‘‘I will particularly notice the village of Adamdighi, where the Gaussians and the Sanyasis and the Chaudharies are privately teaching their wives and sisters to read and writes. I can name many other villages where similar interest has been displayed, but I shall content myself with noticing two or three instances that fell under my own personal observation. Only a few days ago a native Deputy Magistrate of the station called on me and asked for a copy of Shiska Shiksha, part II, and in the course of conversation I learnt that he had commenced giving instruction to his wife. About the same time an amla aged about 40 years sent for a copy Shisku Shiksha and a slate, and I came subsequently to know that he too had begun teaching his wife. A Muktiar paid me a visit, seeking my advice as to what books ought to put in his wife's hand as she had finished Shishu Shiksha and Charitably"
We are also personally aware of many other instances of this kind. A number of educated young men of the faraway district of Sylhet, for instance, headed by the Deputy Inspector of Schools of the district, adopted about this time the Baranagar method for the education of the female members of their families; and real Zenana education work in Bengal may, therefore, well be said to have commenced in the smalltown of Baranagar, in his own family, by our young reformer, Sashipada Bannerji, long before the Christian missionaries had any idea of the plan and method which afterwards came to appropriate to itself both the name and the work of Zenana education in the country.
Another line of reform in which Baranagar showed the way to the whole country was the education of Hindu widows. In the earlier years of his reforming activity, Baba Sasipada Bannerji had established a small school for the education of widows; Mr. James Wilson in his Female Education in Bengal mentions of it thus:
“The female education work of Baranagar commenced (1881) with the teaching of grown-up females, many of whom were widows of the ancestral family house of Sashipada Bannerji;” to which Pandit Tattvabhusan adds—“A fact that introduced an altogether novel feature and worked up an altogether original line in the great social reform movement in Bengal in the last century.” But owing to the opposition of the conservative section of the village community the school had to be closed; though the desire to ameliorate the condition of widows remained like a dormant seed in the reformer’s mind till in 1887 the Baranagar Hindu Widow’s home was established. The Home worked for fourteen years under the fostering care of Mr. Bannerji and his noble wife and the help of many a philanthropic ladies and gentlemen here and abroad. It saved many a poor widow from a lot of abject misery and ignorance and helped them on to a life of enlightened usefulness. The infirmities of old age and the absence of an able worker to take up his activity led Mr. Bannerji to close the institution. Though, however, it is closed, the Home has left a legacy of ardour and activity in the same line in the minds of others and has been the parent of similar institutions in almost all parts of the country.
Before the movement for the education of Hindu widows, the Baranagar Brahmo Samaj, especially in the person of Baba Sashipada Bannerji, put it hands to another important branch of reform work, and did so with great success. It is the remarriages of Hindu widows. Mr. Bannerji, as early as 1868, married one of his nearest relations, a widowed niece, to a young Brahma of Baranagar, a gentleman much below him in the scale of caste, and since then he has promoted no fewer than about forty remarriages of widows. It may be mentioned that after the death of his first wife, Mr. Bannerji himself married a widow of the Vaidya or Physician caste, a lady who till her end helped him, heart and soul, in all his good works.
“In another chapter of his book Pandit Tattvbhnshan writes how Mr. Bannerji felt for the Depressed Classes:—
“The question of raising the low castes, a question which deservedly finds a place is the programme of the Social Conference, was practically solved by him when he mixed as a brother with the most hated and abhorred in the land, How eating with charity paupers in a Kalibari, now nursing a mehtar in his hovel and then again joining in a picnic organized for working men, some of whom belonged to the lowest strata of society. Let our new reformers imitate these ways in their conduct towards their ‘low-born’ brethren, and the question of raising them will be quickly solved. It will not be solved by any amount of speaking and writing so long as we keep aloof from them and constantly remind them of our Superiority.”
(8th August 1871) the Asiatic of London wrote:—