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 V. (1821-1826.) Journalistic and Educational Pioneerwork

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CHAPTER V. (1821-1826.) Journalistic and Educational Pioneerwork


1821. [Second Appeal to the Christian Public in defence of The Precepts of Jesus’]. [Brahmunical Magazine I., II., III.] Dec. 4 Starts the Sambad Kaumudi.

1822 Baisakh. Starts the MiratalAkhbar. About this time opens AngloHindu School. Publishes Brief Remarks on Ancient Female Rights.

[Jan. 30 Final Appeal to the Christian Public.] 1823, March. Memorial against the Government Press Regulations. Appeal to the King in Council on the same. [May The Tytler Controversy].

[Nov. 15 Brahmunical Magazine IV.] Letter to Lord Amherst on English Education (Humble Suggestions to his Countrymen who believe in one God). 1824. [Prospects of Christianity.} Appeal for faminesmitten natives in South Deccan.

1825. Different modes of Worship. 1826. Published Bengali Grammar in English. His son acquitted of a charge of embezzlement. About the earlier part of the year, built the Vedant College.

It is characteristic of Rammohun’s manysided activity that during the period of his energetic and voluminous theological controversy, he was busily engaged in promoting native journalism and native education. His role was essentially that of the Enlightener; his one aim in publishing treatises on Unitarian divinity, in founding schools and colleges, and in conducting two newspapers was to enlighten the minds of his fellowcountrymen. He was certainly not the man to overlook the enormous value of the newspaper as an instrument for diffusing intellectual light. The relaxation in 1819 of the previously very stringent rules of press censorship enforced by the British Government was accepted by him as an invitation to the development of native journalism.

94 RAiMMOHUN ROY

The regulation requiring every newspaper before it was issued to be submitted to a Government official was dispensed with. Lord Hastings, the then Governor General contented ^himself with prohibiting animadversions on the actions of Government, discussions likely to create religious alarm among the natives, or otherwise to stir up dissension, relying for the rest on “the prudence and discretion of the editors.”

In a copy of Mr. Buckingham’s Calcutta Journal ‘in the latter part of 1821 appeared the “prospectus of a Bengalee weekly newspaper to be conducted by natives, printed and circulated in Bengalee and English/’ It was to be called Sambad Kaumudi or “The Moon of Intelligence.” It was to deal with ‘‘religious, moral and political matters; domestic occurrences; foreign as well as local intelligence.” The intimation of the price at which the new weekly was to be had is couched in terms of superabundant Oriental courtesy:

To enable us to defray the expenses which will necessarily be attendant on an undertaking of this nature, we humbly solicit the support and patronage of all who feel themselves interested in the intellectual and moral improvement of our countrymen, and confidently hope that they will with their usual liberality and munificence, condescend to gratify our most anxious wishes, by contributing to our paper a monthly subscription of two rupees, in acknowledgment of which act of their benignity and encouragement, we pledge ourselves to make use of GUI utmost efforts and exertions to render our paper as useful, instructive a\id entertaining as it can possibly be.

The first number appeared December 4. 1821.49 Its “address to the Bengal public” announced “the public good” to be its “guiding star.” It gratefully acknowledgs Lord Hastings’ action in removing the shackles from the Press. It promises to reprint in Persian, Hindustani and English such of its articles as seem to merit translation. It invokes the assistance of the Literati, and not the least significant promise of all it offers to publish “respectful expression” of native grievancess.

“A newspaper conducted exclusively by natives in the native language,” it describes itself as “a novelty t at least if not a desideratum.” We may regard it therefore as the parent, and Rammohun Roy as the founder, of native journalism in India.50 Its consequent significance for the future of the Empire justifies the statement here of the contents of a few of its earlier numbers.

No. I. The Editor’s address to the Bengali community.

An Appeal to the Government for the establishment of a School for the gratuitous instruction of the children of poor but respectable Hindus.

An account of a miser prince.

No. II. An Address to the natives, enumerating the advantages of reading newspapers.

Letter proposing to raise a fund to water the Chitpore Road. Account of implicit faith in a Guru and an extraordinary gift.

Letter suggesting 22 instead of 15 as the legal age for succeeding to hereditary property.

Satirical account of the lavish generosity at the funerals of certain rich natives, who when alive were notorious for niggardliness.

Humble address to the Government soliciting the extension of trial by jury to the Mofussil, Zila and Provincial Courts of Judicature.

No. III. An Appeal to the Government to relieve the Hindu community from the inconvenience consequent upon there being only one Ghaut for the burning of dead bodies; whereas an immense space of ground has been granted for the burial of Christians.

Appeal to Government for the prevention of exportation of the greatest part of the produce of rice from Bengal to foreign ports. Appeal to Government to enable the middle class of native subjects to avail themselves of the treatment of European physicians.

Appeal to the Calcutta magistrates to resort to rigorous measures for relieving the Hindu inhabitants of Calcutta from the serious grievance of Christian gentlemen driving their buggies amongst them and cutting and lashing them with whips, without distinction of sex or age, while they quietly assembled in immense numbers to see the images of their deities pass in the Chitpore Road, when many of them, through terror and consternation caused by the lashing inflicted on the spectators, fell down into drains, while others were trampled under foot by the crowd.

