Mumbai, November 28: A pioneer that represents the dignity of women with principles of humanity, equality and justice was none other than- Jyotirao Govindrao Phule. The man who brought ‘gender equality’ to practice in that era where girls were not even considered. Nation recalls the soul who enlightened society with knowledge and willful approach.
Today, independent women in India are breaking all the age-old cultural, societal and traditional barriers. But this was not the case forever. If today girls are studying in schools and colleges or working in an organisation and are getting equal opportunities as males or at least being able to read this, is just because of ‘Mahatma Jyotirao Phule’, the pioneer of girls education in India. Mahatma and his wife Savitribai, spent their entire life for the upliftment of women, gender equality and caste discrimination. It’s high time we start respecting the real heroes and thank them for what we are today.
Jyotirao was born on April 11, 1827 to Govindrao and Chimnabai in Pune. Govindrao and his brothers were working as florists for the Peshwas and hence they were called ‘Phule’, ‘Phul’ means flowers in Marathi. Though he was born as lower caste he never faced caste discrimination, as the family was closely working for the Peshwas. Jyotirao had to stop his education for supporting his family. But taking in consideration his ability, his neighbours –a Muslim teacher and a Christian man –convinced his father for completing his education. This is how he completed his education from the Scottish Mission High School in 1847. As per ‘child-marriage’ practiced then, 13-year-old Jyotirao was married to 9-year-old Savitribai.
Jyotirao Phule along with his wife Jyotiba Phule propagated the significance of education for women and society. They insisted that “education should give one the ability to choose between right and wrong and between truth and untruth in life.” Their success is evident from the fact that young girls loved to study under their guidance, so much so that their parents would complain of the girls’ dedication to studies.
On 24th September 1873, Jyotirao Phule formed Satya Shodhak Samaj (Society of Seekers of Truth) with the objective of liberating the Kshudras to prevent their "exploitation" by Brahmins. He was the first president and treasurer of Satya Shodhak Samaj. Phule, through the organization refused to regard the Vedas as sacrosanct. He also opposed the idea and even rejected the Caste system. This organization also propounded the spread of rational thinking and refused the need for Brahmin priestly class as educational and religious leaders. He was also against those particular Brahmins who were using religion and blind faith of masses for their own monetary gains.
The couple also advocated for widow remarriage. Again for this initiative they were openly criticised but the couple didn’t pay any heed.
Perhaps the biggest legacy of Mahatma Jyotirao Phule is the thought behind his perpetual fight against social stigma that are enormously relevant still. In the nineteenth century, people were used to accepting these discriminatory practices as social norm that needed to be enforced without question but Jyotiba sought to change this discrimination based on caste, class and colour. He was the harbinger of unheard ideas for social reforms.
Jyotiba Phule devoted his entire life for the liberation of untouchables from the exploitation of Brahmins. Apart from being a social activist and reformer, he was also a businessman. He was also a cultivator and contractor for the Municipal Corporation. He served as Commissioner of the Poona Municipality between 1876 and 1883. Jyotiba suffered a stroke in 1888 and was rendered paralyzed. On 28 November, 1890, the great social reformer, Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, passed away.
And the example was set in the history for all of us as inspiration and knowledge is yet to get implemented in our real lives. We need to look up at the dedication level set by Jyotirao Phule towards the welfare of the society what may come. The struggle against patriarchy, caste system, discrimination, eradicating the untouchability got a big blow and the flame is still burning. Let us stand for these principles. It’s a tribute on this day to salute his willpower and dedication for the betterment of the society.