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Dalit History Month – Remembering Mahatma Jotiba Phule


Today in Dalit History, in honor of Mahatma Phule Jayanthi, or birthday, we dedicate our post to Jyotirao Phule – an activist, a thinker, and a social revolutionary of the nineteenth century.

While he was not of a Dalit but a Shudra background, his ideals, works and actions have had an invaluable liberatory impact on Dalits.

Born April 11th 1827 before the widespread Adi-movements, Phule was the first to propound caste as a subjugation and oppression on an indigenous peoples by invaders. He stressed that caste was equivalent to slavery, as vicious and brutal as the enslavement of Africans in the Americas and unique in its deception and religious sanction.

Check alsoDalit History Month – Jhalkari Bai – A Legendary Dalit Woman Warrior

Mahatma Jotiba Phule

Mahatma Jotiba Phule

In his revolutionary book, Gulamgiri (Slavery) published in 1873, Jyotirao included a manifesto which amongst other things declared that he was willing to dine with all regardless of their caste, creed or country of origin and that social salvation was to be found only in the education of women and Dalits. This content was deemed extremely controversial at the time and several newspapers blatantly refused to publicize it.

He believed that Dalits were a group of people who had suffered added repression and persecution because they had at one time been actively engaged in fighting invading Brahmanism on the ground. His salvation describes the unity of the Shudras and Adi-Shudras (Dalits) into one exploited mass of people rising up in powerful political unity.

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He and his wife, Savitribai Phule, became pioneers of women’s education in India, and together started the first school for girls on January 1st 1848 at Bhide’s wada in Pune. They also started schools in which they educated both girls and Dalits.

Like most Dalit and anti-caste revolutionaries, he felt a strong need to establish an alternative religion to the one that was oppressing his people. What he began then, lead him to form the Satya Shodhak Samaj (Society of Seekers of Truth) whose main objectives were to liberate the Shudras and Ati Shudras and prevent exploitation by Brahmins within a strong context of gender equality.

His life-long work for equality has recognized when Phule was publicly conferred the title of Mahatma on 11 May 1888 and later termed the “Martin Luther King of India” by his biographer Dhananjay Keer. Dr.Ambedkar proudly declared that Phule was one his three spiritual mentors. His birthday continues to be a celebration all around the world where Dalits honor him for Mahatma Phule Jayanthi.

Read also – Dalit History Month – Jhalkari Bai – A Legendary Dalit Woman Warrior

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Life Sketch of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule


Life Sketch of Mahatma Jyotirao Phule

Mahatma Jyotiba Phule

Mahatma Jyotiba Phule

Events Year
Birth of Mahatma Jyotirao Phule. 11th April, 1827
Marathi education in Panthoji’s school. 1834 to 1838
Married to Savitribai, the daughter of Khandoji Nevase at Naigaon. 1840
Primary education(English) in Missionary School. 1841 to 1847
Study of Thomas Paine’s book ‘Rights of Man’. 1847
Humiliation at marriage procession of upper caste friend. 1848
Started school for girls of shudra and atishudra. 1848
Left home with wife because of oath taken to educate the Shudras. 1849
Started girls school at Chiplunkar’s wada 1851
Major Candy felicitated Jyotiba Phule for his contribution in the field of education. 16 Nov. 1852
Joined a Scottish school as a part time teacher. 1854
Started night school. 1855
Took retirement from the management board of school. 1858
Helped in the remarriage of widows. 1860
Started Infanticide Prohibition Home. 1863
Death of Jotirao’s father Govindrao. 1868
Opened the well of his house to the untouchables. 1868
‘Chatrapati Shivaji Raje Bhonsle yancha povada’. 1st June, 1869
Gulamgiri. 1 June 1873
Formation of ‘Satya Shodhak Samaj’. 24 Sept. 1873
Procession of Dayanand Saraswati. 1875
Report of Pune’s branch of Satya Shodhak Samaj. 20 March 1877
Member of Pune Muncipality. 1876 to 1882
Made presentation to Hunter Education Commission. 19 Oct. 1882
Written the most famous book ‘Shetkarayacha Aasud (Cultivator’s Whipcord)’. 18 July 1883
Published the book ‘Ishara’ 1 Oct.1885
Junnar Court’s decision in favour of villager’s right 29 March 1885
Felicitated by Duke of Connaught. 2 March 1888
Felicitated by public and was honoured with the title of’ MAHATMA’ 11 May 1888
Started writing the book ‘Sarvajanik Satya Dharma Poostak’ 1st April 1889
Death of Mahatma Jotirao Phule. 28 Nov 1890

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Books/work by Mahatma Jotiba Phule


Mahatma Jyotiba Phule

Mahatma Jotiba Phule

Drama: Trutiya Ratna (1855)

Powada: Chatrapati Shivaji Raje Bhonsle Yancha (1869)

Powada: Vidyakhathatil Bramhan Pantoji (1869)

Brahmananche Kasab (1869)

Gulamgiri (1873)

Pune Satya Shodhak Samaj Report (1877)

Request letter regarding Famine (1877)

Memorial Addressed to The Hunter Education commission (1882)

Shetkarayacha Asude (1883)

Letter to Marathi Granthkar Sabha (1885)

Gramjoshya sambhandi jahir kabhar (1886)

Letter to Mama Parmanand (1886)

Sataya Shodhak Samaj-sarva puja vidhi.

Sarvajanik Satya Dharma Poostak (1891)

Letters of Mahatma Phule

Will of Mahatma Phule

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Mahatma Jotiba Phule and Savitribai Phule’s contribution towards women empowerment

What Mahatma Jotiba Phule Said

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Filed under Dalit History, Dr B R Ambedkar, Mahatma Jotiba Phule, Savitribai Phule