Most of our Readers are probably aware that Baboo Rammohun Roy has taken his passage to England, on board the Albion on Monday evening, Nov’15, 1830. The Baboo who is, in some degree, a reformer, may be considered as one of those remarkable men who attract attention in their day and generation by outstripping the prejudices and shackles of a peculiar position and taking nothing for granted, examine everything for themselves. With an intellect of no common order and capacity, it is scarcely surprising that Rammohun Roy should not have rested satisfied with the mere routine of Brahminical acquirement. Conscious of high intellectual powers, he determined by a course of self-education, to bring them to bear with as much advantage as possible upon society and circumstances around him. His attention in the first instance was directed, we believe, to the sacred writings of the Hindoos – to the corruptions that in progress of time, obscured their original scope and tendency; and to the adcititious superstitions that arose out of such corruption, some of which were of a demoralizing and cruel character.
At length the Baboo grappled with one of those in its strong hold, and in a series of arguments addressed to his countrymen, demonstrated the practice of Concreamation was not authorised by the Sacred Texts. The circumstance of a earned Brahmin conducting an argument of such a nature in his native town, would have been sufficiently remarkable, but Rammohun, who had attained an extra-ordinary facility of English composition, was also anxious to show his European friends how matters stood, and accordingly he published several tracts in English language, condemnatory of the rite alluded to and proving that was not enjoined in the Shastras. According to him, Hindooism was a system of pure theism, which became gradually corrupted, and his aim was to restore it, if possible, to what it originally was. At length he extended the field of his enquiries, and became even a polemical writer upon the Christian Religion. Whatever may have been the precise nature of his own convictions on the subject of Religion – Rammohun Ray’s name attained considerable celebrity both among his countrymen and foreigners; and there is little doubt that he was considered as a “mark of likelihood” – by all who view the extension of Christianity as the most imperative of duties – and its establishment as that of the highest morality and civilization. His mental powers, his learning, his capability, his knowledge of English and the other languages foreign to this country, of conveying much recondite information respecting India, and his engaging manners, made his company be sought after by many European gentlemen giving rise to an agreeable and friendly intercourse, as far as his strict conformity to Hindooism, in essential would admit of. In the meantime, several of his countrymen took the colour of his opinions; but with many there is great reason to suppose that he was viewed with those feelings of repugnance, if not of hostility – which it is too often the destiny of the most conscious philanthropist, or reformer to excite. Be that as it may – to a mind like Rammohun Roy’s thirsting for knowledge, the wish of seeing other countries, and other people, and of beholding personally the working of systems which he knew of only by history or report, arose as a natural result of what has preceded. For several years therefore this idea has been entertained by Rammohun Roy – and he has at length carried it, to a certain extent into effect. We should not have taken the liberty of making these remarks but for the notoriety which the circumstance has already attained and the speculation to which it has given rise.
The Baboo, we understand, has taken his own servants with him and means, during the voyage and his residence in England to live entirely according to the rules of his order in essentials, maintaining as he does, that there is nothing in his undertaking such an adventure opposed to the authentic institutions of Caste. Some of his countrymen in Calcutta appear much puzzled to account for Rammohun Roy’s motives in undertaking such an unusual thing as a voyage to Europe. Accordingly, we have all sorts of guesses on the subject – which perhaps might have been as well spared. Surely rational curiosity of itself will be sufficient to account for what they seem to consider such an astounding affair. With respect to the consequences of the visit, we hope they will be beneficial to the individual and others. When the Babbo returns (as we trust he will be safe and sound), he will be enabled to present his countrymen with a work in their own language, if so inclined (and should it be concealed to be capable of doing good, we feel assured the inclination will not be wanting) – that will enlarge their knowledge, dispel many of their prejudices, and perhaps impel others to follow his example. It only remains for us now to wish him, as we sincerely do – a pleasant and prosperous voyage.
(Published in The Calcutta Gazette November 1830)