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Calcutta: 1914



CHAPTER I. (1772-1803) Searching for Truth 45

CHAPTER III. (1814-1820.) First Regular Campaign: Spiritual Theism versus Idolatry and Suttee. 58

CHAPTER IV. (1820-1824.) Regular and Irregular Campaigns against Trinitarian Orthodoxy. 78

CHAPTER V. (1821-1826.) Journalistic and Educational Pioneerwork 100

CHAPTER VI. (1826-1828.) Founding the BrahmoSamaj 116

CHAPTER VII. (1828-1830.) The Abolition of Suttee 128

CHAPTER VIII. (1830-1833.) Embassy to Europe 145



SONNETS. (By Mary Carpenter). 183












THE Life and Letters of Raja Rammohun Roy, which Miss Sophia Dobsoii Collet had under- taken to compile, but which was not finished at the time of her death, was completed by a gentle- man at her dying request and was published privately by Mr. Harold Collet in 1900. The book, though greatly appreciated by the admirers of Raja Rammohun Roy, had not the opportunity of a wide circulation. When the first edition was exhausted I requested Mr. Collet to bring out another edition. Mr. Collet wrote to me that he had discharged his duty by bringing out the first edition and was notable to take the responsibility of another edition. On my requesting to give me permission to bring out a new edition, Mr. Collet gladly made over the copyright to me.

While preparing the present edition I thought it would be desirable to embody into it all the new matters that have been brought out up to this time regarding the life and work of Rammohun Roy. I have therefore tried to include in the present volume everything worth preserving out of the voluminous literature about Rammohun Roy that has grown up during the last thirty years. I have also embodied in it all the materials of permanent interest in Miss Mary Carpenter’s Last Days of Raja Rammohun Roy, which was omitted by Miss Collet and the continuator, as that book has long been out of print and there does not seem to be any probability of its being reprinted in the near future. My endeavour has been to make the present volume a complete up-to-date collection of all available information about the Father of modern India.

Though the present edition has considerably exceeded the compass of its predecessor, I have taken care to keep it in tact; all new matters have been given as foot-notes, when possible, or in the appendix and the introduction. In giving extracts I have scrupulously adhered to the spelling of the original sources. The footnotes supplied by me have been enclosed within brackets to distinguish them from the footnotes in the original.

I am happy that I have been able to prefix a brief sketch of the life of Miss Collet; my only regret is that it is not fuller. I hope, however, it may serve to remind the new generation of Brahmos our immense debt of gratitude to that noble-minded English lady.

The Nest, Knrseong. j HEM c ^^ SARKAR . 15th. August, 1913.)



INTRODUCTION ... ... ... ... ... xxxiii

CONTINUATOR’S NOTE ... ... ... ... Ixxxtti



His birth at Radhanagar Second and Third Marriages- Leaves home to study Buddhism in Tibet Settles at Benares Birth of his elder son First acquaintance with Mr. John Digby Death of his father.


Publishes his first work Enters Bengal Civil Service- Death of Jaganmohun Roy and Suttee of his Widow Rammohun’s Vow Birth of Rammohun’s second son- Residence in Calcutta.


Rammohun settled in Calcutta Founds the Friendly Association Translates the Vedanta into Bengali Writes Abridgement of it, and publishes it in Bengali, Hindustani, and English Translates Kena and Isha Upanishads Letter to Mr. Digby “Defence of Hindu Theism, I. and II.” Translates Mandukya, Munduk and Katha Upanishads English edition of his first Tract on Suttee- Discussion with Subrahmanya Sastri Second Tract on Suttee.


Precepts of Jesus Appeal to the Christian Public Second Appeal Mr. Adam’s conversion Brahminical Magazine Calcutta Unitarian Committee formed Sambad Kaumudi started Mirat-ul-Akhbar Brief Remarks on Ancient Female Rights Starts Anglo-Hindu School Answers to Four Questions Monthly Meetings Third and Final Appeal to the Christian Public Memorial against Government Press Order Letters in Hurkaru Ram Doss papers Cessation of Mir at Rajah of Burdwan begins Jaw suit against Rammohun Roj Letter to Lord Amherst Humble Suggestions to his Countrymen who believe in one God Scottish Missionaries Medicine for the Sick Letter to Rev. H. Ware on Prospects of Christianity Appeal for Famine in S. India


The Enlighter Sam&ac/ Kaumudi, &c. Press regulations Appeal to the King in Council Modes of Worship’ Bengali Grammar Son acquitted Builds Vedant College.


