had no desire to enter Government service, it being only due to the pressing request of Mr. Digby that he subsequently accepted a post under him.

Even while in the service of Government he was steadily and diligently preparing himself for the main work; he had all along contemplated an early retirement with a view to devote himself entirely to the great mission of his life, which he was enabled to do in 1814, when he settled in Calcutta with all his plans fully matured.


That work comprised the entire range of national aspirations and activities, Raja Rammohun Roy was not merely the founder of a religion; religion was no doubt the main spring and the chief concern of his life, but his wonderful genius in its all comprehensive reach embraced the whole national life and his breath of inspiration and his consecrated labours succeeded in creating a New India an India new all round. In 1814, when Raja Rammohun Roy came to settle in Calcutta, the country was yet in deep slumber; by 1830, when he left our shores for England, the new life fairly set in, and the beginnings of these political, social and religious activities which have since spread over the whole country were clearly visible. During the short interval the Raja laid the foundations of the various movements which together make up a nation’s life. Here was the fountain whence the streams of national life and activities issued and rapidly spread over the land. Let us briefly indicate the connection of Raja Rammohun Roy with the awakening of India at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

The great proximate cause of the national awakening was the introduction English education. Raja Rammohun Roy with his prophetic vision realised that, if India was to rise and take her legitimate place among modern nations, she must have modern scientific education after the model of the West. Accordingly, as soon as he was settled in Calcutta, he began to move for the introduction of English education. But in this, not only was he hampered by the indifference and prejudices of his own countrymen, but even many well meaning Englishmen of high position were against him, as would be seen from the detailed narratives of his life. When Rammohun Roy started work in Calcutta, there were no public schools worth the name for the teaching of English anywhere in India. Ramkamal Sen, the author of the first English Bengali dictionary, describes in his preface how the first English captain who sailed over to infant Calcutta, sent ashore asking for a dobhashia or interpreter. The Seths who acted as middlemen between the English merchants and the native weavers in the sale and purchase of piece goods, in their ignorance, sent a dhobi or washerman on board. To that washerman, who made a good use of the monopoly of the English that he acquired, Ramkamal Sen ascribes the honour of being the first English scholar amongst the people of Bengal, The mere vocabulary of nouns, adverbs and interjections which for nearly a century made up all the English of the Bengalis became enriched and improved when Sir Eliza Impey established the Supreme Court in Calcutta in 1774. The growing business of the court made the next generation of middle class Bengalees a little more familiar with English. Interpreters, clerks, copyists and agents were in demand alike by the Government and the mercantile houses. Self interest stimulated enterprising Bengali youths to learn English from European and Armenian adventurers. One, Sherbourne, a European, kept a school in the Jorasanko quarter, where Dwarkanath Tagore learned the English alphabet. Martin Bowl in Amratola taught the founder of the wealthy Seal family. Aratoon Petroos was another who kept a school of fifty or sixty Bengalee lads. The best among the pupils became teachers in their turn, like the blind Nityananda Sen in Colootolah and the lame Udyacharan Sen, the tutor of the millionaire Mullicks, As remarked above, the Government had not yet undertaken the responsibility of public instruction, The year previous to the “settlement of i Raja Rammohun Roy in Calcutta, the Court of Directors, under the pressure of the Parliament, enjoined “that a sum of not less than a lakh of rupees, in each year, shall beset apart, and applied to the revival and improvement of literature and the encouragement of the learned natives of India and for the introduction and promotion of knowledge of the sciences among the British territories of India.” But it was not till many years afterwards that this sum was made available for the promotion of English education. In 1780 Warren Hastings had founded the Madrassa, a Mahommedan College in Calcutta for giving instruction to Mahommedan boys in Arabic and Persian. In 1791 Jonathan Duncan, Resident at Benares, did the same thing for the Hindus by establishing the Benares Sanskrit College, avowedly to cultivate “their laws, literature and religions.” The Fort William College was established at Calcutta in 1800 for the benefit of the members of the civil service. But up to the arrival of Rammohun Roy in Calcutta there were no public schools for the systematic teaching of English to Indian boys.

