Jotiba Phule is the Mahatma of modern India. His remarkable influence was apparent during the dark ages when women and Shudras were denied their rights. His pioneering work in fields like education, agriculture, caste system, women and widow upliftment and removal of untouchability is remarkable. Here is a bit of his story!
Jotiba Phule’s great grandfather, belonging to Mali caste, was a chaugula, a lower servant to Brahmins, at Katgun, Satara district of Maharashtra. Various kinds dirty work was assigned to him. One day he had a clash with one of the Brahmin Kulkarni who used to be the officer in the village. Brahmin Kulkarni harassed the great grandfather of Jotiba and made his life worse and impossible to live peacefully in the village. So, one night he slew the Brahmin Kulkarni and fled for his life and settled in Puna district. So, can we say, rebelling against the injustice was in Jotiba Phule’s blood? Ok, I leave it to you to decide.
Would it have been possible for Dr Ambedkar to flourish if Jotiba Phule wasn’t born? Maybe Dr Ambedkar would have but Jotiba Phule prepared the ground for him to flourish.
Here are the 22 facts about Jotiba Phule which probably you didn’t know –
- Jotiba Phule’s mother passed away when he was hardly one year old so he was raised by his father.
- He was greatly influenced by Thomas Paine’s ideas and had read with great interest Paine’s famous book ‘The Rights of Man’.
- Jotiba Phule had taught his wife and started schools for the untouchables by the age of 22! In 1849, when he was 22 years old, he left the home with the wife because of the oath taken to educate the Shudras.
- By the age of 22, he was very well known not only throughout Pune but also in London! Court of Directors, London had acknowledged his work.
- Jotiba Phule opposed the practice of donating money to Brahmins in Dakshina by the British government. In 1848-49, the amount of Dakshina was around Rs. 4000. Jotiba Phule, 22 years old, stood against this practice and demanded that the money should be allocated for the education of untouchables. Brahmins of the time were already angry that British government has lowered the amount and now 22 years of Shudra is challenging them. None till now had challenged Brahmins for their dominance. In the end, British government allocated a part of that Dakshina for the education! It can be said the first funding for the education of untouchables!
- In 1854, Jotiba Phule joined a Scottish school as a part-time teacher.
- In 1889, Mahatma Jotiba Phule suffered a stroke, which rendered the right side of the body to stop functioning. But Jotiba Phule’s dedication towards Dalits was so strong that he laboured hard with his left hand to finish Sarvajanik Satya Dharma Pustak (The Book of the True Faith) book.
- At Bombay, in 1885, Mahatma Jotiba Phule emphasised that the lower castes should organise their ritualistic and religious activities themselves so that the role of the Brahmin priest becomes redundant.
- Jotiba Phule was against Brahminism and considered Vedas to be “idle fantasies” and “palpably absurd legends” as well as a “form of false consciousness”.
- Brahmins did attempt to kill Mahatma Jyotirao Phule in 1856 because Brahmins didn’t want that Phule educates Bahujans.
- On 11th May 1888, Jyotiba Phule was bestowed title ‘Mahatma’ at “Mumbai Deshasth Maratha Dnyati Dharma Sanstha” in Mumbai.
- 5th February 1852: Mahatma Jyotiba Phule asked economic assistance from Government for his educational institutions.
- First schools for the untouchables and girls were started by Phule couple. Bhidewada (Pune) – India’s first school for girls started by Mahatma Jotiba Phule and Savitribai Phule on 1st Jan. 1848.
- At a time when even the shadow of untouchables was considered impure when the people were unwilling to offer water to thirsty untouchables, Savitribai Phule and Mahatma Jotiba Phule opened the well in their house for the use of untouchables.
- 28 January 1853: First ever infanticide prohibition home of India was started by Phule couple.
- In 1863, first ever orphanage home was started by Jotiba Phule and Savitribai Phule, hence gave protection to pregnant widows who were demonised in the society.
- Jotiba Phule published Powada: Chatrapati Shivajiraje Bhosle Yancha on 1st June 1869 and Gulamgiri on 1st June 1873. Gulamgiri is one of the famous works of Jotiba Phule.
- On 24th September 1873, Jotiba Phule convened a meeting of his followers and admirers and it was decided to form the ‘Satya Shodhak Samaj’ (Society of Seekers of Truth) with Jotirao as its first president and treasurer.
- On 16th November 1852, Major Candy felicitated Jotiba Phule for his contribution in the field of education.
- On 18 July 1880: Taking a serious note of widespread consumption of alcohol, Mahatma Jotiba Phule wrote a letter to Plunket, president of Pune municipality’s acting committee. When the Government wanted to grant more licences for liquor-shops, Jotirao condemned this move, as he believed that addiction to liquor would ruin many poor families.
- Standing for the Freedom of Press – On 30th November 1880, the President of the Poona Municipality requested the members to approve his proposal of spending one thousand rupees on the occasion of the visit of Lord Lytton, the Governor-General of India. The officials wanted to present him an address during his visit to Poona. Lytton had passed an Act, which resulted in gagging the press, and Deenbandhu, the organ of the Satya Shodhak Samaj, had protested against the restrictions on the right to freedom of the press. Jotirao did not like the idea of spending the money of the taxpayers in honouring a guest like Lytton. He boldly suggested that the amount could be very well spending on the education of the poor people in Poona. He was the only member out of all the thirty-two nominated members of the Poona Municipality who voted against the official resolution.
- Challenging the British Royal family – Another incident also revealed his attachment for the poor peasant and his courage in drawing the attention of a member of the British royal family to the sufferings of the farmers in the rural area. On 2nd March 1888, Hari Raoji Chiplunkar, a friend of Jotirao, arranged a function in honour of the Duke and Duchess of Connaught. Dressed like a peasant, Jotirao attended the function and made a speech. He commented on the rich invitees who displayed their wealth by wearing diamond-studded jewellery and warned the visiting dignitaries that the people who had gathered there did not represent India. If the Duke of Connaught was really interested in finding out the condition of the Indian subjects of Her Majesty the Queen of England, Jotirao suggested that he ought to visit some nearby villages as well as the areas in the city occupied by the untouchables. He requested the Duke of Connaught who was a grandson of Queen Victoria to convey his message to her and made a strong plea to provide education to the poor people. Jotiba Phule’s speech created quite a stir.
These are just a tip of the iceberg things what Jotiba Phule did in his life. We will bring more about Jotiba Phule in our future posts. Let us know in the comments if you know some interesting facts about Jotiba Phule.