The Cultural impact of the Bengali Renaissance is still felt today. Here are 3 important Figures of the Movement you should know!

The Bengali Renaissance started in the late 19th century and continued until the mid-20th century!

Any cultural revolution is based on a melting pot of external factors. To understand the cultural change that took place in Bengali, one must first understand the historical context in which these changes happened. Under British rule, Calcutta became a major hub of business and the transportation of goods and services due to the strategic advantage of its ports. This prompted large-scale development in the area, and the formation of a metropolis began on the banks of the Hooghly River.

Due to these changes, the British also started imposing the Western education system on the population. However, this began to have an effect that imperialists did not anticipate. Diverse influences from the West and their existing indigenous culture gave the Bengali youth a different perspective. They were able to understand the unjust subjugation being heaped on them, and Bengal became a hotbed for the freedom struggle. It was often seen that the protestors were mostly students revolting against the unjust treatment they received. Also among all these changes, a handful of men brought in social, artistic, and cultural reforms. 

Raja Ram Mohan Roy

Among the most important social reformers in the country, Raja Ram Mohan Roy was a man for the future. He was among the first generation of Bengali men who were highly educated in various fields. A polymath would be an apt description for him. Other than having a knowledge of ancient Sanskrit and religious texts such as the Vedas and Upanishads, he had a profound proficiency in English, Latin, and Greek. The extent of his reform started with the social and stretched to the political, educational, and even religious sectors of life. He was the founder of Bramha Samaj. He founded Hindu College, now known as Presidency University, the earliest higher education institution in India, in Calcutta.  Presidency University is the alma mater of two Noble Lauriattes of India. That is not all; he also fought against dogmatic social evils such as Sati. 

Rabindranath Tagore 

Rabindranath Tagore is perhaps the most important literary figure in Bengal. Tagore has not only authored the national anthem of India but has also written the national anthem for Bangladesh.Throughout his career, he has authored songs, novels, and poems, while also playing a significant role in advancing liberal arts education in India. Nevertheless, he never received a formal education and felt burdened by the constraints of the established education system.

Among his most notable works is Gitanjali, or The Song Offerings, which earned him a Nobel Prize in Literature. With that honour, he became the first Asian author to be felicitated with that prize. Tagore was also the founder of Biswa Bharati in Shantiniketan, which is a school of fine arts, and many important artists, including Satyajit Ray and Ram Kinkaur Beij, were students of that very institution. 

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar

Ishawar Chandra Vidyasagar was another social and educational reformer from Bengal. His contribution to the linguistic organization of Bengali script is the most significant in modern history. He came up with a system for formulating the Bengali alphabet and named it Barna Parichay. Barna Parichay is still the only method of teaching the Bengali language to this day. 

Apart from education, his contribution to social causes was even more significant. He was against child marriage and also advocated vehemently for widow remarriage. Vidysagar’s incessant campaign on the issue led Lord Dalhousie to sign the Hindu Widow Remarriage Act of 1856.

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