Savitribai Phule

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Savitribai Phule
MAHATMA fule vada (23).JPG
Statue of Phule and her husband, Jyotirao Phule
Born January 3, 1831
Died March 10, 1897

Savitribai Jyotirao Phule (January 3, 1831 – March 10, 1897)[1] was an Indian social reformer. Along with her husband, Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, she played an important role in improving women's rights in India during British Rule. They started the first women's school at Pune in 1848.[2] Savitribai Phule is considered a pioneer of modern Marathi poetry.[3]


Early Life[edit]

Savitribai Phule was born on January 3, 1831 at Nigav village in Satara district|Satara, Maharastra. Her parents were Laxmibai (mother) and Khandoji Nevse (father). She was the eldest daughter in the Patil family. She was very interested in climbing trees, and some other naughty works. Her father was the village chief. Savitribai was just nine years old when she was married Jyotirao Phule (age thirteen) in the year 1840. Jyotirao lost his mother at a very young age and was raised by his maternal female cousin, Saguna. Saguna who worked as a nanny for a British officer’s son, understood and spoke English. She used this knowledge in attracting Jyotirao towards education. Jyotirao was very much interested in studies and collecting the histories of great personalities. Inspired by Madam Farar, Jyotirao started teaching Savitri. Once Jyotirao's father questioned the purpose of educating his wife. Jyotirao mentioned that everyone in society was equal and one day Savitri too would prove his father wrong.


Savitribai started the first girls school in 1848 at Pune, India .[4] Saguna was one of the teachers there. A year later a school was started in Bhide Wada in Pune. The first school had to be abruptly closed due to lack of support for education from the lower castes.

Savitri realized that in addition to working on education it was necessary to work on other social fronts, to build up the self-esteem and confidence of women.

The practice of child marriages and high mortality rates in the 19th century meant girls often became child-widows. As was customary, the widow's head would be clean shaven to make her unattractive to other men. Savitribai and Jyotirao were moved by the plight of such widows and penalized the barbers by organizing a strike to persuade them not to shave the heads of widows. Also these helpless women, with no rights to denial, were easy prey for lusting men. The resultant pregnant widows would resort to suicide or killing the newborn for fear of being ostracized by the society. Once Jyotirao stopped a pregnant lady from committing suicide, promising her to give her child his name after it was born. Savitribai accepted the lady in her house and helped her deliver the child. Savitribai and Jyotirao later adopted this child, who grew up to become a doctor. This incident led the couple to open a "Delivery Home" for women on whom pregnancy had been forced. The delivery home was called "Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha". Savitri ran the home and considered all the children born in the home her own. Savitribai was not only involved in the educational efforts of Jyotirao, but also in social reforms that her husband pursued. Moved by the treatment of the untouchables, who were refused drinking water meant for the upper caste, both Jyotirao and Savitribai opened up their Well to the untouchables. In 1868, Savitribai 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.

The Phule family did valuable work during the plague as well. Savitribai Phule and her son, Dr Yashwant Phule opened a clinic and treated people at Sasane Mala, Hadapsar, which was out of the city and free of infection. Savitribai personally took patients to the clinic and Yashwant treated them.[citation needed] There is an interesting anecdote about Savitribai carrying Pandurang Babaji Gaikwad, from Mundhwa to the clinic. After treatment, he beat the infection but Savitribai got infected, and this led to her death.


[citation needed]In 1897 the village was affected by the worldwide Third plague pandemic of bubonic plague. All the people in the village fled into the forest. Savitribai saw a baby of 2 years suffering with severe pains. Though it was a communicable disease, she took the baby to the doctor in her arms. Unfortunately this action did not save the child but also got Mrs. Phule infected who succumbed to it on March 10, 1897.


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.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.

On July 7, 2014, the state cabinet of Maharashtra voted to rename the University of Pune as Savitribai Phule Pune University.[5]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Mahatmaphule
  2. ^ Mariam Dhawale. "AIDWA Observes Savitribai Phule Birth Anniversary". Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
  3. ^ Savitribai Phule: Kal Ani Kartrutva. Savitribai was a published poet of two poetry collections-Kavyafule and Bawannakashi.
  4. ^ Commire, Anne; Klezmer, Deborah (2007). Dictionary of Women Worldwide: 25,000 Women Through the Ages. Detroit, MI: Yorkin Publications. p. 1512. 
  5. ^ Kothari, Vishwas (8 July 2014). "Pune university to be renamed after Savitribai Phule". Times of India. Retrieved 10 July 2014.