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


CHAPTER I. (1772-1803) Searching for Truth

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CHAPTER I. (1772-1803) Searching for Truth


1772, May 22. His birth at Radhanagar,

1781-82. Second and third Marriages.

1787. Leaves home to study Buddhism in Thibet.

1790-91. Returns home and shortly afterwards settles at Benares,

1800. Birth of his elder son, Radha Prasad.

1801. First acquaintance with Mr. John Digby, of Bengal C.S.

1803. Death of his father, Ram Kant Roy.

Rammohun Roy was born in the village of Radhanagar, near Krishnagar, in the Zilla of Hugli, on the 22nd of May, 1772.1

His pedigree has been preserved up to a very early date, but we need not trace it in detail beyond his great grandfather, Krishna Chandra Banerji,2 who entered the service of the Nawab of Bengal, and received from him the title of “Roy Roy,” afterwards contracted into Roy, which has ever since remained the designation of the family. This occurred during the reign of the Emperor Aurungzib (1619-1707.)

Krishna Chandra is said to have been an acute and able man, and a zealous member of the Vaishnava sect. He had three sons; Hari Prasad, Amar Chandra, and Brajabinode. Brajabinode Roy was wealthy and philanthropic and devotedly attached to his gods. He was employed under the Nawab SirajudDowla in some honourable position at Murshidabad, but on account of some ill treatment, he quitted that employment, and spent the rest of his life at home. His fifth son, Ram Kant Roy, was the father of our hero. But Rammohun’s maternal ancestors belonged to the rival sect of the Saktas, of which his mother’s father was a priest, a curious conjuncture of antecedents for the future reformer of Hinduism. How this came to pass is thus narrated: As Brajabinode Roy lay dying on the banks of the Ganges, a man named Shyama Bhattacharjya, of Chatara near Serampore, came to him requesting a boon. He was of honourable parentage, and his family were well known as the priests of the locality. The kind hearted Brajabinode readily consented, and swore by the Ganges to grant the boon; whereupon Shyama Bhattacharjya asked permission to bestow his daughter in marriage upon one of Brajabinode’s sons. Now as he was not only the priest of a rival sect, but a Bhanga Kulin3 the dying man felt as if he had been trapped, but having sworn by the Ganges, he could not break his word. So he called his seven sons and requested them, one by one, to make good his promise. All refused except the fifth son, Ram Kant, who readily accepted the unwelcome bride, and in due course married her. They had three children: the eldest was a daughter (name not recorded); the second and third were sons, Jaganmohun and Rammonun. The daughter married one Sridhar Mukherji, said to have been a clever man (whose father is reported to have lived to his 125th year), and her son, Gurudas Mukerji, was much attached to his uncle Rammohun, and is said to have been the tatter’s first convert in his own family.

Ram Kant Roy had also another wife, of whom nothing is known except that she had a son named Ramlochan, of whom but little is recorded. But it is quite evident that Ramohun’s mother was the mistress of the household. Her name was Tarini, but she was always called Phulthakurani, i.e., “the fifth son’s wife.” She was a woman of strong character and of fine understanding, and appears to have had considerable influence over her husband.4

All that is recorded of Ram Kant Roy shows him to have been an upright and estimable man. He, like his father, served for a time (as a Sarcar) under SirajudDowla, but subsequently retired to Radhanagar.5 Here he rented some villages from the Raja of Burdwan, which seems to have been the first beginning of a long series of disputes between the Raja and the Roy family. Judging from the full report of a lawsuit brought against Rammohun Roy many years later by this Raja, he appears to have been so unscrupulous a man that we may fairly conclude him to have been in the wrong in his early conflicts with Ram Kant Roy, who was often so disgusted with the treatment he received that he would neglect his affairs for a while, and retire to meditate and tell his Harinain beads in a garden of sacred Tulsi plants. He was very devout, and a staunch believer in Vishnu as the Supreme God, and in Rama as the last incarnation but one of Vishnu. Fortunately for his domestic peace, his Sakta wife was soon led to adopt his beliefs, which she did so heartily as to occasion some slight friction with her father, if legend speaks truly.

