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Bangali Writer Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar 1820 - 1891

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar CIE (Bengali: ঈশ্বর চন্দ্র বিদ্যাসাগর Ishshor Chôndro Biddashagor 26 September 1820 – 29 July 1891), born Ishwar Chandra Bandopadhyaya (Bengali: ঈশ্বর চন্দ্র বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায়, Ishshor Chôndro Bôndopaddhae), was an Indian Bengali polymath and a key figure of the Bengal Renaissance.

Vidyasagar was a philosopher, academic, educator, writer, translator, printer, publisher, entrepreneur, reformer, and philanthropist. His efforts to simplify and modernize Bangla prose were significant. He also rationalized and simplified the Bengali alphabet and type, which had remained unchanged since Charles Wilkins and Panchanan Karmakar had cut the first wooden Bangla type fonts in 1780.

He received the title "Vidyasagar" ("Ocean of learning" or "Ocean of knowledge") from the Calcutta Sanskrit College (where he graduated), due to his excellent performance in Sanskrit studies and philosophy. In Sanskrit, Vidya means knowledge or learning and Sagar means ocean or sea. This title was mainly given for his vast knowledge in all subjects which was compared to the vastness of the ocean.

Born 26 September 1820(1820-09-26)
Ghatal subdivision, Paschim Medinipur, West Bengal, India
Died 29 July 1891(1891-07-29) (aged 70)
Calcutta, West Bengal, India
Occupation Writer, reformer, lecturer
Nationality Indian
Ethnicity Bengali
Genres Philosopher, academic, educator, translator, printer, publisher, entrepreneur, reformer, philanthropist
Literary movement

Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar was born at Birsingha village, in the Ghatal subdivision of Midnapore District, in 26 September 1820 A.D. to a poor religious family. Actually, Birsingha is now a village in the Ghatal subdiviison of Pashchim Medinipur district, but at the time when Vidyasagar was born, this village was part of then Hooghly district. His parents were Thakurdas Bandyopadhyay and Bhagavati Devi. The childhood days of Vidyasagar were spent in abject poverty. After the completion of elementary education at the village school, his father took him to Calcutta. Ishwar Chandra was a brilliant student. It is believed that Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar learned English numbers by following the mile-stones labels on his way to Calcutta at the age of eight years. His quest for knowledge was so intense that he used to study on street light as it was not possible for him to afford a gas lamp at home. He cleared all the examinations with excellence and in quick succession. He was rewarded with a number of scholarships for his academic performance. To support himself and the family Ishwar Chandra also took a part-time job of teaching at Jorashanko.

In the year 1839, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar successfully cleared his Law examination. In 1841, at the age of twenty one years, Ishwar Chandra joined the Fort William College as a head of the Sanskrit department.

After five years, in 1846, Vidyasagar left Fort William College and join the Sanskrit College as 'Assistant Secretary'. In the first year of service, Ishwar Chandra recommended a number of changes to the existing education system. This report resulted into a serious altercation between Ishwar Chandra and College Secretary Rasomoy Dutta. In 1849, he again joined Sanskrit College, as a professor of literature. In 1851, Iswar Chandra became the principal of Sanskrit College. In 1855, he was made special inspector of schools with additional charges. But following the matter of Rasomoy Dutta, Vidyasagar resigned from Sanskrit College and rejoined Fort William College but as a head clerk.

Teaching career

Vidyasagar in Calcutta and many other reformers in Bombay set up schools for girls. When the first schools were opened in the mid nineteenth century, many people were afraid of them. They feared that schools would take away girls from home and prevent them from doing their domestic duties. Moreover, girls would have to travel through public places in order to reach school. They thought that girls should stay away from public spaces. Therefore, most educated women were taught at home by their liberal fathers or husbands.

Vidyasagar House, in Kolkata.

In 1841, Vidyasagar took the job of a Sanskrit pandit (professor) at Fort William College in Kolkata (Calcutta). In 1846, he joined the Sanskrit College as Assistant Secretary. A year later, he and a friend of his, Madan Mohan Tarkalankar, set up the Sanskrit Press and Depository, a print shop and a bookstore.

While Vidyasagar was working at the Sanskrit College, some serious differences arose between him and Rasamoy Dutta who was then the Secretary of the College, and so he resigned in 1849. One of the issues was that while Rasamoy Dutta wanted the College to remain a Brahmin preserve, Vidyasagar wanted it to be opened to students from all castes.

Later, Vidyasagar rejoined the College, and introduced many far-reaching changes to the College's syllabus.

In the face of opposition from the Hindu establishment, Vidyasagar vigorously promoted the idea that regardless of their caste, both men and women should receive the best education.

