Jyoti Rao Phule
jyotirao Govindrao Phule (11 April 1827 – 28November 1890) was an Indian Dalit social-activist, thinker, anti-caste social reformer and writer from Maharashtra. In September 1873, Phule, along with his followers, formed the Satyashodhak Samaj (Society of Seekers of Truth) to attain equal rights for people from "lower" castes. Phule is regarded as an important figure of the Social Reform Movement in Maharashtra. He and his wife, Savitribai Phule, were pioneers of women's education in India. He is most known for his efforts to educate women and the "lower" castes. Together, they were one of the first native Indians to open a school for girls in India in August 1848
Jotirao Govindrao Phule was born into a virtually illiterate family that belonged to the Mali caste of gardeners and vegetable farmers. The original surname of the family had been Gorhay, and their family originally hailed from Katgun, a village in Khatav taluka of Satara District (now in Maharashtra state). Phule's great grandfather worked as chaugula, a village servant. Family of his great grand father belongs to Kshatriya Mali caste.
Mahatma Jyotiba's great granddfather had settled in Khanwadi Taluka Saswad Dist Pune. There a son was born, Shetiba, a grandfather of Jyotiba Phule and his grandfather prospered after starting a business of selling flowers, garlands and flower arrangements for religious and social events like weddings. The family owned some farmland as well as a shop in the city. Since Phule's father and two uncles served as florists under the last of the Peshwas, whose patronage they enjoyed, the family came to be known as 'Phule' (flower-man).
Phule's father, Govindrao, carried on the family business along with his brothers. His mother, Chimnabai, died when he was only nine months old, and he had one elder brother. The Mali community did not set much store by education, and after attending primary school to learn the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, Phule was withdrawn from school. He joined the menfolk of his family at work, both in the shop and the farm. However, a Christian convert from the same Mali caste as Phule, recognized his intelligence and persuaded Phule's father to allow Phule to attend the local Scottish Mission's High School run by Murray Mitchell.Jyotirao completed his English schooling in 1847. As per custom, 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 friend, who was a Brahmin. Phule participated in the customary marriage procession, but was later rebuked and 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, Jyotiba visited the first girls' school in Ahmadnagar run by Christian missionaries. It was also in 1848 that Young Jyotiba read Thomas Paine's book Rights of Man (1791), and developed a keen sense of social justice. He realized that "lower castes" and women were at a disadvantage in Indian society, and also that education of these sections was vital to their emancipation.
To this end, Jyotirao at the age of 22 first taught reading and writing to his wife, Savitribai, and then the couple started the first indigenously run school for girls in Pune in 1848, for which he was forced to leave his parental home. When they were ostracized by their family and community, their friend Usman Sheikh and his sister Fatima Sheikh provided them their home to stay and helped them to start the very first girl's school in their premises. Later they started schools for children from Dalit castes of Mahar and Mang. In 1852, three schools established by Jyotirao were running. Unfortunately, by 1858, they had all stopped. Eleanor Zelliott blames the closure on private European donations drying up due to the Mutiny of 1857, withdrawal of government support, and Jyotirao resigning from the school management committee because of disagreement on the school curriculum. He championed widow remarriage and started a home for lower and upper caste widows in 1854, as well as a home for new-born infants to prevent female 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.
Maharashtrian society at Jyotiba's time was deeply segregated based on caste. His akhandas were based on the abhangs of Indian saint Tukaram (a Moray Shudra.) He did not like caste-based discrimination. He saw using Rama as a symbol of oppression stemming from the Aryan conquest.
Phule's critique of the caste system began with his attack on the Vedas, the most fundamental texts of upper caste Hindus. He considered them to be a form of false consciousness. Phule was heavily influenced by Christian missionaries. He took over missionary criticism of the role of Brahmins in Hindu society and portrayed the Brahmins as conspiring to keep the lower castes oppressed and suppressed. In his book, Gulamgiri, He openly thanks the missionaries and the British for making the lower castes realize that they are worthy of all human rights too
Phule believed in overthrowing the social system in which people had been deliberately made dependent on others, illiterate, ignorant and poor, with a view to exploiting them. To him blind faith eradication formed part of a broad socioeconomic transformation. This was his strategy for ending exploitation of human beings. Mere advice, education and alternative ways of living are not enough, unless the economic framework of exploitation comes to an end. His most famous poem reads: “Lack of education leads to lack of wisdom, / Which leads to lack of morals, / Which leads to lack of progress, / Which leads to lack of money, / Which leads to the oppression of the lower classes, / See what state of the society one lack of education can cause!”
Notably he dedicated his book Gulamgiri ( slavery), a seminal on women, Caste and reform, to the African American movement to end slavery.
He is credited with introducing the Marathi word dalit (broken, crushed) as a descriptor for those people who were outside the traditional varna system. The terminology was later popularised in the 1970s by the DalitPanthers.
At an education commission hearing in 1884, Phule also called for help in providing education for lower castes. To implement it, he advocated making primary education compulsory in villages. He also asked for special incentives to get more lower caste people in high schools and colleges
On 24 September 1873, Phule formed Satyashodhak Samaj (Society of the seekers of truth), to focus on rights of depressed classes. As the first president and treasurer, he opposed idolatry and denounced the caste system. Satyashodhak Samaj campaigned for the spread of rational thinking and rejected the need for priests. Savitribai became the head of the women's section, which included ninety female members. After Phule's death in 1890 his followers continued the Samaj campaign in the remote parts of Maharashtra.. Shahu Maharaj, the ruler of Kolhapur, lent moral support to Satyashodhak Samaj. In its new incarnation, it continued efforts to remove what it considered to be superstition..
Apart from his role as a social activist, Phule was a businessman too. In 1882 memorial, he styled himself as a merchant, cultivator and Municipal Contractor.
Jyotirao owned 60 acres of farmland at Manjri 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. One of Phule's businesses, established in 1863, was to supply metal-casting equipment.
Phule was appointed Commissioner (Municipal Council Member) to the then Poona municipality in 1876 and served in this unelected position until 1883.
According to Keer, Phule was bestowed with the title of Mahatma on 11 May 1888 by another social reformer from Bombay, Vithalrao Krishnaji Vandekar.
Phule has been commemorated numerous times in Maharashtra as well as other parts of India. Universities (such as in Jaipur), museums (Pune), vegetable markets (Pune, Mumbai) have been named after him.
Among Phule's notable published works are:
Tritiya Ratna, 1855
Powada : Chatrapati Shivajiraje Bhosle Yancha, [English: Life Of Shivaji, In Poetical Metre], June 1869
Powada: Vidyakhatyatil Brahman Pantoji, June 1869
Manav Mahammand (Muhammad) (Abhang)
Shetkarayacha Aasud (Cultivator's Whipcord), July 1881
Satsar Ank 1, June 1885
Satsar Ank 2, October 1885
Ishara, October 1885
Gramjoshya sambhandi jahir kabhar, (1886)
Satyashodhak Samajokt Mangalashtakasah Sarva Puja-vidhi, 1887
Sarvajanik Satya Dharma Poostak, April 1889
Sarvajanic Satya Dharmapustak, 1891