This introductory chapter provides a brief biography of Ishvarchandra Vidyasagar, who promoted the passage of Act XV of 1856, granting Hindu widows the legal right to remarry. Vidyasagar was the oldest son born to a Brahman family of limited means in rural Bengal on September 26, 1820. He studied at Calcutta Government Sanskrit College, which was established by the British in the hope both of preserving India's traditional Sanskrit heritage, and to train a new set of judge-pandits who could assist them in the task of administering Hindu law. It was in January 1855 that Vidyasagar first published a short essay in support of widow marriage. This essay was almost instantly republished in book form, followed by a second, much longer version. Before the year was out, the two books of Hindu Widow Marriage were at the center of a mighty controversy, with Vidyasagar's name invoked far and wide.
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