(Tribute on the eve of his 188th birthday falling on 11th APRIL 2015)
Ever since the Aryan invaded Indian soil and Hindu religion got divided into castes rigidities and Hindu society got divided into low and upper castes This regularly increased the miseries of the low caste people termed as untouchables or Dalits, Shudras, Ati Shudras. All doors of progress, social, economical, educational, property rights including cultural were closed for the Dalits. They were denied the normal human dignities by their own brothers and sisters, who always looked towards them for all comforts of life but denied the same to them. The Hindus offered milk to snakes; rice with sugar to ants; worshipped tress like Tulsi, Pipal, and animals like cows but got polluted by the shadow of a Dalit, who are non-else but the creation of the same God for whose realization Hindus observe extreme austere like living in lonely forests, undertake long journeys to 68 places of pilgrimage, observe fasts etc. All this was done under Hindu Laws which was claimed by Hindu priest having divine sanctions. How could the acts of man could be divine. But if any body challenged these inhuman acts of a few he was given severe punishments. But the Universal Creator descended from time to time some men of vision, convictions and strength to show the masses the just path of love for all and hate to none. Lord Budha, Lord Mahaveera, Mohammad Sahib, Jesus Christ, Kabir, Guru Nanak ,Guru Ravidas and many more who rose above pretty caste prejudices. Some . After 2390 years of Mahatama Budha’s birth another friend to deprived section of Indians was born. He was Mahatama Phule. Mahatma Phule, a contemporary of KARL MARX(1818-1883), of the Indian social revolution and the first leader of peasants. In his time there was a conflict between the rationalist and the orthodox. His period can, therefore, be a aptly described as the dawn of revolution in the history not only of Maharashtra but of the country as a whole in the various fields like Education, Caste Systems, Agriculture, Economics, Women and widow upliftment , Human Rights, Untouchbility ,Social Equality.
He was Mahatama Jyotirao Gobindrao Phule was born on 11th April,1827 to revered couple Gobindrao and Chimnabai in village Khanbari of Poona. He earned the title of Mahatma and title of Bukar T.Washington (American President and a great leader against acts of slavery & apartheid).Since Gobindarao and his two brothers served as florists under the Pashwas, so they were called Phules. Chimnabai died when Jyotiba was 9 months old. So the childhood of Jyotirao was not very pleasant. He was brought up in the care of Sagunabai ( Daughter of Gondabai maternal aunt of Jyotiba’s). Gobindrao wanted his son to get a higher education so as to spread the Gyan Jyoti for the humanity at large and Dalits in particular. But all relatives of Gobindrao were against the education of Jyotiba pleading that his son would get spoiled by studying English and could lend no help to him in his job as florist. So Jyotiba was taken out of school after he passed his primary school at the age of 9 years. Despite this Jyotiba continued working in fields during day and reading at night by lighting kerosene lamp. Good hearted Goffar Beig Munshi ( A Muslim )and Latiz Sahib(A Christian) had good influence on Gobindarao so they insisted Gobindrao to get his son readmitted in school to complete his education .On their persuasion Gobindrao got
re- admitted his son in Scottish Mission High School at Poona in January, 1841. It was in this school that he met Sadashiv Ballal Govande, a Brahmin, who remained a close friend throughout his life. Both Jotirao and Govande were greatly influenced by Thomas Paine's ideas and they read with great interest Paine's famous book ' The Rights of Man'. Jyotirao completed his secondary education in 1847 and decided not to accept any government job but work for the upliftment of downtrodden and deprived section of society and to spread education among them.
Jyotiba got spine shivering experience of caste hate, when he was invited by his Brahmin friend to join Barat( Marriage party procession) of his brother. But in the Barat Jyotiba although wearing good dress was noticed by the other Brahmin Baratis. Jyotiba was abused,insulted and finally turned out of the party for his low caste. Jyotiba discussed this with his father who advised his son to avoid such invitations in future as the high caste Hindus shall not compromise on their superiority complex.
This incident changed the life concept of Jyotiba,who made up his mind to defy the caste system and decided to serve the shudras and women who were deprived of all of their human rights under the caste system. When Jyotiba met at Ahmadnagar Miss Farar,a teacher in Girls Missionary School. Miss Farar explained Jyotiba and his friend Sahashiv Govande the importance of women education. Jyotiba was impressed greatly by advice of the Missionary teacher. He decided to work for women upliftment.
Jyotiba was married in 1840 to Savitribai.Savitribai Phule worked as the true disciple and co-missionary of her husband. They changed the history by opening a school on 1-1-1848 for girls in Poona where Savitirbai was admitted as first Student along with four Brahmin girls, one Maratha girl and sixth a shepherd family girl. Jyotirao Phule continued this school despite opposition form orthodox Hindus, who considered this act against their religion, as Hindu scriptures considered educating girls & Dalits as a great sin. Savitirbai received more education at home from his husband, and was appointed as Headmistress of one of his schools by Jyotiba. Even parents of Jyotiba did not co-operated & they turned him along with Savitribai out of their parental house. It was said by committing sin of educating women and Dalits forty generations of sinner shall be put into Narak (hell) fire. when the couple did not agree to desist from their chosen path. They opened 18 such schools including some having co-education.