Such was the home into which Rammohun Roy was born. His father spared no expense in his education; and local traditions assert that he showed great intelligence at an early age, and possessed a remarkably tenacious memory, never forgetting anything which he had once heard or read. After completing his school course of Bengali education, he took up the study of Persian (then the Court language throughout India), and soon became fascinated by the mystic poetry and philosophy of the Persian Sufis, for which he retained an ardent attachment throughout his life. He was next sent to Patna to learn Arabic, and (it is said, by his mother’s desire) to Benares to learn Sanskrit. At Patna his masters set him to study Arabic translations from Euclid and Aristotle, and he then also made acquaintance with the Koran. All these influences, especially the last, tended inevitably towards the disintegration of his earliest religious beliefs, which had been very fervent. His friend, William Adam, wrote of him in 1826: “He seems to have been religiously disposed from his early youth, having proposed to seclude himself from the world as a Sannyast, or devotee, at the age of fourteen, from which he was only dissuaded by the entreaties of his mother.” It is said that his reverence for Vishnu was at one time so great that he would not even take a draught of water without first reciting a chapter of the Bhagavat Puran. The boundless veneration which he is said to have entertained for his father’s household deities, is still more characteristically illustrated by the story that he could not bear to witness the performance of the Yatra (or popular play) of Man Bhanjan, in which the god Krishna weeps clasping the feet of his fair Radhika, and his peacock headgear and green clothes are seen rolling in the dust.

Another anecdote is reported of his Hindu period, that “for the attainment of knowledge and wisdom,” he had, at a great expense, a certain ceremony performed for him 22 times, called Purashcharan, consisting in a repetition of the name of a deity, accompanied with burnt offerings.

But Rammohun was not to pass out of this early phase without one mark of Hinduism which remained to colour his whole life. While yet a mere child, his father married him three times. The first bride died “at a very early age ‘* (not specified), and after her death, as we learn from William Adam’s letters, “his father, when he was only about nine years of age, married him within an interval of less than a twelvemonth to two different wives. This was in perfect conformity with the usuage of his caste [the Kulin Brahman] and was done when he was incapable of judging for himself.”6

At last came the inevitable break. All accounts agree that it was preceded by much theological discussion between Rammohun and his father, and it is probably to this period that we should refer the following reminiscences of Mr. Adam, given in his Memorandum of 1879.

“It is not often that we get an insight into Hindu family life, but his [Ram Kant Roy’s] son gave me a slight glance at least in referring to the amicable differences that arose between himself and his father on this subject. I inferred from what R. R. said that he always left it to his father, as the head and most venerable member of the family, to open the question which he thought fit to moot, and when he had finished his immediate argument, he was generally willing to listen to his son with patience, which sometimes, however, forsook him. The son’s response after the necessary perliminary admissions, usually began with the adversative particle ^Buf (Kintu). ‘ But notwithstanding all this, the orthodox conclusion you aim at does not follow.’ The father complained of this, and on one occasion, at least, burst out in the tone of remonstrance, as of an injured party: ‘ Whatever argument I adduce you have always your Kintu, your counterstatement, your counterargument, your counter conclusion to oppose to me.’ The son recounted this to me with half a smile on his lips and a touch of humour in his voice, but without any expression of disrespect to his father.

What follows may best be told in the words of Dr. Lant Carpenter:

“Without disputing the authority of his father, he often sought from him information as to the reasons of his faith; he obtained no satisfaction; and he at last determined at the early age of 15, to leave the paternal home, and sojourn for a time in Thibet, that he might see another form of religious faith.7 He spent two or three years in that country, and often excited the angers of the worshippers of the Lama by his rejection of their doctrine that this pretended deity a living man was the creator and preserver of the world. In these circumstances he experienced the soothing kindness of the female part of the family; and his gentle, feeling heart lately dwelt with deep interest, at the distance of more than forty years, on the recollections of that period which, he said, had made him always feel respect and gratitude towards the female sex.”

The precise extent and duration of his travels is not known;8 but they appear to have lasted about three or four years, and to have been terminated by a message of recall from his father, who is said to have grieved much at his absence, and to have shown him great kindness on his return.

