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Pandita Ramabai: Life and landmark writings
 9781138962453, 9781315659428

Table of contents :
Cover
Title
Copyright
Contents
List of plates
Introduction
1 Early life
2 Entry into Maharashtra
Selection 1: Stri Dharma Niti (Morals for women, 1882, tr.)
3 England and conversion to Christianity
Selection 2: Englandcha Pravas (Voyage to England, 1883, abridged translation)
4 American sojourn
Selection 3: The High-Caste Hindu Woman, 1887
5 Return to Maharashtra: Sharada Sadan
6 Kedgaon and Mukti Mission
Selection 4: Famine experiences, 1897
Selection 5: About government provisions during plague epidemic, 1897
Selection 6: To the friends of Mukti school and mission, 1900
7 Kedgaon: Religious preoccupations
Selection 7: A testimony of our inexhaustible treasure, 1907
8 Epitaphs and legacies
Bibliography
Index

Citation preview

PANDITA RAMABAI

This book looks at the life of Pandita Ramabai, one of the major social reformers of nineteenth-century India. Her unique life trajectory spanned across a pan-Indian, orthodox Hindu mould to being part of Brahmo Samaj and Prarthana Samaj, and further to Christianity. At the age of 30 she had travelled widely within India and across the world, from the USA and UK in the West to Japan in the Far East. She reported these fascinating journeys to international friends and fellow Maharashtrians in both English and Marathi. Fighting conservatism and marginalization she set up several projects to empower women, notably, the Sharada Sadan in Mumbai and the Mukti Mission in Kedgaon near Pune in Maharashtra. This work locates Pandita Ramabai within her liminal social milieu and discursive networks during various phases of her life, and traces her diverse ideological routes along with her critical writings, some of which have been retrieved and/or presented in English translation here for the first time, including The High-Caste Hindu Woman and the newly discovered Voyage to England. Offering a comprehensive insight into aspects of nineteenthcentury Indian society – religion and reform, women’s rights and feminism, social movements, poverty and colonialism – this book will greatly interest researchers and students of South Asian history, sociology and gender studies. Meera Kosambi was a sociologist and retired as Professor and Director, Research Centre for Women’s Studies, SNDT University, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. She was trained in India, Sweden and the USA, and specialized in urban studies and women’s studies. She has contributed research-based writings and delivered lectures in many countries. Her publications include Gender, Culture and Performance: Marathi Theatre and Cinema before Independence (2015, Routledge); Crossing Thresholds (2007); Women Writing Gender (2012); and Mahatma Gandhi and Prema Kantak (2013).

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PANDITA RAMABAI Life and landmark writings

Meera Kosambi

First published 2016 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2016 Aban Mukherji The right of Meera Kosambi to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record has been requested for this book. ISBN: 978-1-138-96245-3 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-65942-8 (ebk) Typeset in Goudy by Apex CoVantage, LLC

CONTENTS

vii

List of plates

Introduction1 1 Early life

7

2 Entry into Maharashtra

23

Selection 1: Stri Dharma Niti (Morals for women, 1882, tr.)

38

3 England and conversion to Christianity

80



Selection 2: Englandcha Pravas (Voyage to England, 1883, abridged translation)

102

4 American sojourn

122



142

Selection 3: The High-Caste Hindu Woman, 1887

5 Return to Maharashtra: Sharada Sadan

176

6 Kedgaon and Mukti Mission

203



Selection 4: Famine experiences, 1897

217



Selection 5: About government provisions during plague epidemic, 1897

231

v

C ontents



Selection 6: To the friends of Mukti school and mission, 1900

7 Kedgaon: Religious preoccupations

Selection 7: A testimony of our inexhaustible treasure, 1907

8 Epitaphs and legacies

234 249 263 287 297 305

Bibliography Index

vi

PLATES

  1 The Dongre family: Lakshmibai, Ramabai, Anantshastri, a son, Srinivas and Krishnabai, c. 1864   2  Ramabai as Mrs Medhavi, c. 1882   3  Bipin Behari Das Medhavi, c. 1882   4  Ramabai with Manorama and Anandibai Bhagat, c. early 1883   5  Ramabai with Manorama, early 1886   6  Sister Geraldine   7  Ramabai in the USA, c. 1886   8 Sharada Sadan group, c. 1890. Seated on chairs: Manorama and Ramabai, Godubai (later Anandibai Karve) and Miss Hamlin   9  Mukti Church 10  Meals at Mukti, c. 1900 11  Famine survivor, c. 1900 12  Ramabai and Manorama with co-workers 13  Women typesetting Mukti publications 14  Ramabai working on her Bible translation 15  Ramabai’s grave at Kedgaon

8 18 19 24 81 85 123 177 204 204 218 250 253 256 288

All photographs were reproduced with the permission of Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission, Kedgaon, Pune, Maharashtra, India.

vii

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INTRODUCTION

‘The silence of a thousand years is broken,’ exulted Dr Rachel Bodley in her Introduction to Pandita Ramabai’s The High-Caste Hindu Woman, a cogent account of the constricted and oppressed lives of upper-caste Indian women, which was appended with a proposal for their emancipation. The book, which I consider ‘an unofficial Indian feminist manifesto’, was published in the United States in 1887 and sold 9,000 copies internationally within a year.1 Its author was instantly iconized in Western countries from the USA to Australia as well as in countries of Asia, to linger on in their collective memories, even as Ramabai herself came to be relegated to silence in the social histories and reform discourses of western India where she had made her home. This conundrum is pivotal to an understanding of her life (1858–1922) and contribution. I argue also that her elision was rooted mainly in her feminism (and not in her conversion to Christianity followed by proselytization, as is usually believed) – a fact that needs to be adequately addressed in any attempt to assess her. Thus the present volume seeks to locate her biographical narrative within her various and overlapping social and ideological contexts, amplifying her own voice whenever possible and offering some of her essential writings. What lent Ramabai’s contribution special valence was that it was she – a solitary and largely unsupported Indian woman – and not any of the far more vocal Indian men or Western women – who ‘named’ most eloquently and systematically the problems of the ‘oppressed Indian woman’, so highly troped in the West. Such was the power of her voice that it reverberated across the globe a century ago, only to be suppressed equally long within India. This attempt to trace her entire register is a project of retrieval – of her significant texts, her multiple ideological evolutions and of the intricacies of her feminism within the intersecting and sometimes-conflicting structures of patriarchy, religion, nationalism and internationalism. But its nuances can be appreciated only by reaching into the past to reclaim and evaluate also her activism that accompanied it. 1

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The mapping of Pandita Ramabai’s seemingly unfettered trajectories across social, ideological and spatial divides has challenged the intellectual cartographies of her contemporaries and successors, both nationally and internationally. Equally challenging has been her frank and dispassionate scrutiny of the world’s continents and cultures, and her defiance of the established equations of religion, culture and language in order to evolve her own eclectic idiom. Ramabai’s life unfolded in a unique pattern. At birth she was cast in a pan-Indian, orthodox, Sanskritic Hindu mould. Her spatial traversals started at the age of six months when she embarked on a family pilgrimage which was to span her childhood and youth, and carry her from the rural roots in her native Karnataka across most of the (then undivided) Indian subcontinent to Bengal, and in her early 20s to Maharashtra, her ancestral (but thus far practically unvisited) land where she anchored herself in a newfound community. In adulthood she broke out of the mould to develop a spirit of religious inquiry and affinity with the reformist monotheistic religious movements – the Brahmo Samaj of Bengal and Prarthana Samaj of Maharashtra. As a young, widowed social reformer in her mid-20s, she left western India for higher studies in England (where she converted to Christianity) and after three years travelled to and within the USA for another three years to garner support for her proposed residential school to educate and emancipate upper-caste Hindu women, especially widows, in India. At the age of 30 she returned to India via Japan, having circled the globe; and reported these fascinating journeys to international friends and fellow Maharashtrians in both English and Marathi, with a poet’s love of nature and an ethnographer’s eye for detail. Her garnering of massive American funding for a widows’ home reconciled public leaders despite her religious conversion which had temporarily alienated her, and enabled her to operate within the mainstream Hindu society. For a few years she successfully emancipated upper-caste Hindu women from familial and social oppression through shelter, education and training for self-reliance. Spatially Ramabai’s life story carries us from colonial India to the metropolitan centre of imperial Britain, and further to the United States, within the sphere of Christianity and Western ideological alliances. Additionally she formed close networks with far-flung countries like Japan and especially Australia. Socioculturally it takes us from the constricted lives of highcaste women in western India who were objects of an embittered social reform discourse to the British racial and ethnocentric Othering of Indians, and further to the liberal American reformers willing to support radical Indian initiatives significantly mediated by Christianity. It also shows us Ramabai’s widening circle of activism to include also low-caste and nonMaharashtrian girls and women. 2

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But at home in Maharashtra Ramabai remained a figure simultaneously deified and demonized by her ideologically polarized contemporaries. Her new Christian paradigm coexisted uneasily with the old ties of community until they finally snapped, compelling Ramabai to rely increasingly on Christian evangelization which attracted much-needed international support networks, but which also permanently alienated mainstream Hindu society and resulted in her marginalization and eventual erasure from its official and documented social history. These complexities are not adequately problematized in the existing abundance of the partly or wholly biographical writings about the persona of Ramabai (listed separately at the end). The current volume derives some material from these writings, but relies mainly on her own words and her contemporary newspapers, in its quest for the ‘real’ Ramabai. The need for yet another life story such as this one may not be immediately obvious, until one considers that many of these existing writings contain ideological biases, factual inaccuracies or a static picture of Ramabai as a feminist and/or a Christian. She has been destined to be permanently trapped into the location of a simultaneous insider and saviour of the ‘despised class’ of ‘the downtrodden widows of India’, by her Western biographers and admirers.2 Their Indian counterparts tend to share the gaze, while adopting a different vocabulary to articulate it. The fact that despite their centrality in her life, Ramabai’s feminism and Christianity underwent distinct evolutions in interaction with her social surroundings needs to be recognized and contextualized. *

Ramabai’s biographies seem to be aligned primarily along a religious meridian: most of the English ones and some Marathi ones are by Christian authors engaged in an almost hagiographical project of portraying her life as a triumph of Christianity.3 An excellent example is Helen Dyer’s conflation of Western racial-cultural and religious superiority with a denigration of Hinduism – an idiom that imbues most of her English-language Christian biographies. There are a few non-Christian Marathi biographies which see her as a champion of women’s education and try to elide or tone down her religious tension with her mainstream conservative contemporaries.4 Superimposed on all these is the binary between the Marathi authors who know her regional social background but not her Christian circles in England, the USA and India; and the English and American authors whose knowledge covers exactly and usually only these missing areas. Thus collectively these life stories draw clear contours of the two parallel worlds she inhabited at different periods in her adult, activist life. One was 3

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the mainstream Maharashtrian world in which she figured prominently from 1882 to about 1899 (including her absent presence from 1883 to 1888), as a somewhat conflicted site of feminist social reform, when her liberal support network enabled her to achieve for women’s emancipation what no woman – or man – had attempted before. The other was the Christian world of England and America which she inhabited from 1883 to1888 as well as the Christian missionary world – insular vis-à-vis non-Christian parts of India but integral to the international Christianizing agenda – within which she operated from the 1890s to her death in 1922.5 In this milieu her feminist activism blossomed fully, but from a position peripheral to mainstream Maharashtra, thus unfortunately defeating her original purpose. Some recent scholarly analyses of Ramabai’s contribution tend to focus on a short and relatively static period of her life and see her only as an unwavering feminist or Christian, without tracing her ideological evolutions. Here again we see binary perceptions. One perspective views Ramabai as a ‘renowned social reformer’ whose life was ‘a prototype of feminist aspiration to succeeding generations of Indian women’.6 The opposite claim, with equal exaggeration, insists that ‘Pandita Ramabai must be seen . . . basically as a religious revolutionary but not as a social revolutionary and certainly not as a feminist who . . . had put the problem of the empowerment of women in the spiritual as well as the material domain as central to her activity’.7 My own social historical coign of vantage sees her as ‘the site for a series of overlapping encounters – primarily that between Hinduism and Christianity, rationalism and dogma, individuality and Church hierarchy’ surrounded by the larger confrontation between Indianness and Western culture, feminism and patriarchy in its multiple guises’.8 The agenda of the present book is therefore to locate Ramabai within her own liminal social milieu and discursive networks at various periods of her life and trace her multiple ideological trajectories along with her landmark writings, some of which have been retrieved and/or presented in English translation here for the first time.9

Notes 1 Rachel L. Bodley, ‘Introduction’ in Pandita Ramabai, The High-Caste Hindu Woman, Bombay: Maharashtra State Board of Literature and Culture, 1887, reprinted 1977, p. i. A leaflet accompanying the American 1888 reprint of the book mentions it as the ‘tenth thousand’. This text, without Bodley’s Introduction, is reproduced in this volume as Selection 3. 2 For example, Helen S. Dyer, Pandita Ramabai: The Story of Her Life, London: Morgan and Scott, 1900, p. 5. 3 The best-known English biographies include those by Jenny Chapell, Helen Dyer, Lucia Fuller and Nicol Macnicol; and Marathi ones include those by Devadatta Tilak and Krishnabai Gadre. Most of these authors, with the

4

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exception of Tilak, are not meticulous about the dates and events in Ramabai’s life. 4 For example, by Tarabai Modak and ‘Prabodhankar’ K. S. Thackeray (father of the late founder of the Shiv Sena Party, who derived this popular title from the reformist journal named Prabodhan which he ran). All these works are listed separately under References. 5 So insular was this world that even Lucia Fuller, lauded in a foreword by Mrs W. M. Turnbull, as born in Maharashtra and having acquired a complete mastery of Marathi, remained essentially an outsider unable to understand the region’s society and culture, as shown by her biography of Ramabai (listed in the References). 6 Gauri Viswanathan, ‘Silencing Heresy’ in G. Viswanathan, Outside the Fold: Conversion, Modernity, and Belief, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 118–152. [From the Bibliography of Returning the American Gaze Pandita Ramabai’s The Peoples of the United States, p. 272. Delhi: Permanent Black 2003. By Meera Kosambi.] 7 Ram Bapat, ‘Pandita Ramabai: Faith and Reason in the Shadow of the East and West’ in Representing Hinduism: The Construction of Religious Traditions and National Identity, edited by Vasudha Dalmia and Heinrich von Stietencron, New Delhi, Thousand Oaks, London: Sage Publications, 1995, pp. 224–52 (ref. p. 251). 8 Meera Kosambi, ‘Indian Response to Christianity, Church and Colonialism’, Economic & Political Weekly, 24–31 October 1992, pp. WS-61–WS-71 (ref. WS-61). 9 The newly published texts are the description of Ramabai’s voyage to England (in translation) and her English letter about the plague epidemic. The other retrieved/translated writings were included in my earlier book: Meera Kosambi, Pandita Ramabai through Her Own Words, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000. *

Professor Meera Kosambi passed away before this book could be published. Some references and bibliographic information here may therefore be incomplete. All efforts have been made to furnish complete details of present sources and citations. Any oversights may be brought to the publisher’s notice.

