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Jyotirao Govindrao Phule
Born (1827-04-11)11 April 1827
Katgun, Satara, British India (present-day Maharashtra, India)
Died 28 November 1890(1890-11-28) (aged 63)
Pune, British India (present-day Maharashtra,India)
Other names Mahatma Phule. Jyotiba Phule / Jyotirao Phule
Religion Satyashodhak Samaj, Deist, Humanism
Era 19th century philosophy
Main interests
Ethics, religion, humanism

Mahatma Jyotirao Govindrao Phule[a] (11 April 1827 – 28 November 1890) was an Indian activist, thinker, social reformer, writer and theologist from Maharashtra. He and his wife, Savitribai Phule, were pioneers of women's education in India. His work extended to many fields including education, agriculture, caste system, women and widow upliftment and removal of untouchability. He is most known for his efforts to educate women and the lower castes as well as the masses. He, after educating his wife, opened the first school for girls in India in August 1848.

In September 1873, Phule, along with his followers, formed the Satyashodhak Samaj (Society of Seekers of Truth) to attain equal rights for peasants and the lower caste and his contributions to the field of education. Phule is regarded as an important figure of the Social Reform Movement in Maharashtra.

Early life[edit]

Jyotirao Govindrao Phule was born in the Satara district of Maharashtra to a family of the Mali caste. His father, Govindrao, was a vegetable vendor. Originally Phule's family, known as Gorhays, came from Katgun, a village in Khatav taluka, Satara District. His grandfather Shetiba Gorhay settled down in Pune. Since Phule's father and two uncles served as florists under the last of the Peshwas, they came to be known as 'Phules'.[1]

His mother died when he was nine months old. After completing his primary education Phule had to leave school and help his father by working on the family's farm. He was married at the age of 12. His intelligence was recognised by Muslim and Christian neighbours, who persuaded his father to allow Phule to attend the local Scottish Mission's High School, which he completed in 1847. The turning point in his life was in 1848, when he was insulted by family members of his Brahmin friend, a bridegroom, for his participation in a marriage procession. Jotiba was suddenly facing the divide created by the caste system. Influenced by Thomas Paine's book, Rights of Man (1791), Phule developed a keen sense of social justice. He argued that education of women and the "lower castes" was a vital priority in addressing social inequalities.[citation needed]

Satyashodhak Samaj[edit]

On 24 September 1873, Phule formed Satyashodhak Samaj (Society of Seekers of Truth), of which he was the first president and treasurer, to focus on rights of depressed classes. He opposed idolatry and denounced the caste system. Satyashodhak Samaj campaigned for the spread of rational thinking and rejected the need for a priests. Savitribai became the head of the women's section which included ninety female members[citation needed]. She worked as a school teacher for girls. After Phule's death in 1890 his followers continued the Samaj campaign to the remotest parts of Maharashtra.[citation needed]. Shahu Maharaj, the ruler of Kolhapur lent moral support to Satyashodhak Samaj. In its new incarnation, it continued the efforts to remove what it considered to be superstition.[citation needed].

Phule believed in overthrowing the social system in which man has been deliberately made dependent on others, illiterate, ignorant and poor, with a view to exploiting him. To him blind faith eradication formed part of a broad socioeconomic transformation. This was his strategy for ending exploitation of human beings. Mere advice, education and alternative ways of living are not enough, unless the economic framework of exploitation comes to an end.[citation needed]

Religion and Caste[edit]

The Indian society at Jyotiba's time, was deeply enmeshed in caste politics.[citation needed] His akhandas were based on the abhangs of Indian saint Tukaram[2] (a Moray Shudra.)

He did not like the casteist of Tamil Nadu using Rama as a symbol of oppression of Aryan conquest.[3]

Attack on the sanctity of Vedas

Phule's critique of the caste system began with his attack on the Vedas, the most fundamental texts of upper caste Hindus.[citation needed] He considered them to be "idle fantasies" and "palpably absurd legends"[citation needed] as well as a "form of false consciousness".[4]

He is credited with introducing the Marathi word dalit (broken, crushed) as a descriptor for those people who were outside the traditional varna system. The terminology was later popularised in the 1970s by the Dalit Panthers.[5]

Social activism[edit]

He was assisted in his work by his wife, Savitribai Phule, and together they started the second school for girls in India in 1848, for which he was forced to leave his home. He championed widow remarriage and started a home for upper caste widows in 1854, as well as a home for new-born infants to prevent female infanticide. Phule tried to eliminate the stigma of social untouchability surrounding the lower castes by opening his house and the use of his water-well to the members of the lower castes.


