A renowned religious and social leader and reformer, Raja RamMohan Roy was committed to the spread of education, especially among the poor in India. Though he was born into a highly orthodox and traditional Bengali Brahmin family, he was in no ways orthodox and old-fashioned in thought. His birthplace is in a village named Radhanagar located in West Bengal. He was born on May 24, 1774. Known as the “Maker of Modern India”, Raja Ram Mohan Roy was a part of the highly learned group of men during his time that included the likes of Dwarknath Tagore. The group made up of many scholars and reformers started the Brahmo Samaj which is dedicated to upholding Indian tradition and culture even today. The beginning of the BrahmoSamaj was during the period of Renaissance in Bengal for which Raja Ram Mohan Roy was referred to as “The Father of Bengal Renaissance”.
Though Raja Ram Mohan Roy was born a staunch Hindu, his outlook on life was highly modern and this motivated him to learn and understand other religions as well. So he was well versed in Islam, Sufism, and Christianity besides Hinduism. Apart from learning a number of religions he was also a great linguist. He had mastered a number of languages that included Asian languages like Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian and European languages like Latin, Greek, French, besides English and his own mother tongue Bengali. His efforts to bring about reforms in the society were initiated at a very young age when he wrote against idol worship. Another great reform that Raja Ram Mohan Roy was responsible for was the abolition of the practice of “Sati”. He was of the opinion that education should be given prime importance in life and religious beliefs and customs must be done away with. He was greatly influenced by Western education which he believed had a more modern outlook and advocated the Western form of education in India as part of his social reform movement. Raja Ram Mohan Roy once said that “If Science and Mathematics are necessary for them why they are not necessary for us?”
What was really remarkable about Raja Ram Mohan Roy was that he used his education and learning to enrich society by bringing about reforms that benefitted the people of the society. His detailed learning of the scriptures resulted in understanding that the practice of Sati had nothing to do with religious customs or beliefs. He fought for its abolition as well as fought to empower women by promoting women’s right to property and women’s education.
One of the methods Raja Ram Mohan Roy implemented in order to ensure that modern education was made accessible to all was by establishing a number of English Medium schools in India. His idea was to enable the children of India to raise the knowledge and living standards so that they would be able to compete with the Western world. Raja Ram Mohan Roy struggled hard to realize this objective and the result of his endeavours was the various schools he established.
Another initiative of Raja Ram Mohan Roy was mking his newspapers his voice. He openly published his thoughts on religions, cusotms and above all education reforms so that it reached the common man. His newspapers MiratulAkbari and SainvadKaumudi were his vehicles that travelled with his objectives to reach the very grassroots of India and help to bring about educational reforms. Today the educational institutions founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy are some of the best in West Bengal where a large population of students get their education and learning.