Religion the Root of his life Relation to Hinduism and Christianity Divine Worship by means of the Gayuttree Unitarian Services Why do you frequent a Unitarian Place of Worship? Adam’s Lectures for Natives British Indian Unitarian Association Hindu Services Adam resigns First meeting of the Brahmo Somaj.


Increase of Suttee Lord Amherst declines to order total suppression, and leaves India Lord William Bentinck arrives His minute on Suttee Ramrnohun’s letter on European Indigo planters Abolition of Suttee The Jury Bill Title of Rajah Adi Samaj building opened Trust Deed Duffs School Rammohun sails for England.

VIII. EMBASSY TO EUROPE ... ... ... ... 173

Rammohun sails from Calcutta Calls at Cape Town Arrives in Liverpool Manchester London East India Company Bedford Square Presented to the King Reform Bill passed Paris London Bristol Illness, death and burial. Appendix

Sonnets ... ... ... ... ... 243

Autobiographical sketch ... ... ... ... 249

Rammohun Roy the Father of Political

Regeneration of India ... ... ... ... 253

Rammohun Roy as a Jurist and Politician ... ... 256

Raj a Rammohun Roy as a man of letters ... ... 259

The National and the Universal in Raja Rammohun Roy 263

The Spirit of Rammohun Roy ... ... ... 266

INDEX ... ... ... ... ... 273


RAMMOHUN’S WORKS ... ... .., ... 279

Sophia Dobson Collet.


A Biographical Sketch.


Since its foundation, the Brahmo Somaj, the Theistic Church of modern India, has attracted the warm adMiration and enthusiastic devotion of a few large hearted Europeans men and women. One of the most remarkable among these was the late Miss Sophia Dobson Collet. Her connection with the Brahmo Somaj was almost of the nature of a romance. Impressed by the magnetic personality of the founder of the Brahmo Somaj, whom she had seen in South Place Chapel, London, when she must have been a girl of ten or eleven, she remained a most loyal and devoted supporter of his church throughout life. Though not in complete agreement with the tenets of the new movement, she was ever vigilant in her solicitude and unwearied in her exertions for its advancement. No member, not even a devoted missionary, could have worked harder for, or watched with warmer interest, the progress of the infant church. A lifelong invalid, ailing constantly from many bodily infirmities, she procured and preserved, from a distance of many thousand miles, every bit of information about Brahmos and the Brahmo Somaj which was unknown even to workers on the spot. To be able to read the publications concerning the new church, she, late in life, learnt the Bengali language. Her information about the Brahmo Somaj was wonderful in every way. It is not too much to say that she was the greatest authority on the contemporary history of this movement. She carried on extensive correspondence with many Brahmos. It is a pity that her letters have not been preserved and no record of her life has been published by those who knew her personally. To her the Brahmo Somaj owes, indeed, a deep debt of gratitude unspeakable; and by this community her memory should ever be cherished with love and esteem. With a view to reminding the younger generation of Brahmos of their indebtedness to this noble hearted English lady, the following brief sketch is prefixed to her greatest work, the Life and Letters of Raja Rammohun Roy, by one who has always felt profound gratitude and veneration towards Miss Collet for her invaluable services to the Brahmo Somaj.

Sophia Dobson Collet was born on the 2nd Feb., 1822 in a Unitarian family of London long connected with India. Her great granduncle Joseph Collet, was Governor of Fort St. George (Madras) for about two years from 1719. The family has still in its possession a curious model, about two feet high, of Governor Collet in court dress, which was made in India after the original and sent home to his brother, Samuel, from whom Miss Collet was descended. Her mother’s brother, Captain Collet Barber also was in the service of the East India Company.

Miss Collet’s father was a merchant. He died when she was but four years of age. Owing to an accident to her mother sometime earlier Miss Collet was an invalid from her birth, being afflicted with curvature of the spine. On account of her physical defects she seemed not to have been sent to school, but was carefully educated at home, principally by her mother’s sister, Miss Mary Barber, a lady of remarkable sweetness and nobility of character and of eminent culture. Miss Barber was greatly loved, not only by her nieces and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews but also by a large number of friends not related to her, who too would call her “Aunt Mary”.

