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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
Region Mali
Main interests
Ethics, religion, humanism

Mahatma Jyotirao Govindrao Phule (11 April 1827 – 28 November 1890), also known as Mahatma Jyotiba Phule was an Indian activist, thinker, social reformer, writer and theologist from Maharashtra. Jyotiba Phule 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, Jyotirao, along with his followers, formed the Satya Shodhak Samaj (Society of Seekers of Truth) with the main objective of liberating the Bahujans, Shudras and Ati-Shudras[clarification needed] and protecting them from exploitation and atrocities. For his fight to attain equal rights for peasants and the lower caste and his contributions to the field of education, he is regarded as one of the most important figures of the Social Reform Movement in Maharashtra. Dhananjay Keer, his biographer, notes him as "the father of Indian social revolution". Jyotirao Phule was among the intellectuals of India who tried hard for the upliftment of the Dalit community. He is often remembered for his anti-caste efforts and in the trio of Phule-Periyar-Ambedkar.

Early life[edit]

Thomas Paine's book

Jyotirao Govindrao Phule was born in the Satara district of Maharastra in a family belonging to Mali. His father, Govindrao, was a vegetable vendor. Originally Jyotirao's family, known as Gorhays, came from Katgun, a village in Taluka- Khatav, District- Satara. His grandfather Shetiba Gorhay settled down in Pune. Since Jyotirao's father and two uncles served as florists under the last of the Peshwas, they came to be known as 'Phules'. (Reference- P.G. Patil, Collected Works of Mahatma Jotirao Phule, Vol-II, published by Education department, Govt. of Maharashtra). His mother died when he was 9 months old. After completing his primary education Jyotirao 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 a Muslim and a Christian neighbour, who persuaded his father to allow Jyotirao to attend the local Scottish Mission's High School, which he completed in 1847. The turning point in Jyotiba's life was in year 1848, when he was insulted by family members of his Brahmin friend, a bridegroom for his participation in the marriage procession, an auspicious occasion. Jotiba was suddenly facing the divide created by the caste system.[1] 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.

Satyashodhak Samaj[edit]

On 24 September 1873, Jotirao formed 'Satya Shodhak Samaj' (Society of Seekers of Truth) with himself as its first president and treasurer. The main objectives of the organisation were to liberate the Shudras to prevent their 'exploitation' by the caste like Brahmans. Through this Satya Shodhak Samaj, Jotirao refused to regard the Vedas as sacrosanct.[citation needed] He opposed idolatry and denounced the chaturvarnya system (the caste system). Satya Shodhak Samaj propounded the spread of rational thinking and rejected the need for a Brahman priestly class as educational and religious leaders. He was an aboriginal of India and established Satyadharma and never renounced his faith. He was against those Brahmins who were using religion and blind faith of masses for their own monetary gains. But Jyotiba had many Brahmin personal friends and he even adopted a Brahmin boy as his heir. He made a will giving his large property after his death to this Brahmin boy.[citation needed]


Phule established the Satya Shodhak Samaj, Savitribai became the head of the women's section which included ninety female members[citation needed]. Moreover, she worked tirelessly as a school teacher for girls. Deenbandhu publication, the mouthpiece of the Satya Shodhak Samaj, played an important role in Satya Shodhak Samaj's movement. After Jyotirao's death in 1890 his spirited followers went on spreading the movement to the remotest parts of Maharashtra. Shahu Maharaj, the ruler of Kolhapur moral support to Satya Shodhak Samaj. In its new incarnation party carried on the work of superstition removal vigorously. Many times it degenerated in hate sprouting against Brahmins as a caste.

Jyotirao firmly believed that if you want to create a new social system based on freedom, equality, brotherhood, human dignity, economic justice and value devoid of exploitation, you will have to overthrow the old, unequal and exploitative social system and the values on which it is based. Knowing this well, Jyotirao attacked blind faith and faith in what is given in religious books and the so-called god's words. He tore to pieces the misleading myths that were ruling over the minds of women, shudras and ati-shudras. Yielding to god or fate, astrology and other such rituals, sacredness, god-men, etc. was deemed irrational and absurd.[citation needed]

