THE BRAHMO SAMAJ
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Extracted, Developed & Composed by: Ashit Sarkar
mostly from: http://www.thebrahmosamaj.net/
(The official Brahmo Samaj website - which details the Liturgy, Creed & Initiation, the Upashana and the Prayers - and much more, which may be seen to study many such details not shown here)
And with contributions from Sanjoy Chanda,
as well as
Gopa Chanda's tribute to Raja Rammohun Roy Click here to read
Brahmo Samaj was a social and religious movement founded in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1828 by Raja Rammohun Roy (also spelled as Ram Mohan or Rammohan Roy) during, and as a part of the famous Bengal Renaissance. He was greatly influenced by other religions, and western thought, and was one of the first Indians to visit Europe. He died in 1833 at Bristol, England. The Brahmo Samaj philosophy as envisaged by Raja Rammohun Roy was then supported by amongst others, by Prince Dwarkanath Tagore (better known as the grand father of Rabindranath Tagore), and later codified as the Brahmo religion in 1850 by his eldest son, Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, who put life into the movement after Raja Rammohun Roy had died, and as the Brahmo movement was somewhat in the doldrums in Kolkata.
Rammohun Roy was born in an orthodox Brahmin Vaishnav family and his early upbringing made him a follower of the religious practices of his family. He was sent to Patna to learn Persian and Arabic languages, because English was yet to be introduced as the official languge of administration. He studied, among other subjects, the Koran and Islamic theology. He was most impressed by the concept of monotheism of the Koran and was disillusioned by the idolatory and superstitions then prevailing in the Hindu society. Later on Rammohun spent several years in Benaras studying Sanskrit, and also Buddhism in Tibet. He came across the Upanishads, the Brahmasutra and the Gita and was convinced that the concept of Unity of God constituted the essence of Hinduism. During that period the Vedas and the Upanishads had been virtually forgotten in Bengal. Rammohun translated and published Vedantasutra and several Upanishads in Bengali and English to make his countrymen aware of the Vedantic teachings. Rammohun studied the Bible in the original for which he had to learn Hebrew and Greek.
Having made a comprehensive study of Hindu, Islamic and Christian scriptures in their original,he realised that the essence of the teachings of all of them was the same -- the unity of God, immortality of the soul, ethical discipline as the basis of spiritual life. This is the basis of his concept of what he called the 'Universal Religion' and this universal religion is what Rammohun tried to propagate through the establishment of 'Brahmo Sabha' or 'Brahmo Samaj'.
Rabindranath Tagore succinctly explained the backdrop for the movement:
"Unfortunately, when Englishmen alighted at our doorsteps with their material power, science and philosophy, our hearts were immobile. The religious asceticism, which had assisted the positioning of India as a preceptor in the world, had withered away. At that time, we were occasionally drying our ancient manuscripts in the sun, collecting them back and storing them in our houses. We were really doing nothing. The days of our glory were visible as a shadow on the horizon far behind. Even the banks of the nearby pond appeared to be more realistic and higher than those distant hill ranges."
The popularity of the Brahmo Samaj grew as a result of a sense of stagnation in the Hindu social system of castes and the raising of a new class of educated Indians that resulted from the occupation by the British Empire. Its prime belief is that there is only one God. It rejected the infallibility of the Vedas, the caste system, polytheism, idol worship, and the belief in karma and avatars. It had many similarities with the Unitarian movement.
The phrase Brahmo Samaj literally means the society of the worshippers of the One True God. Brahmo means one who worships Brahma, the Supreme Spirit of the universe and Samaj means a community of human beings. The Brahmo Samaj, therefore represents a body of people who want to establish the worship of the Supreme Being in spirit as opposed to the prevailing idolatry of the land. The movement was started by Raja Ram Mohan Roy and his friends by opening a place for public worship on the Chitpore Road in Calcutta, and was duly and publicly inaugurated in January 1830 by the consecration of the first house of prayer, now known as the Adi Brahmo Samaj.
The main doctrines or principles of Brahmo Samaj are:
Additionally, Brahmos do not believe in heaven and hell as eternal, unchanging conditions of reward or punishment. Instead, they see heaven as the state of being filled with divine revelation and hell as the state of being filled with sinful thoughts.