No sooner had Rammohun Roy settled in Calcutta than he began to concert measures for the introduction of English education among his countrymen. It will be seen that all the three agencies that have been at work during the last hundred years, for the diffusion of education on western lines in India, viz, private bodies, Government institutions, and Christian missions, owed largely to his initiative in the beginning. The earliest public institution for the teaching of English in India was perhaps the Hindu College of Calcutta, established in 1819. It owed its origin to a discussion at the Atmiya Sab ha of Rammohun Roy in 1815. The story of the establishment of that memorable institution was told by the great missionary educationist, Dr. Alexander Duft, before the Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1853, and we cannot do better than reproduce it here, Dr. Duff said in his evidence: “The system of English education commenced in the following very simple way in Bengal. There were two persons who had to do with it, one was Mr. David Hare, and the other was a native, Rammohun Roy. In the year 1815 they were in consultation one evening with a few friends as to what should be done with a view to the elevation of the native mind and characters. Rammohun Roy’s position was that they should establish an assembly or convocation, in which what are called the higher or purer dogmas of Vedanta or ancient Hinduism might be taught; in short the Pantheism of the Vedas and their Upanishads but what Rammohan Roy delighted to call by the more genial title of Monotheism. Mr. David Hare was a watchmaker in Calcutta, an ordinary illiterate man himself , but being a man of great energy and strong practical sense, he said the plan should be to institute an English School or College for the instruction of native youths. Accordingly he soon drew up and issued a circular on the subject, which gradually attracted the attention of the leading Europeans, and among others, of the Chief Justice Sir Hyde East. Being led to consider the proposed measure, he heartily entered into it, and got a meeting of European gentlemen assembled in May 1816. He invited also some of the influential natives to attend. Then it was unanimously agreed that they should commence an institution for the teaching of English to the children of higher classes, to be designted the Hindu College of Calcutta.”

Rammohun Roy threw himself into the project with characteristic energy but, with a rare self effacement, voluntarily withdrew from the committee, as some of the orthodox Hindu leaders on account of his religious views, objected to being his colleagues on it; which, however, did not affect his zealous exertions in its behalf from outside.

The share of Raja Rammohun Roy in inducing the Government to interest itself in the introduction of English education in India is well known. We have already mentioned that in 1813 the Director of the East India Company decided to set apart a lakh of rupees from the revenues of the country for educational purposes, when the question of the utilisation of this amount came up for discussion, there arose a difference of opinion among the high officials, including the members of the Council of the Governor General; one party wished to devote the Government grant to giving stipends to Pandits and Moulvis and scholarships to Arabic and Sanskrit students and to publishing oriental manuscripts for the revival of classical learning, and were called the Orientalists. The other party were for establishing schools and colleges on the model of English public schools for the spread of western scientific and literary education and were called the Anglicists. The battle raged for several years, till it was finally settled by the memorable decree of Lord Bentink’s Council of the 7th March 1835. Rammohun Roy had a large share in bringing about this momentous decision. At first the Orientalists were in the ascendant and succeeded in securing the Government grant for their purpose. In 1823 Raja Rammohun Roy addressed to Lord Amherst, then Governor General, a long letter which would alone immortalise his name. In it he advocated by unanswerable arguments the introduction of western education after the English model. The story has been told in full detail by Miss Collet. All we need point out here is that, but for Rammohun Roy’s seasonable intervention, the introduction of English education in India might have been indefinitely, at least for a long time, postponed. Though no immediate satisfactory reply was given to his letter, the success of the cause of the Anglicists now become assured; for when Rammohun Roy wrote on behalf of the dumb millions of India, demanding modern scientific education, it was felt that the ultimate triumph of the plea could not be far off.