But all accounts agree that he did not remain long under the family roof, the incompatibility being too great. Our only actual knowledge as to his next step is derived from his own evidence in the Burdwan lawsuit already referred to, in which he states that “so far from inheriting the property of his deceased father, he had, during his lifetime, separated from him and the rest of the family, in consequence of his altered habits of life and change of opinions, which did not permit their living together.” Whither he betook himself none of his biographers seem to have known; but happily the missing fact is supplied in the letters of his friend, William Adam, who wrote in 1826 that Rammohun, after relinquishing* idolatry, “was obliged to reside for ten or twelve years at Benares, at a distance from all his friends and relatives, who lived on the family estate at Burdwan, in Bengal.” Referring to this period, another friend has testified as follows: ‘ So strongly were his feelings wrought upon by the alienation which then commenced, that through life, under the pressure of dejection or disease, the frowning features of his father would rise unbidden on his imagination.”9 *

Probably he fixed his residence at Benares on acccount of the facilities afforded by that sacred city for the study of Sanskrit; and if so, we may conclude that it was chiefly at this period that he acquired his extensive knowledge of the Hindu Shastras. Certainly it was not till then that he began family life on his own account, for his eldest son, Radha Prasad, was born in the year 1800, when Rammohun must have been about twenty eight years old, apparently seven years after his return from travel. On what resources he then subsisted does not appear. The only lucrative occupation in which he is ever known to have been engaged was his work in the Civil Service under the East India Company; but that must certainly be referred to a later date, as he only began to learn English in 1796, and had not obtained much proficiency in it by 1801. Probably, however, in such a seat of Hindu learning as Benares he might have obtained employment by copying manuscripts. In any case, he seems to have remained there until his father’s death in 1803. It is a relief to know that after all their differences, the father and son were together at the last. This we learn from Mr. Adam, who reports as follows in his Memorandum:

“R. Roy, in conversation, mentioned to me with much feeling that he had stood by the deathbed of his father, who with his expiring breath continued to invoke his God Ram! Ram! with a strength of faith and a fervour of pious devotion which it was impossible not to respect although the son had then ceased to cherish any religious veneration for the family deity.”

Ram Kant Roy was succeeded in his estate by his son Jaganmohun. Rammohun inherited no portion of his father’s ‘ property.10



CHAPTER II (1803-1814.) Throwing Down the Gauntlet*

Rammohun publishes his first work, Tuhfat-ul-Muwahhidin or A Gift to Monotheists.

He enters the Bengal Civil Service. 1805, May 9. Mr. John Digby becomes Register at Ramgurh.

1808, June 15. Mr. Digby becomes Register at Bhagalpur.

1809, Oct 2O Mr. Digby becomes Collector at Rungpur.

1811. Death of Jaganmohun Roy and suttee of his widow.

Rammohun’s vow.

1812. Birth of Rammohun’s second son, Rama Prasad Roy. 1814. Rammohun takes up his residence in Calcutta.

Relieved from the fear of paining his father, Rammohun soon began to make his heresies known to the world. He removed to Murshidabad, the old Moghul capital of Bengal, and there he published his first work, a treatise in Persian (with an Arabic preface), entitled TuhfatulMuwahhidin, or, A Gift to Monotheists. This was a bold protest against the idolatrous element in all established religions,11 the drift of the treatise being that while all religions are based on one common foundation, viz., the belief justified by the facts, in One Supreme Being who has created and sustains the whole universe, they all differ in the details of the superstructure erected thereupon, these superstructures being all equally unjustified by any basis of fact, and arising solely from the imagination of men working in vacua. The treatise bears many traces of Rammohun’s Patna training, being written in an abstruse style, and abounding with Arabic logical and philosophical terms. Its arrangement is, however, quite unsystematic, and the whole is merely a series of descriptive sketches; but these show much acuteness of observation and reasoning, and are pervaded by a strong tinge of that bitter earnestness which results from the long suppression of intense feeling. The author writes as though he had been obliged to stand by and witness a number of priestly impositions which he could not hinder and was prevented from exposing; and no doubt this had really been the case. The treatise is important as the earliest available expression of his mind, and as showing his eagerness to bear witness against established error but it is too immature to be worth reproducing as a whole. A few passages only are worth quoting as indications of what he was at this early period.

It may be seen that the followers of certain religions believe that the Creator has made mankind for the performance of the duties bearing on our present and future life by observing the precepts of that particular religion; and that the followers of other religions who differ from them are liable to punishment and torment in the future life. And as the members of each particular sect defer the good results of their own acts and the bad results of their rivals’ acts to the life after death none of them can refute the dogmas of others in this life. Consequently they sow the seeds of prejudice and disunion in the hearts of each other and condemn each other to the deprivation of eternal blessings whereas it is quite evident that all of them are living in the equal enjoyment of the external blessings of heaven, such as the light of the stars, the pleasure of the season of spring, the fall of rain, health of body, external and internal good, and other pleasures of life; and that all are equally liable to suffer from inconveniences and pains, such as gloomy darkness, severe cold, mental disease, narrow circumstances and other outward and inward evils, without any distinction, although following different religions.

