Jyotiba Phule (A Modern Indian Philosopher)

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Item Code: NAF080
Author: Archana Malik-Goure
Publisher: Suryodaya Books
Language: English
Edition: 2013
ISBN: 9788192570211
Pages: 143
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 9.5 inch x 6.5 inch
Weight 210 gm
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Book Description
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Caste conflicts ruled the roost in the nineteenth-century India. It housed many social evils like untouchability, discrimination against women and the underprivileged, and sati. Education was the prerogative of the mighty Brahmins and the upper-class society, resulting in the perennial exploitation of the backward classes, Women, Farmer and widows.

Jyotiba Phule (1827-90) dawned as the savior of the weaker sections. Defying diktats and intimidations, he got himself and his wife educated. This paved the way for the Phule couples to start and successfully run few schools for the children of the downtrodden and girls. He opened his well for the untouchables’ use. Through tireless efforts and continued writings, he fought against the social injustices, nail and tooth. His writings were a new philosophy in the making –a philosophy of universal religion. He believed in God, bur refused to believe the Vedas, saying them as the handworks of Brahmins.

Man was his religion and his emancipation was his drive. He founded Widow Homes and orphanages. For him education was the key for liberation from all social evils. He fought with the English regime to have the children of farmers and the downtrodden equal rights to education. He was eventually accredited with the title “Mahatma

This book is sure to generate keen interest among social workers modern historians, researchers on social reforms and reformers, and students of philosophy sociology and political science.


About the author

Archana Malik-Goure is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Philosophy, University of Mumbai. She has specialized in Indian philosophy with special reference to ethics and contemporary schools, logic and analytic philosophy. She has also been working in the area from the perspective of gender debates. Her book Status of Women Asceticism in Jaina and Buddhist Tradition, examines the position of women in Jaina and Buddhist traditions; it also brings out the gendered implications of their ethical codes. She has presented and published research papers at national and international fora. Dr Malik-Goure is currently working on a comparative study of Indian and Greek conceptions of virtue.



Reading Archana Malik-Goure’s book Jyotiba Phule: A Modern Indian Philosopher has been a novel experience for me as a social scientist. I have read a large number of academic studies on Phule that focus on his life, his contribution to educational and social reforms and even to Indian nationalism. But none of them has engaged with Phule as thinker in a direct way. This is the first study that interprets Phule as a philosopher, with a systematic body of work that has impacted the local, national and global domains of culture and civilization. Phule’s ideals are argued to be cross-fertilization between his critique of obscurantist concepts handed down by tradition and his exposure to Western ideals of liberty, equality and solidarity. Malik-Goure has demonstrated how Phule’s philosophical thinking saw the critique of caste and gender inequality as a necessary condition for a humanitarian approach to the world. Since inequality persists in the domains of class, race and religion, Phule’s views can be extended to eradicating such hierarchies as well. Her discussion on Phule’s conception of universal religion is relevant in the contemporary atmosphere where there is a search for the principle of tolerance amongst religions. Thus, she treats Phule as a thinker who redefined Indian philosophy as a critique of tradition in the course of engaging with the philosophies that emerged in the modern Western world. In this process, she effectively brings out the relationship between Phule’s abstract philosophical thought and his concrete life-experiences.

Another remarkable feature in Malik-Goure’s study o Phule is that she locates him within the framework of the debate on modernity. The latter with its commitment to the normative ideals of freedom and equality, as well as, individual identity has been denounced as based in the European way of life. She argues that given his experience of caste oppression, Phule could not simply embrace any prevailing readymade notion of culture and community. For this would be vitiated by caste and gender hierarchies. Hence, Phule had to resist the turn to tradition that has become so fashionable amongst post-moderns today. In an illuminating argument, Malik-Goure shows how Phule has affinities with Descartes in his quest for thinking independently without the boundaries and chains of superstition. Her interpretation of Phule in this respect brings him to life in the contemporary context.

A distinct feature of this book is that it brings out the pioneering contribution made by Phule to problematizing gender. She argues that although on cannot term him as a “ feminist” in the current usage of the term, his opposition to the subjugation of women, his commitment to the equality of men and women, his recognition of the need to transform both the family and society simultaneously opens the space for modern feminism. As she argues Phule’s intellectual and activist engagement with his wife, Savitribai Phule-from whom he learnt immensely-enabled him to work for social change. Moreover, both Savitribai Phule and Jyotiba Phule symbolized the ideal of equality between men and women in family life, society and politics.

