Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was a great multi-talented social reformer of the nineteenth century who brought many changes in the society. He was a great educationist, a tireless reformer and a great scholar. He also tried to modernize Bengali prose.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was born on 26 September 1820 in Medinipur to a poor Brahmin family. He was a man of exceptional skill. He graduated from Sanskrit College. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was considered the patron of the poor and Dalits. He voiced for the education of women and the widow marriage law. He awakened to the Renaissance in Bengal. His childhood name was Ishwar Chandra Bandyopadhyay.
Due to his deep knowledge in Sanskrit language and philosophy, the Sanskrit College conferred upon him the title of ‘Vidyasagar’ in his student life. Vidyasagar is a combination of two Sanskrit words. ‘Vidya’ means ‘knowledge’ and ‘Sagar’ means ‘sea or ocean’. Thus, Vidyasagar means “Ocean of Knowledge and Knowledge.”
Used to read under the street light
He moved to Calcutta with his father after completion of his initial education in the village. It is said that Ishwarchandra did his studies by sitting under a street light because his family did not have enough money to buy gas or any other light. Being meritorious, he also received many scholarships. For this reason, he was given the title of Vidyasagar.
Metropolitan College established by Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
Ishwar Chandra established the Metropolitan College in Kolkata with a series of schools for the education of local languages and girls. He incurred all the expenses incurred in running these schools. For school expenses, he used to raise funds from the sale of books written in Bangla language, especially for children.
Became head of Sanskrit department at only 21 years old
After completing his law studies in 1839, Vidyasagar started working as the head of the Sanskrit department at Fort William College at the age of only 21 in 1841. After studying for nearly 12 years, he got a job as a Sanskrit professor at the ‘Sanskrit College’ in Calcutta. After working there for a long time, he was made the principal.
In 1855, when he was made Inspector of Schools, he established many new schools including schools for the education of girls. The high officials of the British government did not like his work and eventually resigned from his post. He was also associated with Bethun, who founded the first school for women’s education in Calcutta in 1849 AD.
Thoughts and teachings of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar did important work for widow remarriage and female education.
– He was seriously involved with many newspapers and magazines and wrote many important articles advocating social reforms,
– He was also one of those who passed the Act providing legal validity to widow-remarriage. He was strongly in support of the widow remarriage idea.
– He started studying modern Western thought in Sanskrit College.
-He also contributed to the development of the Bengali language. Due to this contribution, he is considered the father of modern Bengali language.
He went to the meeting as a guest and picked up the broom and started cleaning
One thing about Ishwar Chandra was very famous that he was strong in time. Once he had to address the gathering in London. When they reached there, many people were standing outside the meeting. He asked the people standing outside – what happened? Why are you out? He got the answer – the hall is not clean, because the sweeper has not arrived. Then what? He picked up the broom and started cleaning. In a short time, he cleaned the entire hall.
How Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar raised his voice for women’s education and widow- remarriage?
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar wanted women to read and write and get out of the house
He was a man who really wanted the lives of women to be better. Get their foot out of the house. He truly believed in the ideology of women empowerment. He wanted girls to go to school and read and write. In those days, the lives of women all over the country was very bad. Especially, if a woman was a widow, she was treated very poorly. His life used to be very difficult. After seeing all this, he started working for better lives of widows.
Many girls schools opened in Kolkata
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagarencouraged women education and opened girls’ schools in many places in Kolkata. He also tried to promote the Sanskrit language. Social reformer Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar established the Metropolitan College in Calcutta with a series of schools for the education of local languages and girls. After becoming the principal of Sanskrit College, he took a big step by opening the doors of the college to all caste children.
There were also attacks on the voice of widows
When Vidyasagar started raising voice for widows, he had to face a lot of opposition from the fundamentalists. They were also attacked. His was threatened for his life as well. He wanted that widowed women should be married again, after all, they too have the right to live life. He was a strong supporter of widow marriage.
Raised voice against widow marriage, then made law
He raised his voice for the marriage of widows which resulted in passing the Widow Remarriage Act-1856. He got his son married to a widow by breaking all taboos of that time. He had also voiced against polygamy and child marriage. His efforts made him recognized as a social reformer.