Vidyasagar's house at Calcutta is in the process of being transformed into a museum. It is located at 36, Vidyasagar Street, Kolkata 700 006. Telephone : 033 2360 5093. Access is along Amherst Street, southwards from it's junction with Vivekananda Road. Proceed along Amherst Street from this junction up to the first park on the left. The park has a milk vending booth at a corner. Turn left at the booth, and again left at the end of the park. Vidyasagar's house is on the right and is marked IGNOU. Open between 11 AM and 5 PM, the visit is worth the effort. The main regret is that it is almost entirely in Bengali, and the few English translations, are unsatisfactory. The displays are hazy in parts. Entrance fee is Rs 2/-. Carry drinking water. Limited parking area is available very close to the museum.

A compassionate reformist

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar would start crying in distress whenever he saw poor and weak people lying on the footpath and street. Though he was very outspoken and blunt in his mannerisms, yet Vidyasagar had a heart of Gold. He was also known for his charity and philanthropy as "Daya-r sagar" - ocean of kindness, for his immense generosity. He always reflected and responded to distress calls of the poor, sufferings of the sick and injustice to humanity. 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.

Vidyasagar did not believe that money was enough to ease the sufferings of humanity. He opened the doors of the Sanskrit College to lower caste students (previously it was exclusive to the Brahmins), nursed sick cholera patients, went to crematoriums to bury unclaimed dead bodies, dined with the untouchables and walked miles as a messenger-man to take urgent messages to people who would benefit from them.

When the eminent Indian Poet of the 19th century, Michael Madhusudan Dutta, fell hopelessly into debts due to his reckless lifestyle during his stay in Versailles, France, he appealed for help to Vidyasagar, who laboured to ensure that sums owed to Michael from his property at home were remitted to him and sent him a large sum of money to France.

Widow remarriages

Vidyasagar championed the uplift of the status of women in India, particularly in his native Bengal. Unlike some other reformers who sought to set up alternative societies or systems, he sought, however, to transform orthodox Hindu society "from within".

With valuable moral support from people like Akshay Kumar Dutta, Vidyasagar introduced the practice of widow remarriages to mainstream Hindu society. In earlier times, remarriages of widows would occur sporadically only among progressive members of the Brahmo Samāj. The prevailing deplorable custom of Kulin Brahmin polygamy allowed elderly men — sometimes on their deathbeds — to marry teenage or even prepubescent girls, supposedly to spare their parents the shame of having an unmarried girl attain puberty in their house. 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 labour, and close restriction on their freedom to leave the house or be seen by 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 and into the demi-monde. In 1853 it was estimated that Calcutta had a population of 12,718 prostitutes and public women.

Vidyasagar took the initiative in proposing and pushing through the Widow Remarriage Act XV of 1856 in India. He also demonstrated that the system of polygamy without restriction was not sanctioned by the ancient Hindu Shastras.

Alphabet reform and Vidyasagar's other contributions

Vidyasagar reconstructed the Bengali alphabet and reformed Bengali typography into an alphabet (actually abugida) of twelve vowels and forty consonants.

Vidyasagar contributed significantly to Bengali and Sanskrit literature.

Vidyasagar Setu

Rectitude and courage were the hallmarks of Vidyasagar's character, and he was certainly ahead of his time. In recognition of his scholarship and cultural work the government designated Vidyasagar a Companion of the Indian Empire (CIE) in 1877 In the final years of life, he chose to spend his days among the "Santhals", an old tribe in India.

Shortly after Vidyasagar's death, Rabindranāth Tāgore reverently wrote about him: "One wonders how God, in the process of producing forty million Bengalis, produced a man!"

Meeting with Sri Ramakrishna

One of the important chapters in the The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna is the depiction of the meeting between Sri Ramakrishna and Vidyasagar. The meeting was arranged by Mahendranath Gupta, better known as M, a lay disciple of Ramakrishna and the then headmaster in the Metropoliton school owned by Vidyasagar. At that time Vidyasagar used to stay in Badur bagan in North Calcutta. Ramakrishna in the course of the conversation apparently praised him on his philanthropic activities, kindness and compassion and suggested him to do these activities in a selfless spirit. Vidyasagar was himself secular and liberal in his outlook even though he was born in an orthodox Hindu Brahmin family. He was highly educated and hence influenced by Western thoughts and ideas. Ramakrishna in contrast did not have any formal education. According to the gospel Ramakrishna discussed various topics including the world of duality and trascendental nature of Brahman, citing the parables of the salt doll, the wood cutter and the ant and the sugar hill, on discrimination between true and false knowledge, on different manifestations of God's power, on ego and suffering, on power of faith etc. Vidyasagar had great respect for the 19th century mystic even though he did not visit him personally.