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1 EARLY LIFE

It was in the sylvan surroundings of Gangamul, the origin of the holy river Tunga in south Karnataka, that Ramabai was born on 23 April 1858.1 Here her father, Anantshastri Dongre, had built an ashram, a residential school for the Sanskrit education of Brahmin boys, in about 1845. A longing to trace her roots led Ramabai to revisit the spot in 1890, when she found the somewhat-dilapidated structure still standing. In a letter to a friend she sketched with lyrical nostalgia the square-mile area of the forest which her father had cleared for his home. She speaks of the River Tunga in its infancy, its banks adorned with a variety of ferns and with branches of trees gracefully drooping over the current which was cool, crystal-clear and sweet. All manner of animals including wild beasts inhabited the forest in which this small spot still retained signs of former human habitation, marked also by the flowering plants her mother had lovingly planted. Ramabai’s love of nature and her pride in her parents’ achievements, symbolized most tangibly by the ashram, burst through every word: ‘The whole ground seemed hallowed with the association of my beloved parents. The clear blue sky which looks like a round canopy over this place looked more beautiful than any other sky that I had ever seen.’2 *

Uniquely, Ramabai’s life story usually starts four decades before her birth – with the student years of her father, Anant Dongre whose dramatic and eventful life merits a separate narrative.3 In about 1796 he was born at Mal Heranji (or Herambi) near Mangalore in south Karnataka, in a Chitpavan Brahmin family whose ancestors had migrated from Maharashtra a few generations earlier. Married early according to the prevalent custom, but against his wishes, he ran away from home to study Sanskrit texts at the religious establishment or math of Shankaracharya at Shringeri. At 18 he went to Pune to study further with Ramchandra-shastri Sathe, 7

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Plate 1 The Dongre family: Lakshmibai, Ramabai, Anantshastri, a son, Srinivas (standing) and Krishnabai, c. 1864

teacher of Peshwa Bajirao II who was the most powerful Maratha ruler at the time, though technically the prime minister of the Maratha sovereign or Chhatrapati based at Satara. During his four years at Pune, Dongre at times accompanied his guru to the Peshwa’s palace and heard the Peshwa’s wife reciting Sanskrit verses in her clear and mellifluous voice. The pleasant experience seemed nonetheless shocking at a time when custom forbade women even simple literacy in Marathi, let alone a knowledge of 8

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Sanskrit – the ‘divine language’ reserved solely for Brahmin men. It inspired in him a reformist desire to emulate the ruler, and was to indirectly cause a revolution in women’s education in western India decades later through his daughter. Ramabai’s intellectual roots thus reached into the twilight of the precolonial reign of the Peshwa (also Chitpavan Brahmin by caste), just before Bajirao II lost his political power to the East India Company’s Mumbai-based government in 1818. The defeated Peshwa was immediately exiled by the company government to Brahmavarta (or Bithoor, near Kanpur) in North India. Satheshastri accompanied his master, but only after bestowing upon Dongre the title of ‘shastri’, in the manner of an educational degree. In the region of Maharashtra, the upheaval caused by the company’s colonization of the Peshwa dominions was still survived by part of the multiple Brahmin hegemony, now based on religious, educational, economic and social supremacy, despite the loss of political-military dominance.4 After Anantshastri’s return home, his attempts to educate his wife were frustrated by the older and conservative family members. Soon he went to the court of Krishnaraj Vodeyar of Mysore in order to earn money. Here he was very successful thanks to the esteem in which the royal guru held Sathe-shastri, testifying to the larger networks of learned men across the country. During his ten years in Mysore, Anantshastri amassed a fortune. About this time his father wished to make a pilgrimage to Kashi (or Banaras). The dutiful son took along the whole family, with relatives, friends and servants, totalling 60 persons travelling with a palanquin, two carriages and 12 horses. This grand travel arrangement was enabled by the generosity of Vodeyar who also gave him a testimonial in the nature of a travel permit to facilitate their passage through the various provinces en route. On the way Anantshastri’s wife died, leaving behind two children – a married daughter and a grown-up son – who had survived out of the several children she bore. After completing the customary pilgrimage, Anantshastri sent home his family and entourage, and stayed back at Kashi for further studies during which he formally became a devotee of Vishnu by joining a Vaishnava sect. He then travelled up to Nepal and was highly honoured by the king with substantial wealth, a palanquin, two baby elephants and other gifts. Years later the elephant caparisons and some other artefacts were still preserved, and found their way into Ramabai’s childhood memories. Anantshastri now made his way towards Gujarat, a region venerated by Vaishnavas. On the way he stopped at the holy town of Paithan in Maharashtra in about 1840. The 44-year-old Anantshastri made a deep impression on an impoverished Chitpavan Brahmin pilgrim, Abhyankar, from Wai near Satara in western Maharashtra, who gave him his nine-year-old 9

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daughter Amba in marriage. The ceremony was promptly performed, the girl’s first name was changed to Lakshmi, and both parties continued on their way.5 A match so unequal in age was not uncommon in a society which mandated prepubertal marriages for Brahmin girls and allowed remarriage for widowers even late in life, while strictly forbidding it to widows of any age – even child widows. Even so, the age gap and the perfunctory nature of this ‘most extraordinary marriage’ was to elicit a critical comment from Ramabai herself five decades later when she narrated the well-disguised episode in The High-Caste Hindu Woman (henceforth HCHW; Selection 3, chapter 3). Its only redeeming feature, according to Ramabai, was that the little bride had fortunately fallen into good hands, and was tenderly cared for; but she censures the seemingly careless and casual conduct of the bride’s father. Back home in Karnataka, Anantshastri started teaching his new bride Sanskrit, causing a furore in the family and community. The regional head of his religious sect threatened to ostracize him. Consequently Anantshastri successfully defended his promotion of women’s education in an open assembly of about 400 scholars and priests during a two-month-long disputation. His arguments, buttressed by citations culled from various Sanskrit religious texts and compiled in a scholarly volume, proved that women and Shudras could learn Sanskrit but not study the Vedas. He left this manuscript in safe keeping with a relative but Ramabai was later unable to access it. Thus was lost a valuable Sanskrit text with an emancipatory potential for the social reform discourse. *

The need to escape such community pressures drew Anantshastri away from home in about 1844 towards tranquil surroundings conducive to his scholarly activities and young Lakshmibai’s education. He decided to build an ashram in the Gangamul forest on the slope where also starts river Bhadra to later join the Tunga and run as the Tungabhadra into the Arabian Sea Mangalore. The site, gifted by Vodeyar at his request, was about nine miles from Mal Heranji up a rather steep slope, but entirely uninhabited and dangerous. The couple spent its first night in the wilderness without any kind of shelter, with a tiger roaring in the vicinity. The terrified little Lakshmibai, wrapped tightly in her cotton quilt, ‘lay upon the ground convulsed with terror, while the husband kept watch until daybreak’, recounts Ramabai.6 Soon rose up Anantshastri’s ashram which attracted Brahmin boys in increasing numbers during his 13-year stay. The students built their own huts, and the cluster of dwellings made up a sizable community. The ashram also provided hospitable accommodation for pilgrims bound for the sacred 10

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origin of the Tunga. Here Lakshmibai matured into an efficient housewife managing the burgeoning household and tending the family’s orchards and cattle, and into a capable mother. Her first two sons died in infancy, then were born Krishnabai in about 1848, Shrinivas in about 1850, another son who died in childhood,7 and finally Ramabai in 1858. Importantly Lakshmibai was by now also proficient in Sanskrit and able to teach the resident students when Anantshastri was away. Back home in Mal Heranji, the dissensions within Anantshastri’s extended family drove him to sell his property, settle debts incurred by various close relatives and start on a pilgrimage with Lakshmibai and their three children: baby Rama was carried by a servant in a cane basket on his head, as she later related in Englandcha Pravas (Selection 2). The pilgrimage took the family to the chief Vaishnava holy sites all over the country. It included an extended stay in 1871–2 at Dwarka in Gujarat. For years Ramabai cherished fond memories of her childhood strolls on the beach there with her family, as recounted in her account of her voyage to England with the poignant nostalgia of the family’s sole survivor. Significantly, when the visit figured again in her description of her family pilgrimage a quarter-century later, the earlier indulgence was replaced by a sharp critique of meaningless Hindu rituals and gullible devotees, such was the religious transition wrought by the intervening years.8 These travels also encompassed holy sites such as Ghatikachala and Venkatgiri in the Madras Presidency in 1872–4. At Ghatikachala Shrinivas lost much of the family money and ruined his health through expensive rituals and austere religious observances; Ramabai describes the episode in Stri Dharma Niti (Selection 1, chapter 2), withholding the young man’s identity. The family’s financial condition displayed spectacular oscillations, or rather a downward spiral. The wealth which had enabled long-distance mobility at the start of the pilgrimage in 1858 was gradually dissipated through living expenses and generous holy gifts to Brahmins. Surprisingly Anantshastri seems to have combined his religious preoccupations with some business ventures: he bought shares during Mumbai’s financial boom in the early 1860s.9 This was caused by the American Civil War (1861–5) which cut off the supply of American raw cotton and created an unprecedented demand for Indian cotton from England’s textile mills. The conclusion of the war abruptly ended the boom, destroying many fortunes. Anantshastri had visited Mumbai with his family a couple of times: the daguerreotype family photo (Plate 1) was taken there c. 1864. Ramabai’s claim that at one point he possessed Rs. 175,000 which he lost suddenly supports the premise. Meanwhile the family pilgrimage continued. Even the critical spirit of her later years did not dull Ramabai’s appreciation of the two progressive strands in her generally orthodox father’s thinking. The first was 11

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his insistence on educating his daughters; in young Rama’s case the task devolved upon Lakshmibai because he was almost 70 when eight-yearold Rama was ready for her initiation into Sanskrit studies. Ramabai later described the process thus: On a fine day at the beginning of the ninth year of my age, at an auspicious time when the stars were favourable, my parents worshipped their special gods and Saraswati, the Goddess of Wisdom, and told me to prostrate myself before the deities and worship them. After asking their blessing on me, my mother gave me the first lesson in the Hindu sacred lore. From that day my education began in right earnest.10 The traditional manner of teaching was for the teacher to speak a whole sentence or verse and for the pupils to repeat it twice after him. A lesson would consist of 1,000 or 2,000 lines, and it was an exhausting experience stretching over a few hours. This oral transmission was necessitated by a lack of printed books; the family’s rare manuscript copies – some bought at a high price and some transcribed by Ramabai’s parents – were highly treasured. In this fashion, the pupils had to commit to memory the vocabulary, grammar, even the dictionary and several other comments and references. By the age of 12, Ramabai had already committed to memory 18,000 Sanskrit stanzas to which more were added later. Anantshastri’s second progressive initiative was his decision not to arrange an early marriage for Ramabai after the miserable failure of his older daughter Krishnabai’s child marriage. Anantshastri had selected for Krishnabai a boy he had hoped to educate at his own home; however, the lad turned out to be a wastrel and ran away. Anantshastri kept Krishnabai with him, but some years later the young man compelled her to join him under the Restitution of Conjugal Rights Act. This was averted because the unhappy girl died soon after, in 1875, of cholera. (Ramabai describes the episode without revealing her sister’s identity in The High-Caste Hindu Woman, Selection 3, Chapter 4.) Surprisingly Anantshastri also married 18-year-old Shrinivas to a girl the boy did not like; obviously she did not join the Dongres and nothing further is known about her. Meanwhile the Dongres enjoyed the warmth of a close-knit nuclear family, but ultimately paid a high price for their endless travels. Anantshastri was repeatedly gifted money, but ritual observances and donations to holy men depleted the family’s savings as it continued to wend its way across the subcontinent. All its members – including young Rama – were compelled to earn a meagre living as puraniks or public preachers who expounded in the local languages the Sanskrit puranas (texts which combined mythology and philosophy), choosing a suitable and well-frequented spot, usually in 12

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the vicinity of a temple. (Ramabai’s polyglossia dates from this experience.) The listeners gained religious merit as well as solace from these discourses and showed their appreciation by leaving large and small gifts. This was the only honourable living open to Brahmins, as they were barred by tradition from manual work. The austerities involved in such a lifestyle took their toll in terms of malnutrition, and finally the family was compelled to live on a barely edible diet of leaves of forest trees washed down with water.11 Anantshastri, followed by the rest, decided to end their lives by drowning themselves into a lake for a ‘jala-samadhi’ which does not count as suicide. Farewells were said. But at the last minute Shrinivas decided to perform menial work, no matter how degrading for a Brahmin, to support the family and avert the disaster. However, the already-enfeebled and aged Anantshastri died shortly afterwards in 1874, thus ending a glorious career in sacred Sanskrit scholarship. Lakshmibai died a few months later during the same famine of 1874 in the Madras Presidency. The repeated oscillations in the family fortunes from peaks of prosperity to depths of degradation left a permanent philosophical imprint of the transitoriness of life on Ramabai’s mind, and surface in many of her writings. To the painful experience of the indignities of starvation – both for its victims and for its survivors – were added the practical difficulties consequent upon living in isolation outside a settled community. Anantshastri had to be buried in a sitting position (as he had become a sannyasi or renunciant) and a spot was found in a nearby forest where Shrinivas carried him on his back, bundled in cloth; a helpful acquaintance had a servant dig a grave. Lakshmibai had to be cremated according to Hindu rites, but most men of the village where the family found itself at the time refused to help. Finally two men agreed reluctantly to join Shrinivas as pallbearers. Shockingly enough, this forced young Rama to make the fourth pallbearer in the small funeral procession, assuming a role that was, for a woman, both unexpected and unacceptable. Besides, being the shortest, she had to carry the pole of the bier on her head instead of her shoulder. *

In the aftermath of this multiple tragedy which truncated the family, Ramabai and Shrinivas (by now Shrinivas-shastri) continued the familiar way of life and made their way on foot to various pilgrimage sites. Their subsequent life and journey from the south to the Himalayas was necessarily frugal and involved extreme hardship. On one occasion they combated the harsh Panjab winter, in the absence of warm clothes, by burying themselves up to the neck in dry sand on the bank of the Jhelum, as Ramabai narrates in her ‘Famine Experiences’. 13

