What were the contributions of Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar?

a. Introduction:

Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar was born in the village of Birsingha in the district of Midnapore in 1820.

He came in close contact with the West after he had become associated with the Fort William College as the Head Pandit of the Bengali department.

He was deeply influenced by the European ideal of humanism and rationalism. But the Indian heritage was of no less value to him.

He combined in him the dynamism of the European, culture with the greatness of Indian culture. Herein lies the greatness of Vidyasagar.

b. Educational Reform:

Iswar Chandra firmly believed that the regeneration of India was possible only through education.

That is why Iswar Chandra took up educational reforms before movement for social reforms. In matters of education Iswar Chandra aimed at extending the benefits of learning to common people.

To sehieve this end he stressed upon instruction through vernacular language. He also put emphasis on writing text books in vernacular language.

Further, in order to liberate the minds of young learners from 'unsophisticated scholarship' Iswar Chandra urged upon them the study of Western science and philosophy.

c. Emancipation of Women:

Having spent his early life in village Iswar Chandra could realize the sorrowful condition of the womenfolk.

He rightly believed that the emancipation of women was not possible as long as they remained ignorant.

Iswar Chandra, therefore, took upon himself the task of promoting the cause of female education.

Noticing the British Government's indifference towards female education Iswar Chandra himself started a few model schools for girls.

He also collaborated with Drinkwater Bethune in establishing the Hindu Female School (at present known as Bethune School and College) in 1849.

d. Social Reforms:

Alongside educational reform movement Iswar Chandra carried on with his programme of social reform.

He raised his voice of protest against the child marriage and sent a petition to the British Govt, urging it to legalize widow remarriage.

His efforts were rewarded when Hindu Widow Remarriage Act was passed in 1856 by the then Governor-General Lord Canning.

By this Act the remarriage of a widow was recognised as legal, Vidyasagar, however, was not successful in getting child-marriage legally prohibited.