Our country has seen numerous freedom fighters who put in all their might to fight against the English and give us a free India. One such man who was an active participant in the freedom struggle was Jyotirao Govindrao Phule.
A Brief Summary of his Early Life
Jyotirao was born on 11 April 1827 in Maharashtra. His family was illiterate and belonged to the Mali caste. Soon after birth, a tragic incident occurred in his life. When he was merely nine months old, his mother passed away. During that period, lower caste families did not send their children to school and therefore, as soon as Jyotirao completed his primary education, he was withdrawn from school. But then an acquaintance of his father perceived Jyotirao’s potential and urged his father to educate him. Thereby Jyotirao was able to complete his schooling. In a tender age of 13, Jyotirao was married to a girl named Savitribai. Savitribai in the future years became Jyotirao’s ally and she too like him fought for freedom. While in school, Jyotirao was invited to a Brahmin’s wedding where he was insulted for being lower class. This struck him hard and he realized how bad caste system could get.
What did he do?
Jyotirao studied Thomas Paine’s book “The Rights of a Man” which inspired him even more to work for the society. Jyotirao along with his wife, Savitribai have fought for various issues like, caste system, women empowerment, educating girls and backward class. He first educated his own wife and then in August 1848, he opened the first school for girls. It was the first ever school for girls in India. People showed resentment and tried to stop him but Jyotirao had a strong will. His wife became the first female teacher of the country. People were so much against the steps taken by Jyotirao and his wife that they used to throw dirty stuff at Savitribai when she used to go to school. She had to keep a spare sari with her every day. The society went to such an extent that they pressurized Jyotirao father, Govindrao Phule to shun the couple from the house and eventually he had to do so. Afer sometime, he managed to open more schools for girls.
In those years, widows were not allowed to remarry; therefore, Jyotirao opened an ashram for such women where they could live peacefully. Women’s condition used to be piteous. Firstly, they had no education and secondly, because of child marriage, many of them used to become widow even before puberty struck.
Jyotirao also criticized the caste system. This was highly resented by the society. He was against the Brahmins who he claimed to be narrow-minded. On September 24, 1873, he laid the foundation of the Satyashodhak Samaj. His establishment was against the Brahmins and their Vedic culture and worked towards making an equal society. Any person of any community or caste could attain the membership of this society which was headed by Jyotirao himself. In May 1888, he was conferred the title of “Mahatma.”
From the year 1888, Jyotirao’s health started deteriorating and he died due to a paralytic stroke in November 1890.
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