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But, in the interstices of these ordeals lay some unique opportunities for Ramabai. An unconventional upbringing outside a settled Brahmin community enabled her to escape the rigid gender code, unlike her peers who were yoked to wifehood and motherhood at an early age, confined to the domestic sphere, subjected to the pressures of the extended family and denied an education or even literacy. Treated as her brother’s equal, educated and trained in addressing mixed audiences as a public preacher, Ramabai later entered the public – and by definition male – arena of social reform without hesitation. That her life was, from its inception, anchored in a deep religiosity, with conscience as the sole arbiter of conduct, explains her later spiritual quest coupled with intellectual curiosity and a defiance of dogma. A life of physical hardship, often at the very edge of survival, forged in her a strength of character and intense individualism, which was, and still is, rare in Indian society which has always rested on collectivity and conformity to convention, and which later enabled her to tread a solitary and difficult path to spiritual salvation involving various contestations. The siblings’ eventual visit to Bengal in 1878 constituted the first major rupture in Ramabai’s life trajectory, and she was finally absorbed into a larger community as its member. Ramabai was now 20 years old, petite, with the typical Chitpavan good looks including a fair skin and greenish grey eyes; her personality must already have given an idea of the charisma she was to develop. Eight years later when Anandibai Joshee met her for the first time in the USA, she described Ramabai as ‘delicate and flowerlike’ so that ‘she appears somewhat timid. And yet by her courage she has caused great yogis to quail before her’.12 Lionized for her unique mastery over the Sanskrit language and texts, Ramabai was publicly examined by a small panel of Sanskrit scholars comprising Professor Tawney, Professor Gough and Pandit Maheshchandra Nyayaratna at the Senate House of the University of Calcutta, and awarded the titles of ‘Pandita’ (woman scholar) and ‘Saraswati’ (Goddess of Learning). The first title was always used; in Maharashtra she was later occasionally addressed as ‘Panditabai’ or even ‘Sanskritabai’. In Calcutta (now Kolkata) she was also inducted into the socioreligious reform circle of the monotheistic Brahmo Samaj, especially in its campaign for women’s education for which she lectured widely within the Bengal Presidency. These public lectures, as well as her private speeches for women in the secluded quarters of their homes, drew heavily upon Hindu texts and mythology, and established her nationwide fame as a woman champion of women’s education and even more of a rarity – a woman public speaker. They were also to bring her international fame, all unknown to her. The gist of one of her lectures at Banaras in 1878 reached Dr W. W. Hunter (later chairman of the Hunter Commission on Education in 1882) through 14

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an Indian newspaper report. It so impressed him that he described to ‘a great audience’ in England: how a learned young Brahman lady had gone through India, expressing in every province that liberality which Bombay shows in regard to the education and treatment of women. When I spoke of a high-caste Indian lady being thus employed, that great English audience rose as one man and applauded the efforts which the Pandita Ramabhai [sic] was making on behalf of her countrywomen.13 Ramabai’s first close encounter with Christianity also occurred at this time, when she was invited to attend a service. It hardly impressed her, as she describes in A Testimony (Selection 7). Nor did a Sanskrit Bible gifted to her seem interesting. But a small dent was made in her orthodox Hindu beliefs by Bengali reformers: Keshab Chander Sen advised her to read the Vedas which she had believed were prohibited to women; others like Kali Charan Banerjee received her and Shrinivas into their homes.14 *

Surprisingly enough, even in the Bengal Presidency, Ramabai maintained a Maharashtrian connection. Without ever having lived in Maharashtra, she had presumably spoken Marathi (in an archaic form typical of emigrants) as her mother tongue and perhaps regarded the region as her homeland. Later, during her testimony before the Hunter Commission, she maintained that although she was not formally taught Marathi, she ‘acquired a correct knowledge’ of the language by listening to her parents speak it, and reading Marathi newspapers and books.15 The exaggeration involved in her claim of a ‘correct knowledge’ of Marathi is revealed by her writings prior to 1883 when she had spent a year in Maharashtra. In August 1879 Ramabai read the Marathi news item published in Mumbai’s Anglo-Marathi liberal weekly Indu-Prakash that a young Brahmin woman called Anusuyabai had been felicitated at Nashik for her excellence in expounding the puranas. This struck a sympathetic chord and her enthusiastic response was a prompt letter to the paper from Shillong in the Bengal Presidency, professing to feel ‘more happiness than my heart can contain, or my words express’.16 The event seemed to herald ‘the auspicious dawn’ of the life of the female sex, prompting Ramabai to wax eloquent: Sanskrit, the sacred language of the ancient, venerable inhabitants of Bharat-varsha, is very difficult to learn and comprehend. Acquisition of such astonishing learning in that language is comparable to the rising of the moon, in the form of a female face, in 15

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the skies of the female sex, which have been blinded by ignorance and clouded by the cover of darkness!17 This she found especially laudable, because the female scholars of ancient India were long gone; and now women everywhere were ignorant and ‘drowning in the deep sea of sorrow’. Ramabai then suggested that Anusuyabai should progress beyond the purana stories and give her female audiences moral advice to seek progress and happiness. That alone would eventually improve their condition. The congratulatory Marathi letter, the earliest piece of Ramabai’s prolific literary output in print, is saturated in a heavily Sanskritized idiom – in fact it is composed of Sanskrit words and long compounds intermixed with occasional Marathi words and verbs. The text is clearly situated within the orthodox Brahmin paradigm, with the exception of its progressive advocacy of women’s education. It confirms that for the first 20 years of her life Ramabai had not broken out of the mould in which her father had cast her. Her emphasis here on women’s knowledge of dharma and niti (religion and morality) was to later evolve into her first Marathi book, Stri Dharma Niti (Selection 1). A peep into later events suggests the possibility of the two women having met in Pune in 1882. Anusuyabai had gained a tentative entry into the evolving discursive interest in women’s education. In her personal narrative Kashibai Kanitkar (later to emerge as the first major and reformist Marathi woman writer) compares Anusuyabai’s conventional religious discourses unfavourably with Ramabai’s much-appreciated, innovative and reform-oriented purana lectures.18 Kashibai also alleges that Anusuyabai’s ulterior motive was to make money and collect gifts – which succeeded until she was exposed. Unfortunately, she behaved arrogantly enough to discredit women’s education. In a letter to the Marathi section of Mumbai’s Anglo-Marathi weekly Native Opinion (1 October 1882) an anonymous writer signing himself ‘X desirous of women’s welfare’ praised Anusuyabai for her education and skill, but critiqued her short-sighted approach to education. He suggested that she should exert herself on behalf of her Indian sisters in emulation of Pandita Ramabai or assist the latter in her activities, and thus jointly bear ‘the yoke of a great endeavour’. *

Meanwhile Ramabai and Shrinivas continued to travel through the Bengal Presidency giving lectures. Ramabai had already made a public vow to dedicate her life to the betterment of women. Although she had led an unconventional life outside the ambit of conventional society, it was punctuated by occasional exposure to oppressive scenes witnessed at 16

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a young and impressionable age which gave rise to an incipient feminism: a child wife being publicly battered by her marital family, an expecting mother being threatened with desertion unless she produced a son and the drawn faces of even wealthy, elite women who were childless. These scenes translated into her later and strong championship of women in general. But women’s education was her main thrust and a source of her fame. In 1880 a small group of Maharashtrian social reformers went to Calcutta and then to Dhaka to invite Ramabai to join their efforts for women’s education in Bombay. Their newly opened girls’ school, run under the auspices of the Students’ Literary Society, had only male teachers so that guardians withdrew their wards at about the age of 10. Ramabai promised to consider it. Unfortunately, on 15 May 1880, Shrinivas died in Dhaka of over-exertion aggravated by former austerities which had fatally eroded his health. His only anxiety was about his younger sister’s future. Ramabai was now all alone and unprotected. She went to Meerut to meet Swami Dayanand Saraswati to discuss her future course of action; the relevance of the meeting remains unexplained. But a general discussion had already started about her need to marry. Spurred to action, her persistent suitor and Shrinivas’s friend, Babu Bipin Behari Das Medhavi, a Bengali lawyer, renewed his suit and the two married on 13 June 1880. He was a non-Brahmin: Ramabai refers to him as a ‘Shudra’.19 He belonged to the Brahmo Samaj, which she herself supported at the time; the marriage was performed under the Civil Marriage Act (III of 1872).20 Medhavi’s family objected to this intercaste and interregional marriage strongly enough to ostracize the couple. The two, however, led their independent, happy life. Now came Ramabai’s second encounter with Christianity – through a Bible reading with a missionary, Mr Allen, who visited their house. Although educated in a missionary school, Medhavi was incensed by her growing interest in Christianity sufficiently to put a stop to the exercise, as she mentions in A Testimony. This was possibly their only, albeit strong, source of friction. The couple’s married life, spent at Silchar (or Kochar) in Assam which was then subsumed under the Bengal Presidency, was on the whole happy. Their daughter Manorama was born on 16 April 1881. It was from Silchar that Ramabai submitted her Sanskrit poem, ‘Lamentation of the Divine Language’, to the Oriental Congress held in Berlin in 1881 by the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. The Sanskritist Monier-Williams who translated it into English for publication gave the poem the title ‘A Sanskrit Ode’: he lauded it albeit in a clearly patronizing tone and appended a very brief biographical sketch of Ramabai (with small factual inaccuracies).21 17

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Plate 2  Ramabai as Mrs Medhavi, c. 1882

It was no accident that Ramabai’s first incursion into the sphere of international scholarship was couched in Sanskrit and voiced a strong support for the language, testifying to her location within an orthodox Brahmin paradigm. It equates nationalism with restoring the glory of the ‘Aryan race’ 18

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Plate 3  Bipin Behari Das Medhavi, c. 1882

through promoting Sanskrit and preserving it from foreign contamination by resisting the then recent suggestion of its transliteration in Roman characters. The impassioned plea claims that the land of Bharat can be saved only if Sanskrit is reinstated to its former heights. In this narrative of the epistemic violence of colonialism, the reified language, Mother Sanskrit, bemoans her lot as ‘an aged mother shorn of 19

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her beauty and bereft of her ornaments’, now abandoned by her misguided children ‘who are a dark blot upon the Aryan race’, because they ‘follow the ways of the foreigners, and lay the axe to the root of their own tree of knowledge’. The new icon of Mother Sanskrit is constructed to emblematize the ‘glorious ancient Hindu culture’ and conflated with the existing icon of Mother India which was a nationalist rallying point for Indians.22 Ramabai even uses it as a conduit to carry her interrogation of colonial rule to European (albeit not British) soil. Interestingly, the articulation of these sentiments postdates the orthodox Hindu phase in Ramabai’s personal life: she had already married the nonBrahmin Medhavi and both professed the Brahmo faith. But the valence of Sanskrit and a Sanskritized worldview continued to pervade all of her Marathi writings and much of her thinking until the moment of the multiple ruptures in her life at the end of the nineteenth century, when she began to totally and consciously Other it. Soon personal tragedy struck yet again. Ramabai’s newfound happiness ended abruptly with her husband’s death by cholera on 4 February 1882. The 24-year-old Ramabai was left an impecunious widow with an infant daughter. Medhavi’s extended family, permanently antagonized by his marriage, refused financial or social support. A fellow Maharashtrian and distant cousin, Anandibai Joshee (later to qualify as India’s first woman doctor), made the widowed Ramabai an offer of shelter and hospitality at Serampore where her husband then worked as a postmaster, though Ramabai gratefully declined it.23 But a wider Maharashtrian support structure and frame of reference existed in the background. The social reformers there now renewed their invitation. Justice M. G. Ranade and fellow reformers of the Prarthana Samaj were still eager to induct Ramabai into their own efforts to propagate women’s education in Maharashtra. After accepting the moral responsibility to soon discharge her husband’s debts incurred for his studies (which she soon did from Pune), Ramabai left Bengal with baby Manorama, and set out for Maharashtra. On this long journey Ramabai was accompanied by a Bengali young man, Bank Bihari Sharma, in the capacity of a brotherly escort.24 The journey was longer than expected because Ramabai first visited Madras (now Chennai) briefly – though without success – to explore the possibility of studying medicine at the city’s medical college.

Notes 1 All Indian rivers considered holy are known as ‘Ganga’. 2 Ramabai’s letter (dated 11 May 1890) addressed to Geraldine; The Letters and Correspondence of Pandita Ramabai, compiled by Sr Geraldine and edited by A. B. Shah, Bombay: Maharashtra State Board for Literature and Culture, 1977

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(henceforth Letters), p. 253. As late as in 1956, the thick stone walls of the roofless dilapidated house were visible; D. N. Tilak, Maharashtrachi Tejaswini Pandita Ramabai, Nashik: Nagarik Prakashan, 1960, p. 24. Photos (taken c. 1890 and 1956, respectively) are reproduced on the initial glossy pages of the two books. 3 The Marathi and English sources for Ramabai’s life are listed in the References. The most reliable are D. G. Vaidya, Part II in Pandita Ramabai, Englandcha Pravas, Mumbai: Maharashtra Rajya Sahitya ani Sanskriti Mandal, 1988, pp. 29–77; and Tilak, Maharashtrachi Tejaswini. 4 Maharashtra became a state in the Indian Union in 1960; earlier the name described the Marathi-speaking region in western India which was subsumed under parts of the Bombay Presidency, Central Provinces and Berar, and the Nizam’s Hyderabad State. 5 The custom of changing the bride’s first name during the wedding still prevails in Maharashtra. 6 Bodley, ‘Introduction’, p. viii. Bodley obviously draws upon Ramabai’s translation of her earlier Marathi account published in Subodha Patrika, based on her family lore. 7 This was possibly the young boy seen in Plate 1. 8 Pandita Ramabai, ‘Religious Consciousness of the Hindus’, Mukti Prayer Bell, September 1907. 9 Tilak, Maharashtrachi Tejaswini, pp. 28–30. 10 Pandita Ramabai, ‘My Education as a Hindu’, Mukti Prayer Bell, March 1904. 11 A poignant account of this period is found in Ramabai’s ‘Famine Experiences’ (Selection 4). 12 Cited in Nicol Macnicol, Pandita Ramabai, Calcutta: Association Press, 1926, p. 66. 13 The Times of India, 12 September 1882. Ramabai had just settled in western India for the first time when Hunter met her; hence his reference to ‘Bombay’. The British often mixed up the suffixes ‘bai’ (a respected woman) and ‘bhai’ (brother). 14 Both these were renowned reformers. Sen was a Brahmo and headed a breakaway sect of the Brahmo Samaj; Banerjee converted to the Anglican Church. 15 The Times of India, 7 September 1882. 16 The letter is reproduced in D. G. Vaidya in Pandita Ramabai, Englandcha Pravas, p. 34. 17 Ibid., pp. 34–5. 18 Sarojini Vaidya, Shrimati Kashibai Kanitkar, pp. 87, 89. 19 Medhavi was allegedly a Kayastha and the caste was traditionally literate and enjoyed a high ritual status, hardly qualifying as a ‘Shudra’; Padmini Sengupta, Pandita Ramabai Saraswati, Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1970, p. 75. A. B. Shah in his Introduction to Letters also refers to him as ‘an educated Kayastha friend of Srinivas’ and an admirer of hers’; Letters, p. xii. The chronology of Ramabai’s early years is blurred. Adhav gives 8 May as the date of Shrinivas’s death and 13 June 1880 as the date of Ramabai’s marriage; S. M. Adhav, Pandita Ramabai, Madras: The Christian Literature Society, 1979, p. ix. Vaidya gives 15 May and 13 October as the respective dates. Ramabai herself is vague: in an autobiographical account she mentions having married six months after her brother’s death; Kosambi, Pandita Ramabai, p. 117. This coincides with Vaidya’s date, but renders problematic 16 April 1881 as Manorama’s birthdate. In the same autobiographical account Ramabai mentions 16 months of marriage, and in A Testimony (section entitled ‘Calcutta’) only that her husband died within

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two years of their marriage. Vaidya (p. 52) mentions 19 months of Ramabai’s marriage, based on her own Marathi account of 1882. 20 The act legalized marriages between Brahmos, or between persons who did not profess any specific religion, or between persons who followed different religions; in brief, marriages which could not be performed by priests. 21 The poem is reproduced both in Sanskrit and in Monier-Williams’s English translation in Sengupta, Pandita Ramabai Saraswati, pp. 340–7. The brief discussion of the Sanskrit poem draws on Meera Kosambi, ‘Tracing the Voice’, Australian Feminist Studies, Vol. 19, No. 43, March 2004, pp. 19–27. 22 Indira Chowdhury, The Frail Hero and Virile History, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 95. 23 Caroline Healey Dall, The Life of Dr. Anandabai [sic] Joshee, Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1888, pp. vi–vii. 24 Ranade, Amachya Ayushyatil Kahi Athavani, p. 80.

