Rajah Ram Mohun Roy (1772-1833) was an individual of truly global stature, and is buried at Arnos Vale on the Ceremonial Way. His tomb is clearly visible from the front gates off the Bath Road.
The Raja was an extremely influential religious and political thinker, he coined the word “Hinduism” as a term for the 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. He spoke several languages and was involved in publish newspapers and also wrote a number of books.
Ram Mohan Roy came to Britain in 1833 to petition the government to ensure the practice of sati remained illegal. He decided to come and visit Lant Carpenter (father of Mary Carpenter) in Bristol. Sadly Raja Ram Mohan Roy died of meningitis on 27 September 1833 and was originally buried on 18 October 1833, in the grounds of Stapleton Grove where he had been staying.
Although the cemetery was not in existence at the time of the Raja’s death in 1833, he was moved to his final resting place on the 29th May 1843. His body was placed in its wooden and lead coffin in a deep brick-built vault, over seven feet underground. He is in a large plot on the Ceremonial Way had been bought by William Carr and William Prinsep as they realised that the original burial place of the Raja was not appropriate. . Two years after this, Dwarkanath Tagore helped pay for the chattri that is raised above this vault. The chattri was designed by the artist William Prinsep.
The memorial stone reads:
BENEATH THIS STONE REST THE REMAINS OF/ RAJA RAMMOHUN ROY BAHADOOR,/ A CONSCIENTIOUS AND STEADFAST BELIEVER IN THE UNITY OF THE GODHEAD,/ HE CONSECRATED HIS LIFE WITH ENTIRE DEVOTION TO THE WORSHIP OF THE DIVINE SPIRIT ALONE,/ TO GREAT NATURAL TALENTS, HE UNITED THROUGH MASTERY OF MANY LANGUAGES/ AND EARLY DISTINGUISHED HIMSELF AS ONE OF THE GREATEST SCHOLARS OF HIS DAY./ HIS UNWEARIED LABOURS TO PROMOTE THE SOCIAL, MORAL AND PHYSICAL CONDITION OF THE/ PEOPLE OF INDIA, HIS EARNEST ENDEAVOURS TO SUPPRESS IDOLATRY, AND THE RITE OF SUTTEE/ 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./ THIS TABLET/ RECORDS THE SORROW AND PRIDE WITH WHICH HIS MEMORY IS CHERISHED BY HIS DESCENDANTS./ HE WAS BORN AT RADHANAGARE IN BENGAL IN 1774,/ AND DIED AT BRISTOL SEPTEMBER 27TH 1833
The Rajah’s rare and beautiful tomb is now a listed monument.It is made from limestone. It has a roof which is a slender dome with carved stone leaves and pinnacle which is a stylised water lily. The roof is supported by twelve ornately carved columns which are fluted at the top and continue above the roof as pinnacles to surround the dome. Finely carved capitals top the columns with ovolo carvings across three layers. The columns each feature a square stone block at their centre, with quatrefoil carvings. Further rectangular blocks are at the bottom of the columns, each above a moulded foot. The structure is supported by a tall plinth.
This unique and beautiful moment has long been a place of pilgrimage for many people including Bengalis, Indians, Unitarians and many others. It was repaired and conserved for £50,000 in 2008, through a donation from businessman Aditya K Poddar
it is now the site of a commemorative ceremony held on the Sunday nearest the anniversary of the Rajah’s death, on 27th September 1833.