Equally prominent was the part Raja Rammohun took in drawing the Christian missions into the field of Indian education. As soon as Rammohun Roy became acquainted with the several Christian denominations of Europe and America, he began to interest them in the problem of Indian education. He lost no opportunity of pressing upon them the importance and advantages of imparting modern scientific education to the people of India. We find him repeatedly writing to Unitarian leaders of his acquaintance in England and America “to send as many serious and able teachers of European learning and science and Christian morality unmingled with religious doctrines as your circumstances may admit, to spread knowledge gratuitously among the native community.” The Unitarians were not able to render the aid desired, but a similar request at another quarter bore excellent fruits, Rev James Bryce, the first Scottish Chaplain in Calcutta, was persuaded by Raja Rammohun Roy to write to the home authorities to send missionaries for the spread of knowledge and learning. Let us tell the story in the words of Dr. George Smith, the biographer of Dr. Duff. He writes: “It was Rammohun Roy too, who was the instrument of the conversion of the first chaplain, Dr. Bryce, from the opinion of the Abbe Dubois that no Hindu could be made a true Christian to the conviction that the past want of success was largely owing to the inaptitude of the means employed. Encouraged by the approbation of Rammohun Roy, Dr. Bryce presented to the General Assembly of 1824 the petition and memorial which first directed the attention of the Church of Scotland to British India as a field for missionary exertions.” Rammohun Roy, as an attendant of the St. Andrews Kirk, supported this memorial, in a separate communication. It was in response to this appeal that the Rev. Alexandar Duff, the pioneer of Educational Missions in India, was sent over by the Church of Scotland in 1830, Rev Alexander Duff arrived in Calcutta in 1830. The young missionary received a most cordial welcome and valuable help from Raja Rammohun Roy, but for whose timely cooperation he might have had to go back in disappointment. Let us again quote from the biographer of Dr. Duff: “In a pleasant garden house in the leafy suburbs of Calcutta, Raja Rammohun Roy, then fifty six years of age, was spending his declining days in earnest meditation of divine truth, broken only by works of practical benevolence among his countrymen, and soon by preparations for that visit to England, where in 1833, he yielded to the uncongenial climate. ‘You must at once visit the Raja’, said General Beatson, when Mr. Duff presented his letter of introduction, ‘and I will drive you out on an early evening’. Save by Duff himself afterwards, justice has never been done to this Hindu reformer, this Erasmus of India.” So the two remarkable men met, the farsighted Indian listened to the young Scotchman’s statement of his objects and plans and expressed general approval. Continues the biographer of Dr. Duff:

“Greatly cheered by the emphatic concurrence of Rammohun Roy Mr. Duff said the real difficulty now was, where or how, to get a hall in the native city; for the natives owing to caste prejudices, were absolutely averse to letting any of their houses to a European for European purposes. Then if a suitable place could be got, how could youths of the respectable classes be induced, since he was resolved to teach the Bible in every class, and he was told this would constitute an insuperable objection. Rammohun Roy at once offered the small hall of the Brahmo Sabha in the Chitpore Road, for which he had been paying to the five Brahmin owners 5 a month of rental Driving at once to the spot, the generous Hindu reformer secured the Hall for the Christian missionary from Scotland at 4 a month, Pointing to a punkhah suspended from the roof, Rammohun Roy said with a smile, ‘I leave you that as my legacy.’

“After a few days five bright eyed youths of the higher class, mostly Brahmanical, called upon Mr. Duff at Dr. Brown’s where he still resided, with a note of introduction from Rammohun Roy stating that those five, with the full consent of their friends, were ready to attend him whenever he might open the school.”

But the troubles did not end here. On the day of the opening of the School, i3th July 1830, as Dr. Duff put a copy of the Bible into the hands of each of the boys, there was murmuring among them, which found voice in the protest of a leader. “This is the Christian Shastra. We are not Christians; how then can we read it? It may make us Christians, and our friends will drive us out of caste.” Rammohun Roy had thoughtfully anticipated the crisis. And now he presented himself on the occasion. He gently persuaded the boys that there was no harm in reading the Christian Shastra. Christians like Dr. Horace Hayman Wilson had read the Hindu Shastras but they had not become Hindus. He himself had read the Koran but that had not made him a Mussalman, So the remonstrants were satisfied for the time. Day after day for a month Rammohun Roy would visit the school and frequently thereafter till he left for England. That small school was the pioneer of the splendid Missionary educational institutions which have done so much for the diffusion of education in India.

