Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
Born: September 26, 1820 (Ghatal)
Death: July 29, 1891 (Kolkata)
On the occasion of the 201st birth anniversary of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar Mahasaya, if we do not write anything to pay homage to him today, the practice of Vidyasagar in Bengal’s culture may be impacted in a big way.
His characteristic perseverance, respect for his parents, all have been etched in our minds percolating from the textbooks since childhood.
Vidyasagar shook off the orthodoxy and superstitions of the Hindu scriptures at a time when touching the subject was considered a crime of sorts. Although many of his movements did not succeed the way they should have, the Widow Marriage Act saw the light of the day thanks to his relentless efforts. This also was not accepted wholeheartedly by the orthodox society.
The torch-bearer of modern Bengal tried to stop the old practice of child marriage and polygamy. He changed the status of women in Hindu society at that time through women’s education. Ishwar Chandra was a pioneer in spreading women’s education in Bengal, and then in India.
Hindu Girls’ School, now Bethune College, was established in 1849, of which he was the first secretary.
He started from the ancient pathsala education for the youth society to the formal systematic method of modern, scientific and humanistic education. He inculcated discipline in all the teachers and students.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s Barnaparichay is still the gateway to the Bengali language. He vowed never to utter a word of condemnation against anyone, even if he heard the slander. His tongue and his pen were testimony to that.
All the letters written by Michael Madhusudan Dutt in praise of his beloved friend (Vidyasagar) eventually made Ishwar Chandra a Karunar Sagar or Dayar Sagar.
Speaking at a memorial service to pay homage to Vidyasagar, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore himself raised a question in astonishment: “Where did a character like him come from in Bangladesh?”
Vidyasagar also had a great influence on the life of the child Rabindranath. Evidence of that is in his writing, ‘Jol Pore Pata Nore’.
Much later, in a song, Rabindranath wrote “Tumi Adikobi, Kobiguru Tumi He”, in which, he may have thought of Vidyasagar then. Vidyasagar has given beauty and perfection to Bengali prose with a sense of artistic pain.
Today, on the 201st birth anniversary of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, we remember the following lines and speak in the language of the World poet.
“Bhasar Prangone tobo ami kobi tomari atithi
Bharatiya Puja tore choyon korechhi ami geeti
Shei torutol hote ja tomar Prosoda Sinchone
Morur Proyan bhedi prokash peyechhe subhokkhone”