I am sure that scholars of philosophy who read this book will benefit from the author’s insightful discussions of Phule in the context of traditional Indian thought, as well as, Descrates and Mill. This book will also enrich social scientists as it brings out the relationship between human life and reflection to argue that theory and practice have a complementary relationship with each other. I am sure that this book will inspire other scholars in the field of philosophy to explore Phule’s writings within the framework of philosophical debates.



Mahatma Jyotiba Phule was one of the prominent social reformers of the nineteenth-century India. Though his movements were mostly confined to Maharashtra (the erstwhile Bombay), he has left permanent impressions in the annals of Indian socio-economic reforms. He could carve a niche for modern India.

Phule’s relentless fighting against the caste-based oppressions and the denial of rights to women makes him distinct from rest of the reformers of his time. His multifaceted persona is known very little to people outside Maharashtra. He was a poet, a reformer and a philosopher. More, he was a fine person, representing the dejected, oppressed and the unknown. Phule’s commitment to liberty, equality and sokidarity in the context of his critique of oppressive traditions was beyond compromise. It delineates his subsequent advocacy of universal humanism in implementing social reforms.

Though many books and studies on him are available in Marathi, there are very few studies on the philosophy of Phule in English. Here is an endeavour towards that direction, exploring the philosophical foundations of Phule’s social reforms and activism. Phule was motivated and driven by the philosophical wisdom of an egalitarian social order. Moreover, given the persistence of caste and gender discrimination in India today, his social criticism is still relevant. Thus, as a social and political philosopher, Phule has an abiding significance, and he deserves our homage.

We can clearly see the reflections of Phule’s philosophy in his autobiographical and theoretical writings. His real-life experiences were the furnace in which he moulded his philosophical theory. Phule’s social reform was motivated by the vision of an egalitarian social order and his own experience of caste oppression. This in turn compelled him to critique the Hindu Shastras and evolve an alternative philosophical perspective. In spelling out Phule’s philosophy, I will examine its contemporary and practical relevance from the viewpoint of his commitment to education, his critique of caste system and women’s oppression.

Phule argued that the education of women and the underprivileged castes should be vital in addressing social inequalities. Education still remains one of the most challenging needs of modern India. By revisiting Phule, we get to know the relationship between social criticism, philosophy, education and activism in the context of the problems of caste and gender besetting modern India. Chapter 1 provides a brief on Phule’s life, his works and writings. He can be interpreted as an Indian philosopher who transformed address traditional philosophy to the practical and social problems of inequality and oppression. One can read him as a thinker who separated himself from the metaphysical roots of Indian philosophy. This chapter examines the background to his work through the spectrum of his autobiography and the larger socio-historical canvas of the nineteenth-century Maharashtra.

Chapter 2deals with Phule’s contribution to the social reform movement as an activist against women’s oppression.India has produced numerous social reformers who played pivotal roles in making her a more progressive and forward-looking country. These social reformers have fought against several social evils such as sati, widow remarriage, child marriage and casteism. They have worked for the masses and made them aware of the importance of education and taught them to fight for their emancipation from evil customs and traditions. However, Phule’s unique contribution to social reforms was his fight against the caste system and gender oppression. Moreover, he used education as a tool to root out the evils of casteism and gender discrimination. For Phule, ignorance means darkness and education means sunlight. He realized that for social change, education is the only effective tool and decided to open its doors to women and the oppressed castes.

Phule’s critique of the caste-based tradition is the focus of Chapter 3. He bitterly disliked the chaturvarna system which was the safeguard of inequality in the Hindu society, and refused to regard the Vedas as sacred. He opposed idolatry and denounced the chaturvarnya. Phule believed that the critical spirit is central to philosophizing.

