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The legacy of Savitribai and Jyotirao Phule


Recently, Maharashtra Governor has received flak for his remarks on the social reformist couple Jyotirao and Savitribai Phule.


GS II- Modern Indian History

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. Who were the Phules?
  2. The Phules’ endeavours and legacy

Who Were the Phules?

  • Mahatma Jyotirao and Savitribai Phule stand out as an extraordinary couple in the social and educational history of India.
  • They spearheaded path-breaking work towards female education and empowerment, and towards ending caste- and gender-based discrimination.
  • In 1840, at a time when child marriages were common, Savitri at the age of ten was married to Jyotirao, who was thirteen years old at the time.
  • The couple later in life strove to oppose child marriage and also organised widow remarriages.
About Jyotirao Phule:
  • Born in 1827 in Satara district of Maharashtra.
  • Phule was given the title of Mahatma on May 11, 1888, by Vithalrao Krishnaji Vandekar, a Maharashtrian social activist.
  • His famous works:
  • Tritiya Ratna (1855), Gulamgiri (1873), Shetkarayacha Aasud, or Cultivator’s Whipcord (1881), Satyashodhak Samajokt Mangalashtakasah Sarva Puja-vidhi (1887).
About Savitribai Phule
  • Born in Naigaon in Maharashtra on January 3, 1831
  • She is widely regarded as one of Indias first generation modern feminists for her significant contributions in ensuring equal education opportunities under the British raj.
  • She became the first female teacher in India in 1848 and opened a school for girls along with her husband, social reformer Jyotirao Phule.
  • In her honour, University of Pune was renamed Savitribai Phule University in 2014.

The Phules’ endeavours and legacy

  • Jyotirao, the revolutionary that he was, observed the lack of opportunities for education for young girls and women.
  • He started to educate his wife at home and trained her to become a teacher.
  • Together, by 1848, the Phules started a school for girls, Shudras and Ati-Shudras in Poona.
  • The historic work was started by Jyotirao when he was just 21 years old, ably supported by his 18-year-old wife.
  • In 1853, Jyotirao-Savitribai opened a care centre for pregnant widows to have safe deliveries and to end the practice of infanticide owing to social norms.
  • The Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha (Home for the Prevention of Infanticide) started in their own house .
  • Jyotirao and Savitri did not have biological children, and adopted the child of a widow.
    • Yashwantrao grew up to be a doctor, rendering his services in the 1897 Bubonic plague.
Satyashodhak Samaj
  • The Satyashodhak Samaj (The Truth-Seekers Society) was established on September 24, 1873 by Jyotirao-Savitribai and other like-minded people.
  • The Samaj advocated for social changes that went against prevalent traditions, including economical weddings, inter-caste marriages, eradication of child marriages, and widow remarriage.
  • The Phules also had far-sighted goals — popularising female education, establishing an institutional structure of schools in India, and to have a society where women worked in tandem with men.

-Source: Indian Express

March 2024