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Isvar Chandra Vidyasagar, a story of his life and work








R. C. DUTT, Esq. C. I. E.




Printed and Published by Sarat Chandra
Mitra, New Bengal Press,

159, Maniktola Street.

Isvar Chandra Vidyasagar frame.png



His Highness Maharaj-Adhiraj
Bijay Chand Mahtab Bahadur












The Author.


The present publication is intended to meet a long-felt desideratum. Biographies of the late venerable Vidyasagar have been written in Bengali by distinguished writers, but no attempt has yet been made to bring out in English an account of the life and career of that eminent man, although more than eleven years have passed away since he left this world. All this long while we have been waiting to see if an abler hand than ourselves would take up this onerous task, but in vain; so, with great reluctance, we at last feel compelled to take this mighty responsibility upon ourselves. Our sole aim has been to give a clear and faithful account of the life-work of the great pundit in the simplest language at our command; without endeavouring in the least to gloss over what appeared to us as his short-comings. How far we have succeeded in our attempt it is for the reading public to judge.

We have to express our indebtedness to our venerable countryman Mr. R. C. Dutt C. I. E. for his kindness in writing the Introduction. Indeed, the readiness with which he accepted the task will always be gratefully remembered by the present writer. As regards the body of the work, our heart-felt thanks are due to Babu Behari Lal Sarkar, the veteran author and journalist, from whose excellent biography of Vidyasagar in Bengali, we have got much help in the compilation of this work. His kindness and generosity and the very valuable aid rendered by him all through the course of the writing of the book deserve our most grateful recognition. Without his help, the work would never have been what it is.

Before concluding, we feel it also to be our duty to acknowledge with thanks the help we have received from Pandit Narayan Chandra Vidyaratna in the shape of many anecdotes which he has told us regarding his illustrious father, and this we do accordingly. Thanks are also due to Babu Chandi Charan Banerjee for his kind permission to make extracts from letters contained in his life of Vidyasagar in Bengali.

The book is offered to the public in all humility. We shall feel ourselves sufficiently rewarded for our pains if it is accepted in the spirit in which it is offered.


December, 1902. S. C. M.



birth and ancestry.

Birth—Family history—Bhuvanesvar Vidyalankar, Isvar Chandra's great-grand-father—Ramjay Tarkabhushan, Isvar Chandra's grand-father—Thakurdas, Isvar Chandra's father—Bhagavati Devi, Isvar Chandra's mother—Predictions of an astrologer on his birth.1–18.


childhood and early instruction.

Vidyasagar's birth-moment—Admission to village Pathsala—Childish naughtiness—Good parts manifested at an early age.19–27.


advent to calcutta.

Journey to Calcutta—Isvar Chandra's wonderful memory—Admission to a Vernacular Pathsala—Jagaddurlabh Sinba's family—Isvar Chandra's Dysentery—He goes back to Birsingha—Recovers—Returns to Calcutta.28–40.


admission into the sanskrit college.

Admission into the Sanskrit College—The Sanskrit College—The Hindu College—Early professors of the Sanskrit College—Hard treatment of the father—Isvar Chandra wins prizes—Promoted to the Belles-lettres class—Wins prizes for good hand-writing—Struggles against the hardships of poverty.40–60.


marriage and subsequent studies.

Married to Dinamayi Devi—Father-in-law Satrughna Bhattacharyya—Isvar Chandra promoted to the Rhetoric class—Wins the first prize at the annual examination— Has an attack of Dysentery—Recovers—Wins a scholarship—Tenderness of his heart—Respect for elders—Affection for the younger brothers—Enters the Smriti class—Passes the law committee examination.60–74.


further studies—conclusion of school life.

