Published By- Aqil Raza
By- Prof. Dr. Ratna Panvekar ~
SAVITRIBAI PHULE-AN IDEOLOGY
Savitribai was born in an era when women were treated as badly as animals. The social structure was so inhuman that women did not had any scope for education nor any freedom. She was born at Naigaon Taluka Khandala district Satara on 3rd January 1831. Her mother’s name was Lakshmibai and her father was a Patil of that village and fondly called as Khandoji Nevase Patil. Savitribai was married with Jyotirao Phule in 1940. At the time of marriage she was 9 years old and Jyotirao was 13. Savitribai father in law was a farmer at Phursingi near Pune. Later on he migrated to Pune and started business of florist. He was very successful in business and people started recognising him as Phule. Jyotirao lost his mother in childhood. His maternal sister Sagunaoo brought him up. Sagunaoo was also working at a British officer’s house and took care of the Officer’s son. While working she started understanding English and later on learned to speak English. She used this knowledge to inspire Jyotiba. After marriage Savitribai carried a book given by a Christian Missionary to her. Jyotirao realised his wife’s interest in education, inspired her to get into education. Thus, Savitribai’s education commenced. She not only literate herself but also got ready to educate underprivileged women and oppressed people of our country.
In the age when women were confined to their kitchen and kids, Savitribai laid down the foundation for women education and women empowerment. It was the time when the society was based on caste, religion and gender. Savitribai didn’t bother this social structure. On 1st January 1848 she started the first school for girls in Bhide wada. She took responsibility of principal of that school. In the beginning there were 6 girl students in that school, but at the end of 1848 the numbers rose to 40-45. The fundamentalists of the upper castes termed these schools as anti-religion and tried to demoralise Savitribai by abusing and attacking her with stones and cow dung. Once she was hit by a stone on her ear that lead to injury causing bleeding, that could not deter her from her noble mission, and she kept walking. After reaching to the school she saw the girl students gathered by Jyotirao, it made her happy and she forgot the earlier incident. Savitribai provided slates and pencils to the girls. This lead to beginning of girls educations .Now Savitribai wept out. The tears were of joy and relief. She thought that these girls will uplift women in future. She realised that for spreading education, self-confidence in women is required. She struggled very hard to sustain this movement. Within few years, Savitribai and Jyotirao started 18 new schools. British rulers felicitated Phule duo in 1852 under Major Kady for their contribution in the field of education. British government also announced grant to their schools.
Savitribai was the first woman teacher, principal, women uplifter, social reformist, and poetess. ‘Women should learn’ was her slogan.
Savitribai fought against several evil traditions related to women. Women had to suffer atrocities due to child marriage, child-adult marriage, tradition of Sati and tonsure. Many girls had to face widowed life because of child-adult marriage. In those days remarriage of a widow was not permitted. So, the girls who refuse to adopt inhumane sati tradition were force to tonsure. Many times these underprivileged girls had to face rape too. There was no place for pregnant widows and their kids in the society. Many women’s committed suicides because of brutal orthodox rules. For avoiding this, Jyotiba started a special prohibitionary ward which was run by Savitribai successfully. In this ward she helped many women in their pregnancy, delivery, she also arranged many inter-caste marriages. She participated whole heartedly in the mission of widow remarriage. She also fought against tonsure of widows and got the support of barbers. Her efforts resulted in reforms in barbers which caused barber strike condemning the tonsure of widows. She made immense contribution in Satyashodhak Samaj movement which was shaped by Jyotiba Phule. After the demise of Mahatma Phule she took the responsibilities of this organisation and gave shelter to oppressed and became patron of many orphans. She served all the people especially oppressed and women’s. During 1896-97 Pune was engulfed with Plague and many people succumbed to death due to the deadly disease. British rulers at that time realised that this disease is infectious and for precaution they searched for probable victims and shifted them at distant locations. Without caring for her own health Savitribai started a clinic on the yard of Sasane near Pune for the plague patients. Unfortunately, she got infected with plague and passed away on 10 march 1897.
Women prosperity, their social awareness and responsibility
Women has realised her strength in 21st century. She has created her own identity in this world. She learned how to fight for her rights. She also has learned how to fight against injustice. She is walking shoulder to shoulder with men and proved that women are not substandard intellectually and morally. Women threw away the tradition and belief that girls has to look after kitchen and kids after marriage and learning is useless. Now the women have become self reliant by taking required education. They are creating their position not only in the motherland but also in foreign countries.
But a big question still remains to be answered. Are present generation of women aware of Savitribai’s sacrifice and devotion for women freedom? I regret that the progressive women of this modern day have forgotten Savitribai’s contribution. They forgot that Savitribai sacrificed whole life for liberating women from the social evils.
The present day progressing Indian women have no idea and contributions of legend Savitribai as a liberator from an injustice system. Who is responsible for their intellectual degradation? They need to dig their past and think rationally.It is useless for women to break her bangles on a washing stone or on own forehead. On the contrary they should do that on those heads which are responsible for their intellectual degradation and it will be nothing sort of a proper repayment of social responsibility.
Crores of salutes to Savitribai who worked restlessly for the upliftment of unprivileged, and liberating women from the slavery at the hands of religious fundamentalists.
– Prof. Dr. Ratna Panvekar (Ph.D. in Physics) is an Assistant professor in Physics at MH Saboo Siddik College of engineering, Mumbai. Besides teaching she is involved in writing shorts articles, songs, and poems.