Jyotirao Govindrao Phule was an Indian writer, social worker, thinker and anti-caste social reformer from Maharashtra. He is known to work for untouchability and efforts to eradicate the caste system and educate women. He and his wife Savitribai Phule were pioneers of women’s education in India. He was born on April 11, 1827 and his birth anniversary is celebrated every year as Jyotiba Phule Jayanti.
Jyotirao ‘Jyotiba’ Govindrao Phule was a prominent social reformer and thinker of 19th century India. He led the movement against caste-ban prevalent in India. He rebelled against the dominance of the Brahmins and fought for the rights of farmers and other lower castes. Jyotirao Govindrao Phule, also known as Mahatma Jyotiba Phule. Mahatma Jyotiba Phule was also a pioneer in women’s education in India and fought for girls’ education all his life. He is believed to be the first Hindu to start an orphanage for unfortunate children.
Biography of Jyotiba Phule
|Name||Jyotirao Govindrao Phule|
|Date of Birth||April 11, 1827|
|Place of Birth||Maharashtra, India|
|Parents||Govindrao Phule (Father) Simnabai (Mother)|
|Education||High School of the Scottish Mission, Pune|
|Associations||Satya Shodak Samaj|
|Death||November 28, 1890|
Childhood and Early Life of Jyotiba Phule
Jyotirao Govindrao Phule was born in 1827 in Satara district of Maharashtra. His father’s name is Govindrao Phule and his mother’s name is Simnabai. His father Govindrao was a vegetable seller in Pune. Jyotirao’s family belonged to the ‘Mali’ caste and their original title was ‘Gorhai’. The Brahmins regarded the Gardeners as low castes and were socially avoided. Jyotirao’s father and uncle worked as ‘florists’, so the family is known as ‘Phule’. Jyotirao’s mother died when he was only nine months old.
Jyotirao Phule was a smart boy but due to poor financial condition he had to stop studying at a young age. He started helping his father by working on the family farm. Recognizing the talent of the child, a neighbor motivated his father to send him to school. Jyotira enrolled at the Scottish Mission High School, Pune in 1841 and completed his education in 1847. There he met Sadashiva Ballal Govande, a Brahmin who had been his close friend all his life. Jyotiba Phule got married to Savitribai when he was just thirteen years old.
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Social Movement of Jyotiba Phule
In 1848, an incident sparked Jyotiba’s quest against the social injustices of caste discrimination and led to a social revolution in Indian society. Jyotirao was invited to attend a wedding of one of his friends who belonged to a high cast Brahmin family. But at the wedding the groom’s relatives insulted and abused Jyotiba after learning about his origin. Jyotirao left the event and made up his mind to challenge the prevailing caste system and social barriers. He worked in his entire life with the aim of tirelessly hammering the top of social majoritarian dominance and releasing all the people who faced this social deprivation.
Jyotirao was also impressed with the ideas of Thomas Pain after reading pain’s famous book ‘The Rights of Man’. He believed that knowledge of women and lower castes was the only solution to fight social evils.
Jyotiba Phule’s efforts towards women’s education
Jyotiba Phule’s quest for education rights to women and girls was supported by his wife Savitribai Phule. Savitribai, one of the few educated women of the time, was taught to read and write by her husband Jyotirao.
Jyotiba Phule established a girls’ school in 1851 and asked his wife to teach girls in school. Later, he opened two more schools for girls and an indigenous school for lower castes.
Jyotiba Phule realised the tragic situation of widows and set up a shelter for young widows and eventually became advocate of the idea of widow remarriage.
During his time, society was a patriarchal society and the status of women was particularly excessive. Female infanticing was a common phenomenon and also a child marriage, sometimes children were married to very big men. These women were often widowed before they attained puberty and were left without any family support. Jyotiba was saddened by their plight and established an orphanage in 1854 to shelter these unfortunate souls from being destroyed by the cruel hands of society.
Jyotiba Phule’s Efforts Towards Elimination of Caste Discrimination
Jyotirao Phule attacked orthodox Brahmins and other upper castes and called them “scoundrels.” He campaigned against the authoritarianism of upper castes and urged “farmers” and “proletary’s” to defy the restrictions imposed on them.
He opened his home to people of all castes and backgrounds. He believed in gender equality and he cited his beliefs by involving his wife in all his social reform activities.
Jyotirao Phule’s actions angered the orthodox Brahmins of the society. They blamed him for distorting the rules and regulations of the society. Many accused him of working for Christian missionaries. But Jyotirao Phule was firm and decided to continue the agitation. Interestingly, Jyotirao was supported by some Brahmin friends who extended their support to make the movement a success.