This last heading gives a vivid glimpse of the way in which “Christian gentlemen” from Britain failed to make either their rule or their religion beloved by the natives. It also shows us how readily Anglo-Indians writing in the Indian Free Press would call “public attention at home” to the new venture “ere it is too late,” and cry “Olsta principiis” No. VI., it may be noted, contains “an appeal to the rich Hindus of Calcutta to constitute a society for the relief of destitute widows, upon the principles of the Civil and Military Widows’ Fund, established by order of Government.” No. VII. urges on Hindu parents to get their children instructed in the native grammar before imposing on them the study of foreign languages. No. VIII. prints the plea of a philanthropist, who observing the misery caused by prejudices of caste, urges the Hindus not to debar themselves thereby from mechanical pursuits, but to cultivate “such arts as would tend to their comfort, happiness and independence.” The Sambad Kaumudi was for the common people. But Rammohun desired to supply information and guidance to the educated classes also, and in a form more peculiarly suited to their needs. In the following year (1822) he started a weekly newspaper in Persian, called the Mirat-al-Akhbar or Mirror of Intelligence, This came out on Fridays, as the Bengali organ on Tuesdays. The style of the new weekly may be gathered from an article which appeared in its issue of Oct. 11, 1822, on “Ireland; the Causes of its Distress and Discontents.” The article opens with a short statement of the geographical position and political history of the island. “The Kings of England having shut their eyes against justice, gifted away to their own parasites the estates of the Irish noblemen.” The account of the causes of Irish discontent is given with grave naivete.

Although all the inhabitants of this island call themselves the followers of the religion of Jesus Christ (upon whom and the rest of the prophets of God be peace and blessing!), yet a great number of them on account of their differing in some particular point of faith from the religion adopted by the King of England, follow their own clergymen and Pope in the performance of religious duties, and refuse adherence to the royal divines of the Established Church of England; and in consequence the stipends of their own divines are not defrayed from the revenue of the land but depend on the contributions of private individuals. Besides this, on account of the stipends of the royal clergymen who are appointed to officiate in Ireland, the Government of Ireland exact taxes every year from those who positively refuse to be led by these clergymen in religious matters. How admirable is the observation of Saadi (on whom be mercy!)

Do not say that these rapacious Ministers are the wellwishers of his Majesty:

For in proportion as they augment the revenue of the/ State, they diminish his popularity;

O statesman, apply the revenue of the King towards the comfort of the people; then during their lives they will be loyal to him.

This Persian poetry Mr. Gladstone only succeeded in translating into Parliamentary enactment in 1869. The second cause adduced is still (1897) an unsolved problem:

The nobles and other landed proprietors of Ireland pass their time in England, either with a view to raise themselves at Court, or to have all the luxuries of life at their command. And they spend in England an immense sum of the revenue of their lands, which they collect by means of stewards or farmers; and consequently the tradespeople in England benefit by the liberal manner in which they spend their money, instead of the people of Ireland. And their rapacious stewards or farmers, for their own advantage and in order to show their zeal for the interest of their masters unmercifully increase the rent of the land and extort those rents from the peasantry. So that many from their improper behaviour are now deprived of the means of subsistence. . . .

The natives are noted for their good natural abilities and open disposition, as well as for their generosity and hospitality. Foreigners are of opinion that from the climate of Ireland the people are of quick apprehension and easily provoked (God knows best!)

The practical upshot of these explanations of the situation is to announce the ravages of famine in Ireland and to give the names of “a number of respectable European gentlemen of liberal principles and a body of liberal natives of this country/’ who have, “for the love of God,” subscribed for the relief of the starving Irish. Irishmen who are proud of their nationality will not readily forget this tribute of appreciation and succour from one of the earliest pioneers of the National movement in India.

The National aspirations of Greece were not, however, favourably regarded by the Mirat. In an article published in November, 1822, quoted by a Calcutta paper as “expressing the feeling of the thinking part of the natives generally,” the writer rejoices in the receipt of the news of Turkish victory over the lebellious Greeks. He is manifestly jubilant that the Tsar with his grand army and his resolve “to conquer Turkey and destroy Islamism” was held back by Austria and England. Of the Greeks it is said, “Having returned from the deserts of rebellion, they have now taken up their abode in the city of comfort and obedience.” Editorial information or prescience was this time at fault, since the Greek rebellion which broke out in 1821 only ended in the achievement of Independence in 1832. For this attitude to Greece, Mahometan sympathy with Turkey was of course responsible.

Such free criticism of English policy in Europe as well as satiric reference to British insolence in treatment of natives on the public roads, naturally aroused European susceptibilities. John Bull, a Calcutta print, is ‘ridiculed by the Hurkaru (of September 2, 1822) for translating the Persian amiss and in its jealous apprehension rendering tursa “Christians” as “Infidels.” The Mirat was not lacking in loyalty. It was most eulogistic in its remarks on Lord Hastings, the then Governor General.