Rammohun Roy did not rest satisfied with helping others with his counsel and influence. With that entire devotion to purpose and thoroughness in execution which characterised all his efforts, Rammohun at a considerable expense established a school, called the Anglo Hindu School, for imparting free education in English to Hindu boys. Two teachers were employed, one on a salary of Rs. 150 and the other of Rs. 70 a month. Nearly the whole of the cost was met by the Raja from his own not superabundant resources. The school flourished for several years and did much good. Maharshi Devendranath Tagore received his early education in this school. One of its special features was the imparting of religious and moral instruction along with secular education, a course on which Rammohun Roy laid great emphasis.

Another great service which Raja Rammohun Roy rendered to the cause of education was the creation of Bengali prose literature. Though primarily affecting Bengal, it has indirectly exercised a highly beneficial influence over the whole country. The intellectual progress of a nation must ultimately depend upon the development of her mother tongue. During the last hundred years there has been a vast and widespread progress in the vernaculars of the country. In Bengal, in this matter as in many others, Raja Rammohun Roy was the pioneer. At the time of his birth Bengali literature did not count for anythiug. There had been some poets, whose extant writings are of considerable poetical merit; but of prose, which is after all the currency of a nation’s intellectual life, there was none. There were no religious, philosophical, historical or literary books or essays in Bengali prose. Rammohun Roy was the first to employ Bengali prose in expressing serious thought and making it a powerful medium of popular enlightenment and education. He translated Sanskrit scriptures, conducted religious controversies, wrote articles on moral and social subjects in simple, elegant Bengali prose. He even wrote text books on grammar, geometry, geography and other useful subjects in Bengali. He was also the father of that branch of literature which has become so common and so potent a factor of modern civilisation, viz, journalism, in Bengali, As early as 1819 he started a Bengali journal, called the Samvad Kaumudi } which was perhaps the first Bengali journal, and was largely instrumental in bringing about the transformation of thought and life in the province. Thus arose a new Bengali literature, which has steadily grown in volume and power ever since.

Equally important was the Raja’s contributions to the revival of Sanskrit study in Bengal. In his time Sanskrit was at a very low ebb in the province. Sanskrit learning was mainly confined to a mechanical cramming in grammar and the Smritis, The Vedas, the Upanishads, and the Vedant were almost forgotten. Though an earnest advocate of modern scientific culture, Rammohun Roy was no less ardent in his adMiration for and insistent on the revival of the ancient Aryan culture. At the discussions of the Atmiya Sabha as to the best means for the elevation of the Indian people, at which David Hare was present, Rammohun Roy seriously contended at first that “they should establish an assembly or convocation in which what are called the higher or purer dogmas of Vedantism or ancient Hinduism might be taught.” But later when he came to stand in favour of western scientific education, he did not altogether abandon his plea for the revival of ancient Hindu learning, but persevered singlehanded in his scheme and at last in 1826 succeeded in establishing a Vedanta college. He appears to have built a house and spent every month a considerable sum of money for it.

To convince people of the excellence of the ancient Hindu religious literature he, further, published some of the master pieces of the early times with translations in Bengali, English and Hindi. This had of course, the desired effect; others, following in his footsteps, laboured in this rich field; and there has grown a lively interest in the study of ancient Hindu religious literature of which Rammohun was the inaugurator. Eminent scholars of the present day have borne testimoney to the value of this phase of the Raja’s labours,

FATHER OF POLITICAL AGITATION xlvil

Pandit Kalibar Vedantabagish, a well known Vedantic scholar of recent times, observed at a public meeting in commemoration of the 63rd anniversary of the Raja’s death that “a great boon had been conferred on the country by Raja Rammohun Roy in reviving the study of Vedanta philosophy in Bengal and acknowledged in feeling terms how he was himself indebted to the Raja for having been first led to the study of the Vedanta by the Raja’s writings on the subject in the Tattwabodhini Patrika.”