- There is only one God, who is the creator, and the saviour of this world. He is spirit, infinite in power, wisdom, love, justice and holiness, omnipresent, eternal and blissful;
- No created object, including any image or idol, is to be worshipped as God, and God alone is to be considered as infallible;
- The human soul is immortal and capable of infinite progress, and is responsible to God for its doings;
- Man's happiness in this and the next world consists in worshipping God in spirit and in truth. God manifests himself directly to the human soul, and no prophets or scriptures are mediators between God and the soul;
- Loving God, holding communion with Him, and carrying out His will in all the concerns of life, constitute true worship;
- Harmony of all scriptures, saints, and sects, and for universal brotherhood without distinction of caste or creed or sect. All religious teachers and books are to be honored to the extent that they are in harmony with divine revelation to the soul;
- Harmony of reason and faith, of devotion and duty, of yoga and bhakti.
Another very interesting, but significant aspect during a Brahmo wedding is that during the ceremony both the bride and groom have to express their willingness to the marriage - like the Christians, but the bride is not given away. No parents have such a right amongst the Brahmos!
In the 'Introduction' to the English translation of the "Brahmo Dharma", the translator, Hem Chandra Sarkar, says,
"The Brahmo Dharma is not a digest or compilation of the texts of the Upanishads. It is an original work on the principles of Brahmoism in the language of the Upanishads. Maharshi took such passages from different parts of the Upanishads as best expressed the ideas of Brahmoism as he conceived them."................"The entire contents of the first part of the Brahmo Dharma are from the Upanishads. But he (Debendranath) has taken them from different places and in the process he has frequently torn them away from their contexts......and pieced them together to suit his purpose. Verses have been taken from Taittiriya, Brihadaranyaka, Katha, Mundaka, Kena, Swetaswatara, Prasna, Mandukya, Chhandogya, as well as Isha Upanishads".
Some of the Verses in the Brahmo Dharma are pieced together from parts of different slokas in an Upanishad. Some of them were made up of parts of verses from different Upanishads. For example, our common prayer "Asotoma Sadgamaya........" is pieced together by picking up fragments from 3 different places - Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Aiterya Upanishad and Swetaswatara Upanishad.
The second part of Brahmo Dharma consists of the enumeration of the daily duties of the theistic house-holder according to the ideal of Brahmo Dharma. It consists of passages from Manu Samhita, Mahabharat, Gita, Mahanirvan Tantra etc.
History and timeline
The movement was started on 20th August 1828 by Raja Rammohun Roy and his friends when they opened a place for public worship, Brahma Sabha (One God Society) on Chitpore Road (now Rabindra Sarani, Kolkata). It was publicly inaugurated on 11th Magh or 23rd January 1830. The former date is celebrated as BHADROTSAB and the latter as MAGHOTSAB. These are the two main festivals of Brahmo Samaj. The Trust Deed of the Brahmo Samaj was authored by Rammohun on 8th January, 1830. It was a remarkable document, that stated
"the Mandir is for the worship of and adoration of the Eternal, Unsearchable and Immutable being who is the Author and Preserver of the universe........And.....for the promotion of charity, piety, benevolence, virtue and strengthening of the bonds of union between men of all religious persuasion and creeds".
Of Raja Rammohun Roy's movement the noted physicist, Jayant Narlikar, writes:
"Roy understood that the emerging knowledge from the West could not be ignored. He was deeply appreciative of the liberal philosophical traditions of India, and he founded the Brahmo Samaj, a religious movement to popularize those enlightened ideas. Since religion played a dominant role in the public life of his times, he went on to reform religion itself. His criticism of the existing religion and its rigid practices and caste barriers was inspired by his desire to make religion consistent with the changing world of his times"
Following the death of Raja Rammohun Roy in 1833, internal management was left entirely in the hands of Pandit Ram Chandra Vidyabagish. In 1839, Debendranath Tagore, son of Prince Dwarkanath Tagore, a friend and active supporter of Raja Rammohun Roy, joined the Sabha. On 7th Pous 1765 Shaka (1843) Debendranath Tagore and twenty others were formally initiated into what was then named Calcutta Brahmo Samaj for the first time with a signed covenant. The Pous Mela at Santiniketan starts on this day.
Keshub Chunder Sen joined the Calcutta Brahmo Samaj in 1857. This name it retained till the year of the first schism in 1866, after which it was changed to Adi (original) Brahmo Samaj. The new one was called Brahmo Samaj of India.
