"A life totally committed to God has nothing to fear, nothing to lose, nothing to regret."- Pandita Ramabai (1858-1922)
Pandita Ramabai was the founder of the Mukti Mission. She was born in 1858 to parents of the highest caste of priestly Brahmins in South India. Despite the devoutness of her Hindu family, and contrary to all Indian customs of the time, Ramabai’s father taught her to read Sanskrit, a skill that was to provide her with the means to embark on what became a life-long search for spiritual enlightenment.
In the famine of 1876-77, both Ramabai’s parents and her older sister died of starvation, leaving only her and her older brother. Sadly, he died soon after and Ramabai was an orphan.
At 22 she married a lawyer, but he died of cholera after 18 months leaving her alone with a young daughter. Undeterred in her quest for enlightenment, Ramabai undertook long pilgrimages and read whatever she could as she continued her search, including a copy of Luke’s gospel which she found among her husband’s books.
Ramabai’s quest eventually took her to England, where she made contact with a women’s religious community. It was here in 1883, that she embraced Christianity.
Burdened by the plight of women in her country she returned to India to do what she could to help. She was given the title 'Pandita' – the highest possible title for a woman of India – by the Pandits of Calcutta who were amazed at her remarkable knowledge of the Hindu holy writings. She had memorized 18,000 stanzas from theBhagavata Purana and the Bhaghavad Gita.
In 1889, Pandita Ramabai founded Mukti Mission in response to the plight of young child widows who were outcast because it was believed they were the cause of their husbands’ deaths. Ramabai rescued thousands of these young girls, providing a home for them.
Pandita Ramabai was the first woman social reformer in India, working tirelessly to uplift women’s social status by giving them an education, encouraging widow remarriage and the education of girls.
Among her achievements were:
- She was a published author - writing ‘positive thinking’ books to address the needs of women of her time.
She introduced the Kindergarten System to India
She started the first special
for the visually challenged
- Represented the Women’s Cause to the Education Mission, promoting the need to train women as medical doctors, and was
- Awarded the the Kaisar-I-Hind Gold Medal by the British Government for her pioneering services to women.
Ramabai also translated the Bible into simple Marathi from the Greek and Hebrew so the people of her state, even with limited vocabulary, could easily understand the Word of God. Her translations continue to be used to this day by Marathi speakers.
- New Testament completed in 1913
- Complete Bible in 1922 (days before her death).
Pandita Ramabai’s work for the advancement of Indian women is still highly regarded in the country to this day. In 1989, in appreciation of her contribution and to mark the centenary celebrations of Mukti Mission, the Government of India issued a commemorative stamp of Pandita Ramabai.
The Prayer of a Child Widow
By Tara, a ‘Little Brahmin Widow’
I’m a little child, yet none will save.
When five years old betrothed to age,
To age with one foot touching the grave,
Yet when he dies the family rage.
The family storm, and curse, and swear;
The little wife has caused his death!
How shall I tell how widows fare?
O God! I have not the power nor breath.
Sold into bondage, a helpless slave!
One hundred rupees! The paltry sum
My parents took; the old man gave,
And I was his whate’er might come!
And oh, the sorrows when he died!
The harsh words as hard as blows,
E’en red-hot iron their hands applied,
The scars my injured body shows.
When but eleven, from my head
They shaved the soft, dark locks of hair.
They counted me as with the dead;
The dead! I wish that I were there.
Yes, with the dead I long to be;
There, surely, I’ll find rest and peace.
Come, oh my God! And set me free;
In death’s cold arms give me release.