Rammohan Ray (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Ray’s writings have become the putative source for almost all India’s social and religious reformist ideals. Known as “the father of modern India,” Ray saw the Hinduism of his day as a debased form of a purer monotheism practiced in India during a prehistoric Golden Age. He also found many social customs of his own day—the forced suicide of widows and child marriage, for example—as decadent, medieval accretions on the noble patterns of the Vedic age.
Among Bengalis of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, priests (Brahmins) of the Kulin class ranked only slightly lower than the gods. Their inferiors customarily addressed them as “Lord” (Thakur). They also emulated the Kulin’s dialect of Bengali and almost everything about their style. Kulin boys were much in demand as husbands and often had more than one wife. Rammohan Ray was born into a Kulin family and married twice while still in his early teens.
His father’s ancestors had long before assimilated themselves into the culture of India’s Muslim rulers and had served in many governmental posts. His father was a landowner (zamindar) who fell on hard times in later life. In 1800, his father was jailed for debt and died in poverty in 1803. Ray’s mother’s family had not moved so close to Indo-Islamic culture and supported themselves as ritual specialists.
As a boy, Ray...
(The entire section is 2346 words.)
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