Q.Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar has always been at the heart of the social reforms. Examine his role in uplifting the society of that time and his contributions in the field of education. (10 marks, 150 words, GS-1, Modern History)
- Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820-1891) was as one of the pillars of Bengal renaissance who managed to continue the social reforms movement that was started by Raja Rammohan Roy in the early 1800s.
- He was one of the greatest intellectuals and activists of the 19th century.
- Vidyasagar was a well-known writer, intellectual and above all a staunch supporter of humanity.
- The title ‘Vidyasagar’ (ocean of knowledge) was given to him due to his vast knowledge in several subjects.
- He was associated with prestigious journalistic publications like ‘Tattwabodhini Patrika’, ‘Somprakash’, ‘Sarbashubhankari Patrika’ and ‘Hindu Patriot’.
- Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, the great scholar, academician and reformer passed away on 29 July, 1891 at the age of 70 years.
- After his death Rabindranath Tagore said, “One wonders how God, in the process of producing forty million Bengalis, produced a man!”.
- Poet Michael Madhusudan Dutta while writing about Ishwar Chandra said he was a combination of: “The genius and wisdom of an ancient sage, the energy of an Englishman and the heart of a Bengali mother”.
Works and reforms-
- Vidyasagar is credited with the role of thoroughly remodelling medieval scholastic system prevailing in Sanskrit College and bring about modern insights into the education system.
- Included English and Bengali as the medium of learning, besides Sanskrit in Sanskrit College.
- He played a significant role in making the Bengali alphabet more suited for printing, and for his simplification of Bengali language education.
- An elementary Bengali textbook that Vidyasagar wrote in 1854, called ‘Borno Porichoy’ (Character Identification), is still used to teach the alphabet.
- He introduced courses of European History, Philosophy and Science alongside of Vedic scriptures.
- Allowed non-Brahmin students to enrol in the Sanskrit College.
- He wrote two books ‘Upakramonika’ and ‘Byakaran Koumudi’, interpreting complex notions of Sanskrit grammar in easy legible Bengali language.
- He introduced the concepts of Admission fee and tuition fee for the first time in Calcutta.
- He set up the Normal School for training teachers enabling uniformity in teaching methods.
- He rightly viewed education as the primary way for women to achieve emancipation from all the societal oppression they had to face at that time.
- He went door to door, requesting heads of families to allow their daughters to be enrolled in schools.
- He even initiated Nari Siksha Bhandar, a fund to lend support for the cause.
- He maintained his support to John Elliot Drinkwater Bethune to establish the first permanent girls’ school in India, the Bethune School, on May 7, 1849.
- He established the Sanskrit Press with an aim to produce printed books at affordable prices so that common people could buy them.
- Vidyasagar was always vocal about the oppression that the society inflicted on women at that time.
- They were denied basic pleasures of life, marginalised in the society, often exploited unfairly and treated as a burden by their family.
- He challenged the Brahminical authorities and proved that widow remarriage is sanctioned by Vedic scriptures.
- He took his arguments to the British Authorities and his pleas were heard when the Hindu Widows’ Remarriage Act, 1856 or Act XV, 1856, was decreed on July 26, 1856.