Chapter 4 deals with his philosophy on universal religion. Phule devoted his life to social work and also realized the importance of religion in the life of an individual and society. He believed that a non-dogmatic progressive religion can only emerge from education. Thus, there is a relationship between his philosophy of education and his philosophy of religion. This chapter elaborates this relationship by examining how he established the Satyashodhak Samaj and fought for the eradication of untouchability. Phule believed that false religion, idol worship and he caste system have together created havoc in India; this has been well portrayed in his book, Sarvajanik Satyadharma. It also explores his contribution to the philosophy of religion through poetic compositions.

In Chapter 5, I discuss Phule’s contribution to the making of modern India in the spirit of G.P. Deshpande. Phule’s humanism is based on the values like equality, justice and tranquility. He contributed to defining Indian identity from a casteist, patriarchal and feudal perspective to a humane, egalitarian and modern one. Modern India starts from the premise of freedom and equality of all individuals. Yet such a modern image could only emerge through critiques of caste such as those of Phule. Here, the relationship between humanism and modernity in Phule’s philosophy is elucidated.

This chapter ties together the various strands of arguments from the previous chapters. It shows how the life of Phule has become a new source of learning and inspiration for the present generation. His life provided an example to the downtrodden masses of humanity, courage, sincerity and selfless sacrifice. It also examines the relevance of auto-biography to the emergence of philosophical thinking.



Mahatma Jyotiba Phule (1827-90) was one of the mahatmas (great souls) of India who occupies a unique position among the nineteenth-century social reformers of Maharashtra. He lived at a time, when religious, political and social structures were under the control of Brahmanical and feudal forces. He was a teacher of the oppressed, a critic of orthodox social system and a revolutionary. He worked relentlessly for the education of women and the untouchables, for the upliftment of the underprivileged and structure. His revolutionary thoughts are a source of motivation for the new generation thinkers.

Phule, without doubt, is one of the makers of modern India. His spirit of modernity reflects in critiquing traditions and spelling out a prospective world of equality and freedom. He critiqued exploitative practices of tradition and also worked for the equality and rights of those who were oppressed.

Jyotiba Phule was a many time called as Jotirao Phule (Rao is an honorific term in Marathi). I would like to call his name Jyotiba instead of Jotirao, ba being an affectionate suffix. Jyoti means light or flame. He was a light of hope for the underprivileged class. He was born in 1827 in a family belonging to Mali caste, which is known in English as a caste of gardeners, perceived to be inferior by certain sections of the society. He belonged to the kshatriya Mali caste. The Malis belong to shudra varna and were placed immediately below the peasant caste. His father Govindrao was a vegetable vendor at Pune. Jyotiba’s family known as Gorhays came from Katgun, a village in the Satara district. His grandfather Shetiba Gorhay settled down in Pune. Since Jyotiba’s father and two uncles served as florists under the last of the Peshwas, they came to be known as Phule.

Jyotiba’s mother Chimanabai was a very religious woman. She had passed away when he was hardly one-year old. Instead of remarrying, Govindrao brought up Jyotiba and his brother Rajaram with great love and care. Jyotiba was healthy and had a striking personality. Govindrao got his son Jyotiba admitted to a Marathi Primary school at the age of seven. In primary school, he learned to read and write accounting Dharmashastra, grammar, Vedanta, etc. The social system was such that if a brahmin came across a clerk of the Maratha caste or of a caste other than his own, he would go livid. The Brahmin would say that Kaliyug was there, that learning (which had been held sacred) was being polluted by being imparted to the lower castes. Thus, the Brahmins held the belief that the other castes should not be imparted education. Hence, on the advice of a Brahmin clerk, Govindrao withdrew Jyotiba from the school after primary education and put him to work on his farm.

Jyotiba got married to Savitri, the nine-year old daughter of Zagde Patil from the village Dhanakwadi, near Pune. He was not even thirteen at that time.

Jyotiba was fond of reading during his free time. Two of his neighbours were quick in recognizing Jyotiba’s intelligence. One was an Urdu and Persian language teacher Gaffar Baig Munshi and another was a Christian gentleman Liggit. They were impressed by Jyotiba’s intelligence and his love for knowledge acquisition. They both explained the importance of education and advised Govindrao to send Jyotiba for further studies. This resulted in Govindrao admitting Jyotiba again to school. He started to study in a local Scottish Mission’s High School in 1841.