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2 ENTRY INTO MAHARASHTRA

The persuasive invitation from Maharashtra’s social reformers brought their ‘native daughter’ to Pune, having already been preceded by her fame. Ramabai’s comet-like arrival in April 1882, as a Bengali Brahmo widow dressed in white, with close-cropped hair, created a predictable stir and caused two polar reactions.1 On the positive side, she was immediately enfolded within the Prarthana Samaj’s social reform circle and enabled by the strength of caste bonds to slide effortlessly into the Chitpavan Brahmin community as ‘one of us’, recalls Ramabai Ranade, wife of Justice M. G. Ranade, in her autobiography.2 But the majority of the Brahmin community, extremely orthodox in religion and conservative in social mores, believed in keeping women under strict control.3 Its staunchly patriarchal ideology positioned a woman firmly within the domestic sphere as a wife-mother-housewife – accentuating her sexual, reproductive and homemaking functions – as mandated somewhat ambiguously by the ancient Hindu shastras but unambiguously by contemporary social custom, the two authorities whose relative strength continued to be debated. Prepubertal marriage for a girl and immediate postpubertal consummation of marriage were mandatory in order to harness her sexuality from its inception to marriage and motherhood. A high status for a woman was that of a saubhagya-vati or enjoying the great good fortune of having a living husband; it was further enhanced if she was a mother of sons rather than daughters who were considered inferior and undesirable.4 This status was proclaimed by her appearance – a colourful nine-yard sari and a profusion of ornaments. A woman with only daughters or without children had a lower status and was in danger of being deserted by her husband. To the lowest rank was relegated the widow – especially a child widow or one without children, who was neither wife nor mother and had thus forfeited her right to a normal existence. Widowhood was also proclaimed through appearance – a plain, borderless maroon sari, absence of ornaments and ritual disfigurement through a repeatedly shaven head, as a sign of permanent mourning, which was always carefully covered. (See Plate 8 23

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Plate 4  Ramabai with Manorama and Anandibai Bhagat, c. early 1883

showing Sharada Sadan students.) Brahmin men’s mourning was signalled by the one-time shaving off of their otherwise-mandatory moustache and tuft of hair on their tonsured heads. Construed as a punishment for sins in previous lives, widowhood bore the stigma of inauspiciousness; and a widow became a household drudge, expected to live on meagre food, sleep on the floor without bedding and spend her spare time in religious rituals. This was calculated to underscore 24

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her superfluity in the patriarchal scheme of society. Her disfigurement through head-shaving, accompanied by an austere lifestyle, had a dual purpose: to kill her sexual desire and render her unattractive to the men around her. But this was not always successful: widows sometimes succumbed to the temptations of the flesh, and deliberate attempts were routinely made to seduce them, as was well documented by nineteenthcentury newspapers and literature. From this fact derived the discursive valence of the rehabilitation of widows: through remarriage for child (i.e. virgin) widows and through teacher training or other vocations for women widowed in adulthood. Meanwhile the internationally troped, tragic figure of the Indian widow was to become the focal point of Ramabai’s future career – despite conservative attempts to emphasize her own vulnerability as a widow and thus undercut the agency she claimed as a social reformer. Predictably, mainstream Maharashtra was scandalized by Ramabai – an unconventional Brahmin widow with a definitely unacceptable present and an imagined, questionable past. Rumour had it that her father had dedicated her to a god in childhood through ‘marriage’ – which alone could explain her having grown to adulthood as a single woman, and which technically rendered her ineligible for a normal marriage later in life. The Brahmin women of Pune accused her in unflattering terms of having, despite this ‘fact’, defiled herself by marrying ‘a Bengali Babu’, failed to lead a proper domestic life, ‘destroyed her family life, and now come to defile the world!’, as recounted by Ramabai Ranade.5 There was another impediment to Pandita Ramabai’s complete absorption within the progressive segment of the Chitpavan community – her unselfconscious flouting of the strict caste norms which circumscribed it. She herself had refused to accept the marginal position reserved for Brahmin widows and mixed freely with her friends and well-wishers some of whom were non-Brahmin. But she seems not to have noticed that this might create problems for the women in those families. Kashibai Kanitkar mentions that she and her husband had come to know Panditabai well in Pune, and so she came to stay with them in Mumbai once. Although the couple lived by themselves, the ever-present caste pressures made it difficult for them to host the five (presumably non-Brahmin) women Ramabai had brought along who observed no rules of ritual purity. Sharing bath water and meals, and cleaning up after them posed unforeseen problems. Kashibai’s telling conclusion is: ‘Although Panditabai was a Chitpavan, she probably had no idea of these domestic difficulties because of her stay in Bengal and her Brahmo beliefs.’6 Ramabai’s location within the social reform discourse was ambivalent. The discourse was the outcome of the recent colonial cultural encounter which had introduced reformist ideas of women’s ‘uplift’ through 25

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amelioration of the coercive customs of child marriage and enforced widowhood, and through education. Education had traditionally been religious and thus monopolized by men of the Brahmin community – the ritually sanctioned ‘literati’ – until the advent of English education which was not only secular but also caste- and gender-neutral in its egalitarian ethos. Colonial rule inspired the reform discourse in various ways: through Western educational institutions which urged students to critique and redress social inequalities, through missionary attempts (via their educational institutions as well as public proselytization) to ideologically combat the hierarchical base of Hindu society and through official promises to allow a political voice to Indians after they achieved a degree of social reform. However, the reform movement was constructed as an entirely male ­project. Its patriarchal parameters were inherently incapable of accommodating radical gender-egalitarian initiatives, as became increasingly ­apparent. Reforms were to be strictly circumscribed by the existing ­normative boundaries and geared towards making women better wives for the English-educated men demanding companionate marriages, and more enlightened mothers of the future generations which would restore India to its former glory and importantly to political autonomy. ‘Emancipation’ of women was thus essentially an investment in social – that is, male – progress, rather than a step towards gender equality. The decade of the 1880s witnessed three phases of social reform simultaneously operating in Maharashtra.7 The loosely orchestrated reform movement was pioneered four decades earlier by ‘Lokahitavadi’ Gopal Hari Deshmukh (1823–92, editor of the journal Lokahitavadi, or ‘one advocating public welfare’) and ‘Mahatma’ Jotirao Phule (1827–90). The former operated within the Brahmin orbit, and the latter mainly championed the lower castes against the oppressive Brahmin hegemony; but both adopted a general pro-British stance even while demanding political rights. Within his primary framework of caste equality Phule also supported gender justice; his acerbic anti-Brahmin rhetoric combined with the influence of the Christian ethos made him wholeheartedly back Ramabai’s later conversion to Christianity, as will be seen. From the late 1870s the liberals appeared on the scene, led by Justice M. G. Ranade (1842–1901), Professor (later Sir) R. G. Bhandarkar (1837– 1925) and Justice K. T. Telang (1850–93), seeking to introduce social reform through legislation while also educating public opinion. Their agenda was to ameliorate the worst injustices against women so that the region’s social reform discourse came to be equated with gender-related issues. This was not surprising, given both the severity of women’s oppression within the Brahmin community and the community’s social leadership role based on its multiple hegemony. Bhandarkar propagated the cause through his 26

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teaching career, writings and public speeches in support of late consummation of marriage and widow remarriage; he also arranged the remarriage of his own widowed daughter, for which he was unsuccessfully threatened with ostracism by his caste fellows.8 Telang and Ranade, respectively the first and second Maharashtrian judge of the Bombay High Court, supported social change through state legislation, such as the Age of Consent Bill (1891). A significant shift occurred in the mid-1880s with an attempt to prioritize political reform over social concerns, especially by Professor (later ‘Lokamanya’) B. G. Tilak (1856–1920) who rapidly ascended on the national political scene. The liberal faction was championed by Principal G. G. Agarkar (1856–95), initially Tilak’s friend. As ideological comrades, the two together pioneered reformist ventures such as founding the twin weekly newspapers – Kesari (Marathi) and The Mahratta (English) – in 1881, and the Deccan Education Society in 1885. The ideological divergence and the consequent rupture between the two came in the late 1880s over Tilak’s increasing social conservatism, coupled with political aspirations, which clashed with Agarkar’s rationalist liberalism in the tradition of J. S. Mill. Agarkar left the Tilak group and started his own Anglo-Marathi weekly, Sudharak, in 1888. Newspapers were an essential weapon in the battle for social and political reform; prominent among them, in addition to the ones listed earlier, were Mumbai’s Anglo-Marathi weeklies: the liberal Indu-Prakash (1862) with which Justice Ranade was associated and Subodha Patrika (1873) of the Prarthana Samaj. The leading conservative paper was Native Opinion (1864) started by V. N. Mandlik. The Christian Dnyanodaya (1842) provided its own religious perspective on mainstream Hindu events.9 The 12 months that Ramabai spent in Maharashtra in 1882–3 (and the years following her subsequent return in 1889) coincided broadly with the cusp between the second and third generations of social reformers. The first generation was then largely on the wane, though both G. H. Deshmukh and Phule supported her. *

With support from liberals Ramabai moved rapidly into the male and upper-caste social reform discourse and attempted to inscribe women into it as subjects rather than objects. She succeeded in cramming an unbelievable number and variety of activities towards this end into her yearlong stay. These started with public lectures, often within the format of the accepted and popular purana lectures wherein a sacred story serves as the basis for a didactic explication. She changed this into a talk about a progressive social theme, such as women’s education and emancipation. These 27

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weekly lectures were held at the houses of the Prarthana Samaj members by turn, starting with the Ranades. Ramabai Ranade describes the Pandita’s extraordinary ability to hold audiences spellbound with her sweet voice, fluent speech and excellent manner of elaborating upon a topic.10 Devadatta Tilak cites D. G. Vaidya’s description of such a lecture which stressed the importance of educating women to improve their lot and also that of men who were like puppets in the hands of their colonial masters. Ramabai also protested against the objectification of women.11 She soon incorporated many of these ideas in her book Stri Dharma Niti. Rumours were rife among her opponents, such as the older women of the Ranade household, who attributed to the Pandita distorted and exaggerated statements advising women to leave their husbands who enslave and torment them, and set up house by themselves.12 These conservative women abhorred the Pandita to extent of forbidding Ramabai Ranade to enter the kitchen after returning from one of her lectures, because of having incurred pollution too strong to be dispelled by just changing her clothes.13 The Pandita importantly deployed a novel strategy to attract the usually homebound women to these lectures for their social awakening: she made it a rule that every man who wanted to attend her lectures had to bring along at least one woman of his family. This is how Kashibai Kanitkar had the opportunity to hear Ramabai.14 The move also helped create around Ramabai a small primary network of women from progressive families. The network endured over the years, especially because of their affiliation with Ramabai’s Arya Mahila Samaj, but it was unfortunately not large, strong or steady enough to initiate a women’s movement. The Arya Mahila Samaj, the first ever women’s organization in Maharashtra, was Ramabai’s formal launching pad for her reform career; it was established on 1 June 1882 in Pune on the rudimentary foundations of an existing women’s class run by the Prarthana Samaj where a few educated men imparted general knowledge to women.15 The objective of the Arya Mahila Samaj was far more ambitious and emancipatory: it sought to free women from the oppression customs of child marriage, disfigurement and inhuman treatment of widows, denial of an education to women and their general lack of social freedom. The Samaj aimed to engage only in public causes, not personal ones. All members had equal rights, irrespective of their caste or status (although mainly well-to-do Brahmin women seemed to join it); and they had to swear in the name of God to serve public causes impartially and without prejudice. The Samaj later developed branches in the region’s major cities and towns. This was a revolutionary attempt by a woman to mobilize women to discuss, from their own perspective, social reform issues which touched their own lives, and thus correct the intrinsic androcentric bias of existing reformist thinking. The male leadership was then on the verge of a split 28

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between social and political priorities: those, like Tilak, who prioritized political concerns were socially conservative. Ramabai’s venture was therefore variously received. It was predictably welcomed by liberals like Ranade, as a progressive initiative. Surprisingly the socially conservative Native Opinion of Mumbai (4 June 1882) also hailed the ‘very mature, far-sighted and sincere thoughts’ expressed by this ‘really incomparable’ woman. But this first public assertion of female agency to improve the condition of ‘our women’ – as women were possessively perceived – also posed a threat to male hegemony of reform. It drew instant retaliation from the Tilak faction and stung Kesari (8 August 1882) into warning Ramabai explicitly against trespassing on the male domain: In real life, it is the task of men to eradicate these and many other evils customs prevalent in our society. Women cannot interfere in them for many years to come, even if they are panditas and have reached the ultimate stage of reform. . . . Our women will have to submit to male control for a long time to come. In hindsight this warning amounted to a declaration of hostilities by Tilak against Ramabai.16 N. C. Kelkar, Tilak’s biographer and successor as editor of Kesari, admits that Tilak harboured personal animosity against her (which was to ultimately result in boycotting her years later and forcing her to leave Pune). He justifies Tilak’s stance claiming that the latter supported women’s education and lauded women who attempted social reform without offending social beliefs (which was well-nigh impossible) or entered national politics (which he actually discouraged, as will be seen). Kelkar claims that Tilak disliked any educated woman who ‘flaunted’ her achievements and received wide publicity, and thus regarded Ramabai as a ‘social enemy’ all his life, speculating that he probably frowned at his first sight of Ramabai.17 Kelkar further states that neither of them ever uttered a complimentary word about the other – omitting to mention that Tilak personally wrote a venomous article about Ramabai in 1904 (in addition to Kesari’s regular, offensive news reports and editorials), while she never wrote anything about him at all. The Arya Mahila Samaj could have been the hub of the first-wave feminism in western India had Ramabai found strong and supportive reformist women to help her – but this was an impossibility in her contemporary society. *