He also led campaigns to remove the economic and social handicaps that bred blind faith among women, shudras and ati-shudras. Jyotirao subjected religious texts and religious behaviour to the tests of rationalism. He characterised this faith as outwardly religious but in essence politically motivated movements. He accused them of upholding the teachings of religion and refusing to rationally analyse religious teachings. He maintained that at the root of all calamities was the blind faith that religious books were created or inspired by God. Therefore, Phule wanted to abolish this blind faith in the first instance. All established religious and priestly classes find this blind faith useful for their purposes and they try their best to defend it. He questions " if there is only one God, who created the whole mankind, why did he write the Vedas only in Sanskrit language despite his anxiety for the welfare of the whole mankind? What about the welfare of those who do not understand this language?" Phule concludes that it is untenable to say that religious texts were God-created. To believe so is only ignorance and prejudice. All religions and their religious texts are man-made and they represent the selfish interest of the classes, which are trying to pursue and protect their selfish ends by constructing such books. Phule was the only sociologist and humanist in his time that could put forth such bold ideas. In his view, every religious book is a product of its time and the truths it contains have no permanent and universal validity. Again these texts can never be free from the prejudices and the selfishness of the authors of such books.[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. The debate continues to prevail whether the Brahmins of India are indigenous to the land or they migrated from some other part of the world. Despite this, it can be stated that the stratification of the society was based on caste. As such, Jyotirao Phule could be classified as indigenous to the land. His akhandas were based on the abhangs of Indian saint Tukaram[2] (a Moray Shudra.)

He was a subscriber to Maharishi Vitthal Ramji Shinde's magazine, Dnyanodaya.[3] (Maharishi Shinde was a member of the reformist Prarthana Samaj.)

He did not like the casteist of Tamil Nadu using Lord Rama as a symbol of oppression of Aryan conquest.[4]

Attack on the sanctity of Vedas

Jyotirao Phule's critique of the caste system began with his attack on the Vedas, the most fundamental texts of forward-caste Hindus.[citation needed] He considered Vedas as 'idle fantasies' as 'palpably absurd legends'.[citation needed] He considered Vedas a 'form of false consciousness'.[5]

He believed that the true inhabitants of Bharat are the Astik.[6] He also believed that the Brahmins were outsiders to Hinduism.[citation needed] This was also the view of Keshavarao Jedhe.[7]

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 initiated 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.

He formed the Satya Shodhak Samaj (Society of Seekers of Truth) on 24 September 1873, a group whose main aim was to liberate the social Shudra and Untouchables castes from exploitation and oppression.

Phule was a member of the Pune municipality from 1876 to 1882.

Connection with women activists[edit]

Some of India's first modern feminists were closely associated with Phule, including his wife Savitribai Phule; Pandita Ramabai, a Brahmin woman who converted to Christianity. Panditia Ramabai who was leading advocate for the rights and welfare for the women in India; Tarabai Shinde, the non-Brahmin author of a fiery tract on gender inequality which was largely ignored at the time but has recently become well-known; and Muktabai, a fourteen-year-old pupil in Phule's school, whose essay on the social oppression of the Mang and Mahar castes is also now famous.

The celebration of "Shiv Jayanti"(Birth day of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj)for the first time in India has been attributed to him. He also discovered the "Samadhi" of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on Raigad Fort which had disappeared in creepers and climbers. He wrote "Shivajicha powada" an epic poem.

Title of 'Mahatma'[edit]

According to D.J. Keer, [8][9] Jotirao Phule was bestowed with the unique title of 'Mahatma' on 11 May 1888 by another great social reformer from Mumbai, Rao Bahadur Vithalrao Krishnaji Vandekar. As the history goes, Jyotirao Phule had completed 60 years of his age and 40 years of social service fighting for the rights of the 'bahujans'. To mark this achievement, it was decided by the bahujans and satyashodhak leaders and workers to felicitate Jotirao Phule. Rao Bahadur Vithalrao Krishnaji Vandekar, Narayan Meghaji Lokhande were in the forefront for arranging this function. Rao Bahadur Vandekar and his fellow workers decided to bestow the title of 'Mahatma' on Jotirao Phule for his dedicated service in the cause of humanity. Sayajirao Maharaj of Baroda, who also was invited for this function but could not attend. He had sent a message that Jotirao Phule be bestowed with the title of ‘Hindustan's Booker T. Washington’. However, Rao Bahadur Vithalrao Vandekar explained the reasons for bestowing the title of 'Mahatma' on Jotirao Phule justifying it to be apt for the great work and sacrifice of Jotirao Phule for the downtrodden. On 11 May 1888, a function was arranged in the meeting hall of ‘Mumbai Deshastha Maratha Dnyati-Dharma Sanstha’ at Mandvi, Koliwada, Mumbai for felicitating Jotirao Phule. As the function began, Rao Bahadur Vithalrao Krishnaji Vandekar explained in detail about the work and sacrifice of Jotirao Phule and his struggle for the rights of the downtrodden bahujans. He then garlanded Jotirao Phule and declared that ‘we people present here, with swasphurti, are bestowing the title of Mahatma upon Jotirao Phule!’.[citation needed] Thus Jotirao Phule came to be known as Mahatma Jotirao Phule thereafter.[10]


  • The full length statue inaugurated at the premises of Vidhan Bhavan (Assembly Building of Maharasthra State), by the Chief Minister.
  • The Crawford Market in Mumbai is officially named after him and is known as Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandai.
  • Mahatma Phule Museum, the Science and Technology museum in the city of Pune was renamed in his honor in 1968
  • Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth in Rahuri, Ahmednagar District, Maharastra.
  • Mandai (Pune) officially known as Mahathma Phule Mandai is the biggest vegetable market in Pune City, India.
  • MAHATMA JYOTHIRAO PHULE ANDHRA PRADESH RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS - In the year of 2012 the govt of andhra pradesh renamed the ap bc welfare residential schools in honor of Jyotiba Phule.
  • The wholesale vegetable market in Nagpur, Maharashtra (India) is also named after him.
  • Subharti College of Physiotherapy was formerly named after him Jyotirao Phule physiotherapy college.