Isvar Chandra secures a post of Judge Pundit—Declines the offer—Enters the Vedanta class—Wins prizes at essay-writing—Shows strength of mind—Enters the Nyaya class—Wins prizes in ready money—Officiates as Second Teacher of Grammar—Passes the final examination creditably and wins the title of Vydyasagar—Displays abilities at composition—Wins a prize of one hundred rupees for poetical composition.74–84.


entrance into the world: first appointment

First appointment as Head Pandit of the Fort William College—The Fort William College—Mr. Marshall, Secretary to the College—Vidyasagar's Independence of spirit—Begins to learn English and Hindi simultaneously—Doctor Durga Charan Banarji—Raj Narayan Basu—Nilmadhav Mukharji—Ananda Krishna Basu—Amrita Lal Mitra—Srinath Ghosh—Raja Radha-Kanta Dev Bahadur—Connection with Tattvabodhini Sabha and Patrika—Devendra Nath Tagore—Akshay Kumar Dutt—Paper Committee—Vidyasagar commences publishing a translation of the Mahabharat—Kali Prasanna Sinha's translation of the Mahabharat—Akshay Kumar Dutta's pension—Brahma Samaj—Syama Charan Sarkar—Raj Krishna Banarji—Madanmohan Tarkalankar—Dvaraka Nath Vidyabhushan—Giris Chandra Vidyaratna—Rasamay Datta—Dr. Mouat, Secretary to the Council of Education.85–109.


continuance in the fort william college.

Mr. Marshall reads Sanskrit with Vidyasagar—Change in the Educational policy—General Committee of Public Instruction—The Council of Education—Hardinge School—Vidyasagar relieves his father of his toilsome servitude—Magnanimity of his heart—Kindness Disinterestedness—Abilities at pedestrianism—Braja Nath De, Superintendent of the Metropolitan Institution—Vidyasagar's dovoted attachment to his mother—Undertakes a perilous journey to obey her word—Powers of versification—Cost-prize essays—Mr. Cost, a civilian.109–134.


his first bengali work, the vasudeva charita.

Vidyasagar writes the Vasudeva Charita—Disapproved by the authorities—Brief review of early Bengali Literature134–157.


first appointment in the sanskrit college.

Raja Krishna Nath of Cossimbazar—Vidyasagar resigns his office in the Fort Willam College—Appointed Assistant Secretary to the Sanskrit College—Secures to his younger brother, Dinabandhu Nyayratna, his former place in the Fort William College—Brings about changes and improvements in the Sanskrit College—Friction with Mr. Kerr, the Principal of the Hindu College—Secures the post of the Professor of Belles-lettres to Madan Mohan Tarkalankar—Resigns his place in the Sanskrit College—Learns Hindi and English well—Holds for some time an honorary post.157–168.

The vetala panchavinsati, his First published book:—Re-entrance into the fort william college.

The Vetala Panchavinsati—Rejected by the authorities Vydyasagar refers to the missionaries of Serampore—Approved as a text-book for the Fort William College on the recommendation of Mr. Marshman—Controversy with Jogendra Nath Vidyabhushan—The Sanskrit Press—The works of Bharat Chandra—History of Bengal in Bengali—Vidyasagar re-enters public service as Head Writer of the Fort William College—The Subhakari—Vidyasagar appointed as examiner of Bengali—Drinkwater Bethune—Vidyasagar as examiner of the Junior and Senior Students of the Sanskrit College—The Jibana Charita—Birth of Narayan Chandra, Vidyasagar's only son.168-179.

Re-entrance into the Service Of the Sanskrit College.

Vidyasagar resigns his place in the Fort William College—Re-enters the Sanskrit College as Professor of Belles-lettres—Report on the Sanskrit Coilege—Bhudev Mukharji.180-205.

Principal of the Sanskrit College.

Rasamay Datta resigns his office as Secretary of the Sanskrit College—Vidyasagar appointed as Secretary—The post of Principal newly created in the Sanskrit College—Vydyasagar's appointment as first Principal—Changes and improvements brought about by Vidyasagar—His witticisms—Affection for school-boys—Strict discipline—Admission of the Kayastha boys Into the Sanskrit College—Vidyasagar's head-disease.205-221.


Principal of the Sanskrit College:— Female Education.

