Pandita Ramabai

1 January 2017

She wrote many books including her widely popular work titled The High Caste Hindu Woman, which showed the darkest part of subject matter relating to the life of Hindu women, including child brides, child widows and the treatment they receive by the government and society. She had a strong view of what should be accomplished so women would be able to have more freedom, including protection of widowed women and child brides, as many of them were made destitute by their in-laws. Early Life Ramabai was born into an intellectual Hindu Chitpavan Brahmin family at Karnataka (Karkala Taluk, Mangalore District).

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Her father, Anant Shastri Dongre, who stayed at a place in Western Ghats, called Gangamoola, (Mala village, Karkala, Karnataka) was a Sanskrit scholar and believed that women should have education. Against the prevailing traditional Hindu social structure, he taught Puranas and Sanskrit shloks to Ramabai as well as his second wife, Ramambai’s mother Laxmibai and how to read and write Sanskrit as well as how to interpret Vedic texts. She was raised by her father. Her father faced hardships as he was against the tradition and he advocated education to girl children.

He proved in front of Hindu scholars at Soday, (Karnataka) that teaching ladies with Sanskrit was not banned in any Shastra or purana. [1] Her father, mother and sister died during 1874–76, and her brother and she traveled all over India and eventually ended up in Calcutta. Their travel included 2,000 miles by foot! [2] Ramabai’s Sanskrit knowledge bewildered the educated people of Kolkata and she was awarded with Pandita title by Calcutta University. She was also awarded with Sarasvathi title in recognition of her ability to interpret various Sanskrit volumes.

After her brother’s death in 1880, even though it was considered inappropriate for a Hindu to marry into a lower caste, she married, on 13 November 1880, Babu Bipin Behari Medhavi, a Bengali lawyer at Bankipore, who was not a Brahmin (a Shudra). Six months after the birth of their daughter Manorama, Babu died in 1882, and Pandita was once again left with just one family member, her daughter, Ramabai received a scholarship to study in England. During her time in England, she converted to Christianity because of monetary requirements; she was given money to get converted to Christianity. But did not ever lose sight of her goals.

She clung to her roots and when she returned to India she started destitute homes and Christian Churches which had Sanskrit writing instead of traditional Latin which was used in England. Ramabai attempted to combine her new Christian ideals with her old Indian Culture and used this mix to promote change in India. Being raised as in the Brahman caste made her uniquely able to bring both men and women to Christianity due to that caste’s image as social leaders in India. She also went to America and travelled widely there for three years and gave lectures about the plight of women and child widows in India.

Ramabai Foundation was formed at America to collect funds for the future projects of Pandita Ramabai in India and more than $30,000 was collected. More than 10,000 copies of her book High Caste Hindu Women was sold in America, the funds of which were used give shelter to destitute women of India! She wrote a book about her travels to the United States [She wrote about her American experience in a book titled United States Chi Lokasthiti Ani Pravasvrutta (Status of Society of United States and a travelogue)] and it has recently been published in translation as Pandita Ramabai’s American Encounter.

The book is a traveler’s account of the people and culture of the United States. It contains a pointed comparison of the status of women in the U. S. and India, and strongly suggests that India should follow down the path of reform. However, the book is not without its criticisms of American society, particularly its race problem. Social Service In addition to her writing she founded the Arya Mahila Sabha in 1881, in Pune, the very first Indian feminist organization.

She studied as well as taught about the issues which surround Indian women especially those involved in the Hindu traditions. She spoke against the practice of child marriage and the terrible constraints on the lives of child widows. Ramabai established the Mukti Mission in 1889, in Pune, as a refuge for young widows who were deserted and abused by their families. She also established Krupa Sadan, a home for destitute women. In Sanskrit and most of Indian Languages, the word MUKTHI means liberation. She was also involved in establishing a Church at Mukthi.

The Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission is still active today, providing housing, education, vocational training, and medical services, for many needy groups including widows, orphans, and the blind. She also started SHARDA SADAN which also dealt with providing housing, education, vocational training, and medical services, for many needy groups including widows, orphans, and the blind. Family Life As Pandita Ramabai involved herself in social service, there was little family life for her. Her childhood was full of hardships. She lost her parents early and her husband expired within two years of marriage.

She had to educate her only daughter Manorama bai and she did this well. Her daughter Manorama completed BA at Bombay University and went to America for higher studies. She returned to India and worked as Principal of Sharada Sadan, Mumbai. With her help, Pandita Ramabai established Christian High school at Gulbarga (now in Karnataka), a backward district of South India, during 1912 and her daughter was Principal of the school. But, Manorama’s untimely death was a shock to Ramabai and eventually, within two years of daughter’s death, on 5th April, 1922, she took her last breath.

Her contribution to Christianity in India is much appreciated. [3] Awards and honors “Pandita” and “Saraswathi” at Bengal (before going to England), recognizing her skills in Sanskrit. Kaisar-i-Hind medal for community service in 1919, awarded by British Government. She is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on April 5. On 26 October 1989, in recognition of her contribution to the advancement of Indian women, the Government of India issued a commemorative stamp.

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