At the end of June 1882 Ramabai published her Marathi book Stri Dharma Niti, registered and copyrighted under the English title ‘Morals for 29

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Women’ (henceforth SDN, Selection 1), offering advice to women about the duties of good wives, housewives and mothers. This ‘New Woman’ fit the mould in which social reformers everywhere in India wanted to recast women, as described by Geraldine Forbes.18 A similar Bengali counterpart of this persona is succinctly described by Sumit Sarkar as enjoying ‘limited and controlled education and emancipation’.19 Ramabai’s pervasively condescending authorial tone towards women in SDN seems surprising until one realizes that she has adopted the speaking position of a surrogate male reformer. She begins by bemoaning the sad condition of Indian women and takes it upon herself to provide them appropriate instruction in morality and proper conduct. The book’s usefulness and popularity were obvious: the first edition was sold out mainly because the director of education bought 500 copies at the recommendation of Dadoba Pandurag Tarkhadkar (or Tarkhad), one of the foremost reformers of Mumbai.20 It is believed that Ramabai used this money to buy her passage to England the following year. Chapter 1, ‘The Foundation’, stresses the need for self-improvement and self-reliance among women – the currently lazy, ignorant and even stupid women – through diligence. Here Ramabai nationalistically interrogates the rule of a small colonial population which has empowered itself through incessant effort. Her solution comes in Chapter 2 which valorizes education as ‘indestructible wealth’. But the curriculum she suggests for the average woman is both astonishing and unfeasible. Starting with grammar, history, dharma-shastras, physics, geography, political economy and moral science, she also includes ‘a little medicine’, accomplishments such as cooking, sewing and needlework, and ‘some knowledge of arithmetic’. The author then dwells (in Chapter 3, ‘Modesty’), on moderation, self-restraint, caution and humility; and (in Chapter 4, ‘True Religion’), on ethical conduct which is common to all doctrines. Chapter 5, ‘Conduct for Brides’, makes the radical suggestion that young men and women should select their own spouses when they reach the marriageable age, that is, at about 20. This freedom of choice and Ramabai’s critique of child marriage cut at the root of the Hindu marriage institution which, at her time, was regarded essentially as a relationship between two families and not individuals. She then talks about the complementarity of the sexes and eulogizes the role of the husband as a teacher, friend and ‘a god’. Unfortunately this picture contradicts the numerous examples she provides of bad husbands who harass and torment their wives. In ‘Domestic Duties’ (Chapter 6), Ramabai covers the vast spectrum from the sublime to the humdrum – religious charities, ideal behaviour towards members of the family, the daily routine of housewives, treatment of servants, personal hygiene and domestic cleanliness. Importantly ‘The Nurture and Care of Children’ (Chapter 7) touches upon the need for 30

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women’s physical and psychological well-being in order to ensure healthy progeny. This was arguably the first time the issue of eugenics was privileged in the social reform discourse. Moreover, Ramabai claims that men deliberately keep women in ignorance in order to retain their own power and superiority. The final chapter, ‘The Ultimate Goal’, is philosophical in tone and underscores the transitory nature of happiness (which runs like a thread through the text), and the need to surrender oneself to God. Throughout the book Ramabai focuses on improving the generally inferior position of women. But her own speaking position changes imperceptibly – from first identifying this inferiority as self-induced to later labelling it as male-induced. The various assumptions inhabiting the text coexist uneasily: the superiority of men, censurable oppressiveness of men, complementarity of the sexes, need for wifely devotion and the ideal of gender equality. Her lack of familiarity with the average, gender-segregated household is exposed when she assumes the young wife to be the mistress of the house, able to run it as she wishes, and able even to spend time alone chatting with her husband. Some of her contemporary women have recorded very different experiences in their life stories. On the whole she generally rambles with ease from the philosophical to the practical, dispensing advice to wives and housewives about practical household matters that appeared routinely in magazines intended for the family, such as Vividha Jnana Vistara. The didactic text is remarkable for many features: its location within the oral tradition of purana sermons; its wide-ranging illustrations culled alike from Hindu mythology (e.g. Sita and Savitri) and European history (Napoleon); and its heavily Sanskritized language which, as Kesari’s reviewer (1 August 1882) feared, would reduce even Sanskrit-educated men to helplessness, ‘what to speak of our poor women who are almost drowning in the sea of ignorance!’ But the book’s general reception was favourable. Native Opinion (23 July 1882) claimed that ‘her advice to women is worth heeding not only by Hindu women but by men as well’. In the first instalment of its review Kesari (1 August 1882) congratulated Ramabai on having directed her attention to ‘the ways and means of achieving the welfare of our helpless and ignorant female community’. Additionally commendable was the fact that ‘the task of championing the women’s cause and speaking or writing on their behalf, which hitherto fell to the lot of men, has now been undertaken by one belonging to the female sex herself’. In the second instalment (22 August 1882), presumably written after the reviewer had read the later chapters containing Ramabai’s radical opinions and critique of men, he reversed his stance. Ultimately Ramabai’s New Woman remains somewhat ambivalent: she is essentially a conventional wife, mother and housewife, but enjoys the 31

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kind of agency which was palpably unavailable to young women within the extended family with its multiple pressures from older and conservative women. Ramabai’s blithe ignorance of the familial reality around her is truly surprising. The extended family formed a miniature community graded along the axes of gender and age. Within the home – usually the wada or mansion with rooms arranged around the central square courtyard – there was spatial segregation with separate areas for men and women and with ‘ritually pure’ and ‘impure’ spaces.21 Women’s seclusion was effectively achieved without veiling. During the day the two sexes had no opportunity to mix; no interaction or even conversation between husband and wife could occur, though Ramabai seems to take this for granted. Thus the first central dilemma of the book is the divide between Ramabai’s vividly painted, ideal family scenarios and the repressive social reality which allowed women no space to put her advice into practice. The other dilemma is the book’s presumed readership – the ignorant and illiterate women who were the putative beneficiaries of her advice could not access the book without male help, and the few literate women who could read it were not likely to need the advice. *

The widening orbit of the Arya Mahila Samaj, the generous official patronage extended to SDN and Dr W. W. Hunter’s familiarity with her work brought Ramabai into direct contact with British officialdom. She was invited to testify as a witness before the Education Commission (headed by Dr Hunter) whose mandate was to consider the functioning of all branches of the Indian educational system, except universities and institutions of special or technical education. In late September 1882, Ramabai gave evidence before the commission. In her Marathi testimony, interpreted in English by Mrs Murray Mitchell, the missionary principal of the women’s training college, Ramabai proudly traced her reformist impulse to her idealistic father, a man who had advocated women’s education in the face of tremendous opposition.22 She then spelled out her surprisingly eclectic agenda for women’s education which embraced both the shastras and a secular curriculum including the English language. This was to be provided in girls’ schools by women teachers. She also pleaded for female inspectors for girls’ schools, because ‘in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, the educated men of this country are opposed to female education and the proper position of women’, and tend to magnify their faults. This she attributed to the fact that ‘women, being one half of the people of the country, are oppressed and cruelly treated by the other half.’ This was the first overt and officially recorded critique 32

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by a woman of the extent to which even educated men opposed women’s education – belying the implicit reformist belief of men’s willingness to spearhead women’s education, at least at home. Significantly Ramabai insinuated into her testimony an earnest plea for women’s medical education: The women of this country are much more reserved than in other countries, and most of them would rather die than speak of their ailments to a man. The want of lady-doctors is, therefore, the cause of hundreds of thousands of women dying premature deaths. She further insisted on government provision for women’s medical education. The discursive valence of women’s medical education was echoed by Mrs Francina Sorabji, who ran Victoria School, during her testimony on the same day.23 It was reiterated the following year by Anandibai Joshee during her public speech at Serampore, Bengal. Anandibai was then (in February 1883) planning to go to the USA to study medicine at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. After mentioning the high female mortality in India, she declared her intention to qualify as a woman doctor to fill a serious lacuna. This could be done only abroad, she added, because the Madras medical college and the midwifery classes in all the presidencies imparted inadequate education to women, as the male instructors were ‘conservative, and to some extent jealous’.24 Coincidentally both Anandibai and Ramabai left India in April 1883 to study medicine abroad but from different ports and for different destinations. Predictably Ramabai’s testimony elicited a binary reaction. The social conservatives questioned her credentials as an educational expert, underscoring her lack of formal teaching experience. Native Opinion (17 September 1882) unambiguously opposed her selection for this allegedly unmerited honour and attention. The paper made ‘female education’ the topic of an important article in which it dismissed all Ramabai’s suggestions as insignificant. Even the need for ‘lady-doctors for the treatment of native ladies’ was discounted because there was no ‘urgency of supplying this desideratum’; ‘but what we urgently feel the want of is a class of respectable midwives’. Obviously women’s child-bearing capacity and not their general health was a patriarchal concern. Incidentally, the article also promoted ‘home schooling’ for girls, teaching them ‘to read and write, to keep accounts, to sew and above all to cook well’. It made the point that Indians must profit by the deterrent example of Europe and not give their girls an education which is ‘ornamental rather than useful’. 33

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As was often the case with Ramabai, hostility from her compatriots was offset by international acclaim. During Dr Hunter’s visit to Pune he was invited to a meeting of the Arya Mahila Samaj which was attended by almost 300 women and a few men (including M. G. Ranade) – almost all Brahmins. Ramabai read a Marathi address, signed by 50 women, elaborating upon some topics mentioned in her testimony and a gist was translated into English by G. H. Deshmukh. In his reply Hunter endorsed Ramabai’s suggestion for medical education for Indian women; but as it was outside the purview of the commission, he promised to pursue the project in his personal capacity.25 Hunter had Ramabai’s testimony translated into English and printed for distribution in England. This, in addition to his own lectures on the subject, is supposed to have provided the impulse for the formation of the Dufferin Fund or ‘The National Association for Supplying Female Medical Aid to the Women of India’ known after its president, the vicereine of India. This was later mentioned by Dr Rachel Bodley, dean of the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, in her introduction to HCHW, thus inducting the issue into the contemporary international discourse on Indian women’s general and medical education.26 This was corroborated by Ramabai herself.27 *

Ramabai had made herself the discursive and practical focus of women’s education which was an embattled zone. Admittedly the measure was less difficult to implement than the other reform issues which necessitated structural changes in the marriage-related customs and thus also in the deep-rooted patriarchal normative system. Yet the difficulties were legion. Ideologically education was jealously guarded as the monopoly of Brahmin men; even Brahmin women could not encroach on the terrain. Women of educated families who had imbibed a meticulous knowledge of Marathi were compelled by their marital families to mispronounce certain words in the manner of an illiterate person in order to underline their inferiority.28 Besides, literacy would enable women to bypass the strict family controls and exercise freedom of communication. The most effective way of averting this was to deter women from desiring literacy, which is why education was causally linked to the dreaded disaster of widowhood. On a practical level, women’s entry into the public sphere – even in the capacity of school students – was itself regarded as a calamity to be avoided. Hunter himself, during the commission’s interviews, had argued: I don’t think it would be safe in Poona for young girls to go very far alone in the streets – especially in some localities – partly on 34

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account of the danger arising through the practice of wearing jewels, but principally because they might be subjected to annoyance and insult.29 He observed that earlier a girl carrying a satchel faced public hostility, though the practice had now stopped. Older girls could go about safely and the younger ones needed to be accompanied by an old man. The reality of such harassment is described in detail by Anandibai Joshee who lived in Girgaum, Mumbai’s Maharashtrian locality, in the late 1870s. The sight of her walking to school with books in her hands made people gape at her from their windows and even in the street. Some passed lewd remarks, made crude gestures and laughed in her face. Even pebbles were thrown at her as a mark of acute censure.30 If such hostility to girl students was embedded within Mumbai’s progressive milieu, it was natural that the idea aroused anxiety among parents in other cities and towns. *

In the midst of all this public activity, in her personal life Ramabai remained as alone as before, having only her little daughter to call her own. Perhaps her activities camouflaged a rarely voiced inner loneliness which poignantly surfaced at the beginning of the account of her voyage to England (Selection 2). Arguably this very isolation and exclusion from social bonding enabled her radical interventions. However, her cleft social status – as a Brahmin scholar respected for her erudition and ability, but also as a widow reviled for transgressing social norms – was to mark her for the rest of her life as a simultaneous insider and outsider in mainstream Maharashtra. At this time, her closest acquaintances were women like Ramabai Ranade whom she visited regularly and with whom she shared the English lessons given by Miss Hurford of the Zenana Mission located at Wanowri (or Wanawadi) on the then eastern periphery of Pune city.31 Incidentally so strong was the initial opposition to Mrs Ranade’s lessons that the older women of the family insisted on her having a purificatory bath before entering the kitchen, to shed the pollution incurred by any contact with the foreigner.32 The lessons were in fact arranged by Justice Ranade, but he left her to fend for herself. All the young wives of reformers who tried to please and obey their husbands were similarly caught in a bind and had to face a regular family warfare as the unavoidable price of their education. It is doubtful whether Pandita Ramabai was aware of this when she advised women in SDN to obtain an education in a wide array of subjects. Sometime during 1882 in Pune, Ramabai had her first close encounter with women’s misery. A child widow of about 12 was brought to 35

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her – cross-eyed, unattractive in appearance and destitute. This girl’s plight aroused in her the first stirrings to personally help such women.33 Ramabai also came into contact with various Christian organizations at Pune, especially the Anglican Community of St Mary the Virgin (CSMV) where she came to know Sister Eleanor and Sister Geraldine particularly well. At this time Ramabai found herself in the anomalous situation of being a single working mother with a hectic work schedule. As she rushed about lecturing, writing and travelling, a friend (possibly Anandibai Bhagat who accompanied her later to England) looked after Manorama, known fondly as Mano. Sister Geraldine claims that Ramabai actually ‘gifted’ Mano to the CSMV, but came back shortly to reclaim the baby, because her friend – and not she herself – would miss her.34 It is difficult to interpret this episode or even to test its veracity, considering that Geraldine was not above telling half-truths or even lies in order to discredit Ramabai while ostensibly valorising her.35 Geraldine’s genuine attachment to Mano probably dates from this time and was soon to turn into possessiveness. The CSMV was located adjacent to the Anglican Order of St John the Evangelist (known also as the Cowley Fathers) at the Panch Howd Mission in Pune city near a church built in 1785 and regarded as the oldest in Pune. The Reverend Nehemiah Goreh (formerly Nilkanth-shastri Gore) of the Order came to have a deep impact on Ramabai’s religious beliefs, because of the similarity in their backgrounds. Father Goreh was a Chitpavan Brahmin who had converted to Christianity in Banaras in 1848, when convinced of its superiority over Hinduism through the time-honoured Indian tradition of theological debates – a tradition shared by Ramabai.36 Meanwhile Ramabai renewed her ambition to study medicine – but in England, considering the lack of adequate facilities in India. Her plan to travel to England was facilitated by the CSMV sisters whose headquarters in England undertook to support her in exchange for teaching Indian languages to their India-bound nuns.