Foundation of the Bethune School—State of female education in this country—Death of Bethune—Vidyasagar's love for the girl-pupils—System of tuition fee introduced into the Sanskrit College—Publication of Sanskrit manuscripts—The Bodhodaya—The Upakramanika Vyakarana—Introduction of the practice of summer vacation by Vidyasagar—Robbery in his house at Birsingha—Conduct of a Police Daroga—Interview with Halliday, the Deputy Governor of Bengal—Entertainment of Harrison by Vidyasagar's mother—The Rijupatha, Part I. The Nitibodha—The Kathamala—The Rijupatha, Part II—The Rijupatha, Part III.Vyakarana Kaumudi—The study of English made compulsory in the Sanskrit College—Vidyasagar founds at Birsingha a free school, a Charitable Dispensary, a Girl School, and a Night School.221–241.


Principal of the Sanskrit College, as well as Special Inspector of Schools.

Vidyasagar's appointment as Special Inspector of Schools—Foundation of the Normal School—Vidyasagar's kindness and charities—His taste for music—His appreciation of merits—Prasanna Kumar Sarvvadhikari—His friction with the principal of the Presidency College—Vidyasagar's forgiveness—His greatness of heart—Affection for friends—Babu Nilambar Mukharji—Introduction of European Mathematics into the Sanskrit College—The Bethune Society—Vidyasagar's discourse on Sanskrit Literature—The Sakuntala in Bengali.241–259.


Re-marriage of hindu widows.

Vidyasagar gets on foot the widow marriage movement —Controversy on the re-marriage of Hindu widows—Opinion of the Bangadarsana—Petition to Government for legislation—The Draft Bill—Extracts from the speeches in the Legislative Council—Re-marriage of Hindu widows legalised by Act XV of 1856—The Act—Petitions against the legislation—First widow marriage—Different versions of it—Desertion of some of his so-called friends—An amusing story.260–324.


Retirement from Public Service.

The Varnaparichaya—Pyari Charan Sarkar—The Charitavali—The foundation of the Calcutta University—Vidyasagar appointed as examiner of Sanskrit, Bengali, Hindi and Uriya—The Central Committee—The office of the Director of Public Instruction newly created—W. G. Young, as first Director—Vidyasagar's intimate familiarity with the Lieutenant-Governor—His friction with the New Director—Change of educational policy—Vidyasagar communicates to the Lieutenant-Governor his intention to retire—Halliday persuades him not to take that step—Fresh collision with the Director—Vidyasagar submits his resignation letter—A few letters—Acceptance of his resignation by Government—Retirement from Public Service—The Hon'ble C. E. Buckland's opinion.324–352.


The Sanskrit Press Depository.

Sir James Colvile—Grandmother's death—Her Sraddha—Vidyasagar's grief—Establishment of the Sanskrit Press Depository—Prabhavati Sambhashan—Vidyasagar's grateful benevolence—Disinterested benevolence—Widow-marriage debts—Charities—Bidhava Bibaha Nataka—Keshub Chunder Sen.353–367


The Hindu Patriot.

Establishment of an Anglo-Sanskrit School at Kandi—Haris Chandra Mukharji dies—Krishto Das Pal appointed Editor of the Hindu Patriot—The Soma-Prakasa—Maharaja Mahatap Chand Bahadur of Burdwan—A brief review of Bengali News Papers—The Sitar Vana-Vasa—Vidyasagar's strength of mind and body—Raja Isvar Chandra Sinha of Paikpara, Vidyasagar's magnanimity of heart—Vyakarana Kaumudi Part IV.367–381.


Michael M. Datta.

Michael goes out to England—Communicates to Vidyasagar from France his difficulties—Vidyasagar helps him with liberal remittances—Michael becomes a Barrister-at-law—His Chaturdasapadi Kavitabali—Michael returns to Calcutta—Vidyasagar's debts on Michael's account—Compelled to dispose of two-thirds of the Sanskrit Press to pay off those debts—Michael's heavy debts—Michael's extravagance.382–399.


The Ward's Institution.