The Brahmins have a tradition that they have strict orders from God to observe their ceremonies and hold their faith for ever. There are many injunctions to this effect in the Sanskrit language, and I, the humblest creature of God, having been born among them, have learnt the language and got those injunctions by heart; and this nation having confidence therein cannot give them up, although they have been subjected to many troubles and persecutions, and were threatened with death by the followers of Islam. The followers of Islam on the other hand, according to the purport of the holy verse of the Koran ‘Kill the idolators wherever you find them, and capture the unbelievers in holy war, and after doing so either set them free by way of obligation to them or by taking ransom,’ quote authority from God that killing idolators and persecuting them in every case are obligatory by divine command. Among those idolators the Brahmins, according to the Moslem belief, are the worst. Therefore the followers of Islam, excited by religious zeal, desirous to carry out the orders of God, have done their utmost to kill and persecute thepolytheists and unbelievers in the prophetic mission of the Seal of Prophets [Mohammed], and the blessing to the present and future worlds (may the divine benediction rest on him and and his disciples). Now are these contradictory precepts or orders consistent with the wisdom and mercy of the great, generous, and disinterested Creator, or are these the fabrications of the followers of religion? I think a sound mind will not hesitate to prefer the latter alternative.

There is a saying which is often heard from teachers of different religions as an authority for their several creeds. Each of them says that his religion, which gives information about future reward or punishment after death, is either true or false. In the second case, i. e., if it be false, and there be no future reward or punishment, there is no harm in believing it to be true; while in the first case, t. e., its being true, there is a great danger for unbelievers. The poor people who follow these expounders of religion, holding this saying to be a conclusive argument, always boast of it. The fact is that habit and training make men blind and deaf in spite of their own eyes and ears. The above saying is fallacious in two respects. Firstly, their saying that in the second case there is no harm in believing it to be true, is not to be admitted. For to believe in the real existence of anything after obtaining proofs of such existence is possible to every individual man; but to put faith in the existence of such things as are remote from experience and repugnant to reason is not in the power of a sensible man. Secondly, the entertaining a belief in these things may become the source of various mischiefs and immoral practices, owing to gross Samvad Kaumudi, want of experience, bigotry, deceit, &c. And if this argument were valid, the truth of all forms of religion might be proved therefrom; for the same arguments may equally be advanced by all. Hence there would be great perplexity for a man. He must either believe all religions to be true, or adopt one and reject the others. But as the first alternative is impossible, consequently the second must be adopted and in this case he has again to make inquiries into truth and falsehood of various religions, and this is the chief object of my discourse.

The followers of different religions, seeing the paucity of the number of Monotheists in the world, sometimes boast that they are on the side of the majority. But it may be seen that the truth of a saying does not depend upon the multitude of sayers, and the nonreliability of a narration cannot result from the small numbers of its narrators. For it is admitted by the seekers of truth, that truth is to be followed although it is against the majority of the people. Moreover, to accept the proposition that the small number of the sayers leads to the invalidity of a saying, seems to be a dangerous blow to all forms of religion. For in the beginning of every religion it had a very few supporters, viz, its founder and a few sincere followers of his, . . . while the belief in only one Almighty God is the fundamental principle of every religion.

In short, men may be divided into four classes in reference to this subject,

1st. Deceivers who in order to attract the people to themselves, consciously invent doctrines of religious faith and cause disunion and trouble among men.

2nd. Deceived persons who, without inquiring into the facts,follo\v others.

3rd. Persons who are at the same time deceivers and deceived; having themselves faith in the sayings of another, they induce others to follow his doctrines.

4th. Those who by the help of Almighty God are neither deceivers nor deceived.

These few short and useful sentences expressing the opinion of this humble creature of God, have been written without any regard to men of prejudice and bigotry, in the hope that persons of sound mind will look thereon with eyes of justice. I have left the details to another work of mine entitled Manazarutul Adyan^ Discussions on Various Religions.

P. S. In order to avoid any future change in this book by copyists, I have had these few pages printed just after composition. Let it be known that the benediction pronounced in this book after the mention of prophets is merely done in imitation of the usual custom of the authors of Arabia and Ajan.



