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Story No 13-Vidyasagar

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13-Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
Sep 26, 1820 - Jul 29, 1891

Ishwar Chandra Bandhyopaadhyaaya was born in Bangaal to Thakurdas Bandhyopadhyaya and Bhagavati Devi. Vidyasagar was a philosopher, academician, educator, writer, printer, publisher, reformer. He also rationalized and simplified the Bangalaa alphabet and type. he received the honor of "Vidyasagar" title (ocean of learning) from Calcuttaa Sanskrit College, where he graduated from, because of his excellent performance in Sanskrit.

He was born in a very poor family. After his primary education his father took him to Calcuttaa for his further education. It is believed that he learnt English numbers seeing the milestones while going to Calcuttaa. His quest of knowledge was so hgreat that he used to study under the street lamps as they could not afford a gas lamp in their house. In 1839, he cleared his Law examination. In 1841, he joined Fort Williams College as a Head of Sanskrit Department. In 1851, he became the Principal of Sanskrit College.

He was a great reformer. he was very kind hearted. While being a student at Sanskrit College, he would spend part of his scholarship proceeds and cook paayesh (rice pudding) to feed the poor and buy medicines for the sick. Later on, when he started earning, he paid fixed sums of monthly allowances to each member of his joint family, to family servants, to needy neighbours, to villagers who needed help and to his village surgery and school. This he continued without break even when he was unemployed and had to borrow substantially from time to time. he has helped many people in his lifetime.

In those times Kuleen Braahman polygamy allowed elderly men - sometimes on their deathbeds - to marry teenage or even prepubescent girls. After such marriages, these girls would usually be left behind in their parental homes, where they might be cruelly subjected to orthodox rituals, especially if they were subsequently widowed. These 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 with strangers. Unable to tolerate the ill treatment, many of these girls would run away and turn to prostitution to support themselves. Ironically, 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. With the moral support from people like Akshay Kumar Dutta, Vidyasagar introduced the practice of widow remarriages to mainstream Hindu society by making an Act in 1856.

Once he met with Ramakrishna. In the course of the conversation Ramakrishna apparently praised him on his philanthropic activities, kindness and compassion and suggested him to do these activities in a selfless spirit.

[I read an incident of his life in my Junior High School book, I reproduce it here. Once Vidyasagar went to railway station to receive somebody. He was looking for him here and there, that a wealthy man spotted him. he thought that he was looking for somebody whose luggage he could carry for a few chips. So he called him, "O Coolie. Come here." Since Vidyasagar was not a coolie, he did not pay attention to his call, but when he called several times, he went there and asked him what was it? The man said - "Take this luggage outside." Vidyasagar first hesitated but then lifted his luggage and carried it outside and put it in the carriage. The man took out a couple of chips and put them on his hand. First he looked at them then kept the money in his pocket and went away,

The then somebody called him by his name, "Vidyasagar". The man got so much ashamed, that he took him as a coolie, he fell on his feet. Vidyasagar consoled him and went away saying - "What happened if I helped you in carrying your luggage. Don't worry."]



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Created by Sushma Gupta on January 15, 2002
Modified on 02/23/14