History records a galaxy of many great personalities who have added much to the development of literature, education, and social reforms. In this respect, Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar deserves special mention.
Birth and early years
He(Vidyasagar), born Ishwar Chandra Bandyopadhyay, saw the light of the world on the 26th of September,1820. His birthplace was in Birsingha Village in the district of then undivided Midnapur, presently now in Paschim Medinipur, West Bengal, India. He was the son of a poor Brahmin parent. His father’s name was Thakurdas Banerjee and his mother was Bhagbati Devi. His father was a man of iron discipline. His mother was a generous and large-hearted lady in charity, sympathy, and a helping hand for others forever.
At first, he took his pre-primary and basic education from the village Pathashala (school). He had always been intelligent and studious since his childhood. Later, he made a long arduous journey on foot with his father for a better future to then Calcutta,’ The City of Joy’ coined by Robert Clive presently Kolkata, a Metro-City that was discovered by Job Charnaka including the trilogy village: Kolkata, Gobindapur and Sutanuti. The journey towards city life was a painful episode for him as a mere child at the age of 9 or 10 years old. There is a legend behind the learning of English numerals from the milestones that he got by heart all the digits of 0-10 throughout his journey to Kolkata.
Leaving the native village, his father, Thakurdas Banerjee had also to come rather it should say compelled to come to Kolkata at an early age to run his family and livelihood. He was appointed as an accountant for a private businessman. Thakurdas was famous for his integrity, honesty, and self-respect. These qualities also conferred upon little Ishwar in full fledge in the days to come till the death of his life.
He was admitted first into the Sanskrit College in-stream three of Byakarana (Grammar in Sanskrit Syllabi), a department of the school. Then, he was staying with his father Thakurdas in the residence of Bhagbatcharan Singha near Kolkata Borobazar. There he made a positive mindset to excel in his studies. So he used to read attentively and worked hard there. As a result, he won a lot of prizes and scholarships. Later, he pocketed even all titles or ‘Tirthas’ in Sanskrit.
There is a story regarding the study of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar: once he did not have enough fuel t put on the light of a lantern or even a candle. On the contrary, he had an intense curiosity to know the unknown. So, he decided positively to come out on the street to prepare for his lessons under the light of a gas lamp. Such was an adverse situation for him. In spite of that deplorable condition, he made his mind to put himself forward paved the way for progress ever and always.
There is another fantastic story regarding the self-self attitude of Vidyasagar. Once upon a time, Vidya Sagar was traveling on a train. When he got down, he found a young man shouting for a cookie as he was unable to carry his handbag. Vidyasagar was standing nearby. “How much will you take?” asked the man taking Vidyasagar for a coolie. “Whatever you please,” replied the Pandit, and taking the handbag went on. When he reached the house, he handed over the bag without saying anything when asked to do so. The young man soon found out who the carrier of the bag was. He was ashamed of his conduct and learned a useful lesson of self-help.
Stories and legends apart, after finishing his Sanskrit Byakarana, Ishwar started learning English well. He learned a lot about literature within the years of 1833 to1835. He studied literature under the guidance of a teacher of name and fame Mr. Joygopala Tarkalankar. And thus, he stood first in the annual examination of Sanskrit College.
Education & Recognition
In the year 1835, he took admission in the stream of Alankara in Sanskrit. He studied hard throughout the year and this time also stood first and got a lot of prestige and prizes. After this, he proved himself in the division of Vedanta and Smriti in Sanskrit syllabi. In 1839, he also passed the Hindu Law Committee Examination. To deal with these all, he was finally awarded the most revered title ‘VIDYASAGAR'(Human Sea of Knowledge) in the year 1840 at the age of his early twenties(20’s).
Career & Designation
This famous personality started his career as a teacher at Fort William College for Civilians on the 29th of December,1841. To his dismay, it was quite difficult for him to manage a job of a teaching profession at the Fort William College at such an early age. Mr. G.T. Marshal Sir, the Secretary of the very college recommended him open-heartedly. Above all, he lasted there for long five years. Besides this, he executed the post of an S.I. of Schools parallelly. He used to run in the outskirts of villages on foot and sometimes by palanquin.
Then, he took the charge of the Sanskrit College. His strictness, fairness, and enthusiasm knew no bounds. In 1846 he became the Vice-Secretary of Sanskrit College. Mr. Rashamaya Dutta was in the charge of the Secretary there. A hot-talk and clash rose between them regarding the disagreement with the Director of Public Institution on the education background system. As a result of this, Vidyasagar tendered resignation from the post of Assistant Secretary in the month of July 1848.
Once again, he rejoined as a head clerk at Fort William College by courtesy of Mr. G.T. Marshal. Later, he became a lecturer of literature in 1850. And finally, he was made the Principal of the Fort William College in the year 1856 on a substitute vacancy emergency.
His Social Works
Thereafter, Pandit Vidyasagar earned economic independence. He then emerged as an author of educational textbooks in Bengali primers and so on. He even established a printer by his own expenditure. From there he brought out a lot of books for readers.
He is mostly remembered nowadays for his fearless championship on behalf of ‘Widow Re-marriage. It is said in a report that in the year 1853, Calcutta had an approximate population of 12,700 prostitutes and public women. Kind-hearted Vidyasagar felt much pity for them. He was stubborn to remove this evil custom and bad culture null in the void, especially from his native Bengal and also from his Motherland.
The Scenario of Bengal Women
Unable to tolerate the ill-treatment out of dowry or family violence, many of the girls would run away and go to prostitution to support themselves. Ironically, the economic prosperity and lavish lifestyles of city life made it possible for many of them to have a successful career once they stepped out of the sanction of society and into the demimonde.
Unlike some other social reformers who sought to set up an alternative society or system, he decided to transform societies from within and tried to destroy evil customs null in the void. Therefore, with the help of Lord William Bentinck, he passed a law for Widow-Re-Marriage anti-Anti-Polygamy in the year 1856, although his attempt on restrictions for Policy faltered.
Besides these, he played a major role in imparting female education. He founded Kolkata Metropolitan College, presently Vidyasagar College. He was the first Secretary of Bethune School. Above all, he was a member of the debate of the then newly founded University of Calcutta. He created Bengali Primers and the usage of Punctuation marks in Bengali. So, he was rightly called ‘The father of Bengali Prose’ by Rabindranath Tagore.
Death & Character
This path-breaking pioneer breathed his last on July 29 in the year of 1889. His learning, spirit of independence, and boundless charity made him immortal and legend in his lifetime. He spent the last years of his life in ‘Karmotola’— a Santal Village. He never yielded his stand. He had been large-hearted forever and anon. His strength of character and uncompromising spirit and determination left him with a good Preserverane.
Conclusion & Remarks
It goes without saying that he has left a lasting impression human mind as well as in society. Does humanity ever forget his name?
No, Never! This answer will universally be in the negative ever and always.