The election violence in Bengal has ironically centred attention on one of the greatest figures of social reform in the country and especially Bengal.Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was a Bengali Sanskrit pundit, educator, social reformer, writer and philanthropist.
Vidyasagar was a renowned educationist of his time.He worked at Fort William College and then at Sanskrit College.Vidyasagar authored many books that greatly helped the Bengali education system. He championed the cause of education, especially for girls.
He was particularly vocal about the cause of Widow Remarriage and introduced the practice and pushed for the Widow Remarriage Act XV of 1856. He also reconstructed the Bengali alphabet and reformed Bengali typography into an alphabet of 12 vowels and 40 consonants.
He also opened the doors of the colleges and other educational institutions to lower caste students, which was earlier reserved only for the Brahmins. For his immense generosity and kind-heartedness, people started addressing him as “Dayar Sagar” (ocean of kindness)
His earliest effort at social reform, however, came in the second half of 1850 when, in a paper on the evils of child marriage, he launched a powerful attack on the practice of marrying off girls aged 10 or even younger, pointing to social, ethical, and hygiene issues.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was associated with prestigious journalistic publications like ‘Tattwabodhini Patrika’, ‘Somprakash’, ‘Sarbashubhankari Patrika’ and ‘Hindu Patriot’.
Vidyasagar’s lasting legacy remains with ‘Borno Porichoy’, an elementary level book for learning Bengali alphabets, where he reconstructed Bengali alphabets and reformed it into typography of 12 vowels and 40 consonants.