Foundation of the Ward's Institution—Vidyasagar appointed a visitor—His first memorandum—His report—His second memorandum—Dr. Rajendra Lala Mitra—Vidyasagar resigns his visitorship—Vidyasagar on the Committee appointed to consider the introduction of Sanskrit into the University Curriculum—Vidyasagar's opinion on a point of Hindu Law—He rescues many creditors—His disinterested charities—Contributions to the Female School fund—Vidyasagar obtains loans from his friends—Seeks re-entrance into public service—Is baffled in his attempts—Mr. Dall, an American Missionary.400–430


The Metropolitan Institution.

Early history of the Institution—First application for affiliation—The application rejected—Second application—Vidyasagar's letter—E. C. Bayley—The Institution affiliated up to the F. A. Standard—Brilliant results at the first examination—Affiliated as a first grade college—Results of the B. A. and M. A. examinations—Vidyasagar's policy of the management of educational Institutions—The Hon'ble C. E. Buckland's opinion—The Akhyanamanjari, Part I.430–459.


The Bethune School.

Lord and Lady Lawrence present at the prize distribution meeting—Miss Mary Carpenter—Vidyasagar accompanies her to Uttarpara—Is injured by a fall from his vehicle—Female Normal School—Interchange of letters with Sir William Grey on the subject—Vidyasagar's views—He resigns his office as Secretary of the Bethune School—Miss Pigott, Lady Superintendent of the Bethune School—Vidyasagar's father retires from the world—Portrait of his father and mother.459–473.


the great famine.

Raja Pratap Chandra's death—His family—His Estate—Vidyasagar's modesty and magnanimity—Unrestricted admittance into his house—Some intruders Alienation of—Devatra property—Vidyasagar's views accepted by Government—Disruption of his family—The Hindu Yoga—Outbreak of the Orissa famine—The state of the country—Hem Chandra Kar—Vidyasagar's mother feeds 100 persons daily—Vidyasagar opeus a feeding camp at Birsingha—Acknowledgment of Government for his noble generosity.473–490.


Disasters and troubles.

Sambhu Nath Pandit's death—Raja Radha Kanta Dev's demise—Marriage of Vidyasagar's eldest daughter—Ramgopal Ghosh's death—The Hon'ble C. E. Buckland's opinion of him—The scheme of removing the cremation ghat from Nimtala.—Death of Saradaprasad Ray, Zemindar of Chakdighi—Vidyasagar's aid to the Ghatal School—Death of Rani Katyayani of Paikpara—The Akhyanamanjari Parts II. and III.—Death of Ray Hara Chandra Ghosh Bahadur—Dinabandhu's claim to a share of the Sanskrit Press and the Depository—The case decided against him—Dinabahdhu made a Deputy Magistrate—Vidyasagar favourably disposed to Homoeopathy Dr. Berigni—Doctor Rajendra Nath Datta—Dr. Mahendra Lal Sarkar—Vidyasagar's library—Dishonesty of a so-called friend—Vidyasagar's visit to Burdwan—Pyari Chand Mitra—Vidyasagar's debts from the Cossimbazar Raj Estate—A letter to Rajib Lochan Ray—A letter to Maharani Svarnamayi—Persecutions—Statements of the case.490–516


Labour of love in Burdwan.

Outbreak of Malarial Fever in Burdwan—Vidyasagar Interviews Sir William Grey on the subject—Opens a charitable dispensary at Burdwan—The Bhranti Vilasa—The Ramer Rajyabhisehka—Tek Chand Thakur—Bankim Chandra Chatarji—Kaii Prasanna Ghosh516–526.


Desertion of ancestral home.

Vidyasagar's house at Birsingha destroyed by fire—The Meghaduta—Cause of the desertion—Gift of the Sanskrit Press Depository to Braja Nath Mukharji—Death of doctor Durga Charan Banarji—The Hon'ble Surendra Nath Banarji—Death of Maharaja Mahatap Chand Bahadur of Burdwan—Narayan Chandra's marriage.527–539.


Loss of mother.

