Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar – A Great Reformer
Great people are born to make an impact on society. One such personality, who was so humble but lived his complete life with determination and purpose to fulfill certain objectives, was Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. He was the great social reformer, writer, educator, entrepreneur and worked endlessly to transform society. His contribution towards education and changing the status of women in India was remarkable. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar strongly protested against polygamy, child-marriage and favored widow remarriage and women’s education in India. Because of his contribution towards such issues, the Widow Remarriage Act was passed in 1856 making the marriage of widows legal. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar worked towards providing education to women. He opened and ran many schools for girls at his own expense. He was also known as “Daya-r Sagar” or “Karunar Sagar” ( literally, “ocean of kindness”) because of his charitable nature and generosity.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was born in an orthodox family on 26th September 1820. Since childhood he was keen to get more and more knowledge. As his family was not well off, he used to study under street lights at night. Because of his vast knowledge on different subjects, the title Vidyasagar was given to him by the people of his village. Vidyasagar means an ocean of learning (“vidya” – learning, “sagar” – ocean). He became a Sanskrit pundit and acquired an extremely high proficiency in this subject. Till his retirement, he worked as a Sanskrit professor in Sanskrit College, Calcutta. While he was the principal of the college, the college became a place of reform. Not only this, Vidyasagar was a great writer and also known as the father of modern Bengali language. Many Bengali alphabets were revised by him. He also wrote a book on grammar rules of Sanskrit that is used till date.
An inspirational story
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was an extremely humble personality and many a times it is this part of his nature that had inspired others. Several stories from his life prove his simplicity and at the same time are very inspiring for the readers. Apart from his contribution towards society, it was his humility that made him a renowned and respected personality across India.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar along with his few friends were working on a mission to start Calcutta University and for this they were seeking donations. Though stopped by his fellow members, he went to the palace of the Nawab of Ayodhya to fulfill the same mission. Though the Nawab was not a kind person, Vidyasagar met the Nawab and presented the whole situation in front of him. The Nawab on hearing this, dropped his shoes in Vidyasagar’s donation bag. On this, Vidyasagar did not react but just thanked him and left the place.
The next day, Vidyasagar organized an auction of the Nawab’s shoes just in front of the Nawab’s palace. People, in order to impress the Nawab, including the Nawab’s jahagirdars and court members, etc came forward and started bidding. The shoes were sold for Rs 1,000. The Nawab on hearing this was pleased and donated the same amount.
When the Nawab dropped his shoes in the donation bag, then Vidyasagar could have reacted in another manner. He could have taken this as an insult or got depressed. But on the other hand, he used those shoes as an opportunity to fulfill his mission. He not only got the money but also pleased the Nawab. He had always worked above his personal feelings and towards one goal. Ultimately, his dream of opening Calcutta University came true.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar passed away at the age of 70 on 29 July, 1891. After his death, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s home was sold by his son to the Mallick family of Kolkata that was later purchased by the Bengali Association, Bihar on 29 March 1974. They maintained the house in its original form and also started the girls school and a free homeopathic clinic. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar truly brought reforms in the education system of Bengal by removing the pervading darkness.
The contribution of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, along with many other active reformer,s opened schools for girls. This was because, for him, educational reform was much important than any other reform. He believed that the status of women and all kinds of injustice and inequalities that they face could be changed only through education.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar worked endlessly to provide equal education to all men and women irrespective of their caste, religion and gender. He allowed people from lower castes in his Sanskrit college that was meant only for upper caste men.
Vidyasagar worked to uplift the status of women in India especially in his native Bengal. He was a social reformer and wanted to change the orthodox Hindu society from within. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar introduced the practice of widow remarriage and worked against polygamy.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar had written many books and thus enriched the Bengali education system to a great extent. Till date, the books written by him are read by all.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was indeed a great personality and a reformer. Today, India needs such dedicated, humble and determined personalities who can bring all sorts of required reforms by working solely for the betterment of the society than their own interest.