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ENGLISH IMPRESSIONS OF RAMMOHUN ROY,
Derived from documents which reached England
before his visit.
HALF a century has now elapsed since the attention of the religious public in Great Britain was first drawn to the wonderful man who is the subject of the present volume. Those who are acquainted with India at the present time, when the efforts of the British Government have long been directed to advancing the material resources of that great country, as well as to promote intellectual and moral improvement, and who are aware how gladly these efforts are seconded by the intellectual part of the native population, can hardly realize the difficulties which the first Hindoo Reformer must have had to encounter. This must be borne in mind when tracing the progress of the extraordinary individual, who, for so long a period, stood alone to encounter the hostility of a whole people sunk in the most degrading idolatry.
The first English notice we find of RAMMOHUN Roy occurs in the Periodical Accounts of the Baptist Missionary Society, Vol. VI., pp. 106-109, of the date of 1816:
“RAMA-MOHUNA-RAYA, a very rich Rarhee Brahmun of Calcutta, is a respectable Sungskrita scholar, and so well versed in Persian, that he is called MOULUVEERAMA-MOHUNA-RAYA* : he also writes English with correctness, and reads with ease English mathematical and metaphysical works. He has published in Bengalee one or two philosophical works, from the Sungskrita, which he hopes may be useful in leading his countrymen to renounce idolatry. Europeans breakfast at his house, at a separate table, in the English fashion; he
1 has paid us a visit at Serampore, and at a late interview, after relating an anecdote of Krishna, relative to a petty theft by this god, he added, “The sweeper of my house would not do such an act, and can I worship a god sunk lower than the man who is a menial servant ?' He is at present a simple theist, admires Jesus Christ, but knows not his need of the atonement. He has not renounced his caste, and this enables him to visit the richest families of Hindoos. He is said to be very moral ;
but is pronounced to be a most wicked man by the strict Hindoos."
Subjoined to this is a copy of RAMMOHUN Roy's Preface to his Translation of the Abridgment of the Vedanta. The passage closes as follows:
* In this and in other extracts, the original orthography is preserved.
“Of this man Mr. YATES writes thus, in a letter dated Aug., 1816 :-'I was introduced to him about a year ago : before this, he was not acquainted with any one who cared for his soul. Some time after, I introduced EUSTACE CAREY to him, and we have had repeated conversations with him. When I first knew him he would talk only on metaphysical subjects, such as the eternity of matter, the nature and qualities of evidence, &c., but he has lately become much more humble, and disposed to converse about the gospel. He has many relations,
, Brahmuns, and has established religious worship among them. He maintains the unity of God, and hates all the heathen idolatries. He visited EUSTACE lately and stayed to family prayer, with which he was quite delighted. EUSTACE gave him Dr. WATTS'S Hymns : he said he would treasure them up in his lieart. He has been at Serampore once, and has engaged to come and see me in the course of a few weeks. He has offered EUSTACE a piece of ground for a school'.**
A fuller account of RAMMOHUN Roy is found in the Church of England “ Missionary Register” for Sept., 1816, p. 370 :
“We have been favored with a sight of a tract, printed at Calcutta in the present year (1816), with the following title :- Translation of an Abridgment of the Vedant, or Resolution of all the Veds; the most celebrated and revered Work of Brahminical Theology, establishing the Unity of the Supreme Being; and that he alone is the Object of propitiation and worship. By
* Dr, CARPENTER'S “Review," pp. 89-91.
RAMMOHUN Roy.' Before we give an account of this curious tract, it may be advantageous to our readers to know something of the author. Of RAMMOHUN Roy we have received reports from several friends. The substance of them is this : he is a Brahmin, about 32
years of age, of extensive landed property, and of great consideration and influence; shrewd, vigilant, active, ambitious, prepossessing in his manners, versed in various languages, and busily employed in giving lectures to a number of his countrymen on the Unity of the Godhead. He is acquainted with the New Testament, and seems disposed to hear any thing which can be enforced by the authority of Christ.
“Another account carries him further as a Christian. It states that he began his studies by learning Persian ; as he considered a knowledge of that language necessary to every native of any distinction. From Persian he was led almost as a matter of course to Arabic and the Koran. His own statement is, that the religion of Mahomed at first made some impression upon him; but when he found that the prophet carried off the beautiful wife of his slave, and attempted to establish his religion by the sword, he became convinced that it could not be from God. Then he studied our Bible in English; and in consequence became a Christian.
He has spread his doctrine to a considerable extent, and has several Hindoos of high caste and of fortune in league withi him, who maintain his opinions. They call themselves a society, and are bound by certain rules, one of which is, that no man shall be admitted into their number except with this condition, that he renounce idol worship. Of these rules, however, they do not seem to be very uniform in the observance. One of the society, though he professes to have renounced idolatry, yet keeps in his house a number of gods, as well as two large pagodas : his society has granted him a dispensation on this head, because he possesses a certain quantity of land from the King of Delhi for this purpose, and if he were to destroy his idols, he might lose his land. One account carries the number of RAMMOHUN'S followers to nearly five hundred ; and states, that they expect soon to be strong enough to enable him publicly to avow his faith, and consequently to lose his caste, which he has hitherto not done, as it would impede his intercourse with many whom he hopes shortly to convince. The Brahmins had twice attempted his life, but he was fully on his guard. It is stated, that after being baptized he intends to embark for England, with many of his friends, in order to pass some years in the acquisition of learning at one or both of our universities.
“RAMMOHUN writes and speaks English correctly. He has published different tracts and translations in our tongue, and in Persian and Bengalee, directed against the Hindoo idolatry and superstitions. The piece, of which we shall give an abstract, discovers little else than a discernment of the folly of the vulgar belief of his country; and a subtle, but unsuccessful, attempt to put a good meaning on the absurd statements of its more ancient and refined creed. His judgment may possibly be convinced of the truth of Divine revelation,