India, May 16 -- Ishwar Chandra Bandyopadhyay (1820-1891), popular as Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, was an educationist, philanthropist, social reformer and a leading figure of the Bengal Renaissance who championed women's education and widow remarriage in an orthodox Hindu society.

A pundit in Sanskrit and Bengali, in 1850 Vidyasagar wrote the primer, Barnaparichay, which introduced generations of Bengalis to their mother tongue. The next year, he wrote Upakramanika to make Sanskrit intelligible to ordinary people.

Born in poverty in an orthodox Brahmin family, there are many anecdotes about him that are now folklore in Bengal, such as how he learnt the numbers by reading milestones on the way from his village Birsingha (now in West Midna...