Sunday, March 13, 2011

The student life of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar

It is said that student life is the golden period of every person. As a student we must -know the student life of Ishwarchandra Bandyopadhyay (1820-1891) who secured the title `Vidyasagar` (the ocean of learning) when he was only nineteen years of age. In 1882 Sri Ramakrishna met Vidyasagar in his Calcutta residence. Sri Ramakrishna told Vidyasagar: "Ah! Today, at last, I have come to the ocean.  Up till now I have seen only canals, marshes, or a river at the most.  But today I am face to face with the sagar, the ocean." Swami Vivekananda once told to sister Nivedita, ``There is not a man of my age in northern India on whom his shadow has not fallen! `` (CW: 9-349)

Ishwarchandra was born on 26th September, 1820 at Birsingha village of Midnapore district (West Bengal, India). Birsingha was then in Hooghly district. His parents were Thakrudas Bandyopadhyay and Bhagabati Devi. They had seven sons and three daughters. Ishwarchandra was their eldest son.

At the age of five, Ishwarchandra took admission in village primary school. Kalikanta Chattopadhyay was his first teacher. He was very naughty but intelligent in his childhood. His father, Thakurdas worked in Calcutta. He was the money collector in the business of Ramsunder Mallick at a monthly salary of Rs 10. Thakurdas brought Ishwarchandra in Calcutta for higher education. At that time it was not easily accessible to go to Calcutta from a remote village as the transport system was very poor. They had to walk all the way on foot. On the way, Ishwarchandra learnt English numbers from 1 to 9 from the road side mile stones. He was so intelligent!

In Calcutta, Ishwarchandra took admission in the school of Swarup Chandra Das. He studied here for three months. Then after a short break (due to his brief illness), he took admission to Sanskrit College to learn Sanskrit as desired by his father. At the age of nine, Ishwarchandra took admission to Sanskrit College in 1829. Ishwarchandra went to college everyday from their Burrabazar private residence with his father.

Everyday Ishwarchandra went to the river Ganga for a holy dip. After bath, he purchased the vegetables, fishes etc. from the local market. There was no servant or cook. He cooked for 4-5 persons everyday. He went to School after washing all the utensils. This was his daily routine during his student life.

His father, Thakurdas was a strict mentor. Everyday at 9 pm he returned from his duty. Then he guided Ishwarchandra to his studies. Ishwarchandra was also very serious in studies. He asked his father to wake him up when the clock of nearby Armenian Church stroke 12. Thakurdas waited two hours everyday after his dinner (Honorable reader, please imagine the sacrifices of his father). The church clock struck 12. Iswarchandra woke up and he studied seriously for the rest of the night. Just imagine the strong determination and devotion of Ishwarchandra to his studies.

As a result, Ishwarchandra ranked high in his class year after year and awarded many prizes and scholarships. In the year 1839, Ishwarchandra passed Law Committee Examination conducted by Hindoo Law Committee of Calcutta. This committee awarded him the title `Vidyasagar`. Ishwarchandra was then only 19 years of age.

Further reading: Karunasagar Vidyasagar by Indramitra. (in Bengali)
Ananda Publishers Pvt. Ltd., Calcutta – 9.

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