Raja Ram Mohan Roy, born on 22nd May 1722, was the father of the Indian Renaissance Movement and the greatest feminist of India. Though he was born in a wealthy Brahmin family of Bengal, the society was trapped with social and religious inequities. He was the founder of Brahmo Samaj, the founder of the Indian language press and a reporter of the Jana Jagaran and the social reform movement, and an Indian freedom fighter.
He was a very well-read man and possessed journalistic skills too. He studied various languages like English, French, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Raja Ram Mohan Roy attained proficiency in other languages like Persian, Arabic, and Sanskrit which influenced his thinking about God. He translated many scriptures like the Vedas, Upanishads, and Quran to English.
The humanist and democrat Raja Ram Mohan Roy was – he couldn't tolerate the atrocities happening against women. He was an activist for education for women, widow remarriage, divorce, and other social evils.
Abolishing Sati Pratha
Growing up Raja Ram Mohan Roy had witnessed the heinous tradition of Sati where widows as young as 12 years of age were forced to jump on their dead husband’s pyre. It all started when he saw his sister-in-law get forcefully burnt at the pyre of his brother. He vouched to abolish the tradition and to do so he visited cremation grounds to persuade widows against immolation. He formed watch groups to protect women, sought the support of other elite Bengali classes, and published articles to show Sati was not required by Hindu scripture but was a patriarchal practice that reduced the purpose of a woman’s existence to just being a wife. He even traveled to the United Kingdom to ensure that Lord William Bentinck’s Sati Regulation Act of 1829 banning the practice of Sati was not overturned.
Sure, we credit the British for having abolished this practice. While they did pass the law, Raja Ram Mohan Roy was responsible for implementation in the grassroots.
Among the countless achievements, Raja Ram Mohan Roy's greatest achievement was that of setting up the Brahmo Samaj in 1828. It is considered to be one of India's first socio-religious reform movements and believed in the fatherhood of God and brotherhood of mankind. It forbade idol worship and opposed meaningless rites and rituals. Raja Ram Mohan Roy believed in one supreme God and preached to love human beings, stop animal sacrifice and offerings. Brahmo Samaj strongly fought against the caste system, dowry, racism, polygamy, infanticide, the seclusion of women, and the purdah system.
Advocating through Journalism
Ram Mohan Roy used his pen to emerge as a true changemaker for women in the Indian society of the 19th Century. He published Sambad Kaumudi, a Bengali weekly newspaper that actively campaigned for the abolition of the Sati. Inheritance of property for women and inter-caste marriages were also some topics that were undertaken by him. The efforts of Raja Ram Mohan Roy resulted in the freedom of Press and anatomy to newspapers in 1835.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy left the job of East India Company and fought double battles. The first was for the independence of India, whereas the second was against the citizens of his own country. Though he was termed as the chamcha of the British by people who possess half the intellect he did, Ram Mohan Roy encouraged feminism, male feminists, and free thinkers. His glorious deeds will be cherished in the years to come. Raja Ram Mohan Roy passed away in the year 1833 but he will forever be remembered as the first and the greatest feminist this country has ever seen.
(Edited by Neha Baid)