The inestimable blessings which Rammohun Roy conferred on his countrymen by establishing the Brahmo Somaj has somewhat overshadowed the greatness of his services in other spheres. Not only was Raja Rammohun Roy the inaugurator of a new era in the religious history of India, he was equally the Father of the modern political awakening of the country. At the celebration of the death anniversary of the Raja on 27th, September, 1904, The Hon’ble Babu Surendra Nath Banerjee said, in the course of a speech, to be found in the Appendix: “Let it be remembered that Rammohun was not only the Founder of the Brahmo Somaj and the pioneer of all social reform in Bengal, but he was also the Father of constitutional agitation in India.” Before the time of Rammohun Roy’s public activities in Calcutta there was no glimmering of a political life in the country. People had no conception of their civil rights and privileges; nobody ever thought of approaching Government to make known their grievances and ask for redress. Raja Rammohun Roy was the first to enunciate the rights and privileges of the people, and in the name of the nation to speak to the Government of their duties and responsibilities as the sovereign power. The first stand made by the people of India in defence of their civil rights was when Raja Rammohun Roy, in his own name and in the name of five of his friends, submitted a memorial to the Supreme Court in Calcutta, on the 31st March, 1823 against the Ordinance of the then acting Governor General, Mr. Adarn, prescribing that thenceforth no one should publish a newspaper or other periodical without having obtained a licence from the Governor General in Council.” The conception as well as the execution of the memorial was Rammohun Roy’s own. Miss Collet has justly said of the memorial, “it may be regarded as the Areopagitica of Indian history. Alike in diction and in argument, it forms a noble landmark in the progress of English culture in the East.”

Whether for cogent reasoning or for convincing appeal the memorial could hardly he excelled. It would do credit to any statesman of any age. With a broad, liberal, farsighted statesmanship it enumerates the inestimable blessings of a free press both for the rulers and the ruled. After this Rule and Ordinance shall have been carried into execution, your memorialists are therefore sorry to observe, that a complete stop will be put to the diffusion of knowledge and the consequent mental improvement now going on, either by translations into the popular dialect of this country from the learned languages of the east, or by the circulation of literary intelligence drawn from foreign publications. And the same cause will also prevent those Natives who are better versed in the laws and customs of the British Nation from communicating to their fellow subjects a knowledge of the admirable system of Government established by the British and the peculiar excellencies of the means they have adopted for the strict and impartial administration of justice. Another evil of equal importance in the eyes of a just Ruler is that it will also preclude the natives from making the Government readily acquainted with the errors and injustice that may be committed by its executive officers in the various parts of this extensive country; and it will also preclude the Natives from communicating frankly and honestly, to their Gracious sovereign in England and his Council, the real condition of His Majesty’s faithful subjects in this distant part of his dominions and the treatment they experience from the local Government; since such information cannot in future be conveyed to England, as it has been, either by the translations from the Native publications inserted in the English newspapers printed here and sent to Europe or by the English publications which the Natives themselves had in contemplation to establish, before this Rule and Ordinance was proposed. After this sudden deprivation of one of the most precious of their rights which has been freely allowed them since the establishment of the British power, a right which they are not, cannot be, charged with having ever abused, the inhabitants of Calcutta would be no longer justified in boasting, that they are fortunately placed by Providence under the protection of the whole British nation or that the King of England and his Lords and Commons are their Legislators, and that they are secured in the enjoyments of the same civil and religious privileges that every Briton is entitled to in England.”



