The Architect Of Modern India & The Father Of Bengal Renaissance
Under the aegis of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, Culture Minister G. Kishan Reddy organized the opening ceremony of the annual celebrations of the 250th birth anniversary of Raja Ram Mohan Roy in Kolkata, during which his statue was also unveiled at the Raja Ram Mohan Roy Library. foundation. He was the architect of modern India and the father of Bengal Renaissance.
Roy’s 250th birth anniversary will see year-long celebrations in different parts of the country. On May 27 and 28 a two-day conference will be held in the city titled Many World of Ram Mohan Roy. The conference will be held at Jadunath Bhavan Museum and Research Centre at 10, lake Terrace. Historians from several universities abroad will take part in the conference. A programme titled The musical universe of Raja Ram Mohan Roy will also be held at the Science City mini auditorium on May 30. A philatelic exhibition on the Bengali Renaissance has been organised by the Rammohun Library and Free Reading Room, set up in 1904. The organisation will also publish a commemorative volume.
One of the most influential social and religious reformers of the 19th century, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, often called Father of Modern India, as well as `Father of Bengal's Renaissance', was one of India's foremost social and religious reformers. He was born on May 22, 1772 in what was then Bengal Presidency’s Radhanagar in Hooghly district. He was born into a prosperous upper-caste Brahmin family. Roy grew up within the framework of orthodox caste practices of his time: child-marriage, polygamy and dowry were prevalent among the higher castes and he had himself been married more than once in his childhood. The family’s affluence had also made the best in education accessible to him. A polyglot, Roy knew Bengali and Persian, but also Arabic, Sanskrit, and later, English. His exposure to the literature and culture of each of these languages bred in him a scepticism towards religious dogmas and social strictures. In particular, he chafed at practices such as Sati, that compelled widows to be immolated on their husband’s funeral pyre. Roy’s sister-in-law had been one such victim after his elder brother’s death, and it was a wound that stayed with him.
In 1814, he started the Atmiya Sabha (Society of Friends), to nurture philosophical discussions on the idea of monotheism in Vedanta and to campaign against idolatry, casteism, child marriage and other social ills. The Atmiya Sabha would make way for the Brahmo Sabha in 1828, set up with Debendranath Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore’s father. He collaborated with Scottish philanthropist David Hare to set up the Hindu College (now Presidency University), and extensively argued for property rights for women and freedom of the press. He also founded a newspaper `Mirat-ul-Akhbar'. Many historians describe him as the "Father of the Bengal Renaissance" and was given the title of Raja by the Mughal Emperor Akbar II. In 2004, he was ranked in the tenth position in BBC's poll of the 'Greatest Bengali of All Time'.
Among the urban elites, the bhadralok of Bengal, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, helped set up the only college that offered European Style higher learning across the Asian continent in 1817, known as Hindu College called Presidency College in Kolkata as cited in Cultural India. Roy brought together theological ideologies and rational thinking in modernism to form another institute, Vedanta College, in 1826. Roy believed in introducing English education curricula in India, including Maths, Science, Physics, Botany, etc. Hindu College paved the way for learning from both the west and the east, later becoming one of the best institutions in India.
Among the first Indians to gain recognition in the UK and in America for his radical thoughts, in his lifetime, Roy was also often attacked by his own countrymen who felt threatened by his reformist agenda, and by British reformers and functionaries, whose views differed from his. His life and message stands vastly apart from the spirit of contemporary Hindutva or exclusionary, political Hinduism.
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