The Discussions on Various Religions12 above alluded to are, unhappily, no longer procurable. I conclude then it must have been in one of these that Rammohun made some rather sarcastic remarks on Mahomet, to which reference is made by several of his biographers as having excited an amount of anger against him among the Mahomedans which was a chief cause of his removing to Calcutta. In Mr. Leonard’s History of the Brahmo Somaj, these sarcastic remarks are said (p. 27) to occur in the Tuhfat, but certainly no such passage is to be found there. On the other hand it is indubitable that Rammohun always retained a large amount of sympathy with Islam for the sake of its cardinal doctrine of the Unity of God, and that he warmly appreciated the good which had thence resulted in counteracting Hindu idolatry. Mr. Adam says that Rammohun “seemed always pleased to have an opportunity of defending the character and teaching of Mahomet,” of whom indeed he began to write a biography which was unhappily never finished.

It must have been at this period that Rammohun Roy entered the Civil Service under the East India Company. The exact date of his doing so I have not been able to ascertain; but (for several reasons) it can scarcely have been before his father’s death, and it must have occurred not long after that event. Our only contemporary information on the subject comes from Mr. John Digby, an English gentleman who was for several years Rammohun’s superior officer in the Bengal Civil Service, and who during a visit to England, edited a reprint of Rammohun’s translations of the Ken Upanishad and Abridgment of the Vedanta (London, 1817) to which he prefixed an interesting account of the translator In this he said:

Rammohun Roy . . is by birth a Brahmin of very respectable origin, in the province of Bengal, about forty three13* years of age. His acquirements are considerable: to a thorough knowledge of the Sanskrit (the language of the Brahminical Scriptures) he has added Persian and Arabic; and possessing an acute understanding, he early conceived a contempt for the religious prejudices and absurd superstitions of his caste. At the age of twentytwo [really twentyfour, /. Miration of the talents and prowess of the late ruler of France, and was so dazzled with the splendour of his achievements as to become sceptical as to the commission, if not blind to the atrocity of his crimes, and could not help deeply lamenting his downfall, notwithstanding the profound respect he ever professed for the English nation; but when the first transports of his sorrow had subsided, he considered that part of his political conduct which led to his abdication to have been so weak, and so madly ambitious, that he declared his future detestation of Buonaparte would be proportionate to his former adMiration.

From a paper furnished to me by the courtesy of the India Office, I learn that Mr. Digby was never so long as five years at any station except that of Rungpur, where he served from October 20, 1809, to December, 1814, when he returned to England for a few years. Now it is at Rungpur that popular tradition chiefly connects the name of Rammohun Roy with Mr. Digby; but as Mr. Digby was previously at Ramgurh (1805 to 1808) and Bhagalpur (1808 to 1809), and as Rammohun mentions in his evidence on theBurdwan lawsuit having resided at “Ramgurh, Bhagalpur, and Rungpur,” it is highly probable that he was working under Mr. Digby in the two former localities before he went to Rungpur , although we have no details as to the successive posts which he then occupied.

It is usually stated by Rammohun’s biographers that “a written agreement was signed by Mr. Digby to the effect that Rammohun should never be kept standing (a custom enforced by European Civil Servants towards natives of the highest rank) in the presence of the Collector, and that no order should be issued to him as a mere Hindu functionary.” So far as I can trace, this statement first appeared in a letter by Mr. R. Montgomery Martin (in whose words I have quoted ifr) in the Court Journal of October 5, 1833, J ust a ^ ter Rammohun’s death. So many statements in that letter are undoubtedly erroneous that I can feel no assurance as to the fact of this written agreement. There can, however, be no doubt that Mr. Digby held Rammohun in high regard, and that a sincere friendship existed between them, honourable alike to both.

Mr. G. S. Leonard in his History of the Brahmo Somaj, based on a MS. work by a highly respected member of the Adi Brahmo Somaj, makes the following statement:

The permanent settlement of Zemindaries under Lord Cornwallis in 1793, and its ratification by the Court of Directors some three years after, required a general survey and assessment of all lands in Bengal under European collectors, some of whom were empowered with the settlement of several districts at once. Mr. Digby had the charge of settling the districts of Rungpur, Dinajpur and Purnea,a work which kept him employed for three years, and in the execution of which he gained a lasting renown in the memory of the people for justice and probity, a result which is mainly due to the exertions of his dewan.

