Kranti Jyoti Savitri bai Phule: The first woman teacher of India.
On 28th Nov, 1890, Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, the saint, the educationist, the feminist, had died. People gathered around his pyre along with his wife, family members, an adopted son and other relatives. There was an argument going on who would light the pyre between the adopted son and the family members. While the argument was going on one woman took up the fire and lit the pyre on her own. The woman was Jyotirao Phule’s wife, Savirtri Bai Phule, the Kranti Jyoti.
It is an irony that very few of us know about the first woman teacher of India who along with her husband and few very supportive friends built the ground for women education in India. Every girl in India who has obtained education should be thankful to her beacuse it was her relentless efforts which made women’s education possible in India.
It will not be any exaggeration to say that Savitri bai Phule ranks top among the leaders who have fought for women rights in India.
Savitri bai Phule was born on 3rd Jan,1831, into the modest house of Lakshmi and Khandoji Neveshe Patil at Naigaon in Maharashtra’s Satara district.She was the eldest child of them. At the very young age of 9 she was married to jyotirao phule who was 13 years old then.
Before going ahead with the fascinating life of Savitri bai, it is important to know the social life of our country at that time. This was the time when only the handful of people from upper cast could obtain the formal education. women and lower strata of society were not allowed to get education. The custom of sati, child marriage and infanticides were at the peak together with oppressive rules like Untouchability and caste stratification. Widow women had to shave their hair off and they were never allowed to Marry again.The social life was devilishly stereotype and adamant.
This was the time when the brave Savitirbai Phule at the age of 17 along with her husband started the first women school in India in 1848.
Savitri bai Phule did not have any education when she got married to Jyotirao. After her marriage, By her husband’s insistence she started taking class at their home. Jyotirao used to teach her in the afternoon at their farm when she would take food for him.Later she took two teacher’s training courses at the institute run by American missionary in Ahmednagar and in Pune’s Normal School.
Apparently, the orthodox people of that time did not like woman taking education. So, the pressure made upon Jyotirao’s father who told them either they stop doing the sinful work or move out of the house. The couple chose the latter option as they did not want to stop the activities which they thought was necessary. They stayed at Usman Shaikh’s house, a friend of Jyotirao. Here, savitri bai met usman Shaikh’s sister Fatima shaikh.Two of them went to the normal school together and become graduate with flowering numbers. Fatima sheikh is considered the first muslim woman teacher of india.
Phule’s first school and teaching.
It was the dream of jyoitirao Phule who was a scholar of hindu scriptures. By reading ancient scriptures he came to believe in equality. He had strong feeling that education is the key to equality.He first educated his wife. Now it is savitribai phule’s turn to educate other girls. So she started training some girls in maharwada along with shaguna bai, a reformer and mentor of jyotirao phule. Soon after that the phule couple started the first school for women. The school’s building was the house of tatya sahib bhide who was inspired by phule’s work.
Phule’s school was different from conventional school of that time.They included mathematics, science and social studies in their curriculum instead of traditional texts like Vedas and shastra.
As Mahatma Gandhi say they first ignore you then they laugh at you then they fight then you win. A reformation is always a pain to the orthodox people. Myriad reformers in india or anywhere in the world had to face and endure the stupidity and unwiseness of orhodox people. Socartes and meera had to drink poison, Jesus Christ was tortured by helots and Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead.
Phule couple’s life too was never easy as reformers.First they have been thrown out of their paternal house by jyotirao’s own father. But the undeterred couple continued their work.
Then it was the time of spreading rumors. Rumors used to be spread by quoting the ancient scrptires that the food eaten by jyotirao would turn into worms if woman took education.others say savtribai lose him an untimely death. These rumors, however, had no Impact on open and modern mind of either Jyotirao or Savitri bai.
Then came the phase of verbal and physical abusing. On the way of her home to school people gathered around her, abused her, tried to threaten her. Some even threw dung at her. It is said that Savitribai used to carry an extra sari while walking towards her school as people used to hurl stones and dung at her, apart from verbal abuses.
She endured all and nothing could deter her and she kept on increasing her schools and strength of the students. at one time she was running 18 schools.
In the very short duration since the beginning of their first school they have become very popular. In1850, they have already opened two educational trust – the Native Female School, Pune and The Society for Promoting the Education of Mahars, Mangs and others — which came to have many schools under them.
Mahila Seva Mandal : In 1852, the initiation by Savitri bai to increase the awareness about women rights. The peculiarity of this mahila seva mandal is that all the women irrespective of their caste had to sit on a same net.
Home for the Prevention of Infanticide :
The staunch and compassionate feminist Savitirbai started the home for prevention of infanticides. a place where widows could deliver their babies safely. They could leave the child there if they could not take care of it.
She also campaigned against child marriage, while supporting widow remarriage.
She believed in work not on words.the example of this can be seen as her own son was an adopted from brahmin widow.
She organised the very first marriage without dowry,brahmin priests or Brahminical rituals.
She was a strong supporter of inter caste marriage in fact her own son Yashwant had inter caste marriage.
Savitri bai Phule’s death was not actually a death.it was a martyrdom. In those days, the whole world was affected with bubonic plaque just like corona today. She and her adopted son started a clinic to help affected people.
She came to know about one affected child.she carried him on her shoulder to the hospital.in doing so she got the plaque and soon her heroic life came to an end.
Throughout her life she has been relentless supporter of humanity and stern opponent of oppressive treatment to women.
Note : This is the shortest biography of the greatest feminist of India.
I personally believe that this kind of biography can only open the door for far more possibilities of knowing about the great people.
So it is my request to all the readers to dive deep into the incredible life of the great feminist,
Kranti Jyoti Savitirbai Phule.