Raja Ram Mohan Roy was born of a distinguished Brahmin family in Bengal. After liberal education he entered the service of the East India Company and rose to high office.
Essentially a humanist and religious reformer, he left the Company to devote his time to the service of his people. Profoundly influenced by European liberalism, Ram Mohan came to the conclusion that radical reform was necessary in the religion of Hinduism and in the social practices of the Hindus. He founded the Brahmo Samaj at Calcutta in 1828, which was initially known as the "Brahmo Sabha."
Ram Mohan's claim to be remembered in Indian history is as the originator of all the more important secular movements in that country. His services to the cause of the abolition of suttee are well-known. He was the first feminist in India and his book, Brief remarks regarding modern encroachments on the ancient rights of females (1822), is a reasoned argument in favour of the equality of women.
He argued for the reform of Hindu law, led the protest against restrictions on the press, mobilised the Government against the oppressive land laws, argued the case for the association of Indians in Government and argued in favour of an English system of education in India.
Ram Mohan came to England in 1831 as the ambassador of the Mughal Emperor Akbar Shah II. In 1832 he visited Paris, returning to England the same year, and coming to stay at Beech House, Stapleton Grove, Bristol in 1833. During his visit to the city he worshipped at Lewin's Mead Chapel.
However, ten days after arriving in Bristol he fell ill with meningitis, and died on 27 September 1833. He was initially buried in the grounds of Beech House, but ten years later his friend Dwarakanath Tagore had him reinterred at Arno's Vale. A chattri (funerary monument or mandir (shrine) was designed by William Prinsep and built with sponsorship from Dwarakanath Tagore. (See photograph.) In 1997 a statue of Raja Ram Mohan Roy was built at Bristol.