Jyotirao Phule is remembered as the champion of women's education in India. He, along with his wife Savitribai Phule, opened the first school for girls in 1848. He dedicated his entire life for the upliftment of down-trodden, eradication of untouchability and strived for the equal rights for all. He extensively worked towards the causes of women and campaigned for widow re-marriage and opposed child marriages. On his death anniversary today, here are some lesser-known facts about the activist, thinker, social reformer and theologist from Maharashtra:
- Jyotirao Phule was born on April 11, 1827 in present-day Maharashtra. His mother Chimnabai died when he was just nine months old.
- Born in a Mali caste of gardeners and vegetable farmers and since his family business was that of florists, he was withdrawn from school after primary education to work in the shop. He later resumed his studies and finished his school in 1847.
- He was married at the age of 13 to Savitribai Phule. The couple together opened a school for girls' education in 1848. Later they also started schools for children from Dalit castes of Mahar and Mang.
- The turning point in his life came when he attended a Brahmin friend's wedding. His participation in the marriage procession was not liked by his friend's parents and he was rebuked for doing so since he belonged to a lower caste. This incident deeply impacted him and he started working on emancipating the lower castes.
- In 1873, he formed Satya Shodhak Samaj with the aim of liberating bahujans and shudras (lower caste), protecting them from exploitation and atrocities and attaining them equal status in the society.
Jyotirao Phule dedicated his book Gulamgiri (slavery) to the African American movement to end slavery. He is credited with introducing the Marathi word dalit as a descriptor for those people who were outside the traditional caste system.