When this memorial was rejected by the Supreme Court, the Raja prepared a fresh memorial to be submitted to the King. Miss Collet has characterised this latter as “one of the noblest pieces of English to which Rammohun put his hand. Its stately periods and not less stately thought recall the eloquence of the great orators of a century ago. In a language and style for ever associated with the glorious vindication of liberty it invokes against arbitrary exercise of British power the principles and the traditions which are distinctive of British history.” It was really a marvellous production, considering the age and the circumstances under which it was written. But it had produced no better results than its predecessor. The Privy Council in November, 1825, after six months’ consideration declined to comply with the Cpetition. As a final protest, Rammohun Roy stopped his weekly Urdu paper, Miratul Akhbar, declaring his inability to publish it under what he considered degrading conditions. In 1827 Rammohun Roy made another spirited protest against the illiberal policy of the Government, which reveals his ever wakeful solicitude for the rights of his countrymen as well as his deep political insight. In 1826 a jury Bill for India was passed, which came into operation in the beginning of 1827. Rammohun Roy prepared and sent up to both Houses of Parliament petitions against it signed by Hindus and Mahommedans. On this occasion the Raja took his stand on the injustice and injudiciousness of making invidious religious distinctions in the administration of a country like India. The circumstances of the case will be clearly understood from the following concise statement in a letter written by Rammohun Roy on the i$th August, 1828 to Mr. J. Crawford: “In his famous Jury Bill, Mr. Wynn, the late President of the Board of Control, has by introducing religious distinctions into the judicial system of this country, not only afforded just grounds for dissatisfaction among the Natives in general, but has excited much alarm in the breast of everyone conversant with political principles. Any Natives either Hindu or Mahommedan, are rendered by this Bill subject to judicial trial by Christians, either European or Native, while Christians including Native converts, are exempted from the degradation of being tried either by a Hindu or Mussalman juror, however high he may stand in the estimation of society. This Bill also denies both to Hindus and Mussalmans the honour of a seat in the Grand Jury, even in the trial of fellow Hindus or Mussalmans. This is the sum total of Mr. Wynn’s late Jury Bill of which we bitterly complain.” Rammohun Roy supported his contention by referring to the miseries of Ireland arising out of civil discriminations between different religious beliefs. With reference to this letter, the biographer of the Raja remarks: “There is here in germ the national aspiration which is now breaking forth into cries for representation of India in the Imperial Parliament, ‘Home Rule for India’ and even ‘India for the Indians.’ The prospect of an educated India, of an India approximating to European standards of culture, seems to have never been long absent from Rammohun’s mind, and he did, however vaguely, claim in advance for his countrymen the political rights which progress in civilisation inevitably involves. Here again Rammohun stands forth as the tribune and prophet of New India.”

