The one reason why the Bengal renaissance had a strong pillar was because of Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar. He still managed to continue the social reforms movement which was started in the 1800’s by Raja Rammohan Roy.
Pandit Iswar was an intellectual one, a famous writer, a social reformer, an educator and most importantly a staunch supporter of humanity. He was the one who worked hard so that the life of women in India could become better. He even forced the British Government to pass the Widow Remarriage Act.
Many sections of the Indian society had to suffer a lot during the 19th century. This suffering of the different sections inflicted deep pain on him. The condition of the child widows was very bad. They were tortured and ill-treated. Looking at this state of the child widows really moved him.
He was able to convince the British Government to allow these small, young and innocent girls to marry again. They had a long life ahead, so they must get another chance to live their life. Vidyasagar loved to learn new things.
This is how he became an educator. Vidyasagar was a very kind person. He wanted to bring change in the society and help the downtrodden people so that even they had a good life.
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Life of Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar
In the year of 1820 on 26th September, Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar was born to Thakurdas Bandyopadhyay and Bhagavati Devi. His parents were religious people.
He was born in a small village called Birsingha in the Midnapore district of West Bengal. When Vidyasagar turned six, his parents sent him to Calcutta (present day Kolkata) where he stayed with Bhagabat Charan.
The family of Bhagabat Charan was large. They loved Vidyasagar and showed affection towards him. The youngest daughter of the family admired Vidyasagar. This made him respect the women and he became concerned for them. This further initiated the start of social activities.
Vidyasagar got married to Dinamani Devi at the age of fourteen in the year 1834. They had one son whose name was Narayan Chandra. His family was very narrow minded. This is why he was unhappy with them. So, he decided to live with the Santhals in Nandan Kanan.
This place was situated in the district of Jamtara. He spent the last twenty years of his life there. But much later his health started to deteriorate and he left abode in the year of 1891 at the age of seventy.
Vidyasagar had a deep love for learning. He wanted to gain so much of knowledge that he even studied under the street lights because he could not buy a gas lamp. He good in studies which helped him to earn many scholarships and this benefitted his education.
He studied Sanskrit Grammar, Vedanta, Astronomy, Literature and Smriti at Sanskrit College in Calcutta. He passed out from the college in the year of 1841. Apart from this, in 1839 he was also able to clear the Law examination.
He got the title of “Vidyasagar” from Sanskrit College because of his deep knowledge in Philosophy and Sanskrit.
Career of Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar
Vidyasagar became the Principal Lecturer of Fort William College in the year 1841. He worked there for five years. After that he was the Assistant Secretary at Sanskrit College in the year of 1846. In his first year of work in the college he suggested the administration to bring changes in the present education system.
But Rasomoy Dutta who was the College Secretary did not like this suggestion. This created differences between him and Vidyasagar.
This further made Vidyasagar resign from the college and he went back to Fort William College to become the head clerk. In 1849, Vidyasagar was back to the Sanskrit College as a Literature Professor. Then in 1851 he became the Principal of the college.
In 1885 he became special inspector of the schools. This made him travel in and around Bengal and visit various schools. When he used to travel he could see the pathetic life of the people. The people did not have education which made them superstitious and they also had blind faith.
This pathetic condition of the people determined Vidyasagar to make schools everywhere around Bengal so that everyone received education.
He was able to make arrangements for building of twenty schools within a period of just two months. He believed in gender equality. So, in order to encourage gender equality, he made thirty schools only for girls.
In the year of 1854 Fort William College was closed and instead of it a Board of Examiners was formed. He became an active member of this board.
In the same year Vidyasagar had to resign from Sanskrit College because the new head of the Education Department did not give him the freedom to go with his work. Vidyasagar also made changes in the Bengali alphabet and also helped to make a base in the Bengali prose. Bengali typography was changed by Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar.
Works and Contribution
Vidyasagar was not dependent on the scholarships that he earned during his career. He tried to make many changes in the country for the betterment of the people. He brought many educational and social reforms. He took various steps so that the condition of the country improved in all areas.
First, he brought many educational reforms in the country so that the educational system improved. He had great enthusiasm to finish illiteracy from the country and provide education for everyone. He gave importance to education for girls. He focused on the moderate means of education.
He was like a father for the helpless people and orphans in the country. He was always present to help the unhappy and the poor people. He even encouraged the people who were righteous. He could not see his people in pain as he was very tender person.
He was not bothered even if more than half of his income was spent to help the poor and miserable ones. He was always ready to spend his salary for charity. He believed in equality among both men and women.
So he worked very hard so that both men and women got equal education despite of their race, religion, gender and caste. When he was working in Sanskrit College people, it was because of him that even the people from the lower caste joined there even though it was only for the upper caste.
As he was a writer he wrote many books which were advanced and help people to learn during those days. He worked hard so that he could bring improvement in the Bengali language. As he wanted even the infants to learn Bengali, he wrote Bengali books even for them so that it was easier for them to learn.
Apart from this, he also translated any famous Sanskrit books into Bengali. This is why he is considered as the ‘Father of Modern Bengali Prose’. Apart from this he is also called the father of modern Bengali literature. The girl widows suffered a lot during this period.
Vidyasagar tried his level best to make their life better and easier. He suggested for the remarrying of the widows. He was against the injustice done to the girl widows and also protested against this injustice.
His protest resulted in the passing of the Widow Remarriage Act in the year 1856. He was against polygamy so he preached against it.
Characteristic of Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar
Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar was a very simple man filled with extreme love and devotion. Even his habits were simple and he was always dressed in plain clothes. Even though he was a sincere and simple, he had a bold spirit. This is why he was admired deeply and respected by the great European officers.
He learnt from his mother to be kind always. He followed this principle during his entire life. This is why people regarded him as “Daya Sagar Vidyasagar” which means the Ocean of kindness and learning. Vidyasagar was an obstinate person.
He was not dependent on anyone. He decided things on his own and created his own path of action. People argued and insisted because of his judgments but he was never influenced by all these.
His self-respect was very important for him. He had a tender heart due to which he could not see or bear the pain and suffering of other people. Due to this he was ever ready to help people and improve their living conditions.