It was in this school that he met Sadashiv Ballal Govande, a Brahmin, who remained a close friend throughout his life. He also had Muslim friends with whom he discussed the relative merits of Hinduism and Islam. Both Jyotiba and Govande were greatly influenced by an American thinker Thomas Paine’s ideas and writings. They read his famous book Rights of Man (1791) with great interest. In the Scottish Mission School, Jyotiba got two more Brahmin friends, Moro Vithal Valvekar and Sakharam Yeashwa Paranjape. They, in later years, stood by him in all his activities. After completing his secondary education in 1847, Jyotiba decided not to accept a job under the government. In his controversial book, Gulamgiri (slavery) published in June 1873, Jyotiba put forth a manifesto which declared that he was willing to dine with all regardless of their caste, creed or country of origin.

With the help of his friends, a vision-to overthrow the British and make the country free and strong – took deep roots in Jyotiba’s mind. He was totally depressed due to the social and political slavery around him. He realized that in order to fulfil their goals and lead a purposeful life, physical fitness was essential. As a reflection of this, two of his friends took to sports –fencing and target practice.

The year 1848 was a turning point in Jyotiba’s life, when he was insulted by the family members of his Brahmin friend (the bridegroom), for him participating in the marriage procession. There were no non-brahmins in the procession as it was the practice among the Brahmins. Jyotiba was humiliated and was deeply hurt by the way in which he was treated. He returned home crying, and told his father about the incident. Govindrao advised him not to keep the issue close to his heart and pointed out that each caste should remain within its confines.

Jyotiba suddenly felt an alienation created by the caste system. He started reacting critically to the ground realities experienced by the majority of rural masses. He read broadly on American Democracy, the French Revolution and was struck by the logical thinking in Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man. Phule also studied tie socio-political writings of Paine. As a supporter of universal humanism, Pain wrote for individual freedom, against slavery and for the dignity of human person. In his book, Justice and Humanity, he discussed the issue of slavery of the African-Americans. He also wrote against the exploitation of women and in favour of human rights.

Influenced by Paine, Jyotiba developed a keen sense of social justice and became a passionate critic of the caste system. His education at a missionary school facilitated his egalitarian thoughts. He was simply thrilled at the prospect of modern education and believed that it could bring about a massive social change. He argued that education of women and the oppressed castes should be the vital priority in addressing social inequalities.

This conviction led him to social work. For him, ignorance meant darkness, and education meant sunlight. He realized that education is the only key to liberate shudras, ati-shudras and women. These people were intentionally denied education by the Brahmanical caste order. For social changes, he understood education as the effective tool and decided to open the door of education to women and underprivileged- class people. Thus their education became his priority. He was a thinker, a leader and the organizer of the underprivileged-class movement. He was an ardent advocate of their rights.

In 1848, Jyotiba got into action, and put his focus on educating the lower-caste boys and girls. As the first step, he encouraged his wife Savitri to read and write, and at home, began educating his wife. He opened the first girls. school on 15 May 1848 at Bhidewada in Pune. No female teacher was available to teach in the school. As no one dared to teach in a school in which untouchables were students, Jyotiba asked his wife to teach. This infuriated his orthodox opponents and they started a vicious campaign against him. They harassed Savitribai in many ways. Stones and bricks were thrown at her while she was on her way to the school. The villagers would throw cow dung at her. She fearlessly faced this offensive for several weeks. Her response was, “God forgive you. I am doing my duty. May God bless you!” But later depressed with the constant persecution and nasty opposition, she almost gave up. But Jyotiba gave her encouragement, care and trust. At last, their humiliating behavior stopped once she slapped one of her tormentors on the street. Despite all these agonies, both of them were very determined and refused to give up their mission.

The tormentors exerted immense pressure on Govindrao to convince his son that he was on the wrong track, and his doings were against the dharma. Yielding to the pressure, Govindrao asked his son and daughter-in-law to give up their work. But both of them refused to divulge from their noble task. Accordingly, Govindrao told his son to go his own way and ordered both husband and wife to leave his house. They chose their social work over the personal comforts. Jyotiba and his wife with heavy hearts moved out from their father’s house, bare handed. Savitribai stood by her husband at this time of trial and tribulations. They had to face rigid opposition from the society on account of their social activities, especially for educating women and lower-caste people.

