Jyotiba Phule, a renowned social activist, was born on 11 April 1827 in Katgun, near Pune in Maharashtra. He was a businessman, anti-caste social reformer and writer. His journey of social reform extended to many fields, the most significant being eradication of untouchability, education of women and those in deprived sections of society and efforts towards eradication of the caste system in society.
Phule’s contribution to social justice, women education, social upliftment and efforts towards eradication of the caste system and untouchability in the many spheres of his influence and his efforts to fight all of the above elements plaguing the Indian society led him to be given the title of Mahatma by Vithalrao Krishnaji Vandekar a few years before his death. Jyotiba’s ancestors were in the flower trade. They used to bring flowers from the fields in the rural areas, make gajras, garlands and sell them in nearby areas. Hence the name “Phule”.
Jyotiba married Savitribai in 1940 and they were married for 50 years, when Jyotiba passed away on 28 November 1890. Mahatma Jyotiba Phule was influenced by the teachings and life of Gautam Buddha, Kabir, Tukaram and Emperor Ashoka among others. He wanted to eradicate the social differentiation between man and woman and felt that education of women would achieve this goal to a large extent. He also taught his wife Savitribai, who went on to take Teachers’ training from Ahmednagar and Pune.
Phule promoted women education and was instrumental in setting up the first school for girls from the lower and underprivileged strata of society. The school was opened by Jyotiba and his wife Savitribai in 1948. Savitribai taught in this school, becoming the first woman teachers in India.
The government of Rajasthan, under the leadership of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot approved the birthday of Jyotiba Phule as a public holiday effective 2023. This was done on the request of social organisations and local leaders from across the state. The request was also signed by Mamta Bhupes, the State Minister for Women and Child Development; Dinesh Kumar Saini, Rajasthan President of National Phule Brigade; Lokesh Malakar from Nagaur Parbatsar among others. Many prominent leaders paid their tributes to Mahatma Jyotiba Phule on 11 April, on his 196th Birth Anniversary.