Sunday, May 22, 2011

Connoisseur of Indian renaissance, Raja Rammohun Roy be remembered on his 240 birthday

Reminiscence of Raja's house

At the age of 16, Rammohun Roy, the pioneer of Indian renaissance and the greatest futurist of Bengal was forced to depart his paternal house for his strong belief in monotheism causing a personality clash with his father Ramkanta Banerjee who being a conservative Hindu Bramhin and to whom the then collector of Burdwan district attributed high opinion as the “most respectable man in the district” was an ardent propagator of polytheism. Before that Rammohun was married thrice while his first wife was expired one year after the wedlock when Rammohun was just nine years old.
He paid an astonishing respect to both of his wives by standing himself in front them during their conversation in public places. He felt the mental agony of his wives for sharing a single husband with each other. Consequently in later years he made a will expressing a clear warning to his successors for not having more than one living wife at a time, otherwise they will be deprived of rights to his property. After departing his parent’s house at Radhangar, he started travelling all over India which gave her clear insight about the caste system and religious superstitions of our land.  In 1832, he said “—a vast number of castes and sects, destroying every texture of social and political unity.” He argued for western style of education by including Mathematics, Philosophy, Chemistry, Physiology, English in regular curriculum of the students. In 1816, prior to the establishment of Hindu school, he set up a school for English learning at Hedua in Kolkata. In 1822, he found another institution namely Anglo-Hindu School in Simla area, the place later became famous with Swami Vivekananda. 

Besides to his mother language Bengali, he was proficient in many languages like Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Arabi, Pharshi, Greek, Latin, French, Hibru and of course English despite he started learning English in his mid thirty and became a legend of it. His command over language and amazing power of eloquence in legal matters made himself an automatic choice for Akbar-the second, the then mughal empire of Delhi, who conferred the title “RAJA” means king up on the former and send him England to raise grant from the Esat India Company in favour of the latter. Raja Rammohun Roy went to England and got successful in securing the claim for his client by compelling the company to lift up it by 300000. Unfortunately, in return Raja got nothing from his patron.  
We all know that his argument was the prime cause behind forbidding the barbaric Hindu ritual “Sati”, a practice to burn alive a Hindu widow with her deceased husband. Tarinidevi, mother of Rammohun and the second wife out of three of his father did not follow the same sacrament when her spouse passed away. But when Alakmanjari Devi, the first wife of Raja’s elder brother Jagmohan became Sati after her husband departed, Rammohun’s mother Tarini Devi virtually did not stop her. During that incident, Raja was in Rangpur in Bangladesh. After returning home he asked his mother why did not she prevent her  for becoming Sati. His mother said that she was so mournful that she became unable to realize the unpleasant incident. Raja considered it an alibi knowing well that his mother did this out of sheer superstition. Later we see that the ideological conflict between the two leading Tarini Devi to provoke her close associates to frame false charge on several issues against Rammohun, her own son. But Raja had never shown her any disrespect but always stood by his stance. His mother was also no exception. She had been very strict to her belief. In her last years she asked for financial help from Raja to meet the expenses of ritualistic practice of her family deity. Raja denied her to give money stating that he could give a lot if his mother spent the amount for the welfare of the poor, not to the meaningless offerings to material gods. Tarinidevi having been refused on the desired ground took penny from his son and went to Puri and passed her last few days by brooming at the temple of Lord Jagannath. 

Raja's parental house designed by Tagore the poet.
 These apart, Rammohun did another thing. That was to ensure rights of the widow to the property of her dead husband. It is a social revolution at that time. He was the path finder of Indian Journalism.  James Silk Backingham honored him as the “Father of Indian Journaliam” in the “Calcutta Gazette”. Through “Sambad Kaumudi”, in 1821, he expressed his opinion on the various socio-economic issues like seeking control over exporting rice from Bengal, appeal to establish free schools for the needy students, delivery of judgment by Jury system in district and provisional court, rash and negligent driving by the Europeans while passing through crowded locality etc. He propagated for free press. In 1818 when Lord Hastings ceased the Press Censorship, Raja appreciated his move through it.  Till 1835, Pharshi was the official language. Raja published “Mirat-ul-Akbar” in that language to reach non-English knowing people. During the famine in Ireland, it raised donation for the Irish. He sent donation to Spanish people to help their liberation movement for independence. It moved the Spanish. In 1812, Philipine Company, the publisher of the the then Spanish constitution dedicated it to Raja by saying in Spanish – “ Al Liberalismo del noble, sabio, y virtuoso Brama Ram Mohun Roy” means Liberalism noble, wise and virtuous Brama Rammohun Roy. What else could be more significant than this?
Having been born and brought up in a Zamindar family, he always argued in favour of the peasants. He said, “ every man is entitled by law and reason to enjoy the fruits of his honest labour and good management”. He opined that likewise the rights given to the landlords under permanent settlements, a farmer be given the same protection. Most probably, it is the eye opener behind the land reforms in recent years in West Bengal.

Place of birth identified by Rev Long
 He was often been criticized for his statement for British Rule in India for 40 years more. But it would be injustice to him if we ignore the perspective of the saying in a caste ridden superstitious India of that time. He always liked freedom of every nation including freedom of mind and soul of every people. He openly supported inter-caste marriage. He cried, “Glory, glory, glory to France” seeing France as a free nation. Even he believed in internationalism when we find him commenting in 1832, while he was going to London from Paris, “ all mankind are one great family of which numerous nations and tribes existing are only various branches”. Would we consider him still against our independence?
India to him was a place having highest potentiality to be the best one of the world. In 1832, under the header, “Remarks on settlement in India by Europeans” , he hoped for a India where English language would be practised widely; a liberal religious preaching would prevail; social ritualistic practice would be like that of the West and India would be the trendsetter in the Asia continent.  
Mango trees at Raja's Garden

If anyone likes to visit his place of birth at Radhanagar and own house at Raghunathpur, two miles away from the former he may come from Howrah railway station or from the DumDum Airport to Tarakeswar Railway Station (+91 3212 276190) and get public carrier to Khanakul of Arambagh Sub-division by road. At Radhanagar, they will find the paternal house of Raja. This house was designed by the great Poet Rabindranath Tagore. Of late, the deartment of Information & Cultural Affairs, Govt. of West Bengal has taken initiative to renovate this unique building. At Ragunathpur, a huge land of around 09 Acres will welcome the visitors with hundreds of old mango trees full of delicious fruits. Hooghly Zila Paishad has wonderfully turned the entire area in a beautiful garden having separate segment for the children too. The reminiscence of Raja’s own house is there to be touched. Besides the place for cremation of Alak Manjari Devi is also identified.  A long cannel for boating is available inside the garden. In the evening when the lights are switched on, it seems that the place away from mad cry is awaiting us to make us remember that  our Raja is not in Bristol but here very much inside our hearts with his deeds. 

Rest in peace at Bristol
 Thousands of Books are available to know about Raja. But the renowned grammarian Dr. P. C. Das ( +91 94346 16383), an inhabitant of Khanakul has written a very informative book in Bengali namely “ Viswapathik Rammohun” means Rammohun – the traveler of world is a primary source of this article.  
We pay our homage to Raja Rammohun Roy on his 240th birth anniversary. A preacher of religious tolerance perhaps shows the path to another reformer Sri Ramakrishna Dev who took birth at Kamarpukur of this sub-division after three years from Raja’s disappearance form this material world.      

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