Jyotiba also took keen interest in establishing a network of institutions through which it was possible to educate the masses. He opened two more schools for girls in 1851. He was honoured by the Board of Education for the work he did for girls’ education in 1852. By 1858, he took leave of the management of these schools and stepped into a wider spectrum of social reforms. He turned his attention onto other social evils. He supported the movement for widow remarriage in 1860 and in 1863 established a Home for the prevention of infanticide. The Phule couple did not have a child. In 1874, Jyotiba and Savitribai adopted a child, the son of a Brahmin widow from the Home, and named him Yashwant. It happened such that Jyotiba saw a woman about to commit suicide, jumping into a river. He rushed to stop her. She was a six-month pregnant widow, and a victim of rape. Jyotiba calmed her and took her home. The woman thus delivered Yashwant. The Phule couple made him their legal heir. They educated Yashwant to be a doctor. By their astonishing and exceptional act of adoption, Jyotiba challenged many preconceived notions of caste, ancestry, parenthood, and so on.

Jyotiba’s activities were extended beyond the field of education. He threw open the drinking water tank in his house to untouchables. This would be considered a brave act even today. In 1868, it was a revolutionary step. He believed that revolutionary thought had to be backed by revolutionary practice. In 1873, Jyotiba and his colleagues started the Satya Shodhak Samaj to organize the oppressed castes against the prevailing Hindu social order, based on varna and caste system. Through this body, people still recollect him. The government appointed him as a member of the Poona Municipality in 1876. He continued as its member till 1882 and fought for the cause of the downtrodden.

In 1888, in recognition to his great social work for the lower castes, the people of the erstwhile Bombay, bestowed upon him the title “Mahatma”. He belonged to the first generation of social reformers in the nineteenth century. Dhananjay keer, his biographer, rightly described him as “the father of Indian social revolution”. He died in 1890 at Pune. He was a pioneer of religious and social reforms, and inspired many to take up the mantle of social reforms. People lamented his death as an irreparable loss to the underprivileged community and many called it a “national disaster”. His conflict with the oppression of gender and caste was rigid and distinguished by a consonance between theory and practice which was rare among the social reformers of his time.

Jyotiba Phule’s Writings

Besides being a leader and organizer of the underprivileged- class movement, Phule was a philosopher in his own right, with several books and articles to his credit. He wrote several scathing articles in the Deenbandhu and the Sudharak Patrika, Jyotiba wrote numerous books of prose and abhangas. Abhangas were a popular poetic form used by the bhakti poets. He wrote abhangas in an influential style and created a new word for them, akhanda. He also composed magalashtakas to be sung at weddings, and these songs were included in the Sarvajanik Satyadharma. He wrote mainly in his mother tongue, Marathi. Jyotiba’s prose, his use of nineteenth-century colloquial language, his system of argumentation and his poetry were greatly influenced by the seventeenth-century bhakti poet, Tukaram. He was very fond of the dialogue form. His language of writing was remarkable and very unique. There is much in his Marathi that comes from the spoken, rather than the literary language. His use of Marathi was the real Marathi and was not the Sanskritized Marathi of the Brahmins, but that which draws from the language of the masses.

As the following overview of Jyotiba’s writings reveal, he aimed at combining theory with practice.


This is an alliterative poetry that recounts the achievements of a warrior, the talents and attainments of a scholar, or the power, virtues and excellencies of a person. Jyotiba published a book of povadas. A magazine, Vividha Dnanavistar, published his poems, though with the malefic intention to prove that Jyotiba’s views were wrong. According to Jyotiba, the Brahmins were the real Aryans who came to India from Iran and were responsible for the degradation of the original inhabitants of this country, whom they treated as shudras.

He painted an authentic picture of the social conditions of the time. The government collected tax from the farmers, but their children did not get education in the government schools. In his povadas, Jyotiba sent a petition to Queen Vichtoria: “Please save the farmers from the Brahmins’ clutches. Please appoint clerks and teachers from other castes”.