Pandit Siva Nath Sastri mentions in his excellent, but unfortunately unpublished,14 History of the Brahmo Somaj that the state of things in the above mentioned districts of Northern Bengal

. . . was especially complicated. Here there were many powerful landlords who had a large number of unsettled disputes, and almost every individual case of settlement involved the examination of a variety of records and documents and the consideration of conflicting claims. In many cases there were no documents whatever to substantiate the claims of actual owners of land, and they required personal attendance and local inquiry from the settlement officer. In settlement work in those days, the trusted native Sheristadars were, as a rule, the chief agents employed by the Collectors, who were guided to a large extent by their decisions and counsels.

Mr. Leonard enumerates as Rammohun’s special qualifications for this work, his “proficiency in zemindary accounts and land surveying”; “his acquaintance with all the cunning and dishonest devices of the Amins and Amlahs in furnishing false accounts and statements “; and also “the practical reforms he suggested regarding the ascertaining of rightful ownerships and descriptions of land, &c.” I have not been able to procure any original documents of this period which could fix dates and events; but the above summaries come from reliable sources and may be accepted as genuine.

From all accounts, it was during his residence in Rungpur that Rammohun first began to assemble his friends together for evening discussions on religious subjects, especially on the untenableness and absurdities of idolatry. Rungpur was then a place of considerable resort, and among its inhabitants were a good many merchants from Marwar in Rajputana, Jainas by faith. Some of these Marwaris used to attend Rammohun’s meetings, and Mr. Leonard says that “he had to learn on their account the Kalpa Sutra, and other books appertaining to the Jaina religion,” and adds:

He met, however, with much opposition from a counter party headed by Gauri Kanta Bhattacharjya, a learned Persian and Sanskrit scholar, who challenged him in a Bengali book entitled the Cyan Chandrika. This man was Dewan to the Judge’s Court at Rungpur, and his influence enabled him to gather a large body of men about him whom he hounded on to Rammohun Roy, but without any success.

A far more serious hostility was that of his mother. As already mentioned, the family estate passed at Ram Kant Roy’s death in 1803, into the hands of his eldest son, Jaganrnohun. He died in 1811. To whom it then passed, I have sought in vain to discover. Certainly it did not go to Rammohun Roy; yet a few years later we find him in possession of it, and his mother bringing suits against him to deprive him of the property on the ground of his dissent from the current religion. I have not succeeded hitherto in obtaining any published report of these suits, but the following passage from William Adam leaves no doubt as to their reality.

When the death of Rammohun Roy’s elder brother made him the head of the family, she [his mother] instituted suits against her son both in the King’s and Company’s Courts, with a view to disinherit him as an apostate and infidel, which according to strict Hindu law, excludes from the present and disqualifies for the future, possession of any ancestral property, or even according to many authorities, of any property that is selfacquired.

In this attempt she was defeated; but for many years he had much to suffer from her persecution. In his great grandson’s Anecdotes there is a story of his going to see her on returning from Rungpur, and being harshly repu’sed from her embrace, when she is reported to have said, “If you would touch me, you must first go and bow down before my Radha and Govinda”; whereupon, it is added, “Rammohun, who so loved his mother, submitted and went to the house of the gods and said “I bow down before my mother’s god and goddess.” If this be true, it can scarcely have been done so as to impose seriously on his mother, for he never relaxed in his public attitude towards idolatry. But the anecdote may stand as a halfmythical illustration of the great reluctance with which he opposed his parents’ faith. Another of these anecdotes tells of his mother’s anger because, when in bad health, he had by his doctor’s advice, taken some broth made from goat’s flesh. On this occasion, it is said, she raised a great disturbance, and adjured the family thus: “Be careful! Rammohun has turned Christian, and has begun to eat forbidden things. Let us all unite and drive him from my ground; wholesale ruin has begun!” This would seem to imply that he still held some footing in Burdwan, and did not reside entirely at Rungpur during the whole of Mr. Digby’s five years there (1809 to 1814). Probably his family still remained in the ancestral neighbourhood. At any rate, it is clear that owing to his mother’s hostility, he had to remove them. But the whole of Krishnagar belonged to her, and she would not let him have any land there for his own. He therefore took up his quarters on a large burningground at the village of Raghunathpur not far off, and there he built a house for himself.

