Kolkata, Sep 26 : A slew of events including morning processions, seminars, cultural events and exhibitions marked the 199th birth anniversary celebrations of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, the towering figure of the Bengal Renaissance known for his signal contribution to education and women's emancipation, across Bengal on Thursday.
Inaugurating a seminar at The Asiatic Society on the occasion of the pre-bicentenary of the venerable social reformer who institutionalised Hindu widow remarriage, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Culture and Tourism Prahlad Singh Patel recalled the way Vidyasagar challenged Hindu orthodoxy.
Describing Vidyasagar as a legendary educationist who fought for women's education and played a pivotal role in getting widows remarried, as well as ending the shameful and stigmatised practice of child marriage, Patel said he was a part of the Bengal Renaissance, which started with the enlightened leadership of Raja Rammohan Roy.
"He raised his voice against child marriage, polygamy and mistreatment of widows, to usher in a new thinking about social ignominies then prevalent in India," Patel said at the seminar 'Probing Social Reforms in India in the Nineteenth Century: Vidyasagar's Legacy in the Long Run'.
The Minister released four publications on Vidyasagar.
In a tweet, chief minister Mamata Banerjee paid homage to "the great educationist, social reformer, and the creator of (the Bengali alphabet primer) 'Barnaparichay', and said "from education of women to institutionalising widow remarriage - he has left an indelible mark in society." All the 1.5 lakh state-run schools across the state organised programmes on the concluding day of Vidyasagar Week that began on September 20.
Vidyasagar was born on September 26, 1820, in Birsingha village of undivided Midnapore.
The state government provided Rs 2,000 to every primary and Rs 3,000 to each secondary school for organising morning processions, essay competitions, cultural events and exhibitions on the life of Vidyasagar.
Present and former students, local artists and prominent members of the civil society graced the programmes.
All schools named after the colossal figure or associated with him in any way illuminated their buildings, while many schools distributed his photos or copies of 'Barna Parichay' among people.
The day was celebrated solemnly at the state headquarters of the BJP, with Patel and other leaders taking part.
The state archives began a three-day exhibition where rare and important documents such as Vidyasagar's graduation certificate were on display.