Jyotirao Phule Birth Anniversary: Remembering the Champion of Equal Rights for Women and Dalits

Mahatma Jyotirao Govindrao Phule is India’s one of the social reformers who is known as the champion of equal rights for poor peasants and women. Born on April 11, 1827, Phule is remembered for his efforts in educating women and lower caste people. He was also a writer who profusely wrote on the eradication of untouchability and the caste system, and women’s emancipation. The social reformer breathed his last on November 28, 1890.

As the country remembers Phule on his birth anniversary, here are some of the lesser-known facts about the social reformer:

1. Phule was a critic of the caste system as under this arrangement the place of the people was determined on the basis of the social group they were born in. He always raised his voice against the discrimination suffered by members of the lower castes.

2. He was born in a family of the Mali caste within the Shudra social class. His family cultivated and sold vegetables.

3. The social activist went to a high school run by Scottish Christian missionaries at Pune and his thoughts were said to be influenced by the American struggles for independence and against slavery.

4. He was married to Savitribai Phule, who is regarded as the first female teacher of India. It is said that he educated his wife at home. They both opened a school for lower-caste girls in Pune in 1848. At that time, it was rare for girls belonging to any caste to attain education in the country. In the course of their journey, they opened a series of schools in the Pune area for girls.

5. Phule was against child marriage and a proponent of widow remarriage, which was not allowed at that time in majority of the castes.

6. He was also the founder of a reform society named Satyashodhak Samaj whose purpose was to promote social equality and the uniting and uplifting of Shudras and “untouchables.”

7. It is said that turning point in his life came when the parents of his Brahmin friend rebuked him for attending his wedding as he belongs to lower caste. This incident reportedly shook him and he decided to work for the rights of lower castes.

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