But the end of 1822 saw the close of Lord Hastings’ Governor Generalship with its liberal and enlightened policy. Between his departure and the arrival of Lord Amherst, his successor, the Hon. John Adams officiated as Acting Governor General. This temporary elevation of an inferior official was marked by characteristically official measures for the restriction of liberty. A single paragraph from the Mirat in February attests the arbitrary measures being adopted:

The eminently learned Dr. Bryce, the head minister of the new Scotch Churjh, having accepted the situation of Clerk of the Stationery belonging to the Honourable Company, Mr. Buckingham the editor of the Calcutta Journal observed directly as well as indirectly that it was unbecoming of the character of the minister to accept a situation like this; upon which the Governor General, in consideration of his disrespectful expression, “passed an order that Mr. Buckingham should leave India for England within the period of two months from the date of the receipt of this order, and that after the expiration of that period he is not allowed to remain a single day in India.

The Journal was suppressed, and at the close of 1823 Mr. Arnot, Mr. Buckingham’s assistant editor, was arrested and put on board a homegoing ship.

The notice expelling Mr. Buckingham was followed up, suddenly and without notice, on March I4th, by a rigorous Press Ordinance from the acting Governor General in Council. The preamble stated that “matters tending to bring the Government into hatred and contempt, and to disturb the peace of society have of late been frequently published and circulated in newspapers’ The Ordinance prescribed that henceforth no one should publish a newspaper or other periodical without having obtained a license from the Governor General in Council, signed by the Chief Secretary.

Before this regulation could come into force, the law required it to be fixed up in the Supreme Court for twenty days, and then if not disallowed, registered. It was accordingly entered on March I5th. On the 17th, Council moved the Court to allow parties feeling themselves aggrieved by the new regulation to be heard. Sir Francis Macnaghten, the sole Acting Judge, fixed the 31st for the hearing of objections, but suggested that in the meanwhile the objectors wo uld do well to state their plea in a memorial to Government. Foremost among those objectors was Rammohun Roy. He and his friends set about promoting the suggested petition, but, as he afterwards stated, “in preparing this memorial in both the English and the Bengalee languages, and discussing the alterations suggested by the different individuals who wished to give it their support and signature so much time was necessarily consumed, that it was not ready to be sent into circulation for signature until the 30th of March’ Consequently only fifteen natives had time to read and sign it; and the Government had no time, even if they wished, to act, Another memorial of the same tenour was hastily drawn up next day, signed by Rammohun and five other di stinguished native gentlemen, and by counsel submitted to the Supreme Court. This memorial was attributed by its opponents to an English author, but was really, as was generally acknowledged later, the work of Rammohun. 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.

The memorial first sets out the loyalty and attachment of the natives to British rule. They had trusted the Government with millions of their money. Relying on the Government, landlords had improved, instead of impoverishing as formerly, their estates. They had prayed for British victory during the Napoleonic wars. They rejoiced in the literary and political improvements due to British influence. They were most lo)al in Calcutta, where British sway was best known. Possessing the same civil and religious liberty along with a lighter taxation, they were not inferior in loyalty to Britishborn subjects. Among the institutions which tended to improve the minds and ameliorate the condition of the natives was the native Press, and chiefly the newspaper Press, with its four native newspapers two in Persian, two in Bengali. These journals had done nothing to disparage the Government or to promote dissension. “Native authors and editors / have always restrained themselves” from publishing matter obnoxious to the Government. Yet the Ordinance had been issued, requiring a license revocable at pleasure for all newspapers.

The first positive objection advanced against this new measure will probably strike all Westerns who are not Quakers or Tolstoyans with some surprise. In order to secure the license, the applicant was apparently required to make an affidavit or statement on oath. But, the Memorial proceeds:

Those natives who are in more favourable circumstances and of respectable character, have such an invincible prejudice against making a voluntary affidavit, or undergoing the solemnities of an oath that they will never think of establishing a publication which can only be supported by a series of oaths and affidavits, abhorrent to their feelings and ‘ derogatory to their reputation amongst their countrymen.

Light is thrown on this intense antipathy by a letter in the India Gazette, dated Dec. 9, 1824, from which the following sentences may be quoted:

I have frequently inquired of Hindus the reason of their objecting to swear; and the answers I have received have been, “If I put my hand into the Gunga Jul [Ganges Water], I put my hand into the fire of hell”; or “Should I happen to say one word which is not true, I shall be tormented during a hundred transmigrations”; or “I shall sink my ancestors into places of torment.” . . . They can make no distinction between voluntary and involuntary misstatements.51

The Memorial goes on to show that “a complete stop” in the diffusion of knowledge of a certain kind will result from the new Ordinance. The better informed natives will be prevented instructing the people in the admirable system of British Government. Natives will be precluded from acquainting the Government with the errors and injustice which its executive officers may commit in various parts of the country. After this deprivation of a right which they had not abused, the natives could no longer feel justified in boasting of the privilege of British protection. But surely the British Government will not follow the precedent of Asiatic despotism in hoping to preserve power by keeping the people in darkness. Experience proves that a good Government grows stronger as its subjects become more enlightened. Every good ruler, aware of human imperfection and amenable to reverence for the Eternal Governor, must be conscious of the liability to error involved in managing a great Empire and of the need of ready means of ascertaining consequent grievances. But the only effectual means is “Unrestrained liberty of publicaY tion”, subject to the regular law of the land.