It must have been during this period that one of his hostile neighbours, named Ramjay Batabyal, an inhabitant of the village of Ramnagar near Krishnagar, resorted to a curious mode of persecution. He collected a number of men who used to go to Rammohun’s house early in the morning and imitate the crowing of cocks, and again at nightfall to throw cowbones into the house. These proceedings greatly annoyed and disturbed Rammohun’s womankind, but he himself took it with perfect coolness, and made no retort whatever; which enraged his persecutors all the more. At last, however, finding him hopelessly impervious, they wearied of their attacks and desisted therefrom.15

With respect to the family estate, which probably passed at the death of Jagamohun Roy to his son, Govinda Prasad Roy, it has been suggested to me by one of Rammohun’s descendants that Govinda Prasad may have failed to continue the payment of the land tax, in which case the estate would have been thrown into the market; and that Rammohun, who had by that time saved money in Government Service, may have bought it in. Certainly he came into possession of it while’ his mother still lived. It would appear, however, that after he had established his right to the property, he did not at once take possession of it, from reluctance to pain his relatives, and that “for sometime everything remained as before in the hands of his mother. She taking up the superintendence of the land under her own care, managed the affairs most successfully. . . It is said that Phulthakurani used to place before her all her numerous gods and godesses while superintending the management of her landed property.’ 16

It is always stated by Rammohun’s biographers that in his ten years’ Government Service he saved enough money to enable him to become a zemindar or landowner, with an annual income of Rs. 10,000 (about i, ooo). Commenting on this fact, Babu Kishory Chand Mitra, in a long and elaborate sketch of Rammohun which appeared in the Calcutta Review of December, 1845, insinuates that such gains raise the suspicion that he “sold justice.” “If, he says, “Rammohun Roy did keep his hands clean, and abstained, as in the absence of all positive evidence to the contrary we are bound to suppose, from defeating the ends of justice for a consideration he must have been a splendid exception.” Mr. Leonard, in his History of the Brahmo Somaj, refutes these unworthy suspicions by pointing out that “if Kishory Chand had possessed any knowledge of the duties of a dewan in those early days, and the legal perquisites appertaining to the office recognised by Government,” he would not have been entitled to wonder at Rammohun Roy’s gains. “It is no great achievement to amass by frugality and thrift a lakh of rupees after ten years’ service, the value of a dependent Taluk of Rs. 10,000, when others have been known by a service of half or a quarter that time, to have made a provision of ten times that amount.” Mr. Leonard also remarks that a had Mr. Digby’s dewan been so corrupt as he is suspected to have been, Mr. Digby himself would never have obtained renown for justice and probity.” But the insinuations of K. C. Mitra, though admittedly made “in the absence of all positive evidence,” have unhappily been repeated from the early memoir by later writers, and were reproduced so lately as 1888 in the Saturday Review. So difficult is it to rectify a false impression once given.

Mr. Digby left Rungpur for England at the end of 1814; and in the course of that year Rammohun took up his residence in Calcutta.17 But previous to doing so, he seems to have been living for a short interval at his house on the burningground at Raghunathpur. In front of this house he erected a mancha or pulpit, for the purpose of worship and engraved upon each of its sides three mottos from the Upanishads. (i) “Om” (aum) the most venerable and solemn designation of the Hindu Trinity; (2) “Tat Sat” That [i.e., He] is Truth; and (3) “Ekamevadvitiyam” - The One without a second. Here he offered his prayers thrice a day; and on going home, and on again returning to Calcutta, he would first walk round this mancha, said to be still standing. It was in reference to this mancha that his youngest wife, Uma, is said to have asked him which religion was the best and highest? Rammohun is said to have replied: “Cows are of different colours, but the colour of the milk they give is the same. Different teachers have different opinions, but the essence of every religion is to adopt the true path,” i.e., to live a faithful life.

One other family event in this preparatory period of Rammohun’s life must be chronicled here. At the death of his eldest brother Jaganmohun in 1811, the widow became a Suttee. It is said that Rammohun had endeavoured to persuade her beforehand against this terrible step, but in vain. When, however, she felt the flames she tried to get up and escape from the pile; but her orthodox relations and the priests forced her down with bamboo poles, and kept her there to die, while drums and brazen instruments were loudly sounded to drown her shrieks. Rammohun,18 unable to save her, and filled with unspeakable indignation and pity, vowed within himself, then and there, that he would never rest until the atrocious custom was rooted out.19 And he kept his vow. Before 19 years had fully elapsed, that pledge was redeemed by the Government decree abolishing Suttee, Dec. 4, 1829.





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