Although, the Brahmo Samaj movement was born in Kolkata, the idea soon spread to the rest of India. That happened to be the period when the railways were expanding and communication was becoming easier. Outside Bengal presidency some of the prominent centres of Brahmo activity were: Punjab, Sind, and Bombay and Madras presidencies. Even to this day, there are several active branches outside Bengal. Bangladesh Brahmo Samaj at Dhaka keeps the lamp burning.
In all fields of social reform, including abolition of the caste system and of the dowry system, emancipation of women, and improving the educational system, the Brahmo Samaj reflected the ideologies of the Bengal Renaissance. Amongst them, opposition to dowry system was a major thrust. The Brahmo Samaj Marriage Act of 1872 set the age at which girls could be married to 14.
It also initiated and fully supported social reform movements of people not directly attached to the Samaj, such as Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar's movement which promoted widow re-marriage.
Aims of movement
The Brahmo Samaj aimed at developing a universal religion and that has evolved over a period. Bepin Chandra Pal has succinctly summarized the evolution:
"Raja Rammohun Roy had given us a philosophy of universal religion. But philosophy was not religion. It is only when philosophy becomes organized in ethical exercises and disciplines and spiritual sacraments that it becomes a religion. Devendranath gave us a national religion, on the foundations of the Raja's philosophy of universal religion. To Keshub, however, was left the work of organizing the Raja's philosophy into a real universal religion through new rituals, liturgies, sacraments and disciplines, wherein were sought to be brought together not only the theories and doctrines of the different world religions but also their outer vehicles and formularies to the extent that these were real vehicles of their religious or spiritual life, divested, however, through a process of spiritual sifting, of their imperfections and errors and superstitions."
One of the major contributions was the study of other religions and going to their roots. In 1869, Keshub Chunder Sen chose from amongst his missionaries, four persons and ordained them as adhyapaks or professors of four old religions of the world - Gour Govinda Ray for Hinduism, Protap Chandra Mozoomdar for Christianity, Aghore Nath Gupta for Buddhism and Giris Chandra Sen for Islam. All of them did adequate justice to the task allotted to them. The efforts of these four persons were subsequently followed up by others in the Brahmo Samaj.
The attempt to create a universal religion has been analytically explained by Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das. Speaking in 1917 he said:
"The earlier religion of his (Keshub Chunder Sen's) life was perhaps somewhat abstract. But his religion in developed form, as we find it, in his Navavidhan, is full of concrete symbols of all religions. This brings me to another predominant note of Bengali culture. This is the note of universality. The different sects into which our country is apparently divided, all point to this universalism. The differences are deceptive. They deceive those that are strangers to our thought and culture. Every Hindu is conscious of the underlying unity of this universalism. Read the devotional poems of the Vaishnavas, read the devotional poems of the Shaktas and the other sects, you will find they were identical in this character. The life and work of Keshub Chunder Sen also point to attempt after attempt at this very universalism. The earlier attempt was abstract in its character, brought about by what is called the universal of subtractions. It was based on this, that there is truth in every religion! Thus in discarding what it conceived to be false in every religion, and accepting what it conceived to be true build up a sort of an abstract universal religion. From Hinduism it took the Upanishads discarding the subsequent scriptures and systems. From Christianity it took the ideal of the son ship of man and the Fatherhood of God divorced from it scriptures and its traditions. From Mohammedanism it took the idea of equality of man without the characteristic traditions in which that idea lived and moved and had its being. Similarly, from all known systems of religion. But as the spiritual experience of Keshub Chunder Sen deepened, he could not remain satisfied with abstract ideas thus taken and formulated. He wanted flesh and blood for the life of his religion. It was then that he formulated what I regard, as one of the grandest attempts at universal religion. The result may or may not be considered satisfactory. But I refuse to judge it by the results. I rejoice in the glory of the attempt."
Divisions and re-organization
In his own days, Keshub Chunder Sen was severely criticised and much of his efforts were called into question. One of his severest critics was Pandit Sivanath Sastri.
The Brahmo Samaj split twice, once when Keshub Chunder Sen came out of the Calcutta Brahmo Samaj (or Adi Samaj as it was later known) in 1866 and formed the Brahmo Samaj of India. The second split was when Sadharan Brahmo Samaj was formed in 1878 and Keshub Chunder Sen went on to developing the Navavidhan or New Dispensation in 1880.
