Famous Personalities of India : Jotiba Phule
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Jotiba Phule PHULE, JOTIBA GOVIND (1827-1890). Phule was born in Poona to a family of gardeners that supplied flowers to the Peshwa's household. He grew to be one of the leading social reformers of the century, whose practical efforts matched his convictions. His schooling was an interrupted one, but he took inspiration from the lives and writings of Indian and American leaders and became a prolific writer in Marathi and English. His most famous work was Gulamgiri (Slavery) published in 1872.

Phule took up cudgels on behalf of the middle and lower castes against Brahman domination, and in behalf of all women against crippling social customs. In 1848 he opened a school for non Brahman girls whom his wife taught and subsequently set up three more schools and a library for low caste children as well as an orphanage for the children of Brahman widows.

In 1878 he opened another orphanage where 2,000 children were fed twice a day. Phule was a part-time teacher in the Scottish Mission school, raised funds from Christians, and blessed British rule for providing the means of liberation to those oppressed by the Hindu caste hierarchy. He demanded free education for all to the age of twelve, advocated technical and vocational training, and called for reform of Hindu marriage customs so as to dispense with priests. He formed a society for human rights and social justice in 1873 and used the press as a platform to propagate his views; they naturally provoked considerable opposition. But Phule also received recognition within his lifetime and served as an inspiration for later reform movements, such as that of the Mahars led by Dr. Ambedkar.

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