The family connections with India might have had some thing to do with Miss Collet’s interest in the Brahmo Somaj. But the great impetus came when she saw Raja Rammohun Roy in South Place Chapel, London. Though then only a girl of tender age, she must have been greatly impressed, for throughout her life she retained a warm attachment for the Raja, whom she always used to call “Rammohun”. In her later life she was most anxious to bring out a Life of the Raja. She often used to say to friends that her one desire was to live long enough to complete her book about Rammohun. How strong that desire was is evident from the note of the gentleman, who, at her earnest dying request, completed the work. Miss Collet wrote to him “I am dying. I cannot finish my ‘Life of Rammohun Roy. But when I enter the Unseen, I want to be able to tell Rammohun that his Life will be finished. Will you finish it for me? “

The little girl of ten never forgot Rammohun or lost sight of his work. Quietly she kept watching and collecting every detail of information about the Samaj, which the Master had founded before leaving his beloved land to die in England.

Her earliest writing about the Brahmo Somaj that we have been able to trace was a letter in the British Quarterly Review for July 1869 refuting certain allegations against Keshub Chandra Sen. By this time she had put herself in communication with the rising leader of the progressive section of the Brahmo Somaj, for whom she entertained great adMiration and regard until the Cooch Behar marriage brought about an unfortunate revulsion of feeling.

The British Quarterly Review for April 1869 published an article on the “Brahmo Somaj or (Theistic Church) of India”, tracing its growth from its origin in 1830 under Rammohun Roy down to its latest phase under the influence of Keshub Chandra Sen. In this article, in spite of a general fairness of tone, the reviewer concluded by making the following grave charge against Keshub: “Like Chaitanya and other great teachers of Hinduism, Keshub Chandra Sen permits the more degraded of his followers to prostrate themselves before him and worship him.” Miss Collet at once wrote a letter to the editor contradicting the charge against Mr. Sen, whom she called her friend. She also wrote to the Daily Telegraph, the Inquirer, the Unitarian Herald and other papers to remove the false impression so created.

