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Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar

Topics covered:

  1. Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.

 

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Roles, contributions and achievements of Ishwar Chandra.

 

Why in News? The giant statue of Ishwar Chandra was recently vandalized by some political goons in Kolkata.

 

About Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar:

  • He was the 19th century intellectual.
  • He was perhaps the first Indian reformer to put forward the issues of women.
  • His Bengali primer, Borno Porichoy, remains, more than 125 years after his death in 1891, the introduction to the alphabet for nearly all Bengali children.
  • He was a polymath who reconstructed the modern Bengali alphabet and initiated pathbreaking reform in traditional upper caste Hindu society.
  • He studied Sanskrit grammar, literature, Vedanta philosophy, logic, astronomy, and Hindu law for more than 12 years at Sanskrit College in Calcutta, and received the title of Vidyasagar — Ocean of Learning — at the age of just 21.
  • Privately, he studied English literature and philosophy and was appointed principal of Sanskrit College on January 22, 1851.

 

Reforms by Ishwar Chandra:

  • The focus of his social reform was women — and he spent his life’s energies trying to ensure an end to the practice of child marriage and initiate widow remarriage. He argued, on the basis of scriptures and old commentaries, in favour of the remarriage of widows in the same way as Roy did for the abolition of Sati.
  • He launched a powerful attack on the practice of marrying off girls aged 10 or even younger, pointing to social, ethical, and hygiene issues, and rejecting the validity of the Dharma Shastras that advocated it. He showed that there was no prohibition on widows remarrying in the entire body of ‘Smriti’ literature (the Sutras and the Shastras).
  • He campaigned against polygamy.
  • On October 14, 1855, Vidyasagar presented a petition to the Government of India praying for early passing a law to remove all obstacles to the marriage of Hindu widows and to declare the issue of all such marriages to be legitimate.
  • On July 16, 1856, The Hindu Widows’ Remarriage Act, known as Act XV, was passed.

 

Sources: Indian Express.