Ram Mohan Roy: Social, Political, and Religious Reform in 19th Century India

Ram Mohan Roy: Social, Political, and Religious Reform in 19th Century India

Ram Mohan Roy: Social, Political, and Religious Reform in 19th Century India

Ram Mohan Roy: Social, Political, and Religious Reform in 19th Century India

Excerpt

Raja Ram Mohan Roy was like any other man—only more so. This "moreness" has been viewed from diverse perspectives. Jeremy Bentham found him an "intensely admired and dearly loved collaborator in the service of mankind." For Sophia Dobson Collet, Ram Mohan presents "a most inspiring study for the New India of which he is the type and pioneer." Romain Rolland ranks him as a man who "ushered in a new era in the spiritual history of the ancient continent," and who was "the first really Cosmopolitan type in India." Brajendranath Seal credits him with having laid "the foundations of the true League of Nations in a league of National Cultures." Monier Williams salutes him as "the first earnest-minded investigator of the science of comparative religion that the world has produced." For Sarojini Naidu, he was "the first great modern International Ambassador." Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan calls him "a philosophic modernist, a progressive religious thinker anxious to emphasize the essentials of religion." And Mahatama Gandhi saw him as "the father of advanced liberal thought in Hinduism." For each of these authorities, the life of Ram Mohan Roy added up to something more in some particular field of endeavor—religion, social welfare, education, politics and internationalism. My purpose in this book is to advance the research by exploring the element of "moreness" in its ethical dimension; a task I hope to accomplish with the aid of historical analysis. Excellent books have been written on Roy, but the area of ethics has not yet received the attention it deserves.

The notion of "moreness" enables us to do justice to the Raja's greatness without producing a pious piece of hagiography. Unfortunately, writers past and present have tended to apotheosize the man, either directly or indirectly. In the first category belong such giants of the "Bengal Renaissance" as Rabindranath Tagore, Ramananda Chatterjee and Brajendranath Seal. Even as late as 1933 when the centennial of Ram Mohan's death was being commemorated, these gifted souls looked at history through heroic eyes. In a moving oration entitled, "Rammohun Roy: The Universal Man," Sir Brajendranath says:

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