On this memorial being read, its prayer was supported by the speeches of Counsel, Mr. Fergusson and Mr. Turton, But Sir Francis Macnaghten gave his decision in favour of the Press Ordinance. In doing so, he absolutely ignored the native memorial, “not alluding to it in the most distant manner, nor to the arguments it contained.” He further scandalized the memorialists by announcing that, before the Ordinance was entered or its merits argued in court, he had pledged himself to Government to give it his sanction.

There was but one resource left to the defenders of a free Press, and of that resource Rammohun did not hesitate to avail himself. He and his coadjutors appealed to the King in Council. The Appeal is 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 the arbitrary exercise of British power the principles and traditions which are distinctive of British history.

An eloquent recognition of the benefits of British rule, benefits which had led Hindus to regard the English rather as deliverers than conquerors, sets in effective contrast a statement of the grievance complained of. The native press had aided in diffusing these blessings and in inculcating an appropriate gratitude. The Friend of India, an organ of European missionaries, had acknowledged the valuable service rendered by the native newspapers and expressly declared that the liberty they possessed had not been abused by them “in the least degree.” The sudden withdrawal of this unabused liberty could only have as its motive the desire to afford Government and all its functionaries complete immunity from censure or exposure or public remark. The law of the land being competent to deal with any offences committed by newspapers against public order, the new and arbitrary restrictions, if meant seriously, seemed to suggest that Government intended to interrupt the regular course of justice and take the law into its own hands. A free Press had never yet caused a revolution; but revolutions had been innumerable where no free Press existed to ventilate grievances. If this avenue of redress should be closed to the natives, they would consider “the most peculiar excellence of the British Government of India” done away, and themselves condemned to perpetual oppression and degradation. It placed their civil and religious rights “entirely at the mercy of such individuals as may be sent from England to assume the executive authority, or” and here comes a politely covered thrust at Acting Governor John Adams “rise into power through the routine of office, and who from long officiating in an inferrior station, may have contracted prejudices against individuals or classes of men, which ought not to find shelter in the breast of the legislator.” Subordinate officials being fallible, Government ought to welcome the check imposed on them by the fact or dread of publicity. Even on the lowest ground, regarding India merely as a valuable property, the British nation would act wisely in seeing that so important an asset should have good care taken of it. Under Mahomedan rulers, Hindus had enjoyed every political privilege in common with Moslems, but under British sway they were not allowed similar equality with their conquerors; and the slight compensation offered them in the liberty of their Press was a right they were the less prepared to forego. The Appeal concludes with the alternative; either let His Majesty restore the freedom of the Press or let him appoint an independent Commission to investigate from time to time the condition of his Hindu subjects, restraint of some kind being absolutely necessary to preserve them from the abuses of uncontrolled power,

Argument and eloquence, however, proved of no avail against the Anglo-Indian dread of native criticism. The Privy Council in November, 1825, after six months’ consideration, declined to comply with the petition, presented by Mr, Buckingham, late of the Calcutta Journal, against the Press Ordinance of 1823.

Not many months after that Ordinance came into force, the Mirat ceased to appear. It lived in all only some sixteen months. The editor declared his inability to go on publishing under what he considered degrading conditions, and lamented that he, “one of the most humble of men,” should be no longer able to contribute towards the intellectual improvement of his countrymen. The Asiatic Journal of January, 1824, in recording the announcement, objects to it as having a “direct tendency to reflect on the act of Government.” So sensitive were Anglo-Indian susceptibilities that even the negative protest of a journalist ceasing to publish his paper was resented. Rammohun did not carry his protest so far as to stop the Sambad also. It was continued, and in fact survived its founder for several years. The question arises, why, if both must not be sacrificed, was the Mirat selected for sacrifice? Two reasons probably weighed with Rammohun: the greater cost and the greater risk of Government interference. The Mirat was addressed to a cultured constituency. The outlay involved in its production would therefore be larger, and its circulation smaller; while its more critical attitude would naturally excite the keener suspicion in the breast of thinskinned officials.52

The educational purpose which inspired Rammohun’s journalism led him into several more distinctively academic enterprises. His share in founding, along with Sir E. H. East and Mr. David Hare, the old Hindu College, has already been noticed. In 1822 he opened on his own account an Anglo-Indian School for imparting a free education in English to Hindu boys. With the exception of a few subscriptions from other friends, the whole of the funds required were supplied by Rammohun. Mr. Wm. Adam, who was one of the visitors, thus speaks of the School in 1827:

Two teachers are employed, one at a salary of 150 Rs. per month, and the other at a salary of 70 Rs. per month; and from 60 to 80 Hindu boys are instructed in the English language. The doctrines of Christianity are not inculcated, but the duties of morality are carefully enjoined, and facts facts belonging to the history of Christianity are taught to those pupils who are capable of understanding general history.