Satya Shodhak Samaj
On 24th September 1873, Jyotiba Phule formed the Satya Shodhak Samaj (a society that searches for truth). He formed the Satyashodhak Samaj to focus on rights of depressed groups such women, the ‘Shudra’ and the ‘Dalit.‘ He defended a systematic build-up of existing beliefs and history, only to rebuild an equality-promoting version. Through this samaj he opposed idolatry and denounced the caste system. Jyotirao strongly condemned the vedas of the ancient holy scriptures of Hindus. He traced the history of Brahma dharma through several other ancient texts and blamed the Brahmins for formulating exploitive and inhuman laws to maintain their social superiority by suppressing “lower class” in society. The purpose of the true reformer society was to free the society from racial discrimination and free the oppressed lower caste from the stigma given by the Brahmins. Jyotirao Phule was the first person to coin the word ‘Dalit’ applied by the Brahmins to all those who considered low caste as untouchable. Membership of the society was open to all irrespective of caste and class. Some written records show that they even welcomed the participation of Jews as members of the society and by 1876 there were 316 members in the ‘Satya Shodhak Samaj’. Satyashodhak Samaj campaigned for the spread of rational thinking and rejected the need for priests. Phule established Satyasodhak Samaj with the ideals of human well being, happiness, unity, equality, and easy religious principles and rituals. A Pune based newspaper, Deenbandhu, provided the voice of the views of the Samaj. The membership of the samaj included Muslims, Brahmins, and the government officials. In 1868, Jyotirao Phule decided to build a simple bath tank outside his house to show his attractive attitude towards all people and wanted to dine with everyone irrespective of their race.
Jyotiba Phule dedicated his entire life to the liberation of the untouchables from the exploitation of the Brahmins. Apart from being a social worker and reformer, he was also a businessman. He was a farmer and contractor of the municipal corporation. He served as commissioner of Pune Municipality between 1876 and 1883.
Jyotiba Phule suffered a stroke in 1888 and was paralyzed. Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, a great social reformer, died on November 28, 1890.
Legacy of Jyotiba Phule
Jyotirao Phule’s biggest legacy is the thought behind his enduring fight against social stigma which is still quite relevant even today. In the 19th century, people were used to adopting these discriminatory practices as social norms that needed to be enforced without any question, but Jyotiba Phule wanted to change this discrimination based on race, class and colour. He was a pioneer of unheard ideas for social reform. He launched an awareness campaign that eventually led to inspire individuals like Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi, who later took significant steps against caste discrimination.
In 1974, Dhananjaya Kir wrote a biography of Jyotiba Phule titled ‘Mahatma Jyotiva Phule: Father of Our Social Revolution’. The Mahatma Phule Museum in Pune was set up in honour of the great reformer. The Maharashtra government had introduced Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jeevan Dayini Yojana which is a cashless medical scheme for the poor. Several statues of Jyotiba Phule have been erected as well as several street names and educational institutions have been renamed with his name – for example. The Crofford Market in Mumbai was renamed as Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandai and Maharashtra Krishi Vidyapeeth was again renamed as Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth.
The work and writings of Jyotiba Phule, who was honoured with the title of Mahatma in May11, 1888, inspired the next movement for nation reformation in India. Including Dalit leader Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, contribution to poor society, making efforts for women’s education and removing the differences between caste and caste from society and his other social works. Mahatma Jyotiba Phule will forever be the eternal one in Indian history.
1. When and where was Mahatma Jyotiba Phule born?
Ans: Jyotiba Phule was born on April 11, 1827 at Maharashtra, India.
2. Who is known as the father of Indian social revolution?
Ans: Mahatma Jyotiba Phule.
3. Who gave Mahatma title to Jyotiba and when?
Ans: Jyotiba was honoured with the title of “Mahatma” on May11, 1888 by a Maharashtrian social activist Vithalrao Krishnaji Vendekar.
4. Who formed Satyashodhak Samaj and when?
Ans: On 24th September 1873, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule formed the Satya Shodhak Samaj (a society that searches for truth).
5. Name some of the notable works writen by Jyotiba Phule.
Ans: Tritiya Ratna (1855), Gulamgiri (1873), Ishara (1885), Brahmananche Kasab (1869) etc.
6. When did Mahatma Jyotiba Phule died?
Ans: Jyotiba Phule died on November 28, 1890 after suffering from a stroke.
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