Roy, Rammohun

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Rammohun Roy (räm-mō´hən roi), 1772–1833, Indian religious and educational reformer. Sometimes called the father of modern India, Roy was born to a wealthy and devout Brahman family in Bengal. He early mastered several languages and subsequently employed them in a study of the religions of the world. After a successful administrative career in the British East India Company, he retired (1815) and devoted himself to rejuvenating Hindu culture. He sought to preserve essential Hinduism, which he recognized as a strong unifying force in India, while removing from it the elements of idolatry, discrimination against women, and the caste system. Thus, he founded in Calcutta (now Kolkata) the Atmiya Sabha [friendly association], an organization that served as a platform for his liberal ideas. Roy formulated, notably in The Precepts of Jesus (1820), an adaptation of Christianity that accepted its ethical and humanitarian teachings while rejecting its theology. To spread his teachings, Roy founded newspapers in English, Persian, and Bengali and established several secondary schools that used English educational methods. He felt that India would have to absorb Western ideas to become a modern state. In 1828 he replaced the Amityo Sabha with the Brahmo Samaj [society of god], an organization that exerted a deep and continuing influence on Indian intellectual, social, and religious life. In 1830, Roy became one of the first Indians to travel to Britain; he died there, and is buried in Bristol.

See biographies by U. N. Ball (1933) and I. Singh (1958).