Dictionary Of Hindu Religion | Sketches
|Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar|
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
(Sep 26, 1820-Jul 29, 1891 = 71 years)
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was born in Bangaal in a poor Braahman family as Ishwar Chandra Bandhyopaadhyaaya on Sep 26, 1820 and was a key figure of Bangaal. He was born in a village Beersingh, in the District Pashchim Midnaapur of West Bangaal. His father's name was Thaakurdaas Bandhyopaadhyaaya and mother's name was Bhagvatee Devee. They were very poor. His father took him to Calcutta for more education. It is interesting to note that he learnt English numbers by reading mile stones while coming to Calcutta.
He was everything - philosopher, academic, educator, writer, translator, printer, publisher, reformer, philanthropist. he simplified the Bangaalee prose significantly. he rationalized the Bangaalee alphabet and type since they were in fashion from 1780. He reconstructed the Bangaalee alphabet and reformed Bengali typography into an alphabet of twelve vowels and forty consonants. Vidyasagar contributed significantly to Bangaalee and Sanskrit literature.
He received the "Vidyasagar" title from Calcutta Sanskrit College, from where he graduated due to his his excellent performance in Sanskrit. He cleared all his examinations with excellence. He bagged all the prizes and scholarships for best performance. Evaluating his stupendous results in the above courses, the College Committee endowed Ishwar Chandra with the Honorific Title of Vidyasagar (Ocean of Knowledge) in 1839 when he became a Law Graduate. He passed his law degree in 1839 - at the age of 20. In 1841, at the age of 22, he joined Fort William College as the Head of the Sanskrit Department. In 1855 he became the principal of that college.
Vidyasagar as a Helper and a Reformer
Once the famous poet Michael Madhusudan Dattaa fell short of money because of his lavish life style in France, so he requested Vidyasagar to help him. he helped him by sending a large sum of money. He has described him - "He has the simplicity of an old Rishi, the energy of an Englishman, and the heart of a Bangaalee mother."
Vidyasagar in Calcutta and some other reformers in Bombay established girls' schools in their respective places during mid 19th century. He was for best education for both boys and girls. He felt that the money was not enough to ease the suffering of humanity, so he opened the doors of Sanskrit College even to lower caste students.
He also introduced the widow marriage in the society, and tried to stop elderly people's marriage to teenage girls to save the parents of teenage girls keeping them in the house unmarried. Such girls became widow soon and remained in the house as widow throughout their life. Their discipline as widow included a semi starvation diet, rigid and dangerous daily rituals of purity and cleanliness, hard domestic labor, and close restriction on their freedom to leave the house or be seen by strangers. Unable to tolerate this ill treatment, many of these girls would run away and turn to prostitution to support themselves. The economic prosperity and lavish lifestyles of the city made it possible for many of them to have quite successful careers once they had stepped out of the sanction of society. In 1853 it was estimated that Calcutta had a population of 12,718 prostitutes and public women. So he took the initiative and passed the Widow Remarriage Act XV of 1856.
Meeting With Ramakrishn
Sister Nivedita has written - "Swami Vivekananda called Vidyasagar "the hero of widow remarriage, and of the abolition of polygamy."
After His Death
Some Events of
(2) One day when Vidyasagar went home from the Legislative Council, pondering over the question of whether or not to adopt English dress on such occasions. Suddenly someone came up to a fat Mogul who was proceeding homewards in leisurely and pompous fashion in front of him, with the news - "Sir, Your house is on fire. The Mogul went neither faster nor slower hearing this information, so the messenger contrived to express a discreet astonishment. Whereupon his master turned upon him angrily - "Wretch" he said, "Am I to abandon the gait of my ancestors, just because a few sticks happen to be burning." And Vidyasagar, walking behind, determined to stick to his Chaddar, Dhotee and sandals, not even adopting coat and slippers.
(3) Vidyasagar was a compassionate and a generous man. He had a mellifluous behavior even towards the people who belonged to the lowest societal stratum. There was a servant who used to do all the household chores in Vidyasagar's house. Vidyasagar always showed him affection and treated him like his family members.
One day, when Vidyasagar was descending the stairs of his house, he saw his servant sleeping on the staircase with a letter in his hand. Vidyasagar slowly took out the letter from his hand and read it and came to know about the bad news. Vidyasagar saw that the servant had a streak of tears on his face, perhaps he sobbed himself to sleep. Seeing his servant in this condition the feeling of sympathy evoked in Vidyasagar's heart. He went inside the room and brought a hand fan and started fanning his servant so that he could sleep comfortably.
At the same time, one of Vidyasagar's friend came there and seeing such a situation said astoundingly - "You are too much. How can you be engaged in the service of an ordinary servant whose salary is hardly seven-eight bucks?" Vidyasagar replied - "My father also used to earn only seven-eight bucks in a month. I remember one day while my father was returning home he fell unconscious on the road, and a passerby helped him with water. I am seeing the image of my late father in my servant."
Purity of heart is not only reflected through sweet words but also through the right conduct. An affectionate behavior towards one and all underscores generosity and dignity. Therefore, we must be kind and generous towards everyone.
(4) This incident happened
during the later part of 1800s, in Bangaal when Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
and his few friends were busy collecting
Next day Vidyasagar organized auction of Nawaab’s shoe in front of his palace. Lots of Nawsab’s knights , Jaageerdaar, court members, who wanted to impress Nawaab started bidding. By the mid afternoon the shoe was sold for Rs 1000. Nawab, happy to hear that his shoe fetched Rs 1000, matched the auction money. He added his own Rs. 1000 as donation.
When the destiny dropped a shoe in his basket, Vidyasagar could have walked out furious, or he could have thrown the shoe on Nawaab as revenge of insult, or he could have got depressed and gone home crying that nobody is willing to give him donation and given up his efforts to raise donation for the university. But he did nothing of that sort. He remained focused on his main goal. He rose above his personal feelings, ego, and insecurities and exploited the situation creatively. He rose above his insecurities and exploited that of others around him. He took that shoe and converted it to the biggest donation to University of Calcutta. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar converted his on-face insult and resulting disappointment into a Rs. 2000 donation plus a pleased Nawab who could be of some assistance at some point later.
Later Calcutta University
became a reality. It became a center of education for fine arts, social
studies, science and technology. Throughout our life, we come across
situations that will bring disappointment, anger, frustration, depression,
but most of the times, there will be a way we can use this situation to
our advantage if we remain calm and focused on our real objective, if we
engage in introspection, and if we find a creative solution by thinking
outside the box. Next time when your destiny hands over you a shoe when
you were expecting treasures, take that as a challenge to your creativity,
not as an insult to your ego. Next time you get a lemon, don’t make
lemonade, try to convert it.
This story is famous with the name of Madan Mohan Malviya also.
(1) Mahabharat Upakraminika
(1843-44) - published in Tattwabodhini Patrika
Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 01/22/13