From reports of examinations, the school seems to have proved a fair success. The founder’s control over it was not less real and continuous than his support of it. Mr. William Adam strongly desired to make it a public institution, to solicit for it public subscriptions, and to put it under the control of the Unitarian Committee. But Rammohun firmly refused his consent to the scheme. Mr. Adam was much distressed and felt it his duty accordingly to restrict his activity as a visitor. Even in that narrowed sphere he came into collision with Rammohun’s strong will. He complained that his fellow visitor, whom he considered quite unsuited for the post, upset the plans and practices which Mr. Adam had painfully introduced into the school. Hut Rammohun would not part with the obnoxious visitor, whose popularity with the natives was great; and Mr. Adam resigned in high / dudgeon. This occurred in 1828.

Shortly after the opening of this school, in 1823, the year most crowded with his theological polemic, we find Rammohun in the thick of a great educational controversy. The British Government was known to be appropriating funds for the promotion of Indian education; and the kind of promotion most desirable was the subject of eager discussion. Should the Government seek simply to develop and deepen the education already in vogue in India? Or should it boldly endeavour to introduce the innovations of European science and European culture? The “Orientalists” clamoured for the exclusive pursuit of Oriental studies. They were hotly opposed by the “Anglicists,” chief among whom was Rammohun Roy. The Government seemed inclined to yield to the Orientalist view and announced the intention of establishing a Sanskrit College in Calcutta. The step drove Rammohun, undaunted by the scant courtesy which his former appeals to the British authorities had received, v’ to address a Letter on English Education to Lord Amherst, the new Governor General. In this letter he expresses profound regret that the Government was proposing to found a Sanskrit College “to impart such knowledge as is already current in India.” Such a seminary would, he argues, resemble those existing in Europe before Lord Bacon’s day, and would only “load the minds of youth with grammatical niceties and metaphysical distinctions of little or no practical use.” The Sanskrit language by reason of its great difficulty had been for ages a lamentable check to the diffusion of knowledge; but if it must be studied for the sake of the information it contains, its study might be promoted by grants to existing institutions where it was already taught. Rammohun sees no advantage in requiring young men to spend the best years of their life in the study of philological nicetie. c . A more remarkable feature of his contention is its criticism of the Vedanta. He had, it will be remembered, translated large portions of the Vedanta into modern tongues. He had warmly defended its teachings against the attacks of the missionaries. Nay, in the fourth number of The Brahmunical Magazine which was published almost in the very month in which this Letter was written, he was still engaged in defending Vedantic doctrine. Yet he now writes:

Neither can much improvement arise from such speculations as the following, which are the themes suggested by the Vedanta, in what manner is the soul absorbed in the Deity? What relation does it bear to the Divine Essence? Nor will youths be fitted to be better members of society by the Vedantic doctrines which teach them to believe that all visible things have no real existence, that as father, brother, &., have no actual entity they consequently deserve no real affection, and therefore the sooner we escape from them and leave the world the better.

This last objection to the Vedantic doctrines is precisely that advanced by the missionaries in the Sumachar Durpun and assailed by Rammohun in The Brahmunical Magazine. The apparent breach of consistency involved in its endorsement here, will be considered subsequently.

After further objections to the “imaginary learning” of Hindu schools, he summarily assures Lord Amherst that “the Sanskrit system of education would be the best calculated to keep this country in darkness.” What he wants to see established is “a more liberal and enlightened system of instruction, embracing mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry, anatomy, with other useful sciences.” This, he urges “may be accomplished with the sums proposed, by employing a few gentlemen of talent and learning educated in Europe and providing a College furnished with necessary books, instruments, and other apparatus.”

Of this letter Bishop Heber wrote in March, 182453:

Rammohun Roy, a learned native, who has sometimes been called, though I fear without reason, a Christian, remonstrated with this [Orientalist] system last year, in a paper which he sent me to be put into Lord Amherst’s hands and which for its good English, good sense, and forcible arguments, is a real curiosity, as coming from an Asiatic.”

The patronizing tone of these remarks reveals only too plainly the unfortunate attitude which Christian missionaries, even the most devout, assumed towards natives of India, who were, to say the very least, certainly not their inferiors.

“It was owing, perhaps, to this agitation,” remarks Jogendra Chunder Ghose on this letter to Lord Amherst, “that the foundation stone of the building intended for the Sanskrit College was laid in the name of the Hindu College (February, 1824), and the Hindu College was located there together with the Sanskrit College.”54

Within about a year of the completion of this Sanskrit and Hindu College, we find Rammohun taking a new and important step in his career as educational reformer. We learn from Mr. Wm. Adam, writing under date July 27, 1826, that:

Rammohun Roy has lately built a small but very neat and handsome college, which he calls the Vedant College, in which a few youths are at present instructed by a very eminent Pandit, in Sanskrit literature, with a view to the propagation and defence of Hindu Unitarianism. With this institution he is also willing to connect instructions in European science and learning, and in Christian Unitarianism, provided the instructions are conveyed in the Bengali or Sanskrit language.