When the bitterness died down, there were efforts at reconciliation and re-understanding of all that had happened in the past. While Sadharan Brahmo Samaj and Nava Bidhan Samaj function on their own, the one in Bhowanipur known as Sammilan Samaj is for all. Many feel that Rabindranath Tagore contributed substantially towards synthesis in the Brahmo Samaj.
Spiritualism vs. rationalism
The splits, or schisms as they are called, occupy an important place in the history of the Brahmo Samaj. There were immediate reasons for them; the move against caste symbols in the first case, and the marriage of Keshub Chunder Sen's daughter in the second; but obviously there were deeper reasons for it. First, there was a conflict of opinions amongst people in different generations. Second, there was a clash between authoritarianism and democracy. Third and more importantly, there was divergence between spirituality and rationalism.
Unlike traditional religions, which are based on authority of some divine revelation or word that cannot be questioned, Brahmo Samaj was founded on rationalism merged with spiritualism, or of intuition and reason as some have put it. Therefore, there always was a subtle conflict about the proportionate mix of the two. Such conflicts did not always surface but often remained simmering underneath. There were thorough rationalists such as Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar (who was one of the earliest secretaries of the Brahmo Samaj), who were close to the Brahmo Samaj in their approach towards social reformation but did not agree on spiritualism and hence kept away from it. Within the samaj, the question played a leading role in shaping its history. Even as late as 1886 when Bijay Krishna Goswami, a leading missionary, left the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, the underlying note was the conflict between spiritualism and rationalism.
When Max Muller and Romain Rolland, both highly respected and knowledgeable about India, analysed the Indian religious scenario, they heaped substantial praise upon both Raja Rammohun Roy and Keshub Chunder Sen but they seem to suggest that the movement had ended with them. It was left to David Kopf who emphasized the valuable role played by Sadharan Brahmo Samaj in social reform particularly women's education and the role of Rabindranath Tagore as a great synthesiser in the Brahmo Samaj.
Jayant Narlikar has viewed the entire scenario from a completely different angle. Being a scientist, he has noted with considerable apprehension the growing gap between India and the West. He felt that Raja Rammohun Roy had initiated steps for reformation of Indian society and that could assist in reducing the gap, but by and large, Indian society has remained unchanged. The point evidently is that social reformation of Indian society has to be undertaken if we are to attempt a reduction in its backwardness. Whether it is done along the lines of the Brahmo Samaj or in some other fashion is a moot point. This brings us to a question where it is being doubted whether economic development with high rates of growth, which is essential and welcome, alone would be able to assist India in emerging from its backwardness.
We are living in a world where religion itself is losing its relevance and value. In the developed countries, many people are declaring themselves as not belonging to any religion. In such a scenario the future of an organization such as the Brahmo Samaj is doubtful, to say the least, but the sad part of the story is that the glorious task it had undertaken remains unfulfilled.
In order to understand the contribution of the Brahmo Samaj, it is worth recalling what Maharaja Manindra Chandra Nandi, a noted philanthropist not belonging to the Samaj, said more than a century ago. He said,
"Brahmo Samaj has progressed so much along the path of female education. It is at the base of the enormous progress of Bengali literature that is visible to everybody. The cultivation of music in our country that had declined to a despicable and degraded situation, has been presented to Mother Bengal by the Brahmo Samaj clothed so beautifully in wisdom, love and devotion. Brahmo Samaj has recovered the Upanishads and other valuable religious scriptures composed by the Arya Rishis of this country, which were on the verge of being lost. In these ways, Brahmo Samaj has contributed so much to the welfare of the country."
In a way, the efforts of the Brahmo Samaj led to awakening of the Indian consciousness and paved the way for its regaining its self respect that was so essential for the country to win back its freedom. For more than a century, members of the Brahmo Samaj, as individuals as well as members of a community were the leading thinkers and activists in almost all fields of activity, including religious reform. Even in recent times, members of the Brahmo Samaj or those influenced by it have been the leading lights in many areas.
Going by numbers, Brahmos form a very small community, a few thousand at best. Considered against the billion Indians, it is a drop in the ocean. However, its thinking and contribution far outweighs its numerical insignificance.
While the idea of universal religion did not have many takers, most of the social ideas of Brahmo Samaj have been finding a quiet acceptance in society at large. Indeed, such ideas as women's emancipation, education, equality of human beings, and removal of casteism and so on are so much on the general social agenda that the pioneering role of Brahmo Samaj in all these matters is often overlooked or missed.
Two examples will suffice:
In today's context the significance of these path breaking changes then is lost.
