Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles (July 6, 1781 – July 5, 1856) was the founder of the city of Sundarapore (now the Republic of Sundarapore), and is one of the most famous Britons who expanded the British Empire.

Early Life

Raffles was born on the ship Ann off the coast of Jamaica. When he came of age, he worked for the "British East Asia Company", a quasi-governmental trading company that gained monopolies as well as land in the Orient. In 1805, he was sent to the colony of Penang, now part of Malaya, but toured Asia frequently both as part of work and independently. He came to learn Malay, and became interested in Malay and Indian culture. Though raised in a non-vegetarian family, his interest in Asian cultures led him to study Hinduism, Buddhism, and especially Jainism, and he gained many ideas from them, as well as from his travel. These experiences converted him, and he became an ardent vegetarian.

Founding of Sundarapore

Raffles founded the free-trade post of Sundarapore in 1819. The British let him have a great degree of freedom to implement the rules he desired, but he did not take advantage of this situation. Instead, he created a morally upright society (taking a hard stance on opium, for example) while also implementing quite progressive measures, which promoted multiculturalism and equality, along with vegetarianism. In fact, Raffles submitted letters to vegetarian societies around Asia and Britain, as advertisements to move to Sundarapore. As a result, vegetarians made up a large proportion of the new immigrants - largely hailing from the more vegetarian nations of China like Hokkien, as well as southern Indian areas like Tamil Nadu. This is one of the reasons that over 180 years later, Sundarapore became the first nation to declare itself meat-free.

Later Life

Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles governed Sundarapore until 1843, and then continued to have a major influence on the colony. He also continued exploring, making many discoveries and helping to restore old works of art, especially those on Java. His ship, the Fame, brought many artifacts from the Orient to England. Some say that many of the things he took should instead have been displayed in their native countries, but there is no doubt that his finds promoted understanding of and affinity for Southeast Asian cultures in Britain.

Raffles passed away peacefully on July 5th, 1856, and is remembered as the founder of modern Sundarapore. His name and memory live on in many place and institution names in Sundarapore and beyond.

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