Vidyasagar's mother sets out on pilgrimage—Joins her husband at Benares—Returns to Birsingba—Goes again to Benares where she dies—Vidyasagar's grief and mourning—Vidyasagar's father falls ill—Vidyasagar goes to Benares—His religious views—The Hindu Wills Act—Vidyasagar's opinion—Death of Maharaja Satis Chandra Ray Bahadur of Nadia—Vidyasagar retracts his word of pledge Maharaja Kshitis Chaudra Ray Bahadur of Nadia Sanskrit publications—English publications—Vidyasagar's appreciation of merits—Keshub Chnnder Sen—A letter to Raj Narayan Bose—The saintly Ram Krishna Paramahansa539–554



First petition against Polygamy—Second petition—A deputation waits upou Sir Cecil Beadon—The Lieutenant Governor's reply—The Hindu Patriot's views—The Hon'ble C. E. Buckland on the subject—Vidyasagar's paper against Polygamy—Controversy554–571


Disasters again.

Marriage of Vidyasagar's second daughter—Estrangement of his only son—The Hindu Family Annuity Fund—Vidyasagar severes his connection with the Fund—Mahamahopadhyay Rakhal Das Nyayratna—Vidyasagar's eldest daughter becomes a widow—His sympathy for her—His affection for her children—Syampukur Branch Metropolitan School opened551–585.


The shoe question.

Vidyasagar goes to visit the Library of the Asiatic Society—Is prevented to enter the rooms with his native shoes on—Writes a letter to the Secretary to the Trustees of the Indian Museum—The Englishman on the subject—The Hindoo Patriot on the subject.585–591


Loss of father.

Difference with Sir George Campbell—The Hon'ble C. E. Buckland on Campbell—Interchange of letters with the Bengal Government with respect to the Sanskrit College—Vidyasagar's letter to the Hindu Patriot—Exclusion by Government of Vidyasagar's books from the list of Textbooks—Appointment of Mahamahopadhyay Pandit Mahes Chandra Nyayratna as a professor in the Sanskrit College—Mr. Cowel, the Principal of the Sanskrit College Vidyasagar retires into private life—Erects a country-seat at Karmatar—Mahamahopadhyay Nilmanl Nyayalankar—Love for the savage Santhals—Death of the Hon'ble Dwarka Nath Mitter—The Englishman's obituary notice. A fallen woman's case—Jay Krishna Mukharji—Marriage of Vidyasagar's third daughter—Pyari Charan Sarkar's death—The Bengal Temperance Society—Death of Vidyasagar's father, His character591–637.


Loss of consort.

Construction of Vidyasagar's house—Marriage of his fourth daughter—Construction of the Metropolitan College Building—Opening of Branch Metropolitan Schools—Vidyasagar honoured by Government with the title C. I. E.—Exclusion of the Rijupatha, Part III from the University Course—Vidyasagar's visit to Cawnpore—Sale of the Sanskrit Press—Income from his publications—Liquidation of Government debt—Settlement of the dispute of the Tagore brothers—Severance of his connection with the Sanskrit Press Depository—Translation of the Rig-Veda by Mr. Romesh Chandra Dutt—Death of Vidyasagar's wife— Narayan Chandra's letters—Dismissal of his son-in-law, Suryyakumar Adhikari—The Hon'ble Dr. Guru Das Banarjl—Establishment of the Birsingha Bhagavati School627–648.


The age of Consent Bill.

Death of Ray Dinabandhu Mitra Bahadur—Vidyasagar's health impaired—His sojourn at Chandernagore—Charities there—An incident The Age of Consent Bill—Return to Calcutta Vidyasagar's views on the Bill—The policy of Government—A letter of congratulation on Durga Mohan Das's widow marriage.648–655.


Departure From the world.

Vidyasagar returns to Chandernagore—His illness takes a serious turn—Comes back to Calcutta—Gives up opium—Is placed under the treatment of Dr. Salzer—Golap Chandra Sastrl—Vidyasagar's condition becomes critical—His uncommon fortitude—Vidyasagar breathes his last—Lamentations.655–662.



The funeral procession—Immense gathering—Cremation—Opinions of the Press—Mourning—Memorial meetings—Memorials.963–671.


This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.