- Several thousand Indians work abroad and several million travel abroad every year. There was a day when crossing the oceans, kala pani or "black waters", was prohibited. Raja Rammohun Roy overcame all the opposition, broke through that prohibition and made it to England. Even when Dwarkanath Tagore later went to England, the orthodox society demanded that he perform penance for his act of defiance. He obviously refused.
- Indians now occupy high positions in many organizations across the world, apart from occupying the highest in the country. In earlier days their opportunities were limited. From the days of Lord Cornwallis, Indians, however brilliant, could not occupy positions above that of sheristadar. During his visit to England, Raja Rammohun Roy requested the government to open up opportunities for Indians. Accordingly, from 1833 onwards they were allowed to be promoted/ appointed as deputy magistrates and deputy collectors. Satyendranath Tagore was the first Indian to join the Indian Civil Service in 1864.
Indian society, particularly Bengali society, has progressed through such a vast transformation that it is at times difficult to comprehend and it is still more difficult to appreciate some of what has happened in the past. When Raja Rammohun Roy succeeded in getting the Sati Act, banning immolation of widows on the pyres of their husbands passed in 1829, he wanted to thank Lord William Bentinck but he could gather the signature of only a few of his friends, his opponents gathered the signatures of hundreds of citizens on an appeal to repeal the same. The counter move launched by Raja Rammohun Roy had the signatures of lesser number of people. When Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar launched his widow remarriage proposals, petitions mostly against the proposed reform poured in from far and near, from Poona and Deccan and from the different districts of Bengal. Although polygamy and child marriages generated large numbers of child widows, and formed the core of the reformation, people opposed the progressive move. Today, it is difficult to believe that such a strong opposition to social progress flourished in what many think of as educated and enlightened sections of society, and that too not in such a distant past.
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE DETAILS OF THE BRAHMO LITURGY, CREED & INITIATION and PRAYERS etc.
NOTE: You may go through a simple and brief write up by Sanjoy Chanda about the
BRAHMO WAY of LIFE - by clicking here.
Please also do read Gopa Chanda's tribute in her 2007 article - by Clicking here
Raja Rammohun RoyRammohun Roy, also spelt as Rammohan 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.
Bust of Raja Rammohun Roy at Bangalore by the Bangalore Brahmo Samaj
Inaugurated by (Late) Air Chief Marshal Pratap C. Lal in 1979
He was born in the village called Radhanagore of Khanakul, Hooghly a district in West Bengal on May 22, 1772. His father Ramakanta Roy was an orthodox Brahmin and his mother was Tarini Devi. Rammohun was educated in Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit & Bengali, as was common in those days, and later learnt English, Hebrew & Greek. He studied the works of great scholars and evolved into a free thinker. He also improved his knowledge of English with private study and took a keen interest in European politics and followed the cause of the French Revolution.
This led him to leave home on more than once occasion and finally be driven away from his home by his father. On one of these occasions he landed up in Tibet to study Buddhism but again incurred the wrath of the teacher and his disciples owing to his radical free thinking and protests against Lama worshipping and idolatry.
After the death of his father in 1803 he moved down to Murshidabad. He was employed from 1803 to 1814 by the British East India Company, as Dewan of Rangpur district. He used to hold discussion meetings in the evening with members of Hindus, Muslims and Jains. In addition to knowledge of the ancient Vedantic literature he also studied the Tantric works with the aid of Hariharananda Tirthaswami. He also mastered the Kalpa Sutra and other Jain texts.
In 1814 Rammohun came and settled in Calcutta and in 1815 founded the Atmiya Sabha - an association for the dissemination of the religious truth and the promotion of free discussions of theological subjects. Amongst the rich and influential who gathered around him at that time were Prince Dwarkanath Tagore of Jorasanko, Prasanna Kumar Tagore of Pathuriaghata, Kali Nath and Baikuntha Nath Munshi of Taki, Raja Kali Shankar Ghoshal of Bhukailash etc. But the meetings of the Sabha were not the only means to propagate his doctrines. Here recital and expounding of Hindu scriptures were done and Govinda Mala would sing songs composed by Rammohun. In 1819 there took place a celebrated debate between Rammohun and Subrahmanya Sastri on the subject of idol worship in presence of the leading citizens of Calcutta including Raja Radhakanta Deb and Rammohun vanquished his adversary.