Indeed, the thoroughness and vigour of the Raja’s political efforts were astonishing. Even at that early age he carried his political agitations to the very centre of the seat of authority. His visit to England, fraught as it was with manifold consequences, had a farreaching effect on the politics of India. One of the main objects which he had in view in going to England was to lay before the British public the cause of India, and in this mission, he was remarkably successful. “Rammohun Roy’s presence in this country,” says the English biographer of the Raja, “made the English people aware, as they had never been before, of the dignity, the culture and the piety of the race they had conquered in the East. India became incarnate in him, and dwelt among us, and we beheld her glory. In the court of the King, in the halls of the legislature, in the select coteries of fashion, in the society of philosophers and men of letters, in Anglican church and Nonconformist meetinghouse, in the privacy of many a home, and before the wondering crowds of Lancashire operatives, Rammohun Roy stood forth the visible and personal embodiment of our eastern empire. Wherever he went, there went a stately refutation of the Anglo-Indian insolence which saw in an Indian fellow subject only a ‘black man’ or a ‘nigger’, As he had interpreted England to India, so now he interpreted India to England. But it was not merely by his silent presence and personality in England that he advanced the cause of India; but during his three years’ stay in that country he worked strenuously and incessantly on her behalf. He lost no opportunity of pressing the claims of India on those who were responsible for her good Government. He went to England at a very opportune time. The Charter of the East India Company was to be shortly renewed. Rammohun Roy had purposely chosen this time for his European visit that he might influence the authorities in inserting, in the new Charter provisions for the better administration of his country. His hopes were amply realised. He was asked to give his evidence before the Select Committee of the House of Commons appointed in February and reappointed in June 1831 to consider the renewal of the Company’s Charter, and he submitted his evidence in writing. His two papers on the Judicial and the Revenue systems of India, which appeared in the blue books and were subsequently reprinted by him, are masterpieces of political information and insight, and might be read with profit even at this day, while they must have largely influenced the decision of the authorities in his time. One cannot but be struck with the accuracy and exhaustiveness of the information and the soundness and breadth of the views of the writer. Among the principal measures he advocated were the substitution of English for Persian as the official language of the courts of law, the appointment of native assessors in the civil courts, trial by Jury, separation of the offices of Judge and Revenue Commissioner, of those of Judge and Magistrate, codification of the criminal law and also of the civil law in India, large employment of Indians in the civil service of the country and consultation of public opinion before enacting legislation. It is remarkable that, though himself a Zamindar, Rammohun Roy earnestly pleaded the cause of the agricultural peasants as against the Zamindars. He showed that, though the Zamindars had greatly benefitted by the Permanent Settlement of 1793, the condition of the actual cultivators continued as miserable as ever, the Zamindars being at liberty to enhance the rent constantly. “Such is the melancholy condition of agricultural labourers, “he wrote, “that it always gives me the greatest pain to allude to it.” The remedy he asked for was, in the first place, the prohibition of any further rise in rent and, in the second, a reduction in the revenue demanded from the Zamindar so as to ensure a reduction in rent. Thus Rammohun was the champion of the people at large and not of the class to which he himself belonged, Many of the reforms advocated by him have already been carried out, and the political leaders of the present day are still working out the programme laid down by him. Babu Surendra Nath Banerjee thus acknowledges in the address already referred to the political foresight of the Raja: “It is remarkable how he anticipated us in some of the great political problems of today.”

To turn next to the social work of Raja Rammohun Roy. The great reform with which his name will remain associated for ever is the abolition of Satz. But for his timely cooperation it is doubtful if the British Government could have suppressed this flagrant evil; it would certainly have continued for a much longer time. This inhuman custom had prevailed in India for many centuries and a few fitful efforts under the Hindu and Mahommedan rule to abolish it had ended in failure, At the time when Rammohun Roy turned his attention to this shameful wrong, it was, if anything, steadily on the increase. Though individual kind hearted officers looked upon the custom with abhorrence, the attitude of the Government itself was that of laisser faire; successive Governors declined to interfere with it for fear of wounding the religious susceptibilities of the people, which might lead to trouble, It was the efforts of Raja Rammohun Roy that made possible the drastic measures so promptly taken, Though there had been some talk and correspondence among the official circles as to their duty, it is evident that, but for the appearance of the great reformer on the scene, no decisive steps would have been taken at least for a long time, Rammohun Roy, by incessant agitation prepared the public mind on the one side and strengthened the hands of the Government on the other. By means of his writings and discussions he created a powerful public opinion in favour of the abolition of the cruel custom. He showed conclusively that the Hindu Shastras did not enjoin the burning of widows along with their husbands, and thus disarmed the objection of interference with the religious rites of the people. He removed all obstacles real or interposed, in the way of Government action. But even then the Government hesitated for a considerable time, and Rammohun Roy had to appeal to them in the name of humanity with all the earnestness of his nature, before they could be persuaded to take the momentous step. Rev. W. J. Fox justly remarked in welcoming the Raja on his arrival in London: “There is no doubt that it was greatly through his firmness, his enlightened reasonings, and his persevering efforts, that the Government of Bengal at last thought themselves enabled to interdict the immolation of widows. His arguments and his appeals to ancient authorities held sacred by the Brahmins, enlightened the minds of many of them; and made the merciful interposition of Lord William Bentinck and his Council, no longer regarded by them, and by persons connected with the East India Company at home, as an interference with the religions of the Hindus.” It was a great triumph of reason and humanity. A cruel wrong, a barbarous and inhuman atrocity, was blotted out from the face of the Hindu society. The yearly toll of many hundreds of noble, unselfish lives was stopped for ever. But more important than the immediate and visible good that resulted, a great principle was enunciated, a new era in the hoary Hindu society was inaugurated. The abolition of Sati marked the secure foundation of the social reform movement in India. For centuries past the Hindu society had been at the mercy of blind tradition and heartless custom. Cruel wrongs, gross injustices, disgraceful superstitions had passed unchallenged from generation to generation. Rammohun Roy dared, for the first time after the lapse of many centuries, to challenge the unquestioned authority of custom and tradition. He enunciated and upheld the dictates of reason, conscience and humanity against prejudice and public opinion and appealed to the intelligent authority of the Shastras against the blind, slavish submission to tradition, born of ignorance which passed for piety. Rammohun Roy taught the people to realise that everything that had come down from the past was not ideal and that a living society stood in constant need of readjustment to varying circumstances, Thus a new era of conscious, active reform was inaugurated in the Hindu society, of which Raja Rammohun was the leader and pioneer.

