- Every year April 11 is celebrated as Jyotiba Phule Jayanti.
- Jyotirao ‘Jyotiba’ Govindrao Phule was an Indian writer, social activist, thinker and anti-caste social reformer born in the Satara district of Maharashtra in 1827.
- He was bestowed with the honorific Mahatma title by Maharashtrian social activist Vithalrao Krishnaji Vandekar in 1888.
- He is believed to be the first Hindu to start an orphanage for the unfortunate children.
Major Contribution for the Women Empowerment
- Rehabilitation of Widow’s: Jyotiba realised the bad conditions of widows and established an ashram for young widows and eventually became an advocate of the idea of Widow Remarriage.
- Infanticide Prevention: His orphanage was established in an attempt to reduce the rate of infanticide. Along with his longtime friend Sadashiv Ballal Govande and Savitribai, he started an infanticide prevention centre.
- Women Education: At home he began educating his wife Savitribai and opened a girl’s school in 1848. No teacher dared to work in a school in which untouchables were admitted as students.
- In 1851, Jyotiba established a girls’ school and asked his wife to teach the girls in the school. Later, he opened two more schools for the girls and an indigenous school for the lower castes, especially for the Mahars and Mangs.
Major Contribution for the Rights of Untouchables
- Jyotirao condemned the orthodox Brahmins and other upper castes and campaigned against the authoritarianism of the upper caste people and urged the “peasants” and “proletariat” to defy the restrictions imposed upon them.
- In 1868, Jyotirao decided to construct a common bathing tank outside his house to exhibit his embracing attitude towards all human beings and wished to dine with everyone, regardless of their caste.
- Jyotirao Phule was the first person to coin the term ‘Dalits’ to apply to all people considered lower caste and untouchables by the Brahmins.
- Satya Shodhak Samaj: In 1873, Jyotiba Phule formed the Satya Shodhak Samaj (Society of Seekers of Truth) which undertook a systematic deconstruction of existing beliefs and history, only to reconstruct an equality promoting version.
- He condemned the Vedas, the ancient holy scriptures of the Hindus. He traced the history of Brahmanism through several other ancient texts and held the Brahmins responsible for framing the exploitative and inhuman laws in order to maintain their social superiority by suppressing the “shudras” and “ati shudras” in the society.
- The purpose of the Satya Shodhak Samaj was to decontaminate the society from caste discrimination and liberate the oppressed lower-caste people from the stigmas inflicted by the Brahmins.
- Membership to the Samaj was open to all irrespective of caste and class.
- He wrote well-known books including Gulamgiri (Slavery) and Shetkarayacha Aasud (Cultivator’s Whipcord).
- He also penned some stories like ‘Tritiya Ratna’, ‘Brahmananche Kasab’, ‘Ishara’.
- He wrote dramas like ‘Satsar’ Ank 1 and 2, which were enacted under his directives to spread awareness against social injustice.
- He also wrote books for the Satyashodhak Samaj that dealt with the history of Brahminism and outlined Puja protocols that the lower caste people were not allowed to learn.