Saturday, April 27, 2013

Raja Ram Mohon Roy and Arnos Vale Cemetery of Bristol, England

Raja Ram Mohon Roy and Arnos Vale Cemetery of Bristol, England

Sachi G. Dastidar

For a long time we wanted to visit the Samadhi of Ram Mohon Roy (also Raja Ram Mohan Roy or Rajah Rammohun Roy; 1772-1833) and pay homage to the great man. While living in Dublin, Ireland my wife Shefali and I decided to fly across the Irish Sea and visit the grave in Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol. Ram Mohon is considered by many as the Father of Indian Renaissance, the Father of Bengal Renaissance, the Father of the Idea of Modern India, Founder of the Brahmo Samaj reformed religion in Hinduism which espoused caste less, gender equal, monotheistic, services in vernacular languages that people can understand easily and formless religion many of which are now part and parcel of modern Hindu practices. He also fought against many taboos, social ills and orthodoxy of the time. Ram Mohon was influenced by the liberal thinking of the Unitarian Church.

Arnos Vale is quite close to the train station, actually within walking distance of less than a kilometer on your left as you exit the train station. Two bus routes connect the cemetery, or one can take a taxi which takes no more than three minutes at a huge cost. Ram Mohon’s cemetery is barely 100 yards from the entrance as you turn right towards the Speilman Centre.

Among all the cemetery architecture with crosses and headstones Ram Mohon’s stands out distinctively as a Hindu shrine. Arnos Vale Cemetery Guidebook writes, “An extremely influential religious and political thinker, he coined the word ‘Hinduism’ as a term for diversity of Indian religions and wrote extensively on religious and social matters. He stressed the importance of education for Indians, campaigned for women’s rights and worked to end the traditional practice of sati, the burning of widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands…..

“This rare and beautiful tomb is now a listed monument and has long been a place of pilgrimage for Bengalis and Indians. It was repaired and conserved in 2008 using money donated to the Arnos Vale Trust by businessman Aditya Poddar.” (p 35)

The Cemetery has a nice park-like setting with flowering trees and paths for walking and biking. There are chapels and lodges among the beautiful monuments in the Cemetery. Now in the Speilman Centre there are exhibition, information as well as a nice restaurant. At the East Lodge there is a souvenir center selling cards and publications dedicated to Arnos Vale and more.

As it is expensive to maintain such a large property in the middle of the city, the owner of the property proposed to sell it to developers. To keep the property as a national heritage area citizens have formed Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust and Friends of Arnos Vale to raise funds and protect the property. They have to raise one million British pounds to achieve their goal. CEO of the organization is Juliette Randall. Anyone wishing to donate money, buy their publication or receive their newsletter may contact, or call (44) 0117-971-9117 or check the web at Mrs. Contractor, widow of an Indian Parsee, is a Member of the Board of Arnos Vale (2013.)
Raja Ram Mohon Roy Tomb

Inscription on the tomb for Rajah Rammohun Roy Bahadoor
Paying Homage
Back Inscription
Paying Homage
A Section of the Cemetery
Tributes left by Admirers
Paying Tribute
View from the Path
Bikers pause for a Look
A Section of the Cemetery
Part of the Cemetery
The Store run by Volunteers