The Western reader may perhaps be surprised to find Rammohun – scarcely two years after his opposing the Government scheme of a Sankrit College because of its promoting instruction in the Vedantic philosophy, - himself founding a Sanskrit and Vedant College. It may at first appear as much of a paradox as his advancing in the Letter to Lord Amherst the same arguments against the Vedanta which he had denounced in The Brahmunical Magazine. But to understand these seeming inconsistencies we must bear in mind the; complex nature of the Vedantic system and the different practical issues bound up in the several controversies. The teachings of the Vedanta lend themselves to a remarkable diversity of theological interpretation. They are appealed to equally by dualistic and nondualistic schools of thought. They contain passages which breathe a lofty and ethical Theism; in other places they seem to countenance a Pantheism Hiat is simply Acosmism, the denial of all finite existence; and they also include much that, judged by the standards of Western culture, is puerile and fantastic where it is not demonstrably false. According as the Vedanta is taught with or without a proper selective adjustment of its widely various contents, its value as a subject of instruction may be set high or low. In the ordinary Hindu schools it was taught in false perspective, with a discrimination exercised if at all, in favour of what was trivial, incorrect, polytheistic.^ Rammohun therefore opposed with all his might the suggestion that the British Government should perpetuate or encourage this kind of Vedantic instruction. At the same time he saw in the Vedant rightly handled and “rightly divided” a means for leading his countrymen out of their * prevailing superstition and idolatry into a pure and elevated Theism. Their devotion to the Vedantic scriptures was the lever by which Rammohun hoped to lift them into a simpler and nobler faith. Therefore he founded the Vedant College;i and therefore also he controverted the missionaries’ wholesale disparagement of the Vedanta. If the missionaries had succeeded in discrediting the Vedanta, they would in Rammohun’s eyes have broken down the bridge which enabled men to pass from Hindu Polytheism to Hindu Theism. He thus combated both the conservative Christian who advocated indiscriminate rejection and the conservative Hindu who advocated the indiscriminate retention of Vedantic teaching; and he provided for a discriminating instruction in the ancient system which should have the approval of liberal Hindus and liberal Christians.

This method is illustrated by a tract on Different Modes of Worship which appeared January 18, 1825. It was written in Sanskrit by Rammohun Roy under the name of Shivuprusad Shurma, and it was translated into English, with English annotations, by Rammohun Roy under the name of “A Friend of the Author.” It propounded the difficulty: Some Shastras enjoin worship by means of idols, others dissuade from it: how reconcile the contrary advice? It finds answer in certain sayings of Vyas in the Bhagavat and of Shreedhur his commentator, to the effect that idol worship, along with ritual observances, is only of value so long as a man has not yet become conscious that the Lord of the Universe dwells in all beings. When he attains that consciousness, his worship becomes the discharge of the four duties of ‘‘Charity to the needy,” “Honour to others,” “Friendship,” and “An equal regard to all creatures,” under the observant conviction that “the allpowerful Lord is in the heart watching over the soul.” The writer remarks in a note that “worship through matter” was sanctioned in Judaism though forbidden in Christianity. This reference suggests that Rammohun conceived of his Hindu Unitarianism standing to historic Hinduism as the New Covenant stood to the Old: a development of the spiritual core at the expense of the ritual and material kernel.

His Vedant College and his translations from the Vedanta served alike as witness to his continuity with the historic past of India and as the implement enabling him to connect her with a progressive future. But of his equal readiness to avail himself of the powerful solvents of English influences we are reminded by his publication in 1826 of a Bengali Grammar in English. His AngloHindu school and his “Anglicist” remonstrances had shown how eager he was to introduce the bettereducated classes of India into the new world of European literature; the Bengali Grammar reveals his anxiety to facilitate the inroad of the aggressive European in the dialect and understanding of the common people. In his Introducttion to the Grammar (June 12) he refers to “the persevering exertions of many European philanthropists in the noble attempt to ameliorate the moral condition of [the] inhabitants”; who “with a view to facilitate intercourse between themselves and the natives” and without expectation of finding any literary treasures in the language, labour to acquire the vernacular. This circumlocution in describing the missionaries and the careful avoidance of any reference to their distinctively religious work are significant; and are still more so when taken along with the express declaration which follows that he intended the Grammar “as a humble present for these worthy persons,” to aid them “in their own studies or in directing those of others.” Of this contribution to missionary philology Mr. W. Adam wrote at the time. “The work throws much new light upon the idioms of the language, but the arrangement is defective in consequence of the desultory mode of composition he indulges in.” A Bengali version of it was brought out by the author in 1833. Bengali owes much to Rammohun. It was his writings chiefly which raised it into a literary language. As by Wiclif in England and Luther in Germany, so also by Rammohun in Bengal, the despised dialect of the common people was made the vehicle of the highest ideas and became thereby permanently elevated. Reformation in religion has often proved ennoblement in language.

