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Mahatma Jotiba Phule

Jotiba Govindrao Phule
Full name Jotiba Govindrao Phule
Other names Mahatma Phule
Born April 11, 1827(1827-04-11) Satara district
Died November 28, 1890(1890-11-28) (aged 63)
Era 19th century philosophy
Region India
School Indian philosophy
Main interests Ethics, religion, humanism

Mahatma Jotiba Govindrao Phule (Marathi: जोतीबा गोविंदराव फुले) (April 11, 1827 — November 28, 1890), also known as Mahatma Jotiba Phule was an activist, thinker, social reformer, writer, philosopher, theologist, scholar, editor and revolutionary from Maharashtra, India in the nineteenth century. Jotiba Phule and his wife Savitribai Phule were pioneers of women’s education in India. His remarkable influence was apparent in fields like 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 a school for girls in India in August 1848. This was the second girls’ school in India. Peary Charan Sarkar, a former student of Hindu College, Calcutta and a member of “Young Bengal” set up the first free school for girls in 1847 in Barasat, a suburb of Calcutta (later the school was named Kalikrishna Girls’ High School).

In September, 1873, Jotirao, along with his followers, formed the Satya Shodhak Samaj (Society of Seekers of Truth) with Jotirao with the main objective of liberating the Bahujans, Shudras and Ati-Shudras 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”.[1]

Early life

Jotirao Govindrao Phule was born in Satara district of Maharastra in a family belonging to Mali caste,[shudra] caste perceived to be inferior caste by certain sections of the society. His father, Govindrao, was a vegetable vendor. His mother died when he was 9 months old. After completing his primary education Jotirao 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 neighbor, who persuaded his father to allow Jotirao to attend the local Scottish Mission’s High School, which he completed in 1847. The turning point in Jotiba’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.[2] Influenced by Thomas Paine books Rights of Man (1791), Phule developed a keen sense of social justice, becoming passionate of the Indian Tea system. He argued that education of women and the lower castes was a vital priority in addressing social inequalities.

Satyashodhak Samaj

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 and Ati Shudras and to prevent their ‘exploitation’ by the upper caste like Brahmans. Through this Satya Shodhak Samaj, Jotirao refused to regard the Vedas as sacrosanct. 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]

Shahu IV of Kolhapur helped Satya Shodhak Samaj


When 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 SatyaShodhak Samaj’s movement. After Jotiba’s death in 1890 his spirited followers went on spreading the movement to the remotest parts of Maharashtra. Shahu Maharaj, the ruler of Kolhapur princely state, gave a lot of financial and 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.

Jotiba 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, Jotiba 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 breed blind faith among women, shudras and ati-shudras. Jotiba subjected religious texts and religious behavior 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]


Jotirao Phule was an Indian aboriginal. His akhandas were based on the abhangs of Indian aboriginal saint Tukaram[3] (a Moray Shudra.)[4]

His own hero was Chhatrapati Shivaji. He called Shivaji a “…destroyer of the Brahmins“.[5] He believed that they were a degenerative force like the wild animals.[6]

He was a subscriber to Maharishi Vitthal Ramji Shinde‘s magazine, Dnyanodaya.[6] (Maharishi Shinde was a Harijan or “untouchable” and a member of the reformist Prarthana Samaj.)

He did not like the castists of Tamil Nadu using Lord Rama as a symbol of oppression of Aryan conquest.[7]

In year 1873, Jotirao Gavondraw Fule (name as spelled then)- dedicated his book “Slavery” thus:

DEDICATED TO THE GOOD PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES as a token of admiration for their sublime, disinterested and self-sacrificing devotion in the cause of Negro Slavery; and with an earnest desire, that my countrymen may take their noble example as their guide in the emancipation of their Sudra Brethren from the trammels of Brahmin thraldom.

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. He considered Vedas as ‘idle fantasies’ as ‘palpably absurd legends’. He considered Vedas a ‘form of false consciousness’.[8]

He believed that the true inhabitants of Bharat are the Astik.[9] He also believed that the Brahmins were outsiders to Hinduism. This was also the view spoken by Keshavarao Jehde.[10]

Merger into Congress party

After Jotiba’s death in 1890, there was a period of lull, when the flame lit by Jotiba waned. The Satya Shodhak Samaj movement was totally a social movement and nothing to do with the politics, but the members of Satya Shodhak Samaj dissolved Satya Shodhak Samaj.

