Jyotiba Phule's early contributions

The Mahatma of modern India is Jyotiba Phule. When women and Shudras were denied rights throughout the dark ages, his extraordinary effect could be seen. His ground-breaking work in areas like education, agriculture, the caste system, upliftment of women and widows, and the abolition of untouchability is impressive.

The great-grandfather of Jyotiba Phule was a chaugula, a lower caste servant of Brahmins, in Katgun, Satara district, Maharashtra. He belonged to the Mali caste. He was given several nasty jobs to complete.

Here is Jyotiba Phule’s life in fast forward:

  • Jyotiba Phule was reared by his father after his mother died when he was just a year old.
  • He studied the classic book ‘The Rights of Man’ by Thomas Paine with considerable interest and was highly affected by Paine's beliefs.
  • By the age of 22, Jyotiba Phule had trained his wife and established untouchables-only schools! He left the house with his wife in 1849 when he was 22 years old because of the oath he had taken to teach the Shudras.
  • By the time he was 22 years old, he was well known not just in Pune but also in London! His work had been recognised by the Court of Directors in London.
  • Jyotiba Phule objected to the British government's practise of giving money to Brahmins in Dakshina.
  • Mahatma Jyotiba Phule experienced a stroke in 1889 that caused the right half of his body to stop working. Yet, Jyotiba Phule was so committed to helping Dalits that he toiled tirelessly with his left hand to complete Sarvajanik Satya Dharma Pustak (The Book of the True Religion).
  • Mahatma Jyotiba Phule stressed in Bombay in 1885 that the lower castes should organise their ritualistic and religious activities on their own to eliminate the need for Brahmin priests.
  • Jyotiba Phule received the title ‘Mahatma’ on May 11, 1888, at the Bombay Deshasth Maratha Dnyati Dharma Sanstha in Mumbai.
  • The Phule couple founded the first schools for girls and untouchables. The first ladies' school in India was established by Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and Savitribai Phule on January 1st, 1848 in Bhidewada (Pune).
  • Savitribai Phule and Mahatma Jyotiba Phule opened the well in their home for the benefit of untouchables at a time when even the shadow of an untouchable was seen as filthy and the populace was loath to provide water to parched untouchables.
  • The Phule couple established the first infanticide prohibition house in India on January 28, 1853.
  • Jyotiba and Savitribai Phule founded the first orphanage home in 1863, providing safety to pregnant widows who were stigmatised in society.
  • On July 18, 1880, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule sent a letter to Plunket, the acting president of the Pune municipality's committee, expressing significant concern over the widespread usage of alcohol. Jyotibra opposed the government's plan to expand the number of liquor store licences because he thought that alcoholism would destroy many low-income families.

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