During the whole of this period of theological controversy and journalistic and educational activity Rammohun never left out of sight the more directly philanthropic projects to which he had early given himself. The campaign against Suttee was not allowed to flag. He used the Sambad Kaumudi as a regular weapon in this agitation. It was an agitation slowly but steadily affecting the attitude of the British authorities to the whole question. Of this the proceedings of the Nizamut Adaulut on the 25th of May, 1821, supply striking proof. The Chief Judge Leycester, while of opinion that Suttee could not be put down generally, advised its suppression “by proclamation” in divisions where it was little in practice, viz., Dacca, Moorshedabad and Bareilly and in Allahabad, Futtehpore, Bundelcund, and Calpee. The second judge, Mr. Courtney Smith, to his lasting honour be it recorded, demanded the “entire and immediate abolition” of Suttee. The two other judges, of those who drew up “Minutes” on the subject, pronounced against abolition as likely to imperil public order, but one of them, Mr. Dorin, suggested that the barbarous rite should be suppressed in a single district, say the Hooghly district, by way of experiment and example. He emphasized the extremely significant fact that, in answer to a circular sent out the previous year to the magistrates of the Lower Provinces, “about one half of the magistrates” declared in favour of total abolition at once. The reply of Lord Hastings, made on the 17th of the following July, stated that he could not approve any of the three suggestions, not feeling that the time had arrived for either experimental, gradual, or entire prohibition. He expressed the hope that the more educated natives would “gradually become disposed to abandon the practice.” He had doubtless in mind the propaganda of Rammohun Roy and his followers.

As though to lend confirmation to this hope, the indefatigable reformer in the course of the same year (1822) published a valuable tract on “Modern encroachments on the ancient rights of females according to the Hindu Law of inheritance.” In this he applied to social reform the method he had found fruitful in theological discussions. He appealed from the present to the past and over against the prescription of custom set the authority of antiquity. By numerous citations he proves that “All the ancient lawgivers unanimously award to a mother an equal share with her son in the property left by her deceased husband, in order that she may spend her remaining days independently of her children.” But unfortunately later jurists made void, by their expositions, this salutary law. As a consequence “both stepmothers and mothers have, in reality, been left destitute in the division of their husband’s property and the right of a widow exists in theory only among the learned but unknown to the populace.” Hence, “a woman who is looked up to as the sole mistress by the rest of a family one day, on the next becomes dependent on her sons and subject to the slights of her daughtersinlaw.” On the death of their husbands women had only three courses before them:

Firstly. To live a miserable life as entire slaves to others without indulging any hope of support from another husband.

Secondly. To walk in the paths of unrighteousness for their maintenance and independence.

Thirdly. To die on the funeral pile of their husbands, loaded with the applause and honour of their neighbours.

Having shown that Hindu antiquity, far from demanding Suttee, had made honourable provision for the maintenance of the widow, Rammohun passes on to attack the institution of polygamy, which had made difficult the fulfilment of the ancient law of female inheritance. Where plurality of wives was most frequent, as in Bengal, the number of female suicides was proportionately great. “This horrible polygamy among the Brahmuns is directly contrary to the law given by ancient authors.” A second marriage while the first wife was alive was allowed only on the ground of specified physical or moral defects.

It is interesting to learn from Mr. William Adam’s letters of 1826, Rammohun’s personal antipathy to polygamy. He was, as we have previously related, married by his father at nine years of age to two childwives. To both he felt himself bound to remain faithful, but on the death of one (in 1824), who was the mother of the children, he became in practice as in theory a monogamist. It is sad to find that even so his married life was not too happy. The Asiatic Journal Tor November, 1833, states in its obituary notice that “Rammohun Roy has left in India a wife from whom he has been separated^on what account we know not) for some years.”Babu N.N. Chatterjee states55 that Rammohun “lived apart from his wives simply because they were Hindus, and he was considered an outcast by them. His wives did not like to live with him.” All the more commendable, therefore, is his uniform and chivalrous championship of womanhood. So strongly was he opposed to polygamy that (Mr. Adam tells us) he inserted clauses in his will disinheriting any son or more remote descendant who had more than one wife at the same time. But he was, we are informed, a monogamist not on religious grounds but on grounds of expediency.


In his tract on the subject, Rammohun further recalls ancient authorities to show that a daughter was entitled to receive a fourth part of the portion which a son could inherit. This had been so far set aside by modern practice that the daughter was deprived of any portion if there were a son surviving and was even in express violation of ancient law sold in marriage. He concludes the tract with a guarded hope that not merely Hindu Pandits but European judges might be called in to pronounce on cases of disputed inheritance.