Apart from his role as a social activist, Phule was a businessman too. In 1882 memorial, he styled himself as Merchant, cultivator and Municipal Contractor.[6] For period of time, he worked as a contractor for the government and supplied building materials required for the construction of the first masonry dam in India at Khadakwasla[7] near Pune in the 1870s.[8] One of Phule's business that he established in 1863,was to supply metal casting equipment.[9]

Phule was appointed Commissioner ( Municipal Council Member) to the then Poona municipality in 1876 and served in this unelected position until 1882.[10]

Connection with women activists[edit]

Savitribai Phule was one of the first modern feminists in India.[11] She is also associated with other feminists in the country, including Pandita Ramabai, a Brahmin woman who converted to Christianity and was a leading advocate for the rights and welfare for Indian women, and Tarabai Shinde.[citation needed]

Title of Mahatma[edit]

According to Keer,[12][13] Phule was bestowed with the title of Mahatma on 11 May 1888 by another social reformer from Mumbai, Rao Bahadur Vithalrao Krishnaji Vandekar.

Other Posthumous Honors[edit]

Jyotiba Phule has been honored numerous times in Maharashtra as well as other parts of India by Universities (Jaipur), Museums (Pune), Vegetable Markets (Pune, Mumbai) etc. being named after him.

On 20 march 2015, former Indian Youth Congress President and Congress MP from Hingoli, Maharashtra Rajeev Satav demanded Bharat Ratna award for Phule and his wife Savitribai in the Indian Parliament. [14]

Published works[edit]

Among Phule's notable published works are:[15]

  • Tritiya Ratna, 1855
  • Brahmananche Kasab,1869
  • Powada : Chatrapati Shivajiraje Bhosle Yancha, [English: Life Of Shivaji, In Poetical Metre],June 1869
  • Powada: Vidyakhatyatil Brahman Pantoji, June 1869
  • Manav Mahammand (Muhammad) (Abhang)
  • Gulamgiri, 1873
  • Shetkarayacha Aasud (Cultivator's Whipcord), July 1881
  • Satsar Ank 1, June 1885
  • Satsar Ank 2, October 1885
  • Ishara, October 1885
  • Gramjoshya sambhandi jahir kabhar, (1886)
  • Satyashodhak Samajokt Mangalashtakasah Sarva Puja-vidhi, 1887
  • Sarvajanik Satya Dharma Poostak, April 1889
  • Sarvajanic Satya Dharmapustak, 1891
  • Akhandadi Kavyarachana
  • Asprashyanchi Kaifiyat


An early biography of Phule was the Marathi-language Mahatma Jotirao Phule, yance charitra (P. S. Patil, Chikali: 1927).[16] Two others are Mahatma Phule. Caritra Va Kariya (Mahatma Phule. Life and Work) (A. K. Ghorpade, Poona: 1953), which is also in Marathi, and Mahatma Jyotibha Phooley: Father of Our Social Revolution (Dhananjay Keer, Bombay: 1964). Unpublished material relating to him is held by the Bombay State Committee on the History of the Freedom Movement.[17]

There are many structures and places commemorating Phule. These include:

See also[edit]



  1. ^ There are numerous variant spellings of Phule's name. These include Jotirao, Jotibha, and Phooley. Mahatma is an honorific title.


  1. ^ P.G. Patil, Collected Works of Mahatma Jotirao Phule, Vol. II, published by Education department, Govt. of Maharashtra
  2. ^ Culture and the Making of Identity in Contemporary India By Kamala Ganesh, Usha Thakkar
  3. ^ Sharad Pawar, the Making of a Modern Maratha By P. K. Ravindranath
  4. ^ Figueira (2002), p. 149
  5. ^ Nisar, M.; Kandasamy, Meena (2007). Ayyankali — Dalit Leader of Organic Protest. Other Books. p. 8. ISBN 978-8-19038-876-4. 
  6. ^ Keer, Dhananjay (1974). Mahatma Jotirao Phooley: Father of the Indian Social Revolution. Mumbai, India: Popular Prakashan. ISBN 81-7154-066-X. Retrieved 22 January 2015. 
  7. ^ Chrimes, Mike (December 2009). "Ahead of the game – masonry dam design in the British colonies 1800–1900, part 2: 1872–1900". Dams and Reservoirs 19 (4): 171 –183. doi:10.1680/dare.2009.19.4.171. Retrieved 22 January 2015. 
  8. ^ Shewale, Prashant. "MAHATMA JYOTI RAO PHULE & SAVITRIBAI JYOTI RAO PHULE". http://mahatmajyotiraophule.blogspot.com. Retrieved 22 January 2015. 
  9. ^ O'Hanlon, Rosalind (1985). Caste, Conflict and Ideology: Mahatma Jotirao Phule and Low Caste Protest in nineteenth century Western Maharashtra. Cambridge, UK: Cabridge University Press. p. 135. ISBN 0521 266157. 
  10. ^ Keer, Dhananjay (1974). Mahatma Jotirao Phooley: Father of the Indian Social Revolution. Mumbai, India: Popular Prakashan. ISBN 81-7154-066-X. Retrieved 22 January 2015. 
  11. ^ Wayne (2011), p. 243
  12. ^ Charisma and Canon: Essays on the Religious History of the Indian Subcontinent, Vasudha Dalmia, Martin Christof, Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 227
  13. ^ Mahatma Jotirao Phooley: Father of the Indian Social Revolution, Dhananjay Keer Popular Prakashan, 1974, p. 247
  14. ^ http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/cong-mp-seeks-bharat-ratna-for-jyotirao-phule-wife-115032001175_1.html.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. ^ Mahatma Phule
  16. ^ O'Hanlon (1992), p. 107
  17. ^ Sarkar (1975), pp. 32-33, 40
  18. ^ "Life As Message". Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 24. 16 June 2012. 