It is noteworthy that in his efforts for social reform Raja Rammohun Roy made use of all the three different methods the claims of which have often been placed in mutual antagonism in later times. He utilised every available aid from the Shastras; but he had faith as well in the reason, conscience and common sense of men, and always appealed to the humanity and moral sense of people. His controversial writings, appealing by turns to common sense, conscience and the authority of the Shastras, are admirably suited to the purpose of carrying conviction. He also did not hesitate to seek the aid of Government, where necessary and possible, to further his scheme for the improvement of social efficiency. Thus not only was he the pioneer of the social reform movement in modern India, but he also laid down the lines along which the work should be carried on.

Rammohun Roy did not rest satisfied with the mere preaching of reform principles, but boldly proceeded to carry them out in his own life and conduct. His daring visit to Europe was an example of heroic courage and practical reform. He was the first Hindu to cross the ocean. It was really the breaking of a spell, as it has been said, “which for ages the sea had laid on India.” We can understand the daring intrepidity of the act from the fact that even after Rammohun Roy had furnished an example, it was but rarely followed for many subsequent years and even now, there are hundreds who, even after receiving the highest education are still afraid of doing what Rammohun Roy did nearly a century ago. For India it was truly a momentous step an act of liberation. The English biographer of the Raja does not in the least overestimate the significance of this great enterprise in saying that “the consequences for his countrymen are such as to make this act alone sufficient to secure for its author a lasting distinction.”

During the few crowded years of his public life, the Raja set his hand to several items of the social reform programme of the present day. He denounced in scathing terms the many injustices and ill treatments which women were subjected to in the Hindu society of his day. He deplored the ignorance and the lack of education of women, while indignantly repudiating the insinuations against the intellectual and moral capacities of the gentler sex. He firmly believed that with “proper education and facilities for improvements, women would prove in no way inferior to men.” His chivalrous regard for women made him keenly sensitive to their wrongs and miseries. He wrote strongly against polygamy. He pointed out how the Hindu Shastras did not permit more than one marriage except under certain specified conditions. It is even said that he advocated the passing of a State Regulation to require a man before marrying a second time to obtain a license from a Magistrate or some other authorised Government officer certifying to such a defect in the existing wife as alone according to the Shastras justified a second marriage. The miseries of Hindu widows did not fail to attract the sympathy of his tender heart; but he had no time to do much for them. In an early issue of the Samvad Kaumudi (No 6 of 1821) we find a proposal to raise a Fund in aid of helpless Hindu widows. After his departure for England there was a widespread rumour that on his return, he would introduce the remarriage of Hindu widows.






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