Tag Archives: Mahatma Phule

17th July (1930) in Dalit History – Birth anniversary of famous Dalit poet – Baburao Ramaji Bagul


17th July (1930) in Dalit History- Birth anniversary of famous Dalit poet – Baburao Ramaji Bagul. Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar had huge influence on Baburao Bagul and his writings shows that. He was one of members who wrote the Manifesto of Dalit Panther.

Baburao Ramaji Bagul was born in village Vithigaon in Nashik district of Maharashtra state. After high school education, he did various manual jobs until 1968. While doing so, he published several stories in magazines, which started getting attention from Marathi readers. Eventually in 1963, came his first collection of stories, Jevha Mi Jat Chorali (जेव्हामी जात चोरली) (When I had Concealed My Caste), it created a stir in Marathi literature with its passionate depiction of a crude society and thus brought in new momentum to Dalit literature in Marathi; today it is seen by many critics as the epic of the Dalits, and was later made into a film by actor-director Vinay Apte.

He followed it up with a collection of Dalit poems, Akar (Shape) (1967), which gave immediate visibility, but it was his second collection of short stories Maran Swasta Hot Ahe (Death is Getting Cheaper) (1969), which cemented his position as an important Dalit voice of his generation. The collection is now considered an important landmark in Dalit writing in India and in 1970 he was awarded the ‘Harinarayan Apte Award’ by the Government of Maharashtra

Mother another work by Baburao Bagul is the depiction of fierce battle for life in an urban slum. The story revolves around a young, lower-caste Dalit widow and her son Pandu, who faces harsh realities of life. Their life was brought in a turmoil because their mutual understanding was breached and also because the upper caste people exploit the innocence of the child by poisoning his mind against his own mother. Their struggle to survive was so intense that there was no time for mutual understanding between the mother and the child. The story shows the pain and loss of the mother.

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After 1968, he became a full-time writer of literature which continued to deal with the lives of marginalized Dalit people in Maharashtra. His fictional writing gave graphic accounts of the lives of that class of people. The thoughts of Karl Marx, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, and Dr. Ambedkar had an influence on Bagul’s mind. He soon became an important radical thinker of the Dalit movement, and published a major ideologue of the Dalit Panther, Manifesto of Dalit Panther, in 1972. In the same year he presided over the ‘Dalit Literary Conference’ held at Mahad. Over the years his stories taught future Dalit writers to give creative rendition to their autobiographical narratives.

Baburao Bagul had said: “Dalit literature is the enemy of untouchablity and slavery. It has also the enmity against discrimination and pains. That is the genuine dalit literature which establishes human being a god more important than religion and region strongly condemns caste-Varna and liberates human being and honors him, dignifies him.”

Subsequently to his death in 2008, the Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University instituted the ‘Baburao Bagul Gaurav Puraskar’ award in recognition of his contributions to Marathi literature, to be given annually to the maiden story writing productions of a budding short-story writer.

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Book Review of “A Forgotten Liberator : The Life and Struggle of Savitribai Phule”


“A Forgotten Liberator : The Life and Struggle of Savitribai Phule”, is the first endeavour in English to spotlight upon one of the supreme names who fought against the totalitarianism of caste and other social evils in India. The book brought out by “Mountain Peak Publishers” on the life of Savitribai Phule (1831-1897) is a collection of essays written by six authors, those account the life struggle of marginalized and lower class women.

Read also – Mahatma Jotiba Phule and Savitribai Phule’s contribution towards women empowerment

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ISBN 978-81-906277-0-2, pp 95, price Rs.200/-

In times when even the shadow of untouchables were considered impure, when the people were unwilling to offer water to thirsty untouchables, Savitribai Phule and Mahatma Jotiba Phule shared their their house with them. It was a challenge thrown at the Brahmins to change their mindset towards untouchables. But even after almost 200 years, Dalits (untouchables) are still struggling for water rights.

In the essay “The Stuff Legends are made of” Cynthia Stephen writes “The young couple faced severe opposition from almost all sections. Savitribai was subject to intense harassment everyday as she walked to the school. Stones, mud and dirt were flung at her as she passed”.

Three letters written by Savitribai Phule to Mahatma Jotiba Phule are included in the anthology. From the letters it becomes evident that Savitribai Phule had great respect for her husband and had knowledge of all spheres of life and adept in handling difficult situations.

Sunil Sardar and Victor Paul present translations of Savitribai Phule’s five poems written in Marathi in the essay titled “Pioneering Engaged Writing”. Savitribai Phule was the first Dalit women, in-fact the first women whose poems drew attention in the British Empire. Savitribai Phule was the mother of modern poetry stressing necessity of English and education through her poems.