During the course of his researches into the domain of Sanskrit literature Rammohun was struck by the purity of the monotheistic doctrines of the Upanishads which were in sharp contrast with the prevailing corruptions of Hindu idolatry. He decided to publish the Upansihads with his own preface and translations. These books produced an intense and wide spread agitation in the Indian society. He published the Vedanta (1815), Ishopanishad (1816), Kathopanishad (1817), Moonduk Upanishad (1819), The Precepts of Jesus - Guide to Peace and Happiness (1820), Sambad Kaumudi - a Bengali newspaper (1821), Mirat-ul-Akbar - Persian journal (1822), Bengali Grammar (1826), Brahmapasona (1828), Brahmasangeet (1829) and The Universal Religion (1829). He was also instrumental in setting up the Hindoo College in 1817 in Calcutta, which was later renamed as Presidency College in 1856 when it was taken over by the government. He also tried his utmost to repeal the Press Censorship Act of 1823, and even appealed to the King of England. Though his efforts proved fruitless at that time - the Act was finally repealed in 1835, after his death. Rammohun was the first to compose Dhrupad songs in Bengali in 1828. He felt the need of Dhrupad songs - noted for their depth, grandeur, simplicity and absence of decorative tonal effusion - for his Brahmo Sabha meetings. Tappa and Thungri, he felt, were much too frolicsome for such occasions. He composed thirty-two songs in Dhrupad style and introduced them in Brahmo Sabha gatherings.
In the history of social reform in India, his name will always be remembered in connection with the abolition of sati (the forced immolation of widows). Rammohun 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 (e.g. 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, Rammohun 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.
Rammohun Roy campaigned for rights for women, including the right for widows to remarry, and the right for women to hold property. As mentioned above, he actively opposed polygamy, a system in which he had grown up.
He also supported education, particularly education of women. It was his efforts that made Bengali prose popular amongst the masses, from earlier emphasis mostly on poetry amongst the educated Bengalis. He foresaw and believed that English language education was essential for the nation to be able to benefit from learning science and technology from the developed Western world for the benefit of the future generations, and was therefore more useful than the traditional Indian education system. He opposed the use of government funds only to support schools teaching Sanskrit. In 1822, he founded a school based on English education, and it was as a result of his lone efforts that English started being taught in Indian Schools so that benefits of the huge mass of available scientific literature could be utilized - which today forms the major cause of our nation's success in the international scenario - a fact generally unrecognized and unknown by the majority.
In 1831 Rammohun Roy traveled to the United Kingdom as an ambassador of the Mogul emperor, who conferred the honorary title of 'Raja' to him. 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. The Rt Hon. The Lord Mayor of the City and the County of Bristol, Royston Alan Griffey commented: "Of course, he was a great man, benefactor, linguist, ahead of his time with human rights. I am a lawyer so I know how difficult battles can be to achieve civil liberties and human rights."
Not long after the death of Rammohun 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.
While many biographies of Raja Rammohun Roy abound, a very balanced "RAMMOHUN ROY: A Study" by the well known historian and author Sri Nirmalya Bagchi - translated into English by Sri Kalyan Kumar Das, (Published by Blue Pencil) is well worth reading - to learn about the amazingly divergent interests and involvement of this extraordinary great man. He was not only an extremely erudite scholar of so many languages, who deeply studied and understood the significance of the different religions and being able to synthesize the goodness from all to propagate the Brahmo credo, and at the same time being a great social reformer - which are generally well known, but was a 'many splendoured genius' according to the author and the translator! His faith was based on intellectual foundation, and his participation and support for causes of Human Rights, strongly upholding secularism, spreading education and uplifting of women, pursuing national reform issues with a tremendous vision for the future of Indian nation has been well described and analyzed in the book, along with the views of his many detractors and opposers. It is a real wonder how he managed his business so successfully along with his charitable work, and simultaneously being so actively involved in the religious, social and political reforms, along with his extensive and remarkable travels in those difficult days to support the causes of the Irish, the French, the Vietnamese or even Gautemala, and still achieve so much in his limited lifetime during an environment of general oppression of 'the natives' by their then 'masters & rulers'! Remarkable indeed.....
DO CLICK HERE TO GO THROUGH a superb 40 minute uTube Video "In Search of the Rajah" - that gives historic details about Raja Rammohun Roy so beautifully.
Statue of Raja Rammohun Roy at Bristol
A stamp issued in 1964 to honour him!