Vidyasagar Setu (commonly known as the Second Hooghly Bridge), is a bridge over the Hooghly River in West Bengal, India. It links the city of Howrah to its twin city of Kolkata. The bridge is named after Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar.

A fair named Vidyasagar Mela (Bengali: বিদ্যাসাগর মেলা Biddashagor Mêla), which is dedicated to spreading education and increasing social awareness, has been held annually in West Bengal since 1994. Since 2001, it has been held simultaneously in Kolkata and Birsingha.

There is a reputed college named after him and it is located in college street, Kolkata and a university in Paschim Midnapore.

Bollywood Actor Dev Anand 1923

Dharam Dev Anand Hindi: धर्मदेव आनन्द (born 26 September 1923), better known as Dev Anand Hindi: देव आनन्द, is an Indian Hindi Cinema actor, director and film producer. Dev is the second of three brothers who were active in Hindi Cinema. His elder brother Chetan Anand was a film director, as was his younger brother, Vijay Anand. Their sister, Sheel Kanta Kapur, is the mother of renowned Hindi and English film director Shekhar Kapur. The Government of India honoured him with the Padma Bhushan in 2001 and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2002 for his contributions towards Indian cinema.

Early life

Dev was born Dharam Dev Anand in Shakargarh Tehsil of Gurdaspur district (now in Narowal District, Pakistan) in undivided Punjab, British India to advocate Kishorimal Anand. He graduated in English literature from the Government College, Lahore,(now in Pakistan).


Dev Anand left his hometown for Mumbai. He began his career in the military censor office at Churchgate, Mumbai, for a salary of Rs.160.

He was soon offered a debut as an actor by Prabhat Talkies to star in their film Hum Ek Hain(1946). While shooting for the film in Pune, Dev struck a friendship with another fellow legendary actor Guru Dutt.

Dev was offered his first big break by Ashok Kumar. He spotted Dev hanging around in the studios and picked him as the hero for the Bombay Talkies production, Ziddi, costarring Kamini Kaushal (1948) which became a success. In 1949, Dev turned producer and launched his own company Navketan, which continues to produce movies even today.

Dev chose Guru Dutt as director for the crime thriller, Baazi (1951). The collaboration was a success at the box office. Dev also played a few characters with a negative shade, like in Jaal(1952). His films Rahee and Aandhiyan, were screened along with Raj Kapoor's Awaara. In the same year, Taxi Driver was declared a hit. Dev's heroine was Kalpana Kartik aka Mona Singha again, and the two decided to marry in a quiet ceremony. The couple had a son, Suneil Anand in 1956.

A rapid-fire style of dialogue delivery and a penchant for nodding while speaking became Dev's style in films like Munimji, C.I.D. and Paying Guest. His style was lapped up by the audience and was widely imitated. He starred in a string of box office successes for the remainder of the 1950s. In 1955 he also co-starred with Dilip Kumar in Insaniyat. With his acting in Kala Pani (1958), as the son who is willing to go to any lengths to clear his framed father's name, he won the Best Actor Award for the film.

He was romantically involved with singer-actress Suraiya and the two of them paired in six films together. She fell in love with him during the shooting of a song sequence in the film — a boat capsized and Dev Anand saved Suraiya from drowning. Her grandmother opposed the relationship as they were Muslims and so, Suraiya remained unmarried all her life.

His first color film, Guide with Waheeda Rehman was based on the novel of the same name by R. K. Narayan. Dev Anand himself was the impetus for making the film version of the book. He met and persuaded Narayan to give his assent to the project. Dev Anand tapped his friends in Hollywood to launch an Indo-US co-production that was shot in Hindi and English simultaneously and was released in 1965. Guide, directed by younger brother Vijay Anand, was an acclaimed movie. Dev played Raju, a voluble guide, who supports Rosy (Waheeda) in her bid for freedom. He is not above thoughtlessly exploiting her for personal gains. Combining style with substance, he gave an affecting performance as a man grappling with his emotions in his passage through love, shame and salvation.

He reunited with Vijay Anand for the movie Jewel Thief which featured Vyjayanthimala, Tanuja, Anju Mahendru, Faryal and Helen. Their next collaboration, Johny Mera Naam (1970) was a big hit.

His direction debut, the espionage drama Prem Pujari, was a flop, but he tasted success with his 1971 directorial effort, Hare Rama Hare Krishna which talked about the prevalent hippie culture. His find Zeenat Aman, who played the mini-skirt sporting, pot-smoking Janice, became an overnight sensation. Dev also became known as a filmmaker of trenchantly topical themes. This same year, he starred with Mumtaz in Tere Mere Sapne, an adaptation of A. J. Cronin's novel, The Citadel. The film was directed by Dev's brother, Vijay.

