Er. H. R Phonsa
The first women ever known in the Indian history which lived and died for the social upliftment of down trodden including women. one of the supreme names who fought against the totalitarianism of caste and other social evils in India. Besides working for welfare of untouchables she worked hard for women Education in India. Her name was Savitribai Phule. Savitribai was born on 3rd of January 1831 in Naya Ganj , Tehsil Khandala ,District Satara of Maharashtra. Her father’s name was Khado Ji Nevse Patil . At the time of her birth, no body could realize that the small ray of light which had descended on the earth in the form of Savitribai shall become a torch bearer for those who were suppressed, illiterate, ill fed , ill clothed . She was a lightening for suppressors and oppressors inflicting tyranny in the name of caste and sex, on millions belonging to their own country and religion .
At the tender age of 9 years in 1840, she was married to a great social revolutionary personality Jyotirao Phule, who was then 13 years old. The union of two small lights later emerged as a big Light House for millions of their fellow countrymen and pulled them out of their ignorance, illiteracy and ill treatment meted out to them by upper caste Hindus. They jointly fought for the down trodden people of India to live with dignity keeping spine erect. Jyotirao Phule, later affectionately called Mahatma Jyotirao Phule proclaimed that illiteracy the ill of all ills causes lack of intellect which in turn causes lack of moral which results in stagnation, promoting further loss of riches and fortune which caused fall of Shudras. So ban of education to Shudras in Brahminical literature caused their all round degradation, so he gave preference to impart education to Shudras for their over all upliftment.
The Education to Savitribhai was imparted at home by her husband, who had passed his Secondary Education Examination in 1847 from Scottish Mission High School Poona and had decided not to accept any job under the government. On reading Paine’s famous book “The Rights of Man” revolutionized the young mind of Jyotirao Phule and he in turn influenced the tender mind of Savitribhai, who also took oath to help her husband for Social Revolution even at the cost of her life and comforts.
They jointly opened the very first Girl’s School in 1848 against the vicious campaign launched by orthodox upper caste Hindus for such an act of the Phule couple, as education to girls was coded as unlawful in the laws of orthodox Hindus, although they claimed to possess the most knowledgeable books called Vedas but practically treating Shudras & women worse than animals. No upper caste Hindu teacher came forward to teach in this newly opened Girl’s School in which untouchables girls , besides Hindu Girl’s were admitted. Therefore, Savitribai was appointed as Headmistress of this school on I st January 1848 by Jyotirao Phule. This school was run from the house of a Brahmin in Budhwara Peth, with majority of Brahmin girl students. The orthodox Brahmins raised a great hue & cry against carrying on women education including those of Shudra girls, which stood banned by the Hindu scripture. As soon as Savitribai came out from her house to go to school, people would throw on her cow dung and mud spoiling here dress, which she washed at the school and at her residence. But ill treatment meted out to her by upper caste Hindus did not deter her from her strong convictions and she carried on with the noble cause for the social change. She, instead , opened another school on 15th May 1848 in untouchable’s colony and it was run by her widowed sister -in-law (husband ‘s sister) Smt. Suganabai. On this again the reactionaries, raised objections and threatened Govinda Rao (Jyotirao ‘s father) with dire consequences, if, he failed to dissociate himself from the activities of his son & daughter-in-law.So he asked the couple to leave his home as both of them refused to give up their missionary endeavor. Both shifted to a Muslim Mian Usman Sheikh’s house. Smt. Fatima Sister of Mian Sheikh known as first Muslim women teacher of 18th century, started educating Dalit children in this school opened by a Dalit couple. This was an extremely difficult task during those days of Brahmin domination in government and social circles, but Savitribai did it by dint of her courage, determination, intelligence and her commitment to the cause of Dalit upliftment through spread of Education the only road to their empowerment.
Jyotirao Phule blamed the British Government for spending profusely a large portion of the state revenue on the education of the higher castes, which resulted in monopoly of all higher offices under the Government by the Brahmins. The dedicated couple wanted to break this monopoly so as to prepare the down trodden masses for struggle of having equal rights as human beings in their own motherland. Jyotirao Phule for the first time , made strong demand in memorandum submitted to Hunter Commission in 1882 for free & compulsory education to all. This plea was accepted on the instance of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and incorporated in the Constitution of Free India in 1950.
Widow re-marriage was banned then and the child marriages were very common among the Hindus including Brahmins. Many Hindu widows resorted to Sati (burning of the bride with the dead body of their husbands) in full public view. Many women got windowed in their young age and not all of them could live in a manner in which orthodox people expected them to live. Some of the helpless widows resorted to abortion or left their illegitimate children to their fate by leaving them on the streets. Out of pity for them Jyotirao Phule established on orphanage, possibly first such Institution founded and funded by a Hindu. The Phule couple gave protection to pregnant widows and assured them that this orphanage would take care of their children and Savitribai Phule Shouldered the responsibility of managing the orphanage. It was in this orphanage where a Brahmin widow named Kashi Bai gave birth to a boy in 1873 and the Phule couple adopted new born as their son and heir giving him name as Yashuwant, who was given education to become a qualified doctor. During 1876-77 famine she feed and cared about 200 children with the help of her doctor son free of cost. She was a great source of strength to her husband.
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