Notes 1 Ramabai retained this dress all her life. Her short hair, a sign of Bengali widow­ hood, was sometimes mistaken for a fashionable bob in the Western style. Maharashtrian Brahmin widows dressed differently. 2 Ranade, Amachya Ayushyatil Kahi Athavani, p. 80. 3 A cohesive and multifaceted picture of the life style and problems of Brahmin women appears in Meera Kosambi, Crossing Thresholds, Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2007. 4 It is disheartening to realize how little has changed in this regard during the last century and a quarter. 5 Ranade, Amachya Ayushyatil, p. 81. 6 Vaidya, Shrimati Kashibai Kanitkar, p. 88.

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7 For the social and political reform discourses in Maharashtra, see Kosambi, Crossing Thresholds, pp. 17–23, 204–33. 8 Sudharak, 5 October 1891. 9 This incidentally is the longest-running newspaper in Maharashtra. 10 Ranade, Amachya Ayushyatil, p. 82. 11 Devadatta Tilak, Maharashtrachi Tejaswini, Nashik: Nagarik Prakashan, 1960, pp. 96–7. 12 Ranade, Amachya Ayushyatil, p. 82. 13 Ibid., p. 86. 14 Vaidya, Shrimati Kashibai, pp. 87–8. 15 Kashibai Kanitkar describes the working of this class; see Meera Kosambi, Feminist Visions or ‘Treason against Men’?, Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2008, pp. 52–7. 16 Tilak was at this time editor of The Mahratta, while Kesari had a small group of editors – including the isolated liberal, Agarkar – which largely followed Tilak’s socially conservative policy. 17 N. C. Kelkar, Lokamanya Tilak Yanche Charitra, Khanda 1, reprint, Pune: Varada, 1988, p. 331. 18 Geraldine Forbes, Women in Modern India, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 28–30. 19 Sumit Sarkar, ‘The Women’s Question in Nineteenth Century Bengal’ in Women and Culture, edited by Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid, reprint, Mumbai: Research Centre for Women’s Studies, SNDT Women’s University, 1994, pp. 103–12 (ref. p. 106). 20 Tilak, Maharashtrachi Tejaswini, pp. 115–6. 21 Kosambi, ‘The Home as Universe’ in Crossing Thresholds, pp. 99–126. 22 Ramabai’s entire testimony, given on 5 September 1882, was reproduced in The Times of India, 7 September 1882. 23 Francina Sorabji was the second wife of Sorabji Kharsedji, a Parsee converted to Christianity, and mother of Cornelia Sorabji, India’s first and England-trained woman lawyer. 24 Dall, The Life of Dr. Anandabai, pp. 84–5. 25 The Times of India, 12 September 1882. 26 Rachel Bodley, ‘Introduction’ in Pandita Ramabai, The High-Caste Hindu Woman, reprint, Bombay: Maharashtra State Board for Literature and Culture, 1981, pp. xiii–xiv (p. xiv). 27 Meera Kosambi, ed and tr, Returning the American Gaze, New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2003, p. 59. 28 Vaidya, Kashibai Kanitkar, p. 75. 29 The Times of India, 7 September 1882. 30 Dall, The Life of Dr Anandabai, pp. 85–6. 31 Miss Hurford gave private English lessons free of charge, but insisted on teaching the Bible; Tilak, Maharastrachi Tejaswini, p. 96. She later became principal of the Female High School. 32 Ranade, Amachya Ayushyatil, p. 77–8. 33 Rajas Dongre and Josephine Patterson, Pandita Ramabai, Madras: The Christian literature Society, 1963, p. 12. 34 Letters, pp. 7–8. 35 See Kosambi, ‘Motherhood in the East-West Encounter’ in Crossing Thresholds, pp. 311–35. 36 Jon Keune, ‘The Inter- and Inter-Religious Conversions of Nehemiah Nilkantha Goreh’, Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies, Vol. 17, pp. 45–54.

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Selection 1 STRI DHARMA NITI (MORALS FOR WOMEN, 1882, TR.)

Dedication This small book, written by the grieving widow of Babu Bipin Behari, M.A., B.L., in memory of her very dear late husband, is dedicated to her countrywomen with love

Preface to the first edition The present condition of women in our unfortunate country is too sad for words and will undoubtedly make every thoughtful person’s heart melt with grief. The women of this country, being totally helpless and lacking in education, do not understand how to achieve their own welfare; it is therefore necessary for learned people to explain it to them and make them conduct themselves accordingly. Great improvement has already taken place in this country. ­Educated people are beginning to realise that the country will not progress as much as it should, unless women are given knowledge; and they are therefore making efforts for women’s progress, which is praiseworthy indeed. Knowledge of morality and conduct conforming thereto are the doors to human progress, and both are lacking in the female community at present, the chief reason being their ignorance of the shastras. Dharma, Niti, Darshan and other shastras in this Bharatvarsha were written in the very difficult Sanskrit language which is no longer prevalent, so that it is improbable . . . for the illiterate women of today to obtain the knowledge they contain. [. . .] Therefore, [in the absence of a suitable book] I decided to write a small book of this kind myself, relying on my own limited intellect. . . . It may contain several inconsistencies, repetitions and grammatical errors due to the currently disturbed state of my mind and my limited understanding. But this is my first effort to write a book in the language of Maharashtra, and I hope that, in view of this, wise people 38

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will not be too critical of these faults. It is appropriate to mention at this juncture that reviewers are requested to provide an objective and clear discussion of its merits and shortcomings, so that all possible attention can be paid to emending faults, should an occasion arise to write a similar kind of book in the future. [. . .] This book does not contain descriptions of heroes and heroines or interesting stories as in novels; therefore it will not appeal at all to people who relish such writings. But after drinking in the excessively sweet sentiments of the novels, they might lose their sense of taste; in order to prevent this, I humbly request them to use the present book as a kind of condiment. The Authoress

Preface to the second edition After this book was published, there was a great deal of discussion in the newspapers about its merits and demerits. This indicated that in spite of its many faults, the book also contains useful portions. I think this has made my efforts worthwhile. In view of these useful portions, the Hon’ble Director [of Education] bought 500 copies of the first edition, and the rest were bought by the general public. Therefore this second edition has been published, in which many of the faults of wording and sentence structure have been removed. A great deal of criticism was directed towards the excessive use of Sanskrit and unfamiliar words; such words have also been changed for the most part. In addition, minor changes have been made in the original text. The Authoress

1  The foundation A house built without laying a firm foundation does not last long. Again, the builder of such a house is burdened with double the cost and labour, and, in addition, becomes a general laughing-stock. While preparing to undertake any task, a person should lay the foundation after firm and mature consideration. Otherwise the task, even though small, will not reach completion; it will unnecessarily lead to public ridicule and personal trouble. Everyone knows how sorry is the state of our ignorant womankind. Let us consider how it can be improved and how the foundation should be laid. In this world, the desire for advancement dwells in the heart of every person at all times, and it is natural that this should be 39

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so. [. . .] This . . . desire leads to every benefit if it is directed along the right path in accordance with a person’s understanding; otherwise it leads to very great disasters. . . . Now, womankind also desires advancement; but in our country, the path of improvement in the condition of women is as good as closed. That is why it is essential to consider how it can be opened. Some people claim that women are ignorant and weak to begin with, besides being in a state of subjection, and that they do not know what path to follow in order to achieve advancement and knowledge; what can they do in this condition? But proper consideration shows that there is no room for such doubts. God has given even mute and ignorant creatures, such as animals and birds, the capacity to exercise freedom in achieving their welfare; therefore it is improbable that He has not granted it to human beings who are the greatest among all creatures. In this world, nobody can live without assistance from others. This state is called inter-dependence. It is natural to all creatures, and thus also to women. But this state cannot be termed total subjection to others. Most women say that they desire advancement, but lack the opportunity for efforts in that direction, because they are always dependent on others, that is to say, on men. This is true to some extent. But self-improvement depends only on oneself. God has given man the desire to become great and similarly, also the capacity to fulfil this desire. . . . A person needs to concentrate his mind and make the effort without being lazy. If women do so, they too will undoubtedly advance within a short time. [. . .] In most places on the face of this earth, one finds illustrations which substantiate the English proverb, ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ God has granted man intelligence and the capacity to think, which clearly shows that these qualities should, in due course, reach ripeness. The more people rely on themselves, the more they advance. [. . .] Now, some women will say, ‘Our entire sex ignores this matter, what then can I do alone? And what results will my efforts yield?’ These words are of no use, because all women harbour the same doubt and say the same thing. That is why none of them does anything at all, and all sit idly wherever they are. But if every sensible and saintly woman were to think otherwise, and, heeding my words, say, ‘Other women may or may not do anything, but I will exert myself for my own progress and that of other women in my family’; what progress could then be achieved by this fallen sex and this country of ours! If a seed as small as a tamarind seed, or one even smaller, is planted in the earth, it grows into a large tree in the course 40

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of time, and provides great benefits to people all over the country. Similarly, if every woman plants a small seed of her industriousness, great benefits will accrue to our sex in the course of time. [. . .] We need not go far to see examples of [self-reliance], they are visible in this very country. Look at the people from Europe who currently rule our country, who control the wealth, life and honour of the 26 crore [260,000,000] people of our country. They make all the people in Bharat-varsha – from princes to paupers – dance to their tune like wooden puppets. They are not even one-fourth of the population of our country. What, then, has led to this improbable advancement of theirs? All our people, old and young, are stunned by the extraordinary inventions of this [European] community, their adventurous deeds and bravery; and are making all kinds of conjectures about them. The most ignorant among them say that the Europeans possess an element of divinity, that they have miraculous powers and magical incantations, that they control large hordes of demons, which is why they can perform such difficult feats. Upon consideration, it will indeed appear that it is on the strength of a very powerful incantation that the Europeans accomplish all difficult tasks with only a little effort and thus achieve the progress of their community. . . . It is nothing but the incessant effort of every person in their community. It is the general characteristic of that people that once they undertake a task – big or small, good or bad – they never abandon it until it is complete. This quality exists in all of them, from prince to pauper, which is why their power is so strong. These people take a handful of earth and turn it to gold! Idleness cannot affect them, which is why they enjoy the happiness of unity and the rare gains which result from it. This discussion of the advancement of the English people is too brief to amount to anything, because, if the reasons for their advancement and their deeds are described in detail, they would stretch into many a Mahabharat, like the Mahabharat of Vyas. These words of mine should not lead any one to believe that I praise them needlessly. Because, I know very well that the English have many and strong faults, as mentioned in the [Marathi] proverb, ‘Every village has its Untouchable quarter’. But their faults are hidden by their love for their country, their unity, diligence, and other virtues, just as, in the words of Kalidas, the spots on the Moon are hidden by the serene and gentle rays of moonlight. The present advancement of this community is not the result of one person’s efforts, or the great efforts of all the people. Every one of their people made some effort and some made great efforts; the collection of all these efforts has led to their advancement, like the high tide of the ocean. 41

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Now turn your gaze from West to East, and see what you find – the 26 crore people of Bharat-varsha and the condition of these people! It would be no exaggeration to say that most people in this country do not know how to be industrious and to achieve good results. The proof of this is the present condition of the native people.1 They lack adventurousness, brilliance, energy independence. What other lacunae can I point out? To tell the truth, they possess very little that is good. What do they have? They have musical plays, they have hardearned money to spend on folk theatre and dances instead of eating a good square meal. They have the inclination to slander anybody in their society who undertakes the task of national welfare, and to instigate others to oppose him and to disrupt his effort. They have unsteady minds. They have a thousand such things. This tide of our misfortune continues to flow; God alone knows when it will ebb!! Be that as it may. Now, if you wish to know the chief reason for this misfortune of ours, it is the sloth and lack of diligence among the native people. How will this vast population of 26 crores shake off sloth, if it is makes no effort at all? If every person who lies at ease 24 hours a day gives up his sloth for one hour each day and undertakes some work towards his own advancement during this time, it would mean that every day 26 crore hours are spent on the advancement of the country. The advancement of the people of a country is called the advancement of the country. And if such a thing happens every day, as described above, who would deny that the good fortune of this country will rise again? Among the people of this country, the persons of the male sex do engage in some work or other every day, for the simple reason that unless they do so, they will not be able to support their families. That leaves the female sex!2 Such is its present condition that, just as the word ‘vessel’ at once suggests to our mind the meaning ‘a large receptacle for water’, the moment we hear the name ‘the female sex’, we naturally think of fault-ridden individuals who are ‘lazy’, ‘stupid’, ‘obstinate’, and so on. When one talks to men, they say plainly, ‘What can one say about you [women]? You sit idly, you don’t want to do any work, all you do is hang upon us incessantly and eat three or four times a day, smacking your lips; what else do you need?’ I have given only a couple of brief examples here, but women have to listen quietly to thousands of such remarks from the lips of men. The very memory of these words would make a woman wish that she would be swallowed by the earth so as to avoid showing her disgraced countenance to anybody in the world ever again. What is the reason for such disgrace? It is that the female sex is lazy. I do not say that women should do the kind of great deeds 42

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that men do. The male constitution is hard, strong, and capable of enduring hard work. The female constitution is delicate and somewhat weak. Men should do work which befits their constitution; if they act contrary to it, they will incur public censure. Similarly women should do work suited to their delicate constitution, else they also incur public ridicule. Some women will say, ‘We do all our work – sweeping, mopping, cooking, and so on. What other work do we need to do?’ The answer is: ‘God has not given you life only to do work such as cooking; if you think carefully, you will see that there are innumerable other tasks.’ This vast worldly life is like a giant whose body has two sides, the left and the right. Of these, the left side is woman and the right side man. When both sides of the body function in unison, one enjoys happiness and well-being. Similarly, when both man and woman do their work properly, domestic life becomes beautiful and happy. The right side of our body is somewhat stronger and we can do more work with our right hand than with our left; similarly, the man, the right side of domestic life, is somewhat stronger than the woman, and also, does more work. If our body is paralysed and the left side becomes useless, we are not able to do any work properly with the right side alone. In the same way, if the woman sits still without doing anything, the man alone will not be able to do any work well in domestic life. See, writing is a task for the right hand. But if the left hand does not hold the paper properly, the right hand cannot write well. Now, some people will object that one can write even if the left hand does not hold the paper. This can be done if the paper is kept on the table or something similar, and a weight placed on it to prevent the paper from shifting; then the right hand can keep on writing comfortably. True, but the time spent on this roundabout method can be used for writing an extra couple of lines with the right hand, if it is aided by the left hand; and the remaining time can be utilized for doing some other good work. ­Otherwise twice as much time is expended and no other work is done. Likewise, men require women’s assistance in every task in domestic life. At present, men have to do many tasks which could be managed by women if they were educated and sensible. Thus men’s time is wasted. They have many other important tasks which they could perform during the same amount of time, but which they cannot for lack of time. They spend the time at their disposal only in earning a living. In this manner, nobody performs great deeds, and, naturally, the country does not advance. [. . .] If there is such a divine rule that happiness cannot accrue in the absence of mutual help, how can men derive happiness without the help of women, and women without the help of men? 43

