Jyotirao & Savitribai Phule | Braves by their Broken Hearts!

Born in a poor family and been treated as untouchable by the society. When he attended a wedding of a Brahmin(a higher community) friend, his life changed dramatically. He participated in the customary marriage procession, but was later insulted by his friend's parents for doing that. They told him that he being from a lower caste(community) should have had the sense to keep away from that ceremony. This incident profoundly affected him to fight against the injustice of the caste system. What made this poor man to develop strong will and to fight against the biggest problem in this society, the Caste-discrimination? What made this man to teach Reading and Writing to his wife and establish first school for women in a highly illeterate country like India?

Mahatma Jyotirao Govindarao Phule | Biographical Sketch

  • Born in 1827 in a low-caste agricultural Hindu family in Maharashtra State of India.
  • Phule's great grandfather worked as a lowly type village servant, who had been greatly exploited by the Brahmin community(higher community) and kept on moving from place to place along with his family in search of income.
  •  After attending primary school to learn the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, Jyotirao was withdrawn from school. He joined his family at work, both in the shop and the farm.  
  • Phule completed his English schooling in 1847. As was customary, he was married young, at the age of 13, to a girl of his own community, chosen by his father.
  • The turning point in his life was in 1848, when he attended the wedding of a Brahmin friend. Phule participated in the customary marriage procession, but was later insulted by his friend's parents for doing that. They told him that he being from a lower caste should have had the sense to keep away from that ceremony. This incident profoundly affected Phule on the injustice of the caste system.
  • In 1848, aged 23, Phule visited the first girls' school in Ahmadnagar, run by Christian missionaries. It was also in 1848 that he read Thomas Paine's book "Rights of Man" and developed a keen sense of social justice. He realised that lower castes and women were at a disadvantage in Indian society, and also that education of these sections was vital to their emancipation.
  • In his book, Gulamgiri, he thanked Christian missionaries and the British colonists for making the lower castes realise that they are worthy of all human rights. The book, whose title transliterates as slavery and which concerned women, caste and reform, was dedicated to the people in the US who were working to end slavery.
  • To this end and in the same year, Phule first taught reading and writing to his wife, Savitribai, and then the couple started the first indigenously-run school for girls in Pune. 
  • Later, the Phules started schools for children from the then untouchable castes. In 1852, there were three Phule schools in operation but by 1858 they had all ended.
  • Apart from his role as a social activist, Phule was a businessman too. In 1882 he styled himself as a merchant, cultivator and municipal contractor. He owned 60 acres (24 ha) of farmland near Pune. For period of time, he worked as a contractor for the government and supplied building materials required for the construction of a dam on the Mula-Mutha river near Pune in the 1870s.
Jyotirao Phule along with his wife Savitribai Phule
  • Phule saw Rama, the hero of the Indian epic Ramayana, as a symbol of oppression stemming from the Aryan conquest. His critique of the caste system began with an attack on the Vedas, the most fundamental texts of upper-caste Hindus. He considered them to be a form of false consciousness.
  • He championed widow remarriage and started a home for pregnant Brahmin widows to give birth in a safe and secure place in 1863. His orphanage was established in an attempt to reduce the rate of infanticide. Phule tried to eliminate the stigma of social untouchability surrounding the lower castes by opening his house and the use of his water-well to the members of the lower castes.
  • On 24 September 1873, Phule formed Satyashodhak Samaj to focus on rights of depressed groups such women, the Shudra, and the Dalit. Through this samaj he denounced the caste system. Satyashodhak Samaj campaigned for the spread of rational thinking and rejected the need for priests.
  • Phule established Satyashodhak 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 for the views of the Samaj.The membership of the samaj included Muslims, Brahmans, and government officials.However, non-Brahman castes dominated. Phule's own Mali caste provided the leading members and financial supporters for the organization.
A portrait of Jyothirao Phule
  • Phule was bestowed with the title of Mahatma by another social reformer from Bombay, Vithalrao Krishnaji Vandekar.
  • Phule inspired B. R. Ambedkar, the first minister of law of India and the architect of the Indian Constitution. Ambedkar had acknowledged Phule as one of his three gurus or masters.
  • "Lack of education leads to lack of wisdom, which leads to lack of morals, which leads to lack of progress, then leads to lack of money.. which ultimately leads to oppression of backward communities.." - Jyotirao Phule


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