Raja Rammohan Roy and the Brahmo Samaj
Raja Rammohan Roy established the Brahmo Samaj at Calcutta in 1828 in order to purify Hinduism and to preach monotheism. He is considered as the first 'modern man of India'. He was a pioneer of socio-religious reform movements in modern India.
Born in 1772 in the Hooghly district of Bengal, he inculcated a brilliant freedom of thought and rationality. He studied the Bible as well as Hindu and Muslim religious texts. He had excellent command over many languages including English, Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, French, Latin, Greek and Hebrew.
In 1815, he established the Atmiya Sabha. Later, it was developed into the Brahmo Sabha in August 1828. Through this organisation, he preached that there is only one God. He combined the teachings of the Upanishads, the Bible and the Koran in developing unity among the people of different religions. The work of the Atmiya Sabha was carried on by Maharishi Debendranath Tagore (father of Rabindranath Tagore), who renamed it as Brahmo Samaj. He turned the Brahmo Samaj into a leading social organisation of India.
Raj Rammohan Roy is most remembered for helping Lord William Bentinck to declare the practice of Sati a punishable offence in 1829. He also protested against the child marriage and female infanticide. He favored the remarriage of widows, female education and women's right to property. He felt that the caste system was the greatest hurdle to Indian unity. He believed in the equality of mankind. He did not believe in the supremacy of the Brahmin priests. He favoured inter-caste marriages. He himself adopted a Muslim boy. In 1817, he founded the Hindu College (now Presidency College, Calcutta) along with David Hare, a missionary. He also set up schools for girls.
Rammohan Roy started the first Bengali weekly Samvad Kaumudi and edited a Persian weekly Mirat-ul-akhbar. He stood for
the freedom of the press. Rammohan died in Bristol in England in 1833.