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Now you will ask, ‘We are happy, and so are men; what more happiness is there to be had?’ My dear sisters, by happiness I do not mean eating and drinking. The chief means of happiness is complete independence. How can you call yourselves happy if you do not possess it, and how can the men do so if they do not possess it, being deprived of time to devote to other work due to your sloth? A poet has said, ‘All subjection is unhappiness, and independence is happiness’.3 Where does independence exist among our people? Consider the female sex first. There is so much dependence [among us women] that we have to go from door to door asking for help from experts in managing even minor chores, such as putting in a few stitches if a cloth is torn, adding the right amount of salt to [preserve] a hundred raw mangoes, or knowing the price to be paid for any item if a Bohori hawker selling trifles comes to the door. Otherwise we ruin everything and sit quietly. Suppose Raosaheb has gone out, and a person has come with a message from some gentleman, which is so urgent that important work will be ruined if an immediate answer is not given. Baisaheb is so clever that, not only does she not send the messenger back with a satisfactory answer, but she does not even possess a good memory or the intelligence to relate the whole matter to Raosaheb when he returns. She could note it down to aid memory, but she knows nothing of the alphabet other than the letters [i.e. destiny] written by the Goddess Satvai on her forehead on the sixth day after her birth. Of course, the whole matter is ruined due to delay. Thousands of things of this nature occur every day. Men, who have to manage all these affairs and also earn a living in whatever time is available, find no time to do all the domestic tasks they are capable of doing, and therefore have to buy all the necessities from foreigners. For this reason, our country is losing crores of rupees to foreign countries today and being reduced to poverty. Because poverty has spread throughout the country, there are repeated famines and people are physically debilitated. How much work can weak people do? Day by day the poor creatures are bound to be exhausted and become totally useless in the end. When we cannot use our arms and legs, cannot even lift up our heads without support, and are utterly dependent on another, we are compelled to listen to what he says and behave according to his whims. [. . .] So, my dear sisters, let us now together exorcise the ghost of animal-like ignorance which has entered our bodies, with the help of the powerful incantation of diligence. And let us exert ourselves to attain the divine virtues which can be acquired through education. Then, we will shortly get out of our sorry state and achieve a happy 44

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state. Do you not feel ashamed to remain in this inferior condition? How do your lovely and tender hearts endure this extreme sorrow?!! Even animals thrash about with their legs in order to save their lives when they fall into a well. And you are, after all human beings. How then can you not make an effort to uplift yourselves when you have fallen into this dark well of ignorance? Come, begin to exert yourselves unitedly while there is still time. Nothing is unattainable to an industrious person. I repeat over and over again, ‘Be industrious’. Let the blood in your body be heated by your mental energy, and let it course rapidly through every vein. Let people know your liveliness. Let all see the diligence, knowledge, brightness, belief in Truth and in God, duties of the ‘sati’ [dedicated wife] and other such virtues which your sex possesses, and become struck with awe. Revive the greatness of the ancient saintly women of our Bharat-varsha. You need not go to a battlefield and fight a war. If you fight sloth which is your enemy, and conquer it, you will have conquered all the three worlds [i.e., Earth, Heaven and the Netherworld]. May the whole world see this great feat of yours and applaud you! Arise, sisters, wake up now. This is no time to sleep. Your night of sorrow is over and your day of happiness is about to dawn. When you open your eyes, you will see light. Why then do you shut your eyes unnecessarily and become blind? Come, let us all unite and lay the strong foundation of our ‘house of happiness’ on the summit of the tall mountain of knowledge – a foundation so strong that it will never cave in and our ‘house of happiness’ will never collapse and be destroyed. That foundation is called self-reliance, that is, depending on oneself. Now, we must not look to others for our advancement. Every woman must exert herself courageously for her own advancement, relying as much as possible on herself. God Almighty, Who can crown this effort with success, is our Protector.

2 Education A person who has no money cannot be happy. Moreover, it is difficult for a person to subsist even for a single day without money. That is why very learned men have termed money ‘the outer soul’. A man without money is like the living dead. He is ashamed to approach respectable and great people, and to meet them. His body and garments are soiled with dirt and his mind with worries; and his face is lustreless. People repeatedly deride and scorn him, so that he becomes tired of himself and feels that living in this world is like suffering the torments of hell. In sum, a person without money has 45

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no happiness in this world. Therefore, every single person should acquire and possess some wealth according to his capacity, if he wants to live happily and honourably in society. There are many kinds of wealth. Land, grain, cattle, gold, silver, pearls, diamonds, and such moveable and immoveable assets are called wealth. Now, it is true that possession of this wealth gives a person many advantages and much happiness; but they do not endure, that is, last forever. Because, all things on earth are ­destructible and the happiness they provide is also momentary. Therefore, an intelligent and thoughtful person should make the effort to accumulate wealth which is indestructible and which ­provides unending happiness. What wealth is there in this world, which cannot be destroyed? Listen to the answer. Education is indestructible wealth. He who possesses it is happiest in this world. Like the sun, education gives light to one who is drowning in the terrible darkness of ignorance and is unhappy. You will say, ‘We have eyes. We can see in the light of the sun during the day, and the light of the moon, lamps, etc. at night.’ But I say that if you have no education, you are blind even though you may have a thousand eyes. You may perhaps see whatever objects there are on this side of the wall before you. But you know nothing about what lies beyond and very far. Why? Because you have only outer eyes, not inner ones. Education cleanses the inner eyes, and their pure flame allows us to see even an object which is far away. Those who are possessed of an education, even though they may be born blind, can see the whole world with their inner eye, and be very happy. [. . .] Students should treat their teacher with great respect. They should not laugh unnecessarily and excessively in front of the teacher, make fun of him in his presence or absence, speak immoderately and loudly in his presence, sit with outstretched legs, spit in front of oneself or him, mock him, return a hasty thoughtless answer, or address him in the singular. One should talk to the teacher with great humility, with a pleasant face, in a sweet voice. One should not utter harsh, false, indecent, or deceptive words in his presence. One should not speak unless spoken to, but should speak first while making polite inquiries about his health, or while paying one’s respects. One should speak at an opportune time if one needs to get a doubt resolved or get work done if it has been held up. One should not speak at an improper time or say inappropriate things. [. . .] In childhood a person has no domestic or other troubles, and his mind is calm and concentrated. It becomes totally immersed in any subject in which it is involved. This valuable and rare opportunity, which is not available in adulthood, should not be wasted by 46

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children. They should acquire this wealth of knowledge as quickly as possible, so that they will not have to endure any suffering in later life. If not, once this time is lost, it will not come again. When the mind is beset by all kinds of domestic troubles, what knowledge or learning can one hope for? One only repents in vain. Thousands of people are thus ruined only because of their laziness in childhood, and then they have to suffer extreme unhappiness and calamities for the rest of their lives. You will say that even those who have knowledge are not exempt from unhappiness; what then is the advantage of wasting a happy time in the useless exertion of studies? It is true that learned people are not exempt from unhappiness; but such people do not get scared like fools when faced by a calamity and do not become dispirited or helpless. They are possessed of great courage. They are able to think of timely ways of getting out of the difficulty. Learned people always have a calm mind due to their knowledge, therefore they are also happy; and no trial which they encounter affects them too much. In truth, careful consideration shows that only he who has a calm mind is happy in this world. If one wears shoes, one is not hurt even after walking on thorns; but if one has a tiny splinter in the foot, it will hurt even when one walks on a velvet mattress. [. . .] Some people say that reading a lot of books gives knowledge. Well, if that alone gives knowledge, it is a really easy way. Then the boxes, houses, and bags filled with books would have become learned. It is not that the reading of many books alone gives knowledge. One gets a lot of knowledge if one studies a little with a concentrated mind. [. . .] There are many lazy people now-a-days who make false claims that the persons [who succeed] know the incantations and means of propitiating gods, goddesses, ghosts, spirits, demons, etc. and that they acquired special powers through austerities. . . . Only fools believe in such tales and suffer many kinds of troubles. As an example, I will narrate an episode I have witnessed myself. In the South, near the Tripati [i.e., Tirupati] mountain, there is another mountain known as Ghatikachala. The summit of one has a temple of Nrisimha [the fourth incarnation of Vishnu – a being who is half man and half lion], and the summit of the other a temple of Hanuman. There are thousands of gullible devotees there, or those who do not make any effort but put their trust in Fate, believe in tales of ghosts, attain great supernatural powers in their imagination, and enjoy their dreams day and night. Such people harbour different kinds of desires in their hearts; some circumambulate the temples 47

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a thousand times every day, some fast day and night and perform ceremonies to obtain spells, some give offerings to the sacrificial fire. There are many such people. They waste their valuable time, money and energy, as mentioned above, and obtain nothing except public censure and trouble, needless to say. There was a young man of about twenty years, who had about Rs 3,000–4,000 in his possession.4 In such a state, instead of making the effort to study, he became totally engrossed in the foolish desire to acquire spells and supernatural powers. Within a few days, all his money was spent because he had to provide frequent meals to Brahmins, perform sacrificial rites and other religious ceremonies, etc. according to the instructions of the priests and other selfish, deceitful persons, in order to acquire spells. When money was spent like water in this fashion, how would any of it be left? The man repeatedly observed fasts for twenty-one days at a stretch, without even drinking water, and thus also ruined his God-given physical wealth. In the end God was not propitiated, needless to say. But sadly, the man foolishly believed the empty tales of lazy people, and wasted his wealth and time, which would have aided his education and advancement. In the end he acquired nothing. Then he thought of studying, but had neither money nor strength left. When this happened, he repeatedly expressed his regret, but in vain. . . . In sum, the attainment of knowledge, education, wealth, etc. does not depend upon imaginary powers, such as charms and spells, demons and ghosts; it depends upon oneself. [. . .] There are many things which obstruct studies; chief among them is sloth. [. . .] One way of removing sloth is to appoint a time for each of the tasks one has to do. One should do the task exactly at the appointed time, neither earlier nor later; and one should not unnecessarily miss that time. One should go to bed at nine every night, and get up exactly at four. One should not sleep more than seven hours. If one sleeps less, the body does not remain healthy. If one follows the habit of sleeping moderately for seven hours, the body remains healthy and is not disturbed by disease. [. . .] Now I will tell you briefly what you should learn and from whom. Any branch of knowledge should be learnt from a very intelligent and far-sighted person; because, those who know nothing cannot teach others anything. 1 You should learn the Grammar of the language you want to master, in order to be able to read and write correctly. Without Grammar, your language will not be correct nor your enunciation clear. 48

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2 You should study History, in order to understand things such as the customs and morals of people in ancient times and at present, also the conditions of all countries, the reason why a country or a person became good or bad, at what time and through what acts, and the effects thereof, etc. . . . 3 All varieties of dharmashastras should be studied, in order to understand sin, religious merit, God, the essence of the world, Truth, etc. Otherwise it will be difficult to obtain the indescribable happiness which stems from a sense of good and bad, from modesty, compassion, charity, love of God, etc. 4 Physics and Geography should be studied in order to understand the state of the sun, the planets, the earth, etc. in this vast divine universe; the marvellous objects and where they exist, the properties of objects, the causes and processes which lead to their creation; different countries and their location, the religion, practices, knowledge, advancement of their people, etc. Otherwise, one who confines oneself to the house, like a frog in a well, will not understand how vast this divine universe is, what laws it is subject to, and the extent of the greatness of the Creator of the universe. 5 Political Economy and Moral Science should be studied in order to understand how to conduct oneself at a specific time and place, and how to be happy by conducting oneself moderately. Otherwise it would be difficult to live honourably in society. 6 One should study a little Medicine and the method of nursing sick persons or small children, in order to understand how to protect one’s own physical health and that of one’s children and other people, how to prevent ill health, etc. Otherwise one is likely to cause very great distress. 7 One should study the Culinary Art from expert women of good character within the family or outside, and learn how to cook. One should also learn, whenever possible, how to sew, embroider, sing, etc., from those skilled in these arts. Otherwise one has to humbly request others for help at the last moment. These accomplishments are indispensable to our sex; not possessing them is a matter of great shame. 8 It is essential to have some knowledge of Arithmetic in order to understand the family income and expenditure, the cost of things at a particular rate, etc. Otherwise one is greatly inconvenienced. In sum, do not ever let it happen that you are unable to manage any task. Try to comprehend a great deal from a little, and obtain a good understanding of the way great people conduct themselves, 49

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and the customs and affairs of your country, your family, and others. If a lowly person has a virtue, cultivate it eagerly, without treating him with indifference. If you have the desire you can learn even from tiny creatures like a fly or an ant virtues which will bestow divinity on you in this very human existence.