Published works[edit]

His famous published works are[12]

  • 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 [full name in English: Slavery: In The Civilized British Government Under The Clock Of Brahmanism],1873. Literally meaning slavery, this book was inspired by the American civil war. He gave a message to the lower castes to take inspiration from America
  • 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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Savitri Bai Phule
  2. ^ Culture and the Making of Identity in Contemporary India By Kamala Ganesh, Usha Thakkar
  3. ^ P. 113 Political Ideas in Modern India: Thematic Explorations By Vrajendra Raj Mehta, Thomas Pantham
  4. ^ Sharad Pawar, the Making of a Modern Maratha By P. K. Ravindranath
  5. ^ Aryans, Jews, Brahmins: Theorizing Authority Through Myths of Identity, pp 149, By Dorothy Matilda Figueira, Published by SUNY Press, 2002
  6. ^ P. 13 "Positive discrimination and the transformation of caste in India" By Christophe Jaffrelot
  7. ^ P. 16 "Positive discrimination and the transformation of caste in India" By Christophe Jaffrelot
  8. ^ Charisma and Canon: Essays on the Religious History of the Indian Subcontinent, Vasudha Dalmia, Martin Christof, Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 227
  9. ^ Mahatma Jotirao Phooley: Father of the Indian Social Revolution, Dhananjay Keer Popular Prakashan, 1974, p. 247
  10. ^ Jagtap, Murlidhar (11 May 1993). Yugpurush Mahatma Phule. Mumbai, India: Mahatma Phule Charitra Sadhaney Prakashan Samiti,Government of Maharashtra. 
  11. ^ "Life As Message". Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 24. 16 June 2012. 
  12. ^ Mahatma Phule

Further reading[edit]

  • O'Hanlon, Rosalind (2002). Caste, Conflict and Ideology: Mahatma Jotirao Phule and Low Caste Protest in Nineteenth-Century Western India. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521523080. 

External links[edit]

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

Daily News & Analysis

Daily News & Analysis
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 16:11:15 -0800

While we didn't work together for a film, we worked together in Bharat Ek Khoj as Mahatama Jyotirao Phule and as Bal Gangadhar Tilak in Raj Se Swaraj. The way he went about getting into the skin of both these characters was amazing." Benegal has worked ...
Economic Times
Wed, 21 May 2014 23:38:27 -0700

Savitribai Jyotirao Phule, social reformer and wife of Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, is known for her contribution to women's rights in India during the British era. She set up schools for people deprived of education due to caste discrimination and for ...


Mon, 07 Jul 2014 09:16:01 -0700

The Other Backward Classes, or the OBCs, who constitute over 50 per cent of the electorate in Maharashtra, had been spearheading a campaign to rename the prestigious university after the social reformer, who was the wife of Jyotirao Phule. The couple ...

The Hindu

The Hindu
Sun, 19 Oct 2014 03:41:15 -0700

Marrying history, politics and caste, A Gardener in a Wasteland, by Aparajita Ninan and Srividya Natarajan, is the story of Jyotirao Phule and his beliefs. Inspired by his book, Gulamgiri (Slavery), the graphic novel flows like a conversation between ...
The Hindu
Sun, 28 Sep 2014 12:49:12 -0700

He mentioned Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao's promises at the centenary celebrations of Konda Lakshman Bapuji on Saturday and said people should be told more about the life and ideals of Mahatma Jyotirao Phule and Konda Lakshman Bapuji.
Sun, 12 Oct 2014 06:57:11 -0700

"We talk about Shivaji Maharaj, Dr. B R Ambedkar and Jyotirao Phule. They all said one thing, they said we have to take the nation forward together by taking everyone along; Congress has the same ideology. But our opposition wants to remove this ...
Times of India
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 08:30:11 -0700

He remembered Chhatrapti Shivaji Maharaj, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and Mahatma Jyotirao Phule," said Mumbai BJP spokesperson Niranjan Shetty, adding, "Of the 36 assembly constituencies in the city, the party has offered nominations to Marathi ...
The Hindu
Wed, 12 Mar 2014 02:33:11 -0700

Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, the Kannada translation of a biography on the 19th century social reformer, by J.P. Doddamani has been chosen for the Sahitya Akademi award 2013. According to a release from K. Srinivasa Rao, secretary of the akademi, ...

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