The presence of his 'discoveries' — the Zeenat and later, the Tina Munim (heroine of Dev's last recognized hit Des Pardes in 1978) — boosted Dev's image as the evergreen star even though he was well into his fifties.

Dev Anand has also been politically active. He led a group of film personalities who stood up against the Internal Emergency imposed by the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. He actively campaigned against her with his supporters in Indian parliamentary elections in 1977. He also formed a party called the National Party of India, which he later disbanded.

Since his 1978 hit Des Pardes, his subsequent films in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s failed to do well at the box office. His most recent film appearance was in Mr Prime Minister in 2005.

Dev Anand's films are well known for their hit songs. His association with music composers Shankar-Jaikishen, O. P. Nayyar, Kalyanji-Anandji, Sachin Dev Burman and his son Rahul Dev Burman, lyricists Hasrat Jaipuri, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Neeraj, Shailendra, Anand Bakshi, and playback singers Mohammad Rafi, Mahendra Kapoor, Mukesh and Kishore Kumar produced some very popular songs.

In September 2007, Dev's own autobiography "Romancing with Life" was released at a birthday party with the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.

Awards, honours and recognitions:

Filmfare Awards

  • 1955 - Nominated Best Actor for Munimji
  • 1958 - Winner Best Actor for Kalapani
  • 1959 - Nominated Best Actor for Love Marriage
  • 1960 - Nominated Best Actor for Kala Bazar
  • 1961 - Nominated Best Actor for Hum Dono
  • 1966 - Winner Best Film for Guide
  • 1991 - Winner Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award

National honours and recognitions

  • 1996 - Star Screen Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 1997 - "Mumbai Academy of Moving Images Award" for his Outstanding Services to the Indian Film Industry.
  • 1998 - "Lifetime Achievement Award" by the Ujala Anandlok Film Awards Committee in Calcutta.
  • 1999 - Sansui "Lifetime Achievement Award" for his 'Immense Contribution to Indian Cinema' in New Delhi.
  • 2000 - Film Goers' "Mega Movie Maestro of the Millennium" Award in Mumbai.
  • 2001 - Padma Bhushan Award (India's third highest civilian award from the Government of India).
  • 2001 - "Special Screen Award" for his contribution to Indian cinema.
  • 2001 - "Evergreen Star of the Millennium" Award at the Zee Gold Bollywood Awards
  • 2002 - Dadasaheb Phalke Award, India's highest award for cinematic excellence
  • 2003 - "Lifetime Achievement Award" for ‘Outstanding Achievement in Indian Cinema’ at IIFA Award in Johannesburg, South Africa.
  • 2004 - "Legend of Indian Cinema" Award at Atlantic City (United States).
  • 2004 - "Living Legend Award" by the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in recognition of his contribution to the Indian entertainment industry.
  • 2005 - "Sony Golden Glory Award"
  • 2006 - "ANR Award" by the Akkineni International Foundation.
  • 2006 - "Glory of India Award" by IIAF, London.
  • 2007 - "Punjab Ratan" (Jewel of Punjab) Award by the World Punjabi Organisation (European Division) for his outstanding contribution in the field of art and entertainment.
  • 2008 - "Lifetime Achievement Award" by Ramya Cultural Academy in association with Vinmusiclub
  • 2008 - "Lifetime Achievement Award" by Rotary Club of Bombay
  • 2008 - Awarded at the IIJS Solitaire Awards
  • 2009 - Outstanding contribution to Indian cinema at the Max Stardust Awards
  • 2010 - "Phalke Ratna Award" by Dadasaheb Phalke Academy.
  • He is also a recipient of the Rashtriya Gaurav Award

International honors and recognitions

  • In July 2000, in New York City, he was honoured by an Award at the hands of the then First Lady of the United States of America - Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton - for his 'Outstanding Contribution to Indian Cinema'.
  • In 2000, he was awarded the Indo-American Association "Star of the Millennium" Award in the Silicon Valley, California.
  • Donna Ferrar, Member New York State Assembly, honoured him with a "New York State Assembly Citation" for his 'Outstanding Contribution to the Cinematic Arts Worthy of the Esteem and Gratitude of the Great State of New York' on 1 May 2001.
  • In 2005, he was honoured with a "Special National Film Award" by the Government of Nepal at Nepal’s first NationIndian film festival in Stockholm.
  • In 2008 he was guest of honour at a dinner hosted by the Provost of Highland Council in Inverness, Scotland to celebrate 10 years since he first worked in the Scottish Highlands. He spent several days in the area, en route to Cannes, as a guest of the Highlands and Islands Film Commission.