Rammohun Roy

D.H. Killingley D.H.Killingley at NEWCASTLE.AC.UK
Tue Mar 31 10:27:04 UTC 1998

In answer to N. Ganesan's query:

        The quotation is from Rammohun's letter to the Governor-General, Lord
Amherst, in 1823. The letter is printed in _The English Works of Raja
Rammohun Roy,_ ed. Jogendra Chunder Ghose and Eshan Chunder Bose,
Allahabad, Panini Office, 1906; reprinted New York, AMS Press, 1978. It
will also be found in other editions of Rammohun's works, and in _Sources
of Indian Tradition_, ed. W. T. de Bary and others, 1st edn, Columbia
University Press, 1958, pp 592ff.

        People have often puzzled over why Rammohun should have disparaged
Sanskrit literature in this way, when he used Sanskrit sources in his
religious works, and himself established a Vedantic college. I think the
answer, as often in Rammohun, lies in the context in which he is writing,
which as usual is that of a controversy.  In the letter to Amherst, he is
writing within the realm of discourse of public policy. He is arguing that
public funds for education (earmarked originally in the 1813 Charter Act)
should be applied to modern learning, particularly science, and not to
'establishing a Sanscrit school under Hindu pandits to impart such
knowledge as is already current in India'. In his religious works, on the
other hand, the realm of discourse is traditional Indian thought, and he
is defending his own interpretation of Advaita Vedanta against that of
others, or against non-Advaita views (particularly Gaudiya Vaishnava)
within that realm.

        The arguments in the letter to Amherst were taken up later by
Macaulay in his well-known Minute on Education of 1835, without
acknowledgment to Rammohun. Macaulay, however, attacked Islamic as well as
Hindu learning (without knowing either of them, as Rammohun did, though he
claimed to have read translations). The education he advocated was in
English literature, not science.

Dr Dermot Killingley
Dept of Religious Studies
University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU
Phone 0191 222 6730    Fax 0191 222 5185

On Fri, 27 Mar 1998, N. Ganesan wrote:

> I read a quote by Rammohun Roy:
> "The Sanskrit language, so difficult that almost a lifetime is
> necessary for its acquisition, is well known to have been for ages a
> lamantable check to the diffusion of knowledge. And, the learning
> concealed under this almost impervious veil is far from sufficient to
> reward the labour of acquiring it".
> Where does Rammohun Roy say this?
> Regards,
> N. Ganesan

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