By Baba Vickram Aditya Bedi


Ram Mohan Roy, is one the most interesting characters of the age of India’s plunge into economic slavery under the British Empire.  Ram Mohan Roy was born in 1772, just 15 years after the Battle of Plassey, when the British began the plunder of Mughal India’s richest province, the Subah of Bengal.  Ram Mohan Roy hailed from Radhanagar. Bengal.  During the Period of 1757–1800, Bengal would go from the richest and industrially productive regions of the world to one of the poorest under the rule of British East India Company.  As a young man, he studied Sanskrit, Bengali, Persian and Arabic in Patna and later in Benaras. He was exposed to Baba Nanak’s and Kabir’s philosophy of the oneness of God, and he also studied in Sanskrit the philosophy of Vedanta, which was one of the oldest schools of thought of Ancient India.  Vedanta beliefs very much supported the fact that Vedic tradition was monotheistic at it’s core.  And thus by default, Hinduism, which originates from Vedism was at it’s core not different.  Early on Roy became a man who wanted social change in India. Although he found himself employed working for the East India Company, he soon became an Indian Nationalist.  Around the year 1793, he exposed that the British were draining 1/2 of India’s annual revenue and sending it back to England.  Thus the British who were less than 8 million people, were taking 1/2 the revenue of former Mughal India which had 200 million subjects, India had in 1757 a higher GDP per person than England.  This was simply unbelievable to him, as he realized this spelled doom for India.

As missionaries began work in Bengal, he realized that much of what was being taught was justifying the theft of assets from India, under the guise of racial and spiritual superiority. Thus, he founded the Brahmo Samaj, which was a reform movement within Hinduism.  A key component was the abolishment of Sati (A Hindu Tradition by which a widow was cremated alive with the passing of her husband), and to protect the rights of Hindu widows. He took this movement to the remnants of Mughal Empire in Delhi.  Here he would become an ambassador for Mughal Sultanate and would journey to England to push for the abolishment of Sati.  He authored many papers, several in Persian where he outlined what reforms Hinduism needed to be modernized and confront the attempts which missionaries would bring in the years ahead. He did so while aiding leading British Scholars who wished to convert Hindus to Christianity, with language translation.  But, for Roy this was the way to learn what exactly was planned for India.  In particular, Ram Mohan Roy, assisted William Carey who had come to India with the purpose of translating the Bible into Sanskrit and to distribute it.  This process began in 1793, and Roy helped author the “Maha Nirvana Tantra”, much of Roy’s work was used by the British to understand the culture of India. And this was also used to mitigate disputes in accordance with law as it was practised in Mughal India, which for most local disputes yielded to Hindu principles at a local level. It soon became apparent to Carey that Roy was using his newly acquired knowledge of the English to strengthen his own campaign to make Hinduism modern and strengthen it’s chances to survive the age of colonialism.  Thus, when Roy advocated Hindu women’s property rights it became apparent where his loyalties lay and Carey seems to have broken ties with him. However Roy was deeper than this, he truly wanted to alleviate the suffering which was now engulfing India, as the colonial famines had begun.  He believed that the only way India would ever be free again was through education and social change.