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Raja Rammohan Roy

Rammohan was born during the darkest period of Indian history in the recent past, in 1772, when the British East Indian Company had begun engulfing the Nation and its resources, when the different Indian powers were fighting each other for petty selfish interests, and when the masses were starving  in physical and spiritual resources. Religion to most people was a bundle of superstitions and the light of knowledge was limited to a few. Scientific and rational thoughts were alien to all. Rammohan was a revolutionary, he brought massive transformation by hammering at the very foundation of all superstition, fundamentalism and irrational customs. He went to Tibet at an early age, but could not withstand the hypocrisy. He enlightened himself on the manners and customs of the European and the Islamic traditions. The best practices in them opened his eyes to the myriads of possibilities of reforming the society. He wanted the pure and the best form of Hinduism to emerge from the Vedas, from the Upanishads, sans the cultural decay, the degradation as was evident in the customs and rituals. The Monotheism of the Abrahamic tradition appealed to him. He could not accept the ritualistic polytheism prevalent in the Hindu society. He saw the conflicts among many sects of the Hindus, their claims of superiority and egoistic battles devoid of any spiritual wisdom or catholicity. He attacked at the evil practices and tried to uproot the disgusting practice of Sati or burning widows which was really used by the greedy relatives to usurp the properties legally belonging to the widow. While several pious women voluntarily accepted death along with their husband, most were forced to die. Due to the relentless effort of Rammohan Roy, Sati was abolished by law. He established Brahmo Sabha - a new theology based on the Upanishads, that recognized Brahman, the Supreme Being as the all in all and that was the essence of all religions. The Brahma Sabha, which later under Debndranath and Akshay Kumar Datta evolved into Brahmo Samaj, helped in preventing the tide of educating influential Hindus embracing Christianity. Rammohan hit at the root of orthodox Hindu as well as Christian evangelical fundamentalism.

Rammohan Roy had a vision of a strong and resurgent India, whose basis would be true spirituality. He wanted to eradicate all irrational customs in order to form a modern, progressive society. He liked the courage, the determination, the loyalty, the perseverance, the thrust for knowledge and the other positive qualities of the Europeans which had made them pioneers in leading the scientific and material progress. These qualities made him respectful of the British rule in India, by which, he thought, India would become more progressive. He was universal in spirit and had a vision of free India that would be driven by knowledge and material progress while firmly rooted in its own tradition of spirituality. He wanted to bind the country through a common thread and English language, according to him provided an opportunity to India to unify through a common linguistic basis. He was keen on education and therefore was instrumental in establishing the Hindu College. He broke all prevalent customs by crossing the sea and going to England and earned the respect of the English. He died in Bristol.

Other Luminaries

Henry Louis Vivian Derozio is often remembered as one of the pioneers who had triggered the Young Bengal Movement through his emphasis on Rationalism and Free Thinking. Derozio had encouraged young students to think and go beyond the customs and traditional rituals. His students however breached all social restrictions and rebelled against the orthodox Hinduism. They questioned every Hindu customs and practices and looked upon European thoughts and ideas as enlightening and harbingers of reformation. They openly flouted social norms, indulged in drinking and eating beef and other prohibited items. Several of the students took to Christianity, proving that they only replaced one set of dogmatic thinking with another and could not grasp the essence of the the teachings of Derozio - they included Reverend Krishna Mohan Bannerjee and Reverend Lalbihari Dey. Other notable students included Radhanath Shikdar who had actually scaled the height of Mt. Everest and still had to concede the glory to his English master whose name was etched to the peak, Ramgopal Ghosh, famously called Indian Demosthenes for his oratory, Rasik Krishna Mallik and Ramtanu Lahiri. Other notable educators of this period were David Hare, who was extremely popular among his students for his wisdom and kind disposition, and D.L Richardson. Sir William Jones had established the  Asiatic Society for research into Indian History and culture. William Carey, an English Missionary of repute, had established a college in Sreerampur. Bishop's College was established by a Missionary preacher called Middleton, where the entry of non Christians was banned. Sanskrit College in Calcutta was started in 1824 and after a brief pause, restarted from 1844. Oriental Seminary school by Gaurmohan Adhya played a key role in imparting secondary education. Attempts were made by Radhakanta Deb to start women's education for the Hindu conservative society. Another Missionary Alexander Duff started General Assemblies Institution. First Medical College was established in Calcutta in 1835. Dhaka College and Chattogram school were established by 1835. Hooghly College was founded with the help of donation from Haji Mohasin. 

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