To vindicate the position of Keshub Chandra Sen more fully and to give the English public a correct idea of the Brahmo Somaj, Miss Collet contributed an article to the Contemporary Review of Feb., 1870 under the title of “Indian Theism and its Relation to Christianity.” With reference to it the Illustrated London News wrote: “The Contemporary Review is better than it has been for a long time. The most interesting paper is Miss Collet’s excellent account of the Hindu religious reformers, the Brahmo Somaj.” The Spectator similarly observed: “This number (of the Contemporary Review] is more than usually varied and interesting. The most noticeable article is Miss Collet’s Essay on Indian Theism and its relation to Christianity, reviewing the present position of a movement which has been well known for the last forty years as the Brahmo Somaj.” In this article Miss Collet gave a full and clear account of the Brahmo Somaj from its foundation by Raja Rammohun Roy, through its development under Maharshi Debendra Nath Tagore, down to its then recent activities under Keshub Chandra Sen. The name of the Brahmo Somaj was not quite unknown in England. Miss Cobbe had previously sketched the rise and progress of the Brahmo Somaj down to 1866; and Miss Carpenter had also recently added some new details to the stock of popular information on the subject. But the true nature and power of the Brahmo Somaj, were never “traced out so clearly,” (thus Allen’s Indian Mail remarked) “as in Miss Collet’s paper”. It created a great interest in the new religious movement of India among the more enlightened British public. The article was reproduced and commented upon widely in the British Press. As one main object of Miss Collet in writing the paper was to vindicate the position of Keshub Chandra Sen, who had been accused first of being a Christian at heart and subsequently of recanting his Christian confession, a large part of it was devoted to explaining the real position of Mr. Sen. These accusations were based on two lectures which he had recently delivered on “Jesus Christ, Europe and Asia 5 ‘ and on “Great Men” within an interval of about six months. Miss Collet, though avowedly a Christian who nursed, at this period, a faint hope that Keshub might yet accept Christianity, showed from the utterances of the Brahmo leader that there was no inconsistency in his position. An English contemporary, in reviewing the article, wrote: “Her avowed sympathy with the popular Christianity does not blind her to the real worth of its young Indian rival, or tempt her to mistake the fables of prejudiced opponents for truthful pictures of the Church established by Rammohun Roy, and largely renewed by Keshub Chandra Sen. In her essay there is none of the small unfairness to a rival worship which led the writer in the British Quarterly Review to accept the scandals lately circulated against the present leader of young India’s revolt from Brahmanism, The Eastern tendency to hyperbole in jesture as well as speech gave Keshub Chandra Sen’s enemies a seeming handle for accusing him of letting his disciples offer him divine honours, while the homage invariably paid by him to the human excellences of the Christian redeemer round the bitter resentment of those Brahmoists who saw in it a concession to the believers in a triune Godhead. At one moment he was accused of being an orthodox Christian; and then because another of his lectures referred to Christ as but one of many prophets, his Christian critics charged him with cowardly recantation of his former sentiments. Miss Collet however has the good sense to see how little his various utterances contradict each other, and how entirely they all belie the notion of his seeking to set himself up as a superhuman mouth piece of the God he worships. She has the honesty to interpret the Brahmoist leader by himself, instead of taking the cue from others, or from isolated passages in Keshub Chandra Sen’s writings. His lecture on Great Men, as she truly observes, supplemented the argument of his previous lecture on Jesus Christ. From the two thus taken together, it is easy to see how naturally such a man might hold up Jesus as the great bond of connection between East and West, the highest model of human holiness and purity, ‘the greatest and truest benefactor of mankind’, without for a moment pledging himself to any one article of the Trinitarian theology, or forgetting his own doctrine that ‘every man is, in some measure, an incarnation of the divine spirit’.” It will thus be seen that Miss Collet was entirely successful in her object of vindicating the position of Babu Keshub Chandra Sen. She concluded her advocacy of the Brahmo Somaj with the following fervent appeal to the British public: “They thirst after the ‘One God without a second’, the uncreated Father of spirits, and long to sweep away all that may seem to obscure His perfect light. Now this is surely a right instinct, and the indispensable foundation of all religion that deserves the name. It should also be remembered that, in God’s ‘education of the world,’ every lesson has to be mastered separately. It took the Hebrews some centuries to learn their pure Theism, and only when that was for ever rooted in the heart of the race was the eternal son revealed. It is possible that some process may be in store for India, where the Gospel has hitherto taken so little hold of native minds as to suggest the idea that some hidden link needs to be supplied between it and them. If so, such preparation is certainly beginning, however unconsciously under the Brahmo Somaj. Whatever their imperfections they are doing a work for God which greatly needs doing, and which He will surely ‘lead into all truth’ in His own time and in His own way. Let us not, then, refuse our Christian sympathies to these Hindu Unitarians, as fellow worshippers of our common Father, fellow learners of the teaching of His Son, fellow seekers of the kingdom of Heaven “

With her characteristic thoroughness she republished the article of the Contemporary Review in pamphlet form with some additions and alterations. The Spectator of London, in the course of a sympathetic review, characterised it as a “most able and interesting account of the religious tendencies of the movement”. Keshub Chandra Sen’s visit to England, of course, made Miss Collet very glad of the opportunity of closer association with his friend. She prepared the ground for him before hand and insured the success of his visit by awakening the interest of the British public in the Brahmo Somaj. Throughout the period of his sojourn in England, she worked strenuously and incessantly for making the visit productive of the best results. Indeed, much of the success of Mr. Sen’s English visit and the warm reception accorded to him was due to the efforts of Miss Collet. She followed up her writings in the newspapers by preparing a volume of Mr. Sen’s lectures. Allen’s Indian Mailvi March 29, 1870, contained the following announcement. “We are glad to learn that the interest lately shown by the English public in the progress of the sect which now owns him (Keshub Chandra Sen) as its chief leader is about to be gratified by the publication of some of the Baboo’s lectures, including those on ‘Christ’, ‘Great Men’ and ‘Regenerating faith,’ all of them delivered in the last three or four years. These have already been printed in Calcutta, where the preacher’s eloquence and breadth of charity have been appreciated even by those who disliked or distrusted his theology. Miss Collet, the editor, who’ has already thrown much light on the character of the new Theistic movement in India, also proposes, we believe, to accompany the lectures with a historical sketch of the Brahmo Somaj from the materials furnished by Mr. Sen himself.’ The volume, which was named “The Brahmo Somaj,” was published by Allen & Co. In addition to the lectures already mentioned, it contained also the lecture on “The Future Church.” Later on, Miss Collet prepared another edition of it with the addition of some tracts, sermons and prayers of Mr. Sen. In fact, she took every possible measure to bring Mr. Sen and his utterances to the general notice of the British public.