Lord Hastings’ despatch of August 15, 1822, which was written a few months before his departure from India, and which may therefore be taken to sum up the views formed during his Governor Generalship, shows the very high importance which the British Government attached to Rammohun’s campaign againtst Suttee. After deploring the increase in the number of victims during the previous year, which he attributed to the fanatic spirit roused by the divided state of feeling among the Hindus, “his lordship in council does not despair of the best effects resulting from the free discussion of the matter by the people themselves, independently of European influence and interposition; and . . . it only remains for him to watch carefully the indications of a change of sentiment amongst the people . . . and to encourage to the utmost every favourable disposition.” He thus went out of office with the hope that the practice would be extirpated not by the peremptory authority of the Government but by persuasive arguments of Rammohun and his following. He had reason highly to appraise the effect of their humane propaganda. It is interestingly attested in Bishop Heber’s Journal. From a conversation with Dr. Marshman, January 15, 1824, he learns in the first place that Suttee had increased of recent years, an increase which the Baptist imputed to “the increasing luxury of the higher and middling classes, and to their expensive imitation of European habits,” which made them eager to avoid the expense of maintaining widows. “But,” Dr. Marshman is reported to have said, “the Brahmuns have no longer the power and popularity which they had when he first remembers India, and among the laity many powerful and wealthy persons agree, and publicly express their agreement, with Rammohun Roy in reprobating the custom, which is now well known to be not commanded by any of the Hindu sacred books, though some of them speak of it as a meritorious sacrifice.” But opinion among the Government officials was, Bishop Heber remarks, still divided as to the practicabilty of prohibition. The Nizamat Adaulut was indeed, slowly moving towards the desired end. Mr. Haringay, one of the judges, proposed in a minute of June 28, 1823, to issue further regulations enabling the police to prevent Suttees taking place until full inquiry had been made. At the same time he personally approved suppression. His brother judges however held that to impose fresh regulations and safeguards was to deepen in the native mind the impression of the rite being legalized and countenanced by Government. Rather than add new ragulations, the majority of the Court were (July 23, 1824) of opinion that it would be preferable to pass an enactment for the future prohibition of Suttees throughout the country. The pressure of public opinion in Great Britain and in their own Court, led the Directors to express themselves very vigorously on the subject to the new Governor General, in a despatch of Juue 17, 1823. On Dec. 3rd 1824, LordAmherst in the course of his reply, declared:

We entirely participate with your honourable Court in the feelings of detestation with which you view the rite and in your earnest desire to have it suppressed,and we beg to assure you that nothing but the apprehension of evils infinitely greater than those arising from the existence of the practice could induce us to tolerate it for a single day.

The annual returns of the number of Suttees, with the comments of the Judges and the Governor in Council, kept the fires of public indignation well stoked. Each annual increase horrified, each decrease encouraged, the uprightminded into projects of reform. We append a table of totals up to the end of the period covered by this chapter.56 57

The famine in the Southern provinces of the Deccan in 1824 called forth from fourteen native signatories a singularly catholic appeal, which if not composed (as it was not signed) by Rammohun Roy, shows how his interreligional views were spreading. The appeal was for funds to establish in the faminestricken districts Chatrams, or charitable inns, for Hindus; Moslems, Christians, as the case might require, each providing the food needed by the respective religionaries. Christians were adjured to contribute in the name of Christ, and the duty was enforced by reference to His teachings. Moslems were similarly reminded of the precept and example of their Holy Prophet and AH; and Hindus were referred to humane sayings of Krishna and Bhisma. The Appeal proceeds:

We conjure those of the three faiths of Christians, Mussulmans, and Hindus, in the name of our common Creator and God, to show the affection that man, as a commoner of nature, should bear to his fellowman, by relieving so many individuals of those three religions who are dying daily for want of their usual sustenance.

The same wide sympathy with men of different faiths which breathes through this Appeal is illustrated by a project which Rammohun cherished a year later. Writing in 1826, Mr. Wm. Adam announces that Rammohun “is about commencing a life of Mahomet, who has, he thinks, been much misrepresented both by his friends and his enemies.” The line he took over the Precepts of Jesus, against nonChristians and orthodox alike, suggests the line which this biography of the prophet of Arabia would have followed. It is a matter of profound regret that the idea was never carried out. A study of the founder of Islam by the founder of the BrahmoSamaj would doubtless have formed a valuable contribution to the religious development of modern India.

The close of this period was temporarily clouded for Rammohun by grave domestic anxiety. His son was “the confidential native servant of the Burdwan Collector of Revenue” and was prosecuted on a charge of embezzlement of the public money. He seems, writes Mr. Adam, “to be the victim, partly of the negligence of his employer and the envy of his fellow servants.” It was only a part of the campaign of persecution carried on in the law courts against the hated Reformer. Suspense of the issue weighed heavily on Rammohun’s mind. We find him under the pressure of it neglecting his correspondence with English and American friends, as Mr. Adam feels bound to explain to them. The youth was acquitted in the Circuit Court in February, 1826, but the case was carried thence before the Sudder Nizamut Adaulut. Happily, Mr. Adam was able to write in August of the same year that “Rammohun Roy is very well, having lately brought the prosecution against his son to a successful issue.” But the end of this vexatious forensic attack was not yet.

The intensity of fatherly affection which Rammohun here displayed sets in a more remarkable light the method of education he had adopted with his growing boys. Mr. William Adam, in his lecture on Rammohun, declares:

He employed no direct means, no argument or authority, no expostulation or entreaty to turn his sons from the idolatrous practices and belief, in which they had been educated by the female members of his family and by the Brahman priests whom they cousulted and followed. He gave them a good education; by his personal demeanour secured a place in their esteem and affection; set them an expample in his life and writings; and then left them to the influence of idolatrous associations on the one hand, and to the unfettered exercise of their reason on the other. His eldest son, the hope of his heart, for some time after attaining mature age, continued an idolater; but before his father’s death, with his. younger brother, abandoned the superstition of the country, and zealously cooperated with his father.58




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