Jyotiba Phule

Jyotiba Phule, the role model for Teachers.

Jyotiba Phule, our Mahatma, is a legend deliberately obscured by those in power to relegate the powerless to be where they are. Suppressing Phule is a ploy to disallow the rekindling of the fire of social revolution.

Why Jyotiba Phule

For long we have idolised Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a person ill suited for the mantle of a teacher. With immense respect for Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the academician and scholar, it is the need of the hour to move towards a better role model that suits the bill. And those are the Phules, Jyotiba and Savitri Bai, who pioneered education in India. The downtrodden got a taste of education due to the Phule Couple. Had it been for Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, there wouldn’t have been much for the downtrodden and the backward castes/classes as we see today.

A Brief History

India was recently relieved of the British rule and ushered in a new era of Independence. The new India was impoverished, illiterate to a larger extent, and economically in its infancy. A large populace remained uneducated owing to the cruel tradition of Caste System as embellished in the Manusmriti. Sanity would have dictated to educate the masses by providing basic and universal education for free.

Education is the food that feeds the hungry minds of a nation, thereby enabling it to be self-reliant and self-sufficient. However, neglecting this, the Radhakrishnan Committee conveniently neglected this crucial aspect. The Radhakrishnan committee went on to favour the already educated and empowered. The committee had provisions for better salaries of male and female teachers, better educational facilities for higher education institutions, and more institutions catering to higher education.

Do take in mind, that owing to the Caste System, only Brahmins had the dominion over education. While there were a few who received education. But the social order and hegemony of Manuvaad disallowed them to make any progress. Numerous examples can illustrate this point. The punishment of a downtrodden trying to receive education included mutilation/amputation of body parts. And such instances of mutilation/amputation continues till date. Despite having a Constitution in effect, we still see several instances of such lawless accounts.

And I, for one, blame it on the role models whom we have chosen to idolise. One such is Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, whose birthday is celebrated as Teacher’s day and that too on his own suggestion.


Following is a brief comparison of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Mahatma Jyotiba Phule. Read and decide whom you would want to idolise.

