Liberal (Raja Rammohun Roy)

19/04/2024 0 By indiafreenotes

Raja Rammohun Roy (17721833) is often hailed as the father of the Indian Renaissance and a pioneering figure in the early Indian liberal movement. His efforts in reforming and modernizing Indian society were grounded in both the Enlightenment principles he gleaned from European thought and the rich traditions of Indian philosophical and religious ideas. Rammohun Roy’s liberal views were revolutionary for his time, advocating for rationalism, religious reform, education, and the rights of individuals against oppressive traditions and practices.

Key Aspects of Raja Rammohun Roy’s Liberalism:

  • Religious Reform:

Rammohun Roy was deeply critical of what he saw as the superstitions and malpractices within Hinduism. He founded the Brahmo Sabha (later Brahmo Samaj) in 1828, which aimed to purify Hinduism and promote monotheism by rejecting idolatry and upholding the philosophical essentials of the Upanishads. He sought to harmonize Indian thought with Western Enlightenment principles, promoting a more rational and spiritual understanding of religion.

  • Opposition to Sati:

Perhaps one of his most notable reforms was his campaign against the practice of Sati, the ritual burning of widows on their husband’s funeral pyre. Rammohun Roy was moved by personal encounters with Sati and used his resources to lobby the British government to ban the practice. His efforts were successful when in 1829, Lord William Bentinck, the then Governor-General of India, outlawed Sati partly due to Roy’s advocacy.

  • Advocacy for Women’s Rights:

Beyond his fight against Sati, Roy was a proponent of women’s rights, advocating for the education of women and their right to inherit property. He believed that societal advancement was not possible without improving the status of women.

  • Education Reform:

Rammohun Roy was a strong advocate for education, which he saw as vital for personal and societal reform. He promoted modern education that included science and technology, alongside traditional subjects. He was instrumental in establishing Hindu College in 1817, which later became Presidency College, a premier institution of higher education in Kolkata.

  • Freedom of the Press:

Rammohun Roy recognized the importance of the press in reforming society and fought for the rights to freedom of speech and expression. He actively engaged with the media, contributed articles, and influenced public opinion on matters of social and political reform.

  • Engagement with Western Thought:

Roy was well-versed in several languages, including Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, and English, which allowed him to engage deeply with both Eastern and Western philosophies. His exposure to Western thought helped him introduce new ideas about governance and society to the Indian public.


Raja Rammohun Roy’s approach to reform was fundamentally liberal as he sought to balance respect for tradition with the need for progress and rationality. His legacy is evident in various spheres of Indian life, including religion, education, and politics. His efforts laid the groundwork for later social reformers in India and established principles that resonated with both Indian traditions and liberal Enlightenment values. His life and work remain a testament to the power of progressive thought and the importance of embracing change while honoring one’s cultural heritage.