  • Figueira, Dorothy Matilda (2002), Aryans, Jews, Brahmins: Theorizing Authority Through Myths of Identity, SUNY Press 
  • O'Hanlon, Rosalind (1992), "Issues of Widowhood in Colonial Western India", in Haynes, Douglas E.; Prakash, Gyan, Contesting Power: Resistance and Everyday Social Relations in South Asia, University of California Press, ISBN 978-0-52007-585-6 
  • Sarkar, Sumit (1975), Bibliographical Survey of Social Reform Movements in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Motilal Banarsidass/Indian Council of Historical Research 

Wayne, Tiffany K., ed. (2011), Feminist Writings from Ancient Times to the Modern World: A Global Sourcebook and History, ABC-CLIO, ISBN 978-0-31334-581-4 

Further reading[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jyotirao_Phule — Please support Wikipedia.
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1939 news items


The Hindu
Sat, 11 Apr 2015 17:03:45 -0700

The 189th birth anniversary of social reformer Mahatma Jyotirao Phule was celebrated grandly in Karimnagar on Saturday. Minister for Finance and Civil Supplies Etala Rajender garlanded the statue of the social reformer. Speaking on the occasion, he ...

Daily News & Analysis

Daily News & Analysis
Wed, 15 Apr 2015 05:16:42 -0700

Has history been kind to Mahatma Jyotirao Phule? There was a chapter on his life in our history textbooks in Class III. One year later, we were taught about his wife Savitribai. I don't know the syllabus today, so it will be unfair to comment on what ...

The Indian Express

The Indian Express
Fri, 17 Apr 2015 15:07:30 -0700

The series intends to populate India's human landscape a little more densely, with audio biographies of people like Panini and Jyotirao Phule. We don't get Radio 4 in India since the demise of Worldspace, but there are online options. After asserting ...

The New Indian Express

The New Indian Express
Sat, 11 Apr 2015 14:56:15 -0700

... excise minister T Padmarao, TRS secretary general and MP K Keshava Rao, MP B Narasaiah Goud spoke, while K Rajaiah Yadav conducted the proceedings. Earlier, chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao garlanded Jyotirao Phule's statue in Amberpet.


Sat, 11 Apr 2015 09:05:35 -0700

హైదరాబాద్ : బడుగు, బలహీన వర్గాల అభ్యున్నతే జీవితాశయంగా, కడవరకూ పోరాటం సాగించిన మహాత్మా జ్యోతీబాపూలే జయంతిని రాష్ట్రవ్యాప్తంగా ఘనంగా నిర్వహించారు. హైదరాబాద్‌లో ...


Wed, 15 Apr 2015 20:07:21 -0700

There were also other Dalit icons, Jyotirao Phule and Sant Ravidas along with a great many statues of the Buddha. And more books: a Pali-Hindi dictionary and Shivaji Kon Hota, whose author Govind Pansare was recently shot and killed by unidentified ...

The New Indian Express

The New Indian Express
Sat, 11 Apr 2015 14:45:00 -0700

KCR, who was returning after attending the birth anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Jyotirao Phule at Amberbet, decided to drop in at the hospital to see for himself the conditions at the hospital. Finding a good number of staff absent, the Chief ...
The Hindu
Sat, 11 Apr 2015 17:11:41 -0700

Indian Vision Institute Walk in the Dark , blind-folded walk to spread awareness on eye-care, Jalavihar, Necklace Road, 7 a.m.. Koundinya Seva Samithi Awards function for winner of Mahatma Jyotirao Phule Awards and felicitation of Padma Shri recipient Dr.

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