Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar was born on 26th September 1820. This year is his 201st birth anniversary.
Who was Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar?
Vidyasagar’s birth name was Iswar Chandra Bandyopadhyay. He was an Indian educator and social reformer. He made a lot of efforts to simplify and modernize Bengali prose. This person was also the one to rationalize and simplify the Bengali alphabet and type. This has remained unchanged since Panchanan Karmakar and Charles Wilkins cut their first wooden Bengali type in 1780. He is better known as the “Father of Bengali prose”.
Birth and family of Vidyasagar
This person was born in a Bengali Hindu brahmin family. His father’s name was Thakurdas Bandyopadhyay and his mother’s name was Bhagavati Devi. The place he was born at Birsingha village of Paschim Medinipur District (which is undivided Midnapore District). The family originally came from Banamalipur which is present in the now Hooghly district. Just at the age of 9, he went to Calcutta and stayed in Bhagabat Charan’s house in Burabazaar. He felt at ease there and settled down in no time.
His quest for knowledge was so deep that he used to study under a street light if it was not possible for him to afford a gas lamp at home. He cleared all the examinations with lots of marks. He was awarded a number of scholarships for his academic performance. To support his family, he took up a part-time job of teaching in Jorashanko. He joined the Sanskrit College and studied there for twelve long years. He passed out in 1841. This person excelled in his undergraduate studies of Sanskrit and philosophy. Therefore, the Sanskrit college, where he studied, gave him the title of Vidyasagar which comes from Sanskrit itself (‘Vidya’ means ‘knowledge’ and ‘Sagar’ means ‘ocean’).
Vidyasagar and his contribution to society
His most prominent campaign was for Hindu Widow Remarriage. It was a huge breach of Hindu customs. Even people opposed it hugely but Lord Dalhousie finalized the bill personally. Finally, the government passed the Hindu Widow Remarriage Act in 1856.
In 1859, the government’s education policy was ‘the spread of vernacular elementary instruction among the lower orders.’ Seeing this, Vidyasagar addressed a letter dated 29th September 1859 to John Peter Grant. He underlined his perception which was: “An impression appears to have gained ground, both here and in England, that enough has been done for the education of the higher classes and that attention should now be directed towards the education of the masses. An inquiry into the matter will, however, show a very different state of things. As the best, if not the only practicable means of promoting education in Bengal, the Government should, in my humble opinion, confine itself to the education of the higher classes on a comprehensive scale.”
Indian film director Kali Prasad Ghosh made ‘Vidyasagar’, a Bengali-language biographical film about his life in 1950. It starred Pahadi Sanyal in the titular role.