3 Modesty All of you must have heard that people accord high praise to the sea. If they want an apt simile for a great man, they liken him to the sea. Why? . . . The sea does not seem to possess any special qualities. It has a really dreadful appearance. Vile creatures which molest people, such as crocodiles, large destructive fish, tortoises, water-snakes, etc., are born in the sea. Also, if any one feels thirsty, can sea water slake his thirst? Not even that. Although the sea is so vast, it does not have the importance possessed by a small stream of sweet water which slakes people’s thirst. In view of all this, you will surely think that those who praise the sea are insane. But this is not the case. The sea possesses two very great and beautiful qualities: one is called depth and the other keeping within limits. [. . .] It remains in its usual simple state. It does not show off its importance like man. Secondly, it never oversteps its boundary. Its water does not swell and overflow even if it rains heavily enough to drown the whole earth, nor does it recede even if it fails to rain for 12 years. [. . .] Some people imagine that religion [dharma] and morality [niti] are obstacles to happiness, because they prevent one from behaving in a way which makes one happy. They think the same about those who behave in accordance with the Shastras – that they are not happy themselves, nor do they let others be happy; that they discourage one in everything. But careful thought will show that this belief is highly mistaken. Morality, religion and their followers try to keep worldly happiness within proper bounds, because they firmly believe that any object of the senses leads to happiness only if it remains within its demarcated boundary, and causes inevitable unhappiness if it crosses that boundary. [. . .] In domestic life, happiness is momentary and calamity is likely to befall one at every step. Moderation, self-restraint, and caution make one’s life a storehouse of great happiness. Therefore, for those who have newly entered domestic life and have no knowledge of good and bad among domestic matters, it is essential to possess the virtues mentioned above. But it is a matter of great sorrow that such persons do not respect these virtues very much. When people 50

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begin to take their first walk through the marketplace of domestic life, they are in such a state of intoxication that whatever they see appears attractive. [. . .] Owing to an excessive desire for enjoyment, their minds are always preoccupied and eager. People intoxicated with the passion of youth are unable to see anything around them. They jump into the well of allurement with their eyes open, in broad daylight. Their mind becomes so thoughtless and arrogant because of the dreadful passion of youth, that it fears nothing. They trust anybody unhesitatingly, without understanding his true worth. They have no patience to understand the real worth of anything when they do any work; they become quite impatient. [. . .] O you young women, you are entering the marketplace of domestic life for the very first time. Beware, there are many thieves and cheats here, they will lead you astray and rob you of everything. There are two paths here: a good one and a bad one. If you follow the good path, you will attain your welfare; and if you follow the bad one, the consequences are obvious. The good path is straight, broad and leads to happiness; similarly, the bad path is crooked, narrow and leads to unhappiness. Now you have to think carefully before choosing a path. [. . .] Do you know how unstable is your youth, whose passion has intoxicated you so much that you are following any path you see, like an intoxicated elephant, without thinking carefully? [. . .] Do acquire depth like the sea. The only means of doing so is to preserve the purity of your character through moderate behaviour. Now I will briefly tell you how you should conduct yourself in order to preserve your character. 1 At no time should you sit idle; you should always engage yourself in some good task or other. Your mind will not have a chance to turn to other subjects if you do this. Usually it is lazy people who turn to evil practices. Because, it is the natural quality of the mind to be involved in one subject at a time, it cannot help but do so. [. . .] 2 Learn self-restraint. This will prevent any of your activities from overstepping the boundary. [. . .] Whenever you are ready to undertake any task, seek the permission of your elders first. Get the advice of learned people. Do not do anything in the light of your own ideas. [. . .] 3 Be humble. There is no other friend like humility on this earth. All objects in this great and unparalleled creation of God sing the praises of humility. [. . .] There is no one who is greater than all others. No one’s egoism can last. Everyone has some stigma or fear. 51

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What room is there for egoism? [.. ] All moveable and immoveable objects in God’s creation advise us to be humble. [. . .] 4 Pay due respect to your seniors, teachers and people of a similar status. Parents are next to God in venerability. In fact, the happiness you enjoy today through your human attributes and honour in society is the gift bestowed on you by your parents and the teachers who advised you on morality. Otherwise, there are innumerable small particles like you in this world! Nobody pays any attention to them. You are under such an obligation to your parents and teachers, that you may never be able to repay them. Therefore, to follow the moral duty according to your capacity and to obey them is to repay their obligations to some extent. [. . .] Do not neglect to serve them to the best of your capacity. [. . .] Give due respect also to those who are your equals. If anyone salutes you, do not stand erect like an arrogant person, but bow your head. The custom of our country, that respects are paid according to the other person’s caste, is not proper. Because, in God’s creation, respect belongs not to caste, but to virtue. A person, whom you consider to be of a caste lower than yours, may perhaps possess such valuable virtues as are not found in persons even of a caste higher than yours. Therefore, it is best that you should discard such reservations and respect virtue. If there is a person who is younger than you but higher in learning, it is proper to show him respect as if he was older than you. A person becomes great not because of his grey hair, kinship, or wealth. [. . .] If a woman has occasion to go to an unfamiliar place or through the marketplace, she should not go alone, but take with her a relative or a trustworthy person. She should not visit an unfamiliar place or a stranger’s house at night unless there is an emergency; and if compelled to go, should be very cautious and take a companion. Women of good families should not go to the theatre or folk plays. This leads to a violation of their modesty, because not all people present there are decent, and nobody there shows a concern for propriety of speech. What wonder then that a visit to such places should tarnish the purity and modesty of women? [. . .] In some places it is customary for women to attend devotional sermons any time of the day or night. Sometimes they even have to sit close to prostitutes there. Because such a place is meant for uplifting the fallen, all kinds of people are likely to go there, including holy men and unholy ones, saintly women and prostitutes, vagabonds and rakes. Therefore there is no choice but to mix with them. There is a 52

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probability of being insulted in such places, and usually this does happen. The reason is that many persons of impure conduct go there to fulfil their evil desires, because women are present. Another thing is that the puranik, Haridas and others whom women visit for religious instruction are often licentious.5 There are few among them who are educated and learned. [. . .] I do not say that all puraniks and Haridasas are of such [evil] propensities. Obviously there is good and bad in every one, but I have mentioned this only because women should protect their modesty. They can instead obtain knowledge of the puranas, history and such things at home. They only have to make a little effort and study Sanskrit. And it is very essential that they do so, because all the religious texts of Bharat-varsha have been written in Sanskrit. One cannot get a thorough knowledge of one’s religion only by listening to others reading aloud these texts, without reading them personally. [. . .] Therefore, it is best that women learn this ancient language of ours, and satisfy their eagerness to understand our puranas, history, dharmashastras, and such other subjects in this fashion. Otherwise, they should hear them from persons who are learned, of a good character, and elderly, either at home or at some such good place. [. . .] Do not waste your time by spending the whole day with neighbourhood women, lazily and yawning, sitting with one leg crossed over the other, preparing lamp-wicks of different kinds and discussing dull things such as, ‘so-and-so’s husband is such-and-such’, ‘this woman has a crooked gait’, ‘that woman’s nose is crooked’, ‘my mother-in-law is shrewish’. It is praiseworthy to be friendly with one another and help one another in times of need. It is very bad to gossip instead of finishing one’s routine work and devoting one’s free time to a good purpose. [. . .] In sum, one should conduct oneself properly, and try to preserve one’s own and others’ modesty and foster mutual love, so as to spend the rest of one’s life happily without having to suffer the ill effects of repentance, unhappiness, censure, etc.

4  True religion Courage, forgiveness, control over the mind, abstaining from stealing, purity, control over the senses, intellect, knowledge, truth and absence of anger are the ten characteristics of true religion. True religion is foremost among all the duties of man in this world. It is the foundation of all things. If a person ignores the earth and 53

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makes an attempt to build an edifice in the sky, would his attempt succeed? Never. Also, it is not possible for a tree to stand or live without the firm support of roots. Similarly, a person who abandons true religion in this world cannot manage. [. . .] True religion possesses the power to protect the world and ensure its welfare; that is why it is called ‘dharma’ or that which maintains. [. . .] In this world, true religion is the sole true friend that protects and accompanies man even at the time of death; all else is destroyed along with the body. In sum, a person’s good or bad conduct alone will accompany him, nothing else, like wealth or kin. Furthermore, even the body which he thinks of as the ‘self’ and which he unhesitatingly nourishes even through cruel demonic deeds, does not accompany him. Therefore a person should befriend religion which gives peace at the time of death. See, an ordinary person finds nothing as dreadful as death. He shudders and feels terrified at the thought of death. At a time like this, a religious person has religion to protect him. It alone gives him peace, nothing else brings peace at such a time. Therefore a truly religious person feels no fear of death, but, on the contrary, his mind rejoices at the thought. Similarly, sinful people know that they will not obtain the peace of true religion and become very dejected, which is but natural. Now, by true religion one should not understand the many ­doctrines such as Hindu, Muslim, Christian, etc. These names indicate doctrines and not true religion, because true religion is single in form, namely, conduct in accordance with conscience which exists in all human beings, either in the form of a seed or in a fullfledged form. If you consider the Hindu, Muslim, Christian and other ­doctrines, you will find that there is an identical description of true religion, that is, good conduct and the effects thereof. Only, there are several differences according to the beliefs of their creators. Be that as it may, I do not intend to discuss all those doctrines here. I accept only that [religion] whose foundation of conscience supports many doctrines in the world; and it is my chief intention to propound it. The word ‘religion’ has been explained above, its characteristics are: 1) Courage, 2) Forgiveness, 3) Control over the mind, 4) Abstaining from stealing, 5) Purity, 6) Control over the senses, 7) Intelligence, 8) Knowledge, that is, knowledge of God, 9) Truth, and 10) Absence of anger and its other manifestations, such as rivalry, desire to torment others, or hatred. [. . .] 54

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5  Conduct for brides Let us now consider the new life which begins in this very life of yours, and how to conduct yourself in it. God has created the male and female categories among the creatures in this world. If the persons in these two categories do not support each other but live separately, God’s creation will never be complete. Man and woman are two sides of domestic life. Our body will never look beautiful if it lacks any organ, and we will not be able to perform any task properly, as a complete person can. Similarly, even very learned, brave, wealthy or ­dispassionate men do not become complete without women. In that ­[incomplete] state, they are unable to perform any task properly. Because the lack of female assistance where it is required, distracts their minds, and having to carry the entire burden of work singlehandedly causes overexertion, leading to disaster. It is the same with women. It is God’s intention that man and woman should support each other, and depend upon each other. That is why He has created a relationship between them, which cannot be fulfilled without mutual assistance. Some do not practise that relationship properly and behave wilfully like animals. Such behaviour, which is contrary to religion, offends against God’s wish, and this sin incurs results such as suffering, remorse, insult, etc. Therefore, intelligent men and women should enter a very happy and desirable mutual relationship as created by God, in accordance with religion. This kind of relationship is marriage. Now let us consider how and at what time it should be performed. There are different kinds of marriage customs in different countries. Not all of them can be called good. As an example, see the marriage custom in our own country. The practice in this country is that as soon as a child, especially a girl, reaches the age of nine or ten years, she is married to another ignorant child. At that time, the children are not able to grasp the nature of their mutual relationship, or how to strengthen it, or maintain mutual unity and respect. This ignorance causes discord between them, so that they do not derive the happiness for which the relationship is intended; on the contrary, it leads to great disasters. Second, the period in a person’s life from the age of eight to 20 years is suitable for acquiring knowledge. If he gets married during this period, he gets involved in domestic matters. Then he can never undertake a course of study; or if he does so, he leaves it half-way. Therefore it is very inappropriate to marry at that time, because early life, which is a precious period suitable for the pursuit of knowledge, is never available again. A human existence without knowledge must be considered inferior to animal existence. 55

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Third, if men and women produce children at an early age, they themselves and their progeny become weak, dull, unintelligent; and they die prematurely in their youth without enjoying a full life. This happens because their dispositions, life-sustaining bodily parts such as blood, flesh, fat, brain, etc., strength, intelligence, and health are not fully developed at an early age. Any unsuitable activity damages such an undeveloped and immature body; moreover, the progeny issuing from it also turns out to be utterly useless. Fourth, because intelligence is not perfectly mature in childhood, the women and men who are to be married are not competent to choose a suitable spouse in accordance with their own wishes. They are compelled to spend their life with whomsoever their parents or other similar persons have tied the nuptial knot to. [. . .] Then they sometimes begin to feel that their marriage is not a happy one, but is like the torments of hell which have fallen to their lot. Unity never exists between a man and a woman of such opposite dispositions. Their minds are ever dissatisfied with each other. The progeny produced by them in this state also turn out to be troublesome, wicked, foolish, ugly, and disagreeable. Therefore an abundance of such progeny leads not to domestic welfare but to misfortune. That is why it is not proper that people should practise customs which are contrary to the divine rule, and should invite misfortune upon themselves. [. . .] The marital relationship is to last as long as both the partners live. Therefore, in such a matter, it is proper that men and women should have equal freedom to do a proper scrutiny according to their wishes, and to establish a relationship which is suitable. One shudders at the thought of the calamities which result because this does not happen. Many a saintly woman suffers agonies because of the bad activities of her husband and commits the terrible sin of suicide, thereby staining her life. And many a saintly man suffers agonies because of his wife’s bad behaviour and commits terrible sins like gynocide, adultery, etc. Whose fault is this? Not that of the concerned women and men; but that of society which assumes inappropriate leadership, which wrests away their freedom to enter into a suitable relationship according to their own wishes, and which marries them prematurely and thus cuts with an axe the very roots of the tree of their advancement. Therefore, it is best that this society abandons such faulty practices; otherwise no progress will be achieved even if thousands of remedial devices are employed. Men and women should marry persons who match their own qualities, when they reach the marriageable age, that is, twenty years, give or take six months to a year. This marital relationship should not 56

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be established because of the approval of others, or through expectation of wealth, or through any other type of inducement. These inducements look attractive from a distance, but have no substance when viewed from close quarters. In such a situation, one should marry a person who seems right in the opinion of people who are more intelligent and far-sighted than oneself and also in one’s own opinion. The chosen spouse should possess a religious disposition, a good appearance, education, virtues, generosity, wealth, and love. Some marry only with an eye to good appearance or wealth; but this is very improper, because wealth and looks do not abide ­permanently in one place. When they disappear, a person who is enamoured only of them will follow them wherever they are. How, then, will mutual love remain? And what is the use of arranging marriage between persons who feel no mutual love? That is why marriage should be arranged mainly with a view to a religious disposition, virtues, knowledge, love, and generosity, so that such a suitable relationship leads to utmost mutual love between the spouses. [. . .] Blessed are the men and women united in such a well-matched relationship. Their mutual love will never decrease even if they suffer great misfortunes. Even during such dreadful times, they are happy with each other’s support. Really speaking, love itself is the source of all happiness in this world; a person whose heart lacks it will never be happy. It is on the strength of aforementioned love that great men like Ramachandra, Nala and others have left behind an unwavering reputation of their noble lives. Similarly, saintly women like Sita, Savitri, Arundhati, Damayanti, Anusuya, and others have displayed the ultimate in devotion to their husbands and left behind a charming reputation of their virtue. Love brings the beauty of heaven to a heart which is desolate like the cremation ground. Therefore, every human being should nurture love in his heart. Love has numerous manifestations. The love which parents feel for their offspring or suchlike persons is called parental affection. The love which the offspring feel for parents, teachers, and God is called devotion. The mutual love of siblings and friends is called friendship. The love which generous-hearted virtuous persons feel for the poor and the wretched is called compassion. The love between spouses who have two bodies but one soul, who share equally in each other’s joys and sorrows, is known simply as love. It has no other name, because it has the completeness of love. Other types of love are partial, not complete. The ultimate in love is seen between equal and virtuous spouses. Man should express God-given, heavenly love, and the source of happiness, in a suitable manner. This wealth, gifted by God to man, is not meant to be squandered and 57

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wasted, but to be spent well and augmented. [. . .] This is the chief objective of marriage. The second [objective] is that tenderness, sweetness, and such other charming qualities are natural to the fair sex and not to men; similarly, adventurousness, endurance, courage and such qualities are natural to the male disposition and not to women. These two types of qualities do not appear to advantage if kept totally apart. See, a man appears very rough if his harsh