. Jyotiba Phule (1827-1890), born in Satara, Maharashtra, belonged to the mali (gardener) community and organised a powerful movement against upper caste domination and brahminical supremacy. Phule founded the Satyashodhak Samaj (Truth Seekers’ Society) in 1873, with the leadership of the samaj coming from the backward classes, malis, telis, kunbis, saris and dhangars. The main aims of the movement were
- social service, and
- spread of education among women and lower caste people.
Phule’s works, Sarvajanik Satyadharma and Gulamgiri, became sources of inspiration for the common masses. Phule used the symbol of Rajah Bali as opposed to the brahmins’ symbol of Rama. Phule aimed at the complete abolition of the caste system and socio-economic inequalities; he was against Sanskritic Hinduism. This movement gave a sense of identity to the depressed communities as a class against those brahmins who used religion and the blind faith of the masses to exploit the masses for personal monetary gain.
Phule, a firm believer in gender equality, was a pioneer in women’s education; he with the help of his wife, Savitribai, opened a girls’ school at Poona; he was a pioneer of widow remarriage movement in Maharashtra and also opened a home for widows in 1854. Phule was awarded the title ‘Mahatma’ for his social reform work.