Raja Rammohan Roy was born in the village of Radhanagar in the district of Hoogly on the 22nd May, 1772 in a prosperous and orthodox Brahmin family Three generations of his ancestors were in the service of Muslim Kings.
His father Ramakant was very keen about his son's education. He started his education from his village school and learnt Sanskrit Bengali Urdu and Persian. Later on he learnt English Arabic Latin French and even Hebrew.
His writings in many of the above languages reflect a fair command on them. 'Roy' was title given to his ancestors by the Nawab of Bengal. He pleaded a case on behalf of the Moghul Emperor in England in 1830 and the emperor conferred the title of 'Raja' on him.
Raja Rammohan Roy was interested not only in different languages but also in different religions. At Patna he studied Koran and Koranic literature. Then he went to Benaras where he studied Upanishads and the Upanishadic literature.
His exposure to different religions and his vast learning shook his faith in the priest-ridden idolatry of the Hindu religion of the day. Since his parents were orthodox estrangement between him and his parents made him leave his paternal home. He went to Benaras along with his two living wives where he used to spend his time in reading and writing besides earning money for his family.
Raja Rammohan Roy served East India Company for a period of ten years from 1805 to 1815. After his retirement from East Indian Company, he fully devoted himself to social services in Calcutta.
Like all great men, he did a lot of useful work in his life. He was full of enthusiasm for improvements in all fields-educational, social, political and religious. He had inexhaustible energy for his multifarious activities.
In the sphere of education, he powerfully pleaded for scientific education on Western lines as against scholastic education on ancient lines. He strongly felt that the prevalent education was inadequate education was inadequate for the needs of modern India. He wanted European teachers for teaching Mathematics, Philosophy, Chemistry, Anatomy and other useful sciences.
Politics and Public administration also claimed his attention. In fact, it is in the field of politics and public administration that he showed the remarkable powers of his mind. It is another matter that there was not much scope for the exercise of his mental faculties in these fields. However, his opinions on these subjects lead us to believe that he was one of the remarkable men that our country has produced.
But it is in the field of social reforms that he is more widely remembered. And in the field of social reform it is the abolition of Sati in particular, with which his name is inextricably woven. He launched a powerful campaign against this cruel system. He roused public opinion against it. At last his labours bore fruit, and Sati was declared illegal in 1829 by Lord William Bentinck.
In those days, polygamy was also prevalent. It was also a nasty social evil. Raja Rammohan Roy pleaded against this system by quoting Hindu authorities. He was successful in creating a strong public opinion against this evil.
Another achievement, for which Raja Rammohan Roy is well known, is the founding of the Brahmo Samaj. He wanted to reform the priest-ridden ritualistic Hindu religion. He repeatedly said that he had no intention of departing from the ancient Hindu religion. He condemned idol-worship, he said that the Brahmo Samaj was based on the theism of Hindu scriptures; his main idea was to purge the society of religious evils.
Thus he was also religious reformer. Though he was a great reformer yet he remained faithful to the best traditions of his country. He was proud of India's past and proud of the achievements of his race. He was also keen to conserve all that was good noble and great in the ancient Hindu religion.
It is very rare in the history of making that a person should involve himself in such varied activities and get such distinction as Raja Rammohan Roy got. While some of his efforts were rewarded during his lifetime some other labours of his bore fruit after his death. For example two years after his death, the famous Education Decree inaugurating the present system of English education was passed.
Raja Rammohan Roy was in fact, the father of Indian politics. Though his political horizon was confined to India yet his thinking was truly cosmopolitan. His mind was saturated with love for freedom. He hated barriers of race, creed, color or country. He wanted equal rights for men and women. He was against exploitation of any section of society. His active sympathies were always with the oppressed.
He played a leading role not only in fighting against and eradicating social evils but also in reviving pride in our ancient culture and heritage. He was truly the father of the wave of cultural revival, which was reaction against the great challenge thrown by the western culture and civilization which was politically dominant and economically powerful. He was a champion of humanitarianism.
But an all these variegated educational, social and religious activities took a toll on Raja Rammohan Roy's health. After some illness he passed to his eternal rest on the 27th September, 1833. His earthly remains lie in a graceful Mausoleum at Bristol. His grateful countrymen continue remembering him as the 'Father of Indian Renaissance'.