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Who was Jyotiba Phule?
In India during the 19th century, Jyotirao “Jyotiba” Govindrao Phule was a well-known social reformer and thinker. He served as the movement’s leader against India’s widespread caste system. He fought for the rights of peasants and other people from lower castes and revolted against the Brahmins’ rule.
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According to Phule’s biographer Dhananjay Keer, Vithalrao Krishnaji Vandekar, a fellow reformer from Bombay, gave Phule the title of Mahatma. Throughout his life, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule battled for the education of girls and was a pioneer for women’s rights in India. He is credited with founding the first Hindu orphanage for unfortunate children.
Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Biography
In 1827, Jyotirao Govindrao Phule was born in Maharashtra’s Satara district. Govindrao, his father, ran a vegetable stall in Poona. The original name of Jyotirao’s family was “Gorhay,” and they belonged to the “mali” caste. Malis were socially avoided by Brahmins because they were seen as belonging to a lower caste. The family adopted the name “Phule” as a result of Jyotirao’s father and uncles working as florists. When Jyotirao was only nine months old, his mother died.
Jyotirao was a bright young man who had to give up on his education at a young age due to his family’s financial situation. He began by working on the family farm and assisting his father. A neighbour who saw the little prodigy’s talent encouraged his father to enrol him in school. Mahatma Jyotirao Phule enrolled in the Scottish Mission High School in Poona in 1841 and graduated in 1847. He made a Brahmin acquaintance there named Sadashiv Ballal Govande, who remained a close buddy of his throughout his life. Jyotirao married Savitribai when he was just thirteen years old.
Ideology of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule
A social revolution in Indian society began in 1848 as a result of an incident that motivated Jyotiba to fight against the social injustice of caste discrimination. Jyotirao received an invitation from one of his friends wedding who was from a high caste Brahmin family. But when the bridegroom’s family learned about Jyotiba’s roots, they humiliated and tortured him at the wedding. Mahatma Jyotirao fled the ceremony because he was determined to oppose the existing caste system and social constraints. He made it his life’s mission to relentlessly push against social majoritarian dominance and worked toward the emancipation of all people who were affected by this social injustice.
Thomas Paine’s beliefs had a big impact on Jyotirao after reading his well-known book, “The Rights of Man.” He thought that the only way to tackle social ills was to educate women and members of lower castes.
Jyotiba Phule’s Contribution to Education
Savitribai Phule, Jyotiba’s wife, backed his efforts to guarantee women and girls the right to an education. Savitribai, one of the few literate women of her day, learned to read and write from her husband Jyotirao. Jyotiba founded a ladies’ school in 1851 and invited his wife to instruct the students there. Later, he established two additional schools for girls as well as an indigenous school for people from lower castes, namely the Mahars and Mangs.
After realizing the miserable conditions faced by widows, Jyotiba founded an ashram for young widows and finally came to support the concept of widow remarriage. His era’s society was patriarchal, and women’s status was especially appalling. Female infanticide and child marriage were both common occurrences, with minors occasionally becoming married to men who were much older. Before they reached adolescence, these ladies frequently lost their husbands, leaving them without any familial support. Jyotiba, who was distressed by their situation, founded an orphanage in 1854 to protect these poor children from dying at the brutal hands of society.
Jyotiba Phule as Social Reformer
The traditional Brahmins and other upper castes were attacked by Mahatma Jyotirao and labelled as “hypocrites.” He ran an anti-authoritarian campaign and exhorted the “peasants” and “proletariat” to resist the limitations placed on them.
He welcomed guests of different backgrounds and castes into his home. He supported gender equality, and he put his views into practice by including his wife in all of his social reform initiatives. He thought that religious figures like Rama were used by the Brahmin to oppress the lower caste.
The society’s traditional Brahmins were incensed by Jyotirao’s actions. They accused him of corrupting societal rules and regulations. He was charged with representing the Christian Missionaries by many. However, Jyotirao was adamant and chose to carry on the movement. It’s interesting to note that Jyotirao had several Brahmin acquaintances who lent their support to the movement’s success.
Jyotiba Phule and Satya Shodhak Samaj
Jyotiba Phule founded the Satya Shodhak Samaj in the year 1873. (Society of Seekers of Truth). He conducted a methodical deconstruction of historical ideas and beliefs before rebuilding one that promoted equality. The Hindus’ ancient holy texts, the Vedas, were harshly denounced by Jyotirao.
He used a number of other ancient writings to trace the origins of Brahmanism and accused the Brahmins of creating cruel and exploitative regulations in an effort to preserve their social supremacy by repressing the “Shudras” and “atishudras” in society. The Satya Shodhak Samaj’s mission was to rid society of caste prejudice and free the disadvantaged lower caste people from the stigmatization brought on by the Brahmins.
The word “Dalits” was initially used by Jyotirao Phule to refer to everyone whom the Brahmins regarded as belonging to a lower caste and being untouchable. Everyone was welcome to join the Samaj, regardless of caste or class. According to some documented accounts, they even encouraged Jews to join the Samaj. By 1876, the “Satya Shodhak Samaj” had 316 members. Jyotirao made the decision to build a communal bathing tank outside his home in 1868 to demonstrate his tolerant attitude toward all people and his desire to eat with anyone, regardless of caste.
Death of Jyotiba Phule
Jyotiba Phule spent his entire life working to free the untouchables from Brahmins’ oppression. He was not just a social reformer and activist, but also a successful businessman. He worked for the Municipal Corporation as a contractor and cultivator as well. Between 1876 and 1883, he was the Poona Municipality’s Commissioner.
After having a stroke in 1888, Jyotiba became paraplegic. The great social reformer Mahatma Jyotirao Phule passed away on 28th November 1890.
Legacy of Jyotiba Phule
The ideas behind Mahatma Jyotirao Phule’s never-ending struggle against societal stigma, which are still incredibly relevant today, may be his greatest legacy. People in the nineteenth century were accustomed to accepting these discriminatory practices as social norms that had to be upheld without question, but Jyotiba worked to end this caste, class, and colour discrimination.
He was the forerunner of novel social reform concepts. He began awareness campaigns that eventually served as an inspiration for individuals like Mahatma Gandhi and Dr B.R. Ambedkar, stalwarts who subsequently conducted significant actions to end caste oppression.
Important Facts About Jyotiba Phule for UPSC
- Jyotiba Phule founded the Satyashodhak Samaj, a social reform organization that campaigned for the rights of women, Dalits, and other marginalized communities.
- He wrote a number of books and pamphlets, including Gulamgiri (1873), which is considered a classic of Indian social reform literature.
- He was a strong advocate for women’s education, and he founded the first school for girls in India in 1848.
- He campaigned against the caste system, and he worked to improve the lives of Dalits and other marginalized communities.
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