Writer, educator, intellectual, and above of all a staunch supporter of humanity. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar is a man still remembered for his works social reforms. Such as Hindu Widow remarriage, Spread of education beyond higher class, and other fields. 29th July is the day Indians remember and recall the loss of this man and his accomplishments in the reformation in Indian society.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar and his works
Born in a religious Bengali Hindu family, Vidyasagar was a scholar in multiple subjects including Sanskrit, Literature, Dialectics [Alankara Shastra], Vedanta, Smriti and Astronomy. His intense passion for knowledge and education did not intersect with poverty his family faced. Vidyasagar used to study under a street light, as it was not possible to afford a gas lamp at home.
Earned regular scholarships and later took up a teaching position in a school in Jorasanko, to support his family’s financial condition. He took part in a competition testing knowledge in Sanskrit in 1839 and earned the title of ‘Vidyasagar’ meaning Ocean of Knowledge. The same year Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar successfully cleared his Law examination.
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Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was one of the pillars of Bengal renaissance. He managed to continue the social reforms movement that was started by Raja Rammohan Roy in the early 1800s. Championed the upliftment of the status of women in India, particularly in his native Bengal. Moreover, in 1854’s Wood’s Dispatched which considered Mass education for indians but still considered Upper Class only. Vidyasagar worked but the education beyond cast system. He had set up a girls’ school, and a night school for adults on the premises of his house, which he called Nandan Kanan. He also opened a free Homeopathy clinic to provide some medical care to these unprivileged tribal people.
In 2019 Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s bust was vandalized in Kolkata. During a clash between Trinamool Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party cadres.
Vidyasagar’s Barna Parichay (an introduction to the Bengali alphabet) is still the first book a Bengali child is handed. More than 160 years after it was written. The grammarian, polymath, scholar, educationist, reformer, and doyen of the Bengal Renaissance has been a ready reference for millions of Bengalis. To not only encourage their children to study but also to strive for excellence in the face of adversity.
Every child is told the story of Vidyasagar. How he was born into a poor family, studied by street light because there was no gas lamp at home. Vidyasagar wrote two volumes on the mistreatment of widows, which set the tone for major social reform in the state. Vidyasagar spent the last 18 years of his life living among Santhal tribals in present day Jharkhand. There he started what is possibly India’s first school for Santhal girls.
The social reformer from Bengal and his teachings still stay relevant today in 2020, 129 years after his death. Man who was ahead of his time and rose out of the ancient dilemmas and cultures to make changes in society. His contribution to the country is unavoidable.