Jyotiba Phule Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
Born on: 11th April 1827Born on: 5th September 1888
Opened twenty schools (including the ones for the downtrodden) during 1848-1851Did not open a single school in his lifetime.
Provided education to the downtrodden and Women without charging any salary.Didn’t teach the downtrodden. No record of teaching or providing education to females.
Provided education to the downtrodden out of his pocket.Took hefty salaries and provided education to the Upper Castes.
Took initiatives for education in the rural areas. The education to be provided was basic, elementary, and universal.Education in rural areas was left only on paper in his committee. The idea of Rural education was to merely tokenism, while catering to the ones already receiving education.
Held Scientific, Rational, Logical views. Was an iconoclast, rejecting the concept of Hell and Heaven.Held traditional, orthodox values. Was a proponent of Hinduism with emphasis on rituals, traditions, and customs.
Upholding the scientific temper, Phule advocated that education and likability for each other should be the criteria for getting married. Couples should know each other’s choices and preferences in order to get married.Believed and propagated that Marriages are made in heaven. Married off his daughters without consulting them. In case of one of his daughters, Radhakrishnan saw the groom for the first time.
Encouraged Remarriage of Widows and opposed child marriage. Got his daughters married off in an early age. Did not went against the customs and traditions of Hinduism and hence no question of supporting remarriage of widows.
Opened the first school for girls in India on 1st January 1848.Wanted women to be educated in their domain of expertise, which back then was largely kitchen and kids i.e. household.
Inspired Savitribai Phule, his wife to take up education and become a teacher.No such incident in Radhakrishnan’s case. In fact, was reportedly unfaithful to his wife, a characteristic in sharp contrast to his religious ideals. (mentioned in the biography of Sarvepalli Gopal, his son)
Smashing the Brahminical Patriarchy, which bound the women to household (kitchen and kids), Phule educated his wife, thereby inspiring other females to take up education.There’s no such record of Radhakrishnan educating his wife. Instead his strong emphasis on religious values indicate that he managed his house affairs as per the Brahminic hegemony, which calls for the treatment of women as second class citizens.
Staunch opponent of the Caste System.Firm believer of Caste System, evident through the glorification of the Varna System.
Looked up to women as future educationists.Looked towards females as a source of pleasure and homemaker.
Started the enlightenment of the downtrodden.Never paid any attention to the issues of the downtrodden.
Believed in ” Women’s education is meant to bring progress.”Believed in ” Women’s birth is meant only to serve.”
The burning desire to educate the downtrodden led to the authoring of literature to awaken the downtrodden. Wrote “Gulamgiri”, the most hard-hitting novel to awaken the downtrodden. Has heaps of academic publications, which primarily deal with glorification of Hinduism. Most of it is written to counter the quips made by philosophers of the West.
Phule’s literature inspires to revolt against oppression and provides hope to many till date.There’s no such inspiring literature from Radhakrishnan. Instead there is ample research in defence of the Brahminical social order of that time.
Broke many Social Conventions while providing alternatives for the same to challenge the Brahmin hegemony.Ensured the adherence to customs and traditions thereby strengthening the Brahminic hegemony.
Phule’s literature is still relevant and is read by many to derive inspiration.There’s hardly any mainstream readership of Radhakrishnan. Despite being a national name and a supposed “idol” for teachers, there’s no such literature that would quantify his stature as a teacher.
Dedicated his life to oppose untouchability, female foeticide, lack of education, and superstitions. Jyotiba consistently strove for female education, remarriage of widows, education of the downtrodden, and abolishing of Brahminical customs and traditions, which enslaved the downtrodden.No such effort throughout his lifetime.
Initiated education in remote areas which included Nanapeth, Shirur, Mundva, Kasba, Otur, Saswad, Talegaon, Karanje, Naigaon, Shirval, Mazgaon, Bhingar, Maharwada, Hadapsar, Vetal rasta, and so on.Moved to cities like Madras, Calcutta, Benaras, and Hyderabad to educate the upper castes.
Championed the idea of free and compulsory basic education to the Hunter Commission, the first commission of education for India. Through his deposition to the Hunter Commission, Phule pulled up the British government in context of education.Championed the cause of higher education, thereby neglecting the dismal state of the downtrodden. Provided a mere lip-service on the question of education for the downtrodden. His committee of higher education focused on empowering the already empowered.
Considered Buddha, King Bali (Baliraja), and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja as his ideals and brought about Social Revolution in India.Disregarded and discredited the Buddha. Did not participate in the struggle for Indian independence, let alone bring any social revolution.
Owing to his struggle and concrete actions that paved the way for education of females and the downtrodden, Phule is widely known as the Father of Indian Social Revolution.Radhakrishnan is widely popular only because of Teacher’s Day and it was on his suggestion while being a President that his birthday be celebrated as Teacher’s Day.
Jyotiba Phule’s literature is still relevant and is a source of inspiration to millions. Phule continues to inspire many to take up education and change the society.Limited academic achievements that were made as a retort to the western philosophers have waned with time with limited readership.
Established many important organisations and unions like Farmer’s Union, Anti-Female Foeticide Gruha, Labour Union. Supported the students. Satyashodhak Vidhyarthi Sanghatna is a reflection of Phule’s values.Was against students getting involved in politics. Mentioned clearly in the Radhakrishnan Committee for Higher Education. Radhakrishnan had no involvement in any union. Held many positions of power like Ambassador to the UN, Vice-Chancellor, President of India and so on, which strengthened his loyalty towards the establishment.
Exposed the Brahminic cultural appropriation which mistreats the downtrodden as second class citizens. Exposed the mudslinging of the Brahminism on the culture of the downtrodden. Supported the Brahminical cultural and expanded them further by writing academic papers. He spread the word of Hinduism by propounding theories after theories which got him recognition and positions of power.
Condemning the caste system and slavery of women, Jyotiba Phule put forth the ideal King Bali’s reign of equality and egalitarianism. Expounded theories and academic works to revive the orthodox Brahminic values that do not support equality or egalitarianism.

I know, it is a long read, but it is all worth it. This has helped to expose the empty ideal of Radhakrishnan, which is imposed upon the society. Placing Radhakrishnan unquestionably as a role model for teachers and students alike, suppress the sparks of social revolution.

After reading the table, how can anyone expect any social revolution from a society that blindly idolises Radhakrishnan. We don’t question, because we have never been taught to.

The day we start questioning and realise our true role models for progress only then shall we start off a revolution. The day we start reading Jyotiba Phule and take up his ideals shall be the day we begin the Revolution.

A more in-depth personal journey of teacher’s day can be found here.

References & Sources:

Various books available under the Satyashodhak Samaj.

The article is roughly derived from “28th November Haach Khara Shikshak Divas.”






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