Feeling pity on the condition of orphans Jyotiba Phule opened orphanage, perhaps first such
Institution by a Hindu. Jyotiba Phule gave protection to widows & assured them that orphanage shall take care of their children. It was in this orphanage that a Brahmin widow gave birth to a male child in1873 and Jyotirao Phule adopted him as his son naming him Jaswant Phule & educated him to become a qualified doctor. To earn his livelihood & to run his schools & other institutions he worked as contractor in PWD. Some of the structures including a bridge are still standing in Pune and in its surrounding. He termed PWD department as hotbed of corruption.
He published his controversial book “Slavery,” in
1873, in which he declared
his manifesto that he was willing to dine with all irrespective of their caste,
creed, or country of origin.The opening words of Slavery are” Since the
advent of rule of Brahmins for centuries( In India), the Shudras and Ati
Shudras are suffering hardships and are leading miserable lives.------
Shudras should think over their
misfortune and they should eventually set themselves free from this tyranny of
Bhats( Brahmins)”. Jotirao
dedicated this book 'to the good people of the Unites States as a token of
admiration for their sublime, disinterested and self-sacrificing devotion in
the cause of Negro Slavery'. The book is written in the form of a dialogue.
Jyotirao Phule formed “ Satya Shodhak Samaj(Society of Seekers of Truth) on 24 th September 1873 with Jotirao as its first president and treasurer. In 1876 this Samaj had 316 members. The main objectives of this organization were to liberate the Shudras, Ati Shudras & to prevent their exploitation by the Upper caste Hindus. He refused to regard Vedas as sacrosanct & denounced Chaturverna & instead published his book “Satya Dharma Pustak in 1891. According to him all men & women were equal & entitled to enjoy equal rights & it was a sin to discriminate between human beings on the basis of sex or caste & creed Wodow remarriages werw banned and child marriage was very common amongthe Hindus Society Jyotirao opposed both & worked to benefit them and got re married one Shayani caste widow on 8th march 1890 against strong protests. From the beginning of the year 1879 Krishnarao Bhalekar, one of his colleagues, edited a weekly called Deenbandhu which was the organ of the Satya Shodhak Samaj. The weekly articulated the grievances of the peasants sand workers. Deenbandhu defended Jotirao when Vishnushastri Chiplunkar, a powerful spokesman of the conservative nationalists, attacked Jotirao's writing in the most vitriolic style. Friends to core Lokhandeand Jyotirao addressed the meetings of the textile workers in Bombay. It is significant that before Jyotirao and his colleagues Bhalekar and Lokhande tried to organise the peasants and the workers, no such attempt was made by any organization to redress their grievances.
Mahatama Phule opposed the evil customs so on the death of his father he did not call his caste people for meal instead he distributed meals in beggars, distributed pencils, writing wooden planks ( Patties ) & books to children which became annual function to remember his father. He opposed the tyranny of landlords & money lenders , so he organized a protest Dharna in Poona District where farmers joined in large number & burnt the records of the money lenders. He got a marriage ceremonised on 25 th December 1873 without the participation ob any Prohit. In the marriage feast the was only Pan & Supary nothing else. He edited a weekly news paper “ DEEN BANDU ,” from 1st January 1877. Jyotirao Phule helper getting released in1881 from jail Lok Manaiya Ganga Dhar Tilk &Goda Adkar who were sentenced for writing in their papers “ The Kesri & the Maratha ,” against the policies of the British Govt.
For the life long service to the Dalits & other deprived section of the society Jyotirao Phule was awarded the Title Of MAHATAMA. On 19 th May 1888. The function was attended by dignitaries like Justice Ranade, Dr. Bhandarkar , Tukaram Tatiya , Lokhande, Dholey & Bharkar besides . Jyotirao Phule was addressed by Saya Ji Rao Gaikwardas Bukar T Washington in his letter to the president of the function.
Jyotirao Phule’s his right hand got incapacitated in an illness, so he stated writing with his left hand & wrote a book titled as “ SARIVJANIK SATYA DHARAM , “ After ceaselessly working for over 63 years Jyotirao Phule passed away on 28 th November 1890 about 138 days before the birth of Dr. BR Ambedkar another luminary, Father of free India’s Constitution , & worked lifelong for the emancipation of Dalits , depressed, week & women Jyotirao Phule shall be remembered for the centuries to come for the good work he did for the Dalits & Depressed peoples of society including women.