Bristol pays tributes to Ram Mohan Roy, the great Indian social reformer
The Indian social reformer, who visited England in the 19th century, died of meningitis in this city on September 27, 1833.Updated: Sep 24, 2017 22:11 IST
Keeping with tradition going back more than 180 years, the city of Bristol paid tributes to the legacy of Indian social reformer Ram Mohan Roy, who visited England in the 19th century and died of meningitis in this city on September 27, 1833.
Standing in the shadow of the historic tomb in the Arnos Vale Cemetery, built in his memory by his aide Dwarkanath Tagore, a group of people from various parts of Britain and elsewhere gathered to remember the life and times of the leader widely considered to be the maker of modern India.
The gathering included local historian Carla Contractor, who has worked over the years to preserve Roy’s legacy in Bristol; AS Rajan, minister (coordination) in the Indian high commission; members of the Brahmo Samaj and the Unitarian church; Bristolians and others.
Lord Mayor of Bristol Lesley Alexander, who attended the event in traditional attire, recalled Roy’s association with the leading Bristolians of the time, Lant Carpenter and his daughter, Mary. The city, she said, cherished its links with Roy, whose life-size statue was installed in the city centre in 1997.
“Just an indicator of the Raja’s contribution to Bristol is his statue overlooking College Green in the Bristol city centre,” Alexander said. The city also has a walk named after Roy, as well as a large portrait for which he sat during his visit here.
Roy’s tomb in Bristol has been an important centre for many visitors from India over the decades.
Flowers and wreaths were placed at the tomb and songs composed by Roy were sung by members of the Brahmo Samaj. Various aspects of the Roy’s life and work in India and during his stay in England were presented in the adjoining chapel after the brief ceremony. Speakers included Sumit Chanda, Peter Hardy, Swagata Ghosh and Contractor.
The tomb — designed and built between 1842 and 1844 — has become a prominent symbol of the cemetery. The canopy is a faithful replica of a Bengali “chattri” or a funeral monument. As desired by Dwarkanath Tagore, who erected and paid for the tomb in the 19th century, the original epitaph simply read: “Rajah Rammohun Roy, died Stapleton 27th. Sept. 1833”.
The epitaph, however, was moved to the back of the tomb in 1872 and was replaced by a longer one. It now reads: “Beneath this stone rest the remains of Raja Rammohun Roy Bahadur, a conscientious and steadfast believer in the unity of Godhead, he consecrated his life with entire devotion to the worship of the Devine Spirit alone.
“To great natural talents, he united through mastery of many languages and distinguished himself as one of the greatest scholars of his day. His unwearied labour to promote the social, moral and physical condition of the people of India, his earnest endeavours to suppress idolatry and the rite of suttie and his constant zealous advocacy of whatever tended to advance the glory of God and the welfare of man live in the grateful remembrance of his countrymen.”