The Third Eye and Other Works: Mahatma Phule’s Writings on Education – Rohini Mokashi-Punekar

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Mahatma Jotiba Phule (1827–1890), a towering figure who spearheaded caste and gender reform in India, believed that a modern, inclusive education alone could emancipate the oppressed orders and women; because only education democratises knowledge and the power it brings, and leads to self-awareness.

Phule founded schools for the Shudratishudra, for women and working caste adults, and wrote passionately on the subject of inclusive education. Translated for the first time in English, this volume offers two of his seminal works that underline why education is essential for social change and empowerment: Tritiya Ratna (The Third Eye), his subversive play of ideas written in 1855 and published 124 years later in 1979, and his satirical ballad ‘Vidyakhatyateel Brahman Pantoji’ (‘Brahmin Teachers in the Education Department’). In his best-known work, Gulamgiri (Slavery), Phule wrote a preface in English, exhorting the British government to fund the education of the lower castes. This preface, along with his address to the Education Commission in 1882, is also included.

Given how critical the question of inclusivity is in Indian educational institutions today as well as the yearning for quality education and employment, it is meaningful to link the aspiration for modern education in colonial India with its continued relevance in present times. Including in one volume Phule’s major writings and radical literary experiments focusing on the education of the lower castes and women aims to deepen our understanding of the beginnings of subaltern assertion, and of the centrality of education to the history of subaltern protest in India.

This is a valuable work for anyone engaged with the history of Indian education, Dalit literature, subaltern studies, and sociology.

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