Kolkata to fund repair of Raja Rammohun Roy's tomb in Bristol
May 1, 2007 - 10:25:32 AM

Bristol, May 1 - The Kolkata Municipal Corporation - has promised to provide funds to the Bristol-based expert on the life and times of Indian social reformer Raja Rammohun Roy to undertake repairs on his tomb where his remains lie buried.

Carla Contractor, a local historian, has returned after visiting Kolkata for six days as the guest of the KMC and is looking forward to initiating repair work next month on the tomb, beneath which lie the remains of Rammohun Roy, who died in Bristol on Sept 27, 1833.

Contractor, who has been closely associated with institutionalising Rammohun Roy's statue, bust and portraits in key public places in Bristol, told IANS after returning from Kolkata: 'It was an extraordinary honour they paid me'.

She was the guest of the Kolkata mayor Bikash Bhattacharyya, who had visited the cemetery in Bristol in December 2006. She said she also met noted sculptor Niranjan Pradhan, whose statue of the great Indian leader was installed in a prime location in Bristol in 1997.

Contractor said the Kolkata mayor had promised to arrange for 55,000 pounds required to undertake repair of the tomb in the Arnos Vale Cemetery, where every year a function is held on Sept 27 to mark the leader's death anniversary.

Contractor said: 'The Raja is widely regarded as the founder of modern India and his importance as a social reformer cannot be overstated. The annual pilgrimage attracts scores of people with the common aim of celebrating and remembering the life and work of this truly great and inspirational man.'

She said she was hopeful of more funds to ensure proper maintenance of the places associated with Rammohun Roy in Bristol and also to set up an education trust. During her visit to Kolkata, she also visited places in West Bengal associated with the life of Rammohun Roy.

Last week, Contractor curated an exhibition on the great leader organised by a Bristol-based women's charity organisation, Uwaz Utaoh. The exhibition, opened by the leader of the Bristol City Council Barbara Janke, was the culmination of research project undertaken by the organisation for the last two years.

Simi Chowdhary, director of Awaz Utaoh, said: 'One of the Raja's achievements was to abolish the practice of sati. His teachings have been an inspiration to all women from all faiths. A group of women from our organisation has been researching his work, and helping raise awareness within the Asian community.'

Rammohun Roy was born in a Brahmin family of Radhanagar village in Hooghly district of West Bengal on May 22, 1772. He came to England in 1831. However, 10 days after arriving in Bristol, he fell ill with meningitis and died on Sept 27, 1833.

His remains lie buried in the sylvan Arnos Vale cemetery on the outskirts of Bristol. The tomb is covered by a canopy which has become a prominent symbol of the cemetery. He was initially buried in the grounds of Beech House, where he lived, but 10 years after his death, his friend Dwarkanath Tagore had him re-interred in Arnos Vale. According to Indian records, he was born in 1772, but his epitaph notes the year of birth as 1774.

His epitaph at the cemetery 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.'

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