Ram Mohan Roy

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Indian reformer Ram Mohan Roy died in Bristol, England, where this statue of him stands.

Ram Mohan Roy, also spelt as Ram Mohun Roy, (May 22,1772-September 27,1833) was the founder of the Brahmo Samaj, one of the first Hindu reform movements. His remarkable influence was apparent in the fields of politics, public administration and education as well as religion.

In the history of social reform in India, Ram Mohan Roy's name will always be remembered in connection with the abolition of sati (the immolation of widows). Ram Moham Roy also made people aware of the fact that polygamy, which was extremely prevalent in his day, was in fact contrary to Hindu law. On the authority of Hindu lawgivers he pointed out that it was only under specific circumstances (eg if a woman is barren or has an incurable disease) that a man was permitted to take a second wife while the first was still alive.

In the social, legal and religious reforms that he advocated, Roy was moved primarily by considerations of humanity. He took pains to show that he was not out to destroy the best traditions of the country, but was merely brushing away some of the impurities that had gathered on them in the days of decadence. He repeatedly declared that he had no intention of breaking away from the religion of his ancestors. He only wished to restore it to its original purity. Accordingly, he insisted on the authority of the Vedas, Upanishads and the Brahma Sutras. He condemned idolatry in the strongest terms. He stated that according to the Hindu scriptures, the best means of achieving bliss was through pure spiritual contemplation on and worship of the Supreme Being, and that sacrificial rites were intended only for persons of less subtle intellect.

In 1831 Ram Mohan Roy travelled to the United Kingdom as an ambassador. He also visited France. He died at Stapleton near Bristol in 1833 and is buried in Arno's Vale Cemetery in Bristol. A statue of him was erected in central Bristol in 1997.

Not long after the death of Ram Mohan Roy, the Brahmo Samaj split into two groups because of the differing ideologies of its leaders. Debendranath Tagore became the leader of the Adi Brahmo Samaj and Keshub Chunder Sen the leader of the Brahmo Samaj of India. However, both groups failed to win large-scale popular support, and today their force is almost spent. It should be noted, however, that the Brahmo Samaj undoubtedly heralded the beginning of the Hindu renaissance, paving the way for other movements.

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