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Savitribai Jyotirao Phule (January 3, 1831 � March 10, 1897) was a social reformer, who, along with her husband, Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, played an important role in improving women's rights in India during the British Rule.
Savitribai was the first female teacher of the first women's school in India and also considered as the pioneer of modern Marathi poetry. In 1852 she opened a school for Untouchable girls.
Women's education and social reform
Mahatma Jyotirao is regarded as one of the most important figures in the social reform movement in Maharashtra and India. He is most known for his efforts to educate women and the lower castes. Jyotirao was Savitribai�s mentor and supporter. Under his influence Savitribai had taken women�s education and their liberation from the cultural patterns of the male-dominated society as mission of her life. She worked towards tackling some of the then major social problems, including women�s liberation, widow remarriages and removal of untouchability.
Women's education:However, apart from all these oppositions, Savitribai yet continued to teach the girls. Whenever Savitribai went out of her house, groups of orthodox men would follow her and abuse her in obscene language. They would throw rotten eggs, cow dung, tomatoes and stones at her. She would walk meekly and arrive at her school. Fed up with the treatment meted out to her, she decided to give up. But it was because of her husband that she continued with her efforts. He told Savitribai that Jyotirao, who was working for women's education, had started the first girls' school and required women teachers to assist him.Jyotirao educated and trained Savitribai, his first and ideal candidate for this job of a teacher. Savitribai and Jyotirao faced fierce resistance from the orthodox elements of society for this. Jyotirao sent her to a training school from where she passed with flying colours along with a Muslim lady Fatima Sheikh. When Savitribai completed her studies, she, along with her husband, started a school for girls on 1 January 1848 in a place called Bhide Wada, Narayan Peth, Pune. Nine girls, belonging to different castes, enrolled themselves as students.Slowly and steadily, she established herself. Jyotirao and Savitribai were successful in opening 5 more schools in the year 1848. She was ultimately honoured by the British for her educational work. In 1852 Jyotirao and Savitribai were felicitated and presented with a shawl each by the government for their commendable efforts in Vishrambag Wada.
Savitribai's poems and other writings are still an inspiration to others. Two books of her poems were published, Kavya Phule in 1934 and Bavan Kashi Subodh Ratnakar in 1982. Recently the Maharashtra government started an award in her name for Women Who Work Social Causes.Social reforms
Savitribai was not only involved in educational activities of Jyotirao but also in every social struggle that he launched. They also fought against all forms of social prejudices. They were moved to see the untouchables who were refused drinking water meant for the upper caste. Both Jyotirao and Savitribai opened up their reservoir of water to the untouchables in the precincts of their house.
Once Jyotirao stopped a pregnant lady from committing suicide, promising her to give her child his name after it was born. Savitribai readily accepted the lady in her house and willingly assured to help her deliver the child. Savitribai and Jyotirao later on adopted this child who then grew up to become a doctor. This incident opened new horizons for the couple. Many women were driven to commit suicide by men who had exploited them to satisfy their lust and then deserted them. Therefore, Savitribai and Jyotirao put boards on streets about the "Delivery Home" for women on whom pregnancy had been forced. The delivery home was called "Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha".
Jyotirao and Savitribai were also opposed to idolatry and championed the cause of peasants and workers. They faced social isolation and vicious attacks from people whom they questioned. After his demise, Savitribai took over the responsibility of Satya Shodhak Samaj, founded by Jyotirao. She presided over meetings and guided workers.
In 1868 she welcomed untouchables to take water from her well. She also was the first woman to light her husband's pyre in the history of India.
Jyotirao and Savitribai opposed idolatry and championed the cause of peasants and workers. Both faced social isolation and vicious attacks from the people whom they questioned. Savitribai's letters give us a good idea about the experiences of women during this social movement. On her death anniversary, a postage stamp was released by the Department of Post and Telegraph.On March 10, 1998 a stamp was released by Indian post to honour Savitribai's contribution.Savitribai was a "Vidya Jyoti" for all those who want to do something in the field of education.
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Thanks for viewing.2013�Sonali T. Gangane
March 14th, 2013
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