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Salute To Women Liberator - Savitribai Phule-
On Birthday, 3rd January

By Pardeep Singh Attri

04 January, 2010

Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. -- Buddha

Savitribai Phule (1831-1897), one of the supreme name who fought against the totalitarianism of caste and other social evils in India.

Historians, who are ought to be the free from fear, sincere, open minded, open hearted, truth seeker & also of courage to show the truth at any cost. But it’s misfortune that historians have shown distorted picture & never showed truth to the people. Hence as a result of which almost everyone confuse history with fiction & historians have made people blind, deaf & dumb – have disabled people from thinking rationally.

It has always wondered me why the “Teacher’s day” is not celebrated on the birthday of Savitribai Phule, the lady who started first ever school for the downtrodden

Mahatma Jotiba Phule and his wife Savitribai Phule were first among the people who declared war against Casteism and Brahminic-Casteist culture. The Maharashtrian pioneering couple led mass movement of uniting oppressed class against the Brahminic values and thinking. Savitribai Phule worked as an equal partner in the mission of uplifting the poor and oppressed people. Though, she was formerly uneducated, she was encouraged, motivated by Mahatma Jotiba Phule to study. Later on she became the first lady teacher of school started by her husband. Life of Savitribai Phule as a teacher in the school at the time when upper caste orthodox people used to look down wasn’t easy and many a they times used to pelt stones and throw dung on her. 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. But Savitribai Phule faced everything peacefully and with courageously.

Savitribai Phule was the first Dalit women, in-fact first women whose poems got noticed in the British Empire. Savitribai Phule was the mother of modern poetry stressing necessity of English and Education through her poems.

Go, Get Education

Be self-reliant, be industrious

Work—gather wisdom and riches,

All gets lost without knowledge

We become animal without wisdom,

Sit idle no more, go, get education

End misery of the oppressed and forsaken,

You´ve got a golden chance to learn

So learn and break the chains of caste.

Throw away the Brahman’s scriptures fast.

-- Poem by Savitribai Phule

At the time when even a shadow of untouchables were considered impure, when the people were unwilling to offer water to thirsty untouchables, Savitribai Phule and Mahatma Jotiba Phule opened the well in their house for the use of untouchables. It was a challenge thrown at the Brahmins so as they change their mindset towards untouchables. But even after almost 200 years, dalit (untouchables) still strive for water rights.

They took initiative to give education for downtrodden, thinking accurately that education is necessary for the restoration of social and cultural values. Savitribai Phule started ‘Mahila Seva Mandal’ in 1852, which worked for raising women’s consciousness about their human rights, dignity of life and other social issues. With grave personals he went on to organise a successful barbers’ strike in Mumbai and Pune against the prevailing practice of shaving of windows’ heads.

Savitribai Phule

During the 1876 to 1898 famines, Savitribai Phule worked courageously with her husband and suggested many new ways to overcome the difficult time. 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.

Rational thinking people will definitely question, how could it be possible that name of such a legend (Savitribai Phule) is omitted from the history books, when names like “Jhansi ki Rani”; Laxmibai and names of wives and ‘girl-friends’ of Gandhi-Nehru family are given in history books?

Indian women society is not aware of the greatness of Savitribai Phule, who dared to purse the nobel profession of ’teaching’ in the ‘Dark Age’. She dared to speak against the unpardonable boundaries imposed on the women society ofIndia, for which today’s women society should be grateful to her.

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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