Babu Keshubchandra Sen arrived in London in March and received a very cordial welcome. But there were some people who tried their utmost to belittle him and his work. They communicated to the press every little gossip that they could catch hold of, likely to discredit Mr. Sen in the public eye. With reference to these, the Daily News tactfully remarked: “Our Hindu visitor, Chunder Sen was doubtless aware when he came before the British public that, if he received the most cordial of welcomes, he would also be subjected to unsparing criticisms. Accordingly the festival at the Hanover Square Rooms has been succeeded by letters in our own and other Journals, in which the Hindu reformer’s mission and declarations are discussed with all the freedom that can be desired.” Miss Collet took upon herself the task of guarding the reputation of her friend against these free lances of the Press.

The Times in its issue of the I3th June, 1870 published the following insinuating note from a correspondent: “While Babu Keshubchandra Sen is creating an interest in London which surprises many here who know the antipathy of his community of Brahmos to Christianity, and while he himself is most sincerely urging the duty of England to send out teachers to the zenanas of India, a relation of his, a widow, has excited the animosity of the whole class of Brahmos by being baptised by the Church Missionaries. The lady who visited the zenana of Gunesh Soondery Debee and her mother had given both Christian instruction for two years. There was no compact, as has been asserted, and as is sometimes the case, to abstain from such instruction. The widow, a lady of 17, sought baptism after she had left her mother’s house and had proved her knowledge and the sincerity of her motives: at one time her mother was about to do the same. She was allowed free intercourse with her family, who did their best, even to promising her marriage with a rich landholder, to shake her constancy. At last her mother was induced to sign an affidavit to the effect that the widow was only 14, and on this a writ of Habeas Corpus was issued. As no one restrained the lady, she appeared with a native and an English missionary in the court next morning. I happened to be present, and only one look at the widow was sufficient to show that she was above 16, the legal age of discretion. When the case finally came on, a native barrister, who, Bengalilike, had lectured in grandiloquent terms on the rights of woman and the woes of Hindu widows, rested his case on the occurrence of certain Hindu texts which justify the perpetual slavery of woman. Mr. Justice Phear was somewhat caustic in his remarks on this, showing that the Habeas Corpus would thus become not a means of personal liberty, but of hopeless imprisonment. The whole question was one of age and discretion. The judge decided that the lady was of the age of 17, and in the chambers examined her as to her knowledge. The trembling widow, before a Judge and two barristers, and questioned by a Hindu interpreter ignorant of Christian terminology, did not satisfy the Judge as to her knowledge of ‘Genesis, Exodus and Matthew’, but he ruled thus: ‘I could see nothing to indicate that she had not sufficient capacity to choose in the matter of her own creed. For nothing, I apprehend, is clearer than that personal discretion of that sort does not, in the eye of the law, depend upon the mental culture or intellect of the individual. If it were so, there would be an end of the liberty of the poor and the ignorant.’ After another interview with her mother, the widow persisted in choosing Christianity, and was allowed to go to the missionhouse. I feel assured Babu Keshub Chandra Sen would never have encouraged his followers in the silly intolerance which they have displayed. But those who, ignorant of Brahmoism, imagine that it is a broad sect of Christianity while even the most liberal missionaries declare that they find the Brahmos their most bitter opponents, would do well to study this case. A few, like Keshub Chandra Sen, are sincere, and will be unable to rest where they are. The majority are men who, dissatisfied with idolatry and the moral restraints of Hinduism, rejoice in a system too vague to control their conscience, too lax to demand moral courage or selfsacrifice.” Another correspondent, referring to the same incident, wrote from Calcutta to the Record and drew from it the following moral: “While Keshub is exhibiting himself in England as the Reformer and Apostle of Progress, here his relations and confraternity are denying to a poor woman the most inalienable rights of personal liberty. Verily, it seems as if this most instructive case had happened providentially, at a time when the good people of England needed to have their eyes opened to the true character of the ‘freedom of conscience’ which ‘theistic’ professors are disposed to accord.”

Miss Collet addressed a long letter to the Spectator refuting this charge of intolerance against the Brahmo Somaj. Having mentioned the allegations of the correspondents of the Times and the Record, she wrote: “As these statements are being widely circulated here, may I request space to correct them on the authority of those concerned?

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