Sati was an ancient Hindu custom, according to which a wife immolated herself at the funeral pyre of her husband. In 1811, Roy witnessed his brother's widow being burned alive on her husband's funeral pyre. Three years later, he retired and concentrated on campaigning against the practice of women dying as Satis. Raja Rammohan Roy was the first Indian to protest against this custom. In spite of protests from orthodox Hindus, he carried on his propoganda against the custom. Finally, he won the cause when Lord William Bentick, the Governor General of India passed a law in 1829 abolishing the custom of Sati. According to this law the custom of Sati became illegal and punishable as culpable homicide. Raja Rammohan Roy also opposed child-marriage and supported widow remarriage.
Raja Rammohan Roy supported Western education, including learning of English and the knowledge of science and philosophy. He, along with David Hare, a missionary, founded schools to impart English education to Indian children. He developed the Hindu College which finally developed into the Presidency College in Calcutta.
Raja Rammohan Roy did not want the Indians to imitate the West. He based his teachings on the philosophy of the Vedas and Upanishads and tried to bring about a synthesis of the Vedic religion and the Christian humanism. This very synthesis formed the basis of the Ramakrishna Math which was later formed by Swami Vivekananda. Raja Rammohan Roy focused the attention of the British Government to such demands as appointing Indians to higher posts. He protested against restrictions on the freedom of the press. His social reforms made him the "first modern man" in India.
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