Raja Ram Mohan Roy is considered the pioneer of the modern Indian Renaissance for the remarkable reforms he brought in 18th and 19th century India. Among his efforts, the abolition of the brutal and inhuman Sati Pratha was the most prominent. His efforts were also instrumental in eradicating the purdah system and child marriage. In 1828, Ram Mohan Roy formed the Brahmo Samaj, uniting the Bhramos in Calcutta, a group of people, who had no faith in idol worship and were against caste restrictions. The title ‘Raja’ was bestowed upon him by the Mughal emperor Akbar II, in 1831. Roy visited England as an ambassador of the Mughal King to ensure that Bentick’s regulation banning the practice of Sati was not overturned. He died of meningitis in 1833 while residing in Bristol, England.
Ram Mohan Roy was educated in traditional languages like Sanskrit and Persian. He came across English much later in life and learned the language to get better employment with the British. But a voracious reader, he devoured English literature and journals, extracting as much knowledge as he could. He realized that while traditional texts like Vedas, Upanishads, and Quran provided him with much reverence for philosophy, his knowledge was lacking in scientific and rational education. He advocated the introduction of an English Education System in the country teaching scientific subjects like Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and even Botany. He paved the way to revolutionizing the education system in India by establishing Hindu College in 1817 along with David Hare, which later became one of the best educational institutions in the country producing some of the best minds in India. His efforts to combine true to the roots theological doctrines along with modern rational lessons saw him establish the Anglo-Vedic School in 1822 followed by the Vedanta College in 1826.
Ram Mohan Roy vehemently opposed the unnecessary ceremonialism and idolatry advocated by priests. He had studied religious scriptures of different religions and advocated the fact that Hindu Scriptures like Upanishads upheld the concept of monotheism. This began his quest for a religious revolution to introduce the doctrines of ancient Vedic scriptures true to their essence. He founded the Atmiya Sabha in 1928, and the first meeting of this new-found religion was held on August 20 that year. The Atmiya Sabha reorganized itself into the Brahma Sabha, a precursor organization of the Brahmo Samaj. The primary facets of this new movement were monotheism, independence from the scriptures, and renouncing the caste system. Brahmo religious practices were stripped bare of the Hindu ceremonialism and were set up following the Christian or Islamic prayer practices. With time, the Brahma Samaj became a strong progressive force to drive social reforms in Bengal, especially women’s education.
Ram Mohan Roy was a staunch supporter of free speech and expression. He fought for the rights of the vernacular press. He also brought out a newspaper in Persian called ‘Miratul- Akhbar’ (the Mirror of News) and a Bengali weekly called ‘Sambad Kaumudi’ (the Moon of Intelligence). In those days, items of news and articles had to be approved by the Government before being published. Ram Mohan protested against this control by arguing that newspapers should be free and that the truth should not be suppressed simply because the government did not like it.