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Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar: A Legendry Personality

On this date i.e. on 26 September in 1820 Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (Ishwar Chandra Bandyopadhyay/ at present many persons with same surname write Banerjee instead of Bandyopadhyay) was born in then Bengal, present West Bengal. Because of his vast knowledge later on of his life, he is known as Vidyasagar means knowledge of ocean. He was also known as ‘Dayar Sagar’ or ‘Karunar Sagar’ (meaning ocean of kindness) because of his charitable nature and generosity. His enormous contribution for the development of the society is gratefully remembered by all not only in India but also in Bangladesh. 

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar: A Legendry Personality

He reconstructed the Bengali alphabets and simplified Bengali typography into an alphabets.
He was a social reformer and advocated widow remarriage and worked against polygamy. Because of his initiative, the Widow Remarriage Act was passed in 1856 making the widow marriage legal.
   Vidyasagar worked endlessly to provide equal education to all men and women irrespective of their caste, religion and gender. He was protagonist of women education. According to him with education only women can live in the society with dignity and respect. He lobbied hard for girls’ school and for this; he went door to door requesting heads of families to allow their daughters to admit in the schools. And it is believed that he could open 35 schools for girls throughout then Bengal where around 1300 students were enrolled. It is pertinent to mention that because of his arduous labour and support received from John Elliot Drinkwater Bethune, the first girls’ school in India, the Bethune School was established on 7 May, 1849 in Calcutta.
He worked as a Sanskrit professor in Sanskrit College, Calcutta. While he was principal of the college undertook some reforms and one of them was admission of students belonging to  marginalised group (present SC/ST) as earlier they were not allowed admission. Further, when he was Professor in Sanskrit College successfully included English and Bengali as medium of learning, in addition to Sanskrit. He introduced courses of European History, Philosophy and Science along with Vedic scriptures. During his lifetime, Vidyasagar wrote many books and thus enriched education system.
In present days, he is remembered in many ways, inter alia of which are:
a)      Vidyasagar Setu, which connects Howrah and Kolkata, is a bridge over the Hooghly River in West Bengal.
b)      A fair/mela named Vidyasagar Mela (dedicated to spreading education and increasing social awareness) is held annually in West Bengal since 1994.
c)      Vidyasagar College in Kolkata is named after him, as well as Vidyasagar University in Paschim Midnapore, West Bengal.
d)      A street in then Calcutta now Kolkata has been named after him
e)      The West Bengal Government has established a stadium named after him at Barasat, North 24 Parganas, district.
f)       For his immense and selfless service for the marginalised people of then Bihar present Jharkhand, a railway station has been named as Vidyasagar Station in Jamtara district of Jharkhand.
g)      Indian Post issued stamps featuring Vidyasagar in 1970 and 1998.
       In addition to above, I have observed many persons in the states of South India keep their son’s name Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar/ Vidyasagar (prefix as family name). When I visited Bangladesh amazed to observe his popularity among the people of Bangladesh.
Vidyasagar although has passed away on 29 July, 1891 but he is still remembered by all Indians. After his death Rabindranath Tagore wrote, "One wonders how God, in the process of producing forty million Bengalis, produced a man!"

Dr Shankar Chatterjee
Former Professor & Head (CPME),NIRD & PR ( Govt. of India), Hyderabad,  India
Former Associate Professor, Eritrea
Former Assistant Prof, Govt. Degree College, Tripura, India
Former Senior Planning Officer, Govt of Assam, India 
Prof. Shankar Chatterjee 
Lidom Villa, No.13
Peranchuru, Bandlaguda(Jagir), Hyderabad-5000091

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