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Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar

Ishwar Chandra Bandopadhay was an eminent scholar and social reformer of 19th century Bengal. He came from a family of modest means. He went to the village school where everything was taught in Bengali. When he was still a lad, his father took him to Calcutta. Here he was to join a local pathshala to learn more Sanskrit. A family friend advised the father to send the boy to a school where he could learn English, because a knowledge of English used to get one a well-paying job. It enabled Ishwar Chandra to get a law degree. In the meanwhile, he mastered Sanskrit and a host of other subjects. Vidyasagar became a lecturer at Fort William College (established in 1800) when he was in his early twenties.

Date of Birth 1820
Date of Death 1892
Place of Birth Bengal

He taught brilliantly, and proposed to improve the curriculum there. Such boldness did not sit well with a senior (fellow Hindu) professor. Unpleasantness ensued, Vidyasagar resigned as lecturer, and took on a clerical job. Later on, he joined the famous Sanskrit College, and soon became its principal. He argued against superstitions and casteism, and ate freely with the so-called untouchables. He opened the doors of this exclusive college to non-dwijas. This had never been done before in a Sanskrit school. Vidyasagar dedicated himself to innovations in education. He pleaded for English as medium of instruction. And yet, Vidyasagar did not ignore his own beautiful Bangla. He introduced students to the curviform alphabet of his language with a simple book (Borno Porichoi) which is as popular today as when it was first published 150 years ago (in 1855). His simple and elegant writings are said to have served as a model for later Bengali prose.