Who was Raja Ram Mohan Roy? He was the pioneer of the Renaissance movement and the dealer of the Liberal Reformist group. His chief associates were David Hare and Taraknath Tagore. Ram Mohan was well-versed in both eastern and western knowledge. He introduced new and progressive ideas in every field of Indian national life. He was a nationalist having deep faith in Indian cultural heritage. At the same time, he had an international outlook as well as he sympathized with the progressive reform movements in different parts of the globe. Ram Mohan knew as many as nine languages- Bengali, Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. He had a synthetic view of life and culture and was a celebrated educational, social and religious reformer.
Educational reforms: In the field of educational reforms, Ram Mohan’s contribution is remarkable and far-reaching. He made a synthesis of the eastern and western culture. Being a great Sanskrit scholar himself and having been deeply convinced of the truth and greatness of the ancient and pure form of Hinduism, he did not condemn eastern culture and religion. At the same time, he understood that the Indian mind had rusted and realized that contact with the Western literature and science alone could regenerate Oriental culture, correct its follies and contribute to it the essential qualities which lacked. Therefore, he wanted to absorb the best from the West and the best from the East. He tried to synthesize Western rationalism and Eastern idealism, value of Western material science and wisdom of the East. He wanted to create a bridge between the two.
Ram Mohan was an ardent advocate of Western education through the medium of English. Then in 1821, Mr. H.H. Wilson, a great Orientalist rooted the idea of establishing a Sanskrit college in Calcutta. Ram Mohan opposed to this proposal. In the letter, dated 11 December 1823, Lord Amherst, he wrote, “we now find that the government is establishing a Sanskrit school under Hindu pundits to impart knowledge as is already current in India. This seminary can only be expected to load the minds of the physical distinctions of little or no practical use to the society….The Sanskrit system of education would be best calculated to keep this country in darkness….But as the improvement of the British native population is the object of the government it will consequently promote a more liberal and enlightened system of instruction, embracing mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry and anatomy with other useful sciences which may be accomplished with the sum proposed by employing a few gentlemen of talent and learning educated in Europe, and providing a college furnished with the unnecessary books, instruments and other apparatus.” The letter was sent to the President of the GCPI but left unanswered and the Sanskrit college was established. Now the letter raised a violent controversy in the GCPI which was ultimately settled by the award of Lord Bentick on 7th March 1835. Although the views of Raja Ram Mohan Roy and British Government were similar to each other in respect of the subject of study, the objective was different. The government was ready to introduce Western education to impose colonial bondage in education, whereas Ram Mohan wanted to accept English education because he desired to modernize Indian society which would result in self-consciousness and ultimately lead to a national awakening.
Ram Mohan showed far-sighted vision in the inclusion of science in the educational system of the country. He was fully convinced that without scientific education, no future progress was possible for any country. The Macaulay’s Minute of 1835 and the subsequent Bentick’s award is the result of his indirect influence. Ram Mohan’s vigorous advocacy for liberal and scientific education struck at a very rooted Orientalism and paved the way for new education in India.
Ram Mohan did another valuable service in interpreting India to England. He tried his utmost best to dispel the absurd notions which then prevailed regarding the nature of Hinduism, the poverty of the ancient literatures in Sanskrit, the lack of moral values among India, etc. His great learning, lucid and convincing exposition of his deep, religious beliefs showed to Englishmen that it would be wrong to condemn all Eastern learning and religion and that a judicious study of Oriental culture ought to have a place in the modern educational system of India. This view was later accepted by the Wood’s Despot of 1854 as well.