In 1848, aged 21, Phule visited the first girls' school in Ahmadnagar, run by Christian
missionaries. It was also in 1848 that he read Thomas Paine's book Rights of Man and
developed a keen sense of social justice. He realized
that lower castes and women were at a disadvantage in Indian society, and also that
education of these sections was vital to their emancipation.To this end and in the same
year, Phule first taught reading and writing to his
wife, Savitribai, and then the couple started the first indigenously-run school for girls in
Pune.In his book Gulamgiri, Phule says that the first school was for Brahmin and upper caste
girls, however Phule's biographer says
it was for low caste girls.The conservative upper caste society of Pune didn't approve his
work. But many Indians and Europeans helped him generously.Conservatives in Pune also forced
his own family and community to ostracize
them.During this period, their friend Usman Sheikh and his sister Fatima Sheikh provided
them with roof over their heads.They also helped to start the school in their premises.
Later, the Phules started schools for children
from the then untouchable castes such as Mahar and Mang. In 1852, there were three Phule
schools in operation 273 girls were pursuing education in these school but by 1858 they had
all closed. Eleanor Zelliot blames the closure
on private European donations drying up due to the Indian Mutiny of 1857, withdrawal of
government support, and Jyotirao resigning from the school management committee because of
disagreement regarding the curriculum.
Women's welfare He championed widow remarriage and started a home for high caste pregnant
widows to give birth in a safe and secure place in 1863. His orphanage was established
in an attempt to reduce the rate of infanticide.
The Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee unveiled the statue of Mahatma Jyotirao Phule
at Parliament House in New Delhi on December 3, 2003. Phule tried to eliminate the stigma of
social untouchability surrounding
the lower castes by opening his house and the use of his water-well to the members of the
Views on religion and caste Phule recast the prevailing Aryan invasion theory of history,
proposing that the Aryan conquerors of India, whom the theory's proponents considered to be
racially superior, were in fact barbaric
suppressors of the indigenous people. He believed that they had instituted the caste system
as a framework for subjugation and social division that ensured the pre-eminence of their
Brahmin successors. He saw the subsequent
Muslim conquests of the Indian subcontinent as more of the same sort of thing, being a
repressive alien regime, but took heart in the arrival of the British, whom he considered to
be relatively enlightened and not supportive
of the varnashramadharma system instigated and then perpetuated by those previous invaders.
In his book, Gulamgiri, he thanked Christian missionaries and the British colonists for
making the lower castes realise that they are
worthy of all human rights. The book, whose title transliterates as slavery and which
concerned women, caste and reform, was dedicated to the people in the US who were working to
Phule saw Rama, the hero of the Indian epic Ramayana, as a symbol of oppression stemming
from the Aryan conquest. His critique of the caste system began with an attack on the Vedas,
the most fundamental texts of upper-caste
Hindus. He considered them to be a form of false consciousness.
He is credited with introducing the Marathi word dalit (broken, crushed) as a descriptor for
those people who were outside the traditional varna system. The terminology was later
popularised in the 1970s by the Dalit Panthers.
At an education commission hearing in 1884, Phule called for help in providing education for
lower castes. To implement it, he advocated making primary education compulsory in villages.
He also asked for special incentives
to get more lower-caste people in high schools and colleges.
On 24 September 1873, Phule formed Satyashodhak Samaj to focus on rights of depressed groups
such women, the Shudra, and the Dalit. Through this the samaj he opposed idolatry and
denounced the caste system. Satyashodhak
Samaj campaigned for the spread of rational thinking and rejected the need for priests.
Phule established Satyashodhak Samaj with the ideals of human well-being, happiness, unity,
equality, and easy religious principles and rituals. A Pune-based newspaper, Deenbandhu,
provided the voice for the views of the
The membership of the samaj included Muslims, Brahmans and government officials. Phule's own
Mali caste provided the leading members and financial supporters for the organization.