Phule had a favourable opinion about the British Rule in India at least from the point of view of introducing modern notions of justice and equality in Indian society and taking India into the future. Phule admired British and never spoke of freedom and independence from British rule. His famous quote about the first freedom struggle of 1857 shows his loyalty towards British. He said “Thank God, the the [sic?] father and mother like [Mai Bap] British Govt won the war. This [1857 freedom struggle] is a mutiny by brahmin priests and bhikkus.”[cite this quote] [bhat bhikshuks].

Social activism

He was assisted in his work by his wife, Savitribai Phule, and together they started the first 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 September 24, 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

Some of India’s first modern feminists were closely associated with Phule, including his wife Savitribai Phule; Pandita Ramabai, a Brahmin woman. 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.

he started “Shiv Jayanti”(Birth day of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj)first time in India. 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.


  • The full length statue inaugurated at the premises of Vidhan Bhavan (Assembly Building of Maharasthra State), by the auspicious hands of then the Chief Minister and other dignitaries.
  • The Crawford Market in Mumbai is officially named after him.
  • Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth in Rahuri, Ahmednagar District, Maharastra.

The wholesale vegetable market in Nagpur, Maharashtra (India) is also named after him.


  • Vidyevina mati geli; mativina neeti geli; neetivina gati geli; gativina vitta gele;

vittavina shudra khachale; itke anartha eka avidyene kele.

विद्येविना मती गेली | मतीविना नीति गेली | नीतीविना गती गेली | गतीविना वित्त गेले | वित्ताविना शुद्र खचले | इतके अनर्थ एका अविद्येने केले!

(Lack of education leads to lack of wisdom, which leads to lack of morals, which leads to lack of progress, which leads to lack of money, which leads to the oppression of the lower classes. See what state of the society one lack of education can cause!)


Krantisurya Phule has many followers. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, the first minister of law of Republic India and the architect of Indian Constitution was inspired by his noble work towards humanity. Noted freedom fighter and Gandhian Leader like Mukundrao Bhujbal Patil who is Ex. President of Bombay Pradesh Congress Committee was the one who tried to bring the work done by Jyotirao Phule, into a limelight. There are many followers of the work done by him, one among those is Hon. Minister Of Maharashtra Chhagan Bhujbal founder of Mahatma Phule Samata Parishad, an organisation works for social upliftment of dalits and OBCs and Telugu actor Chiranjeevi, who started a political party and stated that he is very much inspired by the work done by Phule especially creating social harmony.M.S.Chandramohan,writer,he is very much insired by the work done by Phule especially creating social education system. V.G.R Naragoni is a OBC leader in andhra pradesh got inspired by Phule and followed him and conduct deep research on Phule movements and wrote several books on Phule like “Bahujana Vudhyama Radha Saradhulu.

Published works

His famous published works are[11]

  • 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
  • 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


  1. ^ Keer, Dhananjay (1997). Mahatma Jotirao Phooley: father of the Indian social revolution. Popular Prakashan. ISBN 9788171540662.
  2. ^ Savitri Bai Phule
  3. ^ Culture And The Making Of Identity In Contemporary India By Kamala Ganesh, Usha Thakkar
  4. ^ “MALI / SAINI COMMUNITY AND BHAKTI(DEVOTION) MOVEMENT IN INDIA”. Archived from the original on 2008-04-14.
  5. ^ Caste, Conflict and Ideology: Mahatma Jotirao Phule and Low Caste Protest in By Rosalind O’Hanlon
  6. ^ a b P. 113 Political Ideas in Modern India: Thematic Explorations By Vrajendra Raj Mehta, Thomas Pantham
  7. ^ Sharad Pawar, the Making of a Modern Maratha By P. K. Ravindranath
  8. ^ Aryans, Jews, Brahmins: Theorizing Authority Through Myths of Identity, pp 149, By Dorothy Matilda Figueira, Published by SUNY Press, 2002
  9. ^ P. 13 “Positive discrimination and the transformation of caste in India” By Christophe Jaffrelot
  10. ^ P. 16 “Positive discrimination and the transformation of caste in India” By Christophe Jaffrelot
  11. ^ Mahatma Phule

External links & Writings