Read also – ‘First Lady’ Teacher of India: Savitribai Phule

The volume also contains a letter written by a eleven year old girl, Muktabai studying in Phule’s school under the chapter ‘Grief of the Mangs and Mahars’. The content of this letter is so strong for anyone to believe that this was written by a eleven year old girl. This shows the level of education and upbringing those children were getting in Phule’s school.

During the famines of 1876 – 1898, Savitribai Phule worked courageously with her husband and suggested many new ways to overcome the difficult times.  They started distributing free food at many locations. She died while she was nursing a plague – affected child — she got infected while serving the affected people. Apart from the exceptionally narrated essays of all six authors there are pictures and a list of important days in the life of Savitribai Phule, which give a glimpse into the life of the great liberator.

Check also – Few poems by Savitribai Phule

Indian women are not aware of the greatness of Savitribai Phule, who dared to purse the profession of teaching in the ‘Dark Age’. She dared to speak against the unpardonable boundaries imposed on women in the Indian society, for which today’s women should be grateful to her.  The book is one of its kinds and a must read for all those who believe in human rights and by those women organisations who speak a lot for women empowerment and feminism!

Braj Ranjan Mani writes:

“Savitribai Phule (1831-97), struggled and suffered with her revolutionary husband in an equal measure, but remains obscured due to casteist and sexist negligence. Apart from her identity as Jotirao Phule’s wife, she is little known even in academia. Modern India’s first woman teacher, a radical exponent of mass and female education, a champion of women’s liberation, a pioneer of engaged poetry, a courageous mass leader who took on the forces of caste and patriarchy certainly had her independent identity and contribution. It is indeed a measure of the ruthlessness of elite-controlled knowledge-production that a figure as important as Savitribai Phule fails to find any mention in the history of modernIndia. Her life and struggle deserves to be appreciated by a wider spectrum, and made known to non-Marathi people as well.”

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04th January in Dalit History – Mahatma Phule film was inaugurated by Dr. Ambedkar


4 January 1938: Reception was given to Dr. Ambedkar by the Sholapur Municipal Corporation[1].

Earlier on 30 December 1937, Dr. Ambedkar had addressed a conference which supported whole-heatedly the Mahar Vatan Bill that was introduced in the Assembly by their leader. From Pandharpur, Dr. Ambedkar went to Sholapur to address the Matang Conference. On his arrival, he was presented with a civic address of welcome by the Sholapur Municipality on the morning of 4 January 1938, at the Bhagwat Chitra Mandir. Dr. Ambedkar made a very important speech, expressing his views on the working of Parliamentary Democracy.

“In the political situation,” he delcared, “that has grown up in this country, there has grown the habit among the people of paying homage to only one political party, the Congress.”

“I am no believer,” continued he, “in Democracy as an ideal to be pursued in all circumstances and in all claims; and having regard to the present-day condition in India, Democracy is a most unsuitable system of the Government. At any rate, for some time India needs the strong hand of an enlightened autocrat,”

“In this country we have,” observed he, “Democracy, but it is a Democracy which has ceased to exercise its intelligence. It has bound itself hand and foot to one organization and only one. It is not prepared to sit in judgement over the doings or thinking of this organization. I consider it the greatest malasise, a disease and a sickness. It has affected all our people. They are intoxicatated.” “Unfortuanely,” he added, “the Indian people are by tradition men who have more faith and less wit. Anyone who does anything out of the ordinary, does something so eccentric as to be called in other countries as insane person, acquires in this country the status of a Mahatma or Yogi. And people follow him as the sheep follow the shepherd…. Democracy must learn to give a respectful hearing to all who are worth listening to.” “I am glad,” he concluded, “that the Sholapur Municipality has set an example in voting an address to me who do not belong to an organization which claims to be the only organization in the country and which all people are in a mood to uphold at present.”

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4 January 1954: Dr.Ambedkar performed inaugural Ceremony of biopic film Mahatma Phule at a famous studio in Bombay (now Mumbai)[2]

Dr. Ambedkar’s health had deteriorated again and for over two months he was under close treatment at Hotel Mirabille in Bombay. Although bedridden, he performed the inaugural ceremony of Atre Pictures Marathi offering ‘Mahatma Phooley’ at the famous studio in Bombay on Sunday, January 4, 1954. The film won the first prestigious President’s Silver Medal for Best Feature Film in Marathi in the 2nd National Film Awards function presented on December 21, 1955.[3],[4]

Acharya P.K.Atre was the Director, P Ramakant gave the music, Jyotiba Phule was played by Baburao Pendharkar and Savitribai Phule was played by Sulochana. Vasanat Rao Deshpande and Asha Bhosle were the playback singers.

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[1] Dhananjay Keer, Dr. Ambedkar: Life and Mission book, pg 298-299

[2] Dhananjay Keer, Dr. Ambedkar: Life and Mission book

[3] State award for films 1955 (book), Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, New Delhi

[4] Uddhav Shelke and Anand Patil, Makers of Indian Literature book, pg 41

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