One of the greatest social reformers, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was born on September 26, 1820, in the village of Birsingha in Midnapore. He was an excellent student since his childhood. His thirst for knowledge was so deep that he used to study under the street lamp as he couldn’t afford a gas lamp at home. He earned the title “Vidyasagar” for his extraordinary performance in Sanskrit and Philosophy. He was appointed as the scholar-teacher in Fort William College, Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1850.
Later he was selected as the Principal of Sanskrit College where he emphasized the study of English and allowed students of lower castes to take admission. Though he was a Brahmin, he criticized the superstitious rituals in the name of caste and participated in the social reform movement. Much of women’s education and social emancipation owes to Vidyasagar. He opposed child marriage and polygamy and campaigned to legalize ‘Hindu Widow Remarriage’ that helps to revive women’s status in the then India.
Vidyasagar was an eminent writer whose efforts in rationalizing and simplifying Bengali alphabets paved a new arena for the learning of the Bengali language. His composed “Barnaparichay” is still the most influential Bengali primer even today. Moreover, he introduced the modern and simpler form of prose in Bengali literature. Some of his well-known literary creations are “Betal Panchabinsati”, “Sitar Banabash” and “Shakuntala” which was inspired by the Sanskrit play of “Kalidasa”. His contribution to women education and efforts in uplifting women’s position in society later inspired others. He died on July 29, 1891.
11. Patho Mala