On Tuesday, Google has dedicated a doodle to mark the 186th birth anniversary of India’s 19th century social reformer Savitribai Jyotirao Phule, among the country’s first to speak up for the rights of women during the reign of the British rule.
The doodle shows Savitribai extending her sari wide to encircle women from all sections of society for education and empowerment. The simple doodle shows a group of demure women assembled outside what could be a school for education in a skyblue starry background which also doubles as her blouse.
Born on 3rd January, 1831 in Naigaon, Maharashtra, she belonged to a family of farmers. She was taught to read and write by her husband, Jyotirao Phule, and when she turned 17, the couple founded India’s first school for girls and women from different castes in Bhidewada, Pune. It was established to provide greater impetus to girl child education and empowerment among the female sex. Started with just 9 students, though, it was considered as a groundbreaking step in India. In the process, more schools were set up in the region with Savitribai serving as a teacher and principal for many of them.
It also needs to be said that Phule was a pioneer in Marathi poetry.
Phule is remembered for her work against caste and gender injustice and has toiled relentlessly against the then orthodox practices of the society.
The Phule couple launched a crusade against social discrimination based on caste and gender and sparked the flame for women’s equal rights during the British era in the country. The couple also carved a different path by adopting the child of a widowed Bramhin.
At a time when women had no say to anything, Savitribai’s campaign covered child marriages, child widows, rape victims becoming pregnant, the practice of ‘Sati’, educating women etc.
It is said that Savitribai used to carry two sarees on her way to school as people would often throw mud at her. Up-on reaching school, Savitribai would remove her soiled saree and change into a new one.
She was honoured by the British government as the Best teacher in the state in 1852.
They opened a clinic to treat those affected by the bubonic plague epidemic, when it appeared in the area of Pune in 1897. But Savitribai contracted the disease herself and passed away on 10th March.
In 2014, the Maharashtra government renamed the Pune University as ‘Savitribai Phule University’ as a tribute to Phule’s sheer courage and pioneering efforts in the field of education, women empowerment, social reform and gender equality. There have also been calls for Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, to be bestowed on Phule.