Jyotirao Phule: The Thinker Who Compelled us to Think

Jyotirao Phule was of India’s greatest thinkers and anti-caste social reformers who lived from 1827-1890. He belonged to Maharashtra and wrote extensively against the oppressions of the caste system and worked elaborately for the removal of untouchability and the caste system. Amidst the various important projects that he undertook one of the most important was his work towards the emancipation of lower caste women and girls through education.

In 1873 Phule along with some of his followers formed the Satyashodhak Samaj(Society of Seekers of Truth) to fight for the equal rights of people from the lower castes. Jyotirao Phule along with his wife Savitribai Phule is regarded as the pioneers of women’s education. They were one of the first people to start a school for women in 1848.

Jyotirao Phule is very rightly remembered as the champion of women’s education in India. The greatness of dedicated his entire life for the upliftment of the down-trodden masses, the eradication of untouchability and through his extensive efforts he strived for the equal rights for all. Phule was determined to champion the cause of women and he worked towards introducing many social reforms such as widow re-marriage and the opposition of child marriages to make the condition of women better. While the ideas and contributions of this activist, thinker, social reformer belonging to Maharashtra is widely known. Here we are discussing some of the lesser known facts about this great man.

  • Jyotirao Phule was born on April 11, 1827 in present-day Maharashtra. He lost his mother when he was still a child.
  • He belonged to the Mali caste which was traditionally associated with the occupation of florist and fruit-vegetable cultivator. He was compelled to drop out of school to help in the family enterprise and later completed his education on account of his own will and determination.
  • He was married at the age of 13 to Savitribai Phule. Together opened a school for girls’ education in 1848. Later they also started schools for children from Dalit castes of Mahar and Mang. This social contribution mad by both of them is widely remembered even today.
  • The turning point in his life came during an occasion in his life when he was attending a Brahmin friend’s wedding. His participation in the marriage rituals was not liked by his friend’s parents and he was ridiculed and made fun of for doing so since he belonged to a lower caste. This incident left a deep impact on his impressionable mind and set him on the path against caste discrimination.
  • In 1873, he formed Satya Shodhak Samaj with the aim of liberating bahujans and shudras (lower caste), the main function of this organisation was to protect these groups from exploitation and atrocities and enabling them in the process of attaining equal status in the society.

Jyotirao Phule dedicated his well-known and deeply acclaimed work Gulamgiri (slavery) to the African American movement to end slavery.  He is further credited for contributing the Marathi word dalit as a descriptor for those people who were outside the traditional caste system.

The work and contribution of Phule and his wife will be remembered not only because it was for social transformation and the upliftment of the downtrodden but also because they wrote, spoke and worked against the social institutions of caste and religion in such a radical fashion when many people even feared to raise a point of criticism. He may have died but his radical ideas will continue to resonate for many years to come.


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  1. Nice to see this brief piece on Phule. Yes, their ideas need to be communicated and reflected on. Great effort by The new Leam team. Congratulations..


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