The povada that Jyotiba wrote on Shivaji was published in 1869. In the Shivajipovada, going by Jyotiba,“Shivaji plated the flag of the Hindus”with the blessings of his mother and the help of his brave and loyal associates. He also mentioned that Shivaji made Ramdas his guru, and “the beloved child of Jijabai became a messenger of death for the Mohammedans. I sing the ballad of Shivaji. The ornaments of the Kunbis sing the ballad of the Bhosle of chatrapati Shivaji.”

Brahmananche Kasab (The Cleverness Of Brahmins)(1869)

In this collection of poems, Brahmananche Kasab, Jyotiba said that the ignorant and gullible farmers performed religious rites according to the orders of Brahmin priests and mendicants. They were blissfully unaware that they were being oppressed. He ruthlessly attacked this kind of religious innocence and customs, the details of which he gave in the poem. Through his poems Jyotiba exposed the exploitation of the Brahmin priests. Jyotiba published this collection of poems himself. He requested the Education Department to buy the copies of the book, but, they did not recommend such a book for general reading, let alone for the schools.

Gulamgiri (Slavery) (1873)

Gulamgiri is Jyotiba’s most significant and influential seminal theoretical work. It sought to identify the main contradiction in the Maharashtrian society, centred on the slavery of the shudra-ati-shudras. It posed the issue of slavery in historicist terms. He observed a twofold division of society-the Brahmins and the shudra-ati-shudras. The latter group had to build a unity going beyond their respective castes. “All slaves must unite; they have nothing to lose but their chains,” one could thus summarize the message of this stirring manifesto. He published two manifestos under the title Brahmani Dharmcharya Aadpadadyat (Behind the Screen of Brahminical Religion). In them he asserted the ideals – proclaimed by the French Revolution –freedom, equality and fraternity. Jyotiba was inspired by Abraham Lincoln, the champion of human freedom, who had abolished slavery in America in 1863.

It is important to recall that several newspapers refused to give publicity to the manifesto and its contents. Gulamgiri was severely criticized for its “venomous propaganda” against the Brahmins. Jyotiba dedicated this book to the good people of the United States, as a token of admiration for their sublime, disinterested and self-sacrificing devotion to the cause of Negro Slavery. The book is written in the form of a dialogue.

Shetakryancha Asood (The Cultivator’s Whip-Cord) (1883)

It was Jyotiba’s another powerful work where he analysed how peasants were being exploited in those days.

A human being’s primary needs are directed at the production of food and clothing. Hence, according to Jyotiba, it is important for the farmer community to be healthy and strong. Modern society has been built on the Industrial Revolution but it still requires the support to its foundation from the farmer community. From this sociological standpoint, Jyotiba wrote and published the book shetakryancha Asood. The subject matter of Shetakryancha Asood is not limited to the farmers’ problems alone. Jyotiba also examined the restraints forced upon various castes as impediments to progress. The Brahmins were responsible for the prohibition enforced on overseas travel. As a result, Hindus lost contact with the outside world. They had the shudras to slave for them, work on their farms and weave their clothes.

Asprushyanchi Kaifiyat (Cause Of The Untouchables) (1885)

In this work, Jyotiba presented an imaginary account of the untouchables urging Queen Victoria, on a tour of India, to visit their locality. They invite her to see for herself if there has been any improvement in their lot during her reign. The Queen agrees to visit. She is told that under the Peshwa command the untouchables were treated inhumanly and made to lead a miserable life. During the British rule their life has become more secure, but they still cannot move around freely. Poverty prevents them from sending their children to schools. The Queen promises that her government will look into their grievances.

Ishara (Warning) (1885)

This work written to refute the charges raised by Ranade in his paper Dnanaprakash, criticizing Jyotiba. Highlighting the suffering of the farmers during the supremacy of Bajirao II, Jyotiba said that God took away Bajirao’s crown and gave the shudra and the ati-shudra masses just, generous, righteous, peaceful administration in the British. Thus it was natural for the people to pray day and night to God to let the British rule continue for a long time to come.

Satsar (Existence Of Goodness) (1885)

In Satsar, “the book of dialogues”, there is a mention of Pandit Ramabai’s religious conversion. Conversion means adoption of a different religion. Jyotiba was not in favour of conversion as such, but he was in favour of any movement away from the Brahmanical orthodoxy. He believed that women had declared their right to move away from Brahmanical orthodoxy and tyranny. He considered this as an important step. And that is why he defended Pandit Ramabai’s conversion to Christianity. He considered Christianity an escape from the oppressive Brahmanism. In this booklet he also raised the question: “How was it that the Brahmins, though small in number, enjoyed supremacy and power over the non-brahmins who are tenfold in number?” Then he himself answered the same with a counter question: “How did a handful of Mohammedans and the British become sovereigns over millions of Hindus?” The last part of this booklet is in the form of conversations between Jyotiba and a brahmin.

Jyotiba published the second issue of Satsar in October 1885, in which he tried to prove to women how men had misled them to think that they were being ill-treated in every possible way under the British rule. He severely attacked the unjust, tyrannical and prejudiced views contained in the Hindu scriptures on women and thus gave voice to their woes. There was, however, no further issue of Satsar.

Sarvajanik Satyadharma Pustak (A Book Of True Religion For All) (1891)

This book appeared an year after Jyotiba’s death. In the introduction of the book, he said:

Jyotiba begins the book with the injunction that human being could never be happy in the world unless his/her conduct is true, righteous. He visualizes the ideal Indian womanhood and manhood in the modern Indian society. He attributes sisterhood and brotherhood to all women and men. He in his book strongly uses the term “all women and men” (sarva ekansdar stree-purush) throughout.

Tritiya Ratna (The Third Eye) (1855)

This book was the first political and debate play in Marathi. He wrote this in a dialogue form. Tritiya Ratna’s focus was on education. Jyotiba hoped that it would facilitate the underprivileged castes to “perceive” new modes of social perception.

Jyotiba was trying to build a movement of the oppressed, and through his writings, he wanted to reach out to the masses. He was the first revolutionary against the traditional Indian oppressive social system. From his writings we come to know that his philosophical thinking on social and political issues was influenced by Christianity and the ideas of Paine, who was known for his religious radicalism in England. Jyotiba himself admitted that he was influenced by the thoughts of Paine.

Throughout his life, Jyotiba fought for the emancipation of the downtrodden, and the struggle which he launched at a young age ended only when he died on 28 November 1890. He was a pioneer in many fields, and among his contemporaries, he stands out as the one who never hesitated in his mission for truth and justice. Exploitation of women and underprivileged castes, and protection of human rights, all these issues and their rational humanist treatment were also the agendas of the philosophy of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule.




  Foreword vii
  Preface ix
  Acknowledgement xv
1. Introduction 1
  Jyotiba Phule's Writings 8
  Povada 8
  Brahmananche Kasab (The Cleverness of Brahmins) 9
  Gulamgiri (Slavery) 9
  Shetakryancha Asood (The Cultivator's Whip-cord) 10
  Asprushyanchi Kaifiyat (Cause of the Untouchables) 11
  Ishara (Warning) 11
  Satsar (Existence of Goodness) 11
  Sarvajanik Satyadharma Pustak (A book of True Religion for All) 12
  Tritiya Ratna (The Third Eye) 13
2. Critique of Women's Oppression 14
  Status of Women in Nineteenth Century 15
  Widow Remarriage and Child Marriage 18
  Work for Women's Emancipation 24
  Work for the Untouchables 33
  Work for Farmers 40
3. Critique of Caste and Tradition 48
  Concept of Varnashrama 48
  Etymological Meaning of Varna 49
  Satya Shodhak Samaj 58
4. Philosophy of Universal Religion 62
  Sarvajanik Satyadharma Pustak 65
  Concept of Nirmik 72
  Original Akhanda's Regarding Phule's Universal Religion 79
5. Contribution to Modern India 83
  Similarity between Phule and Mill 86
  Practical Aspect of Phule's Philosophy 87
  Philosophy of Education 90
  Women's Education 93
  Contemporary Relevance of Phule's Philosophy 95
  Contemporary Relevance of Phule's Biography 97
  Epilogue 101
  Appendix 1:  
  Memorial Addressed to the Hunter Commission: Phule's Views and Feedback on the Educational System 103
  Appendix 2:  
  A Brief Account of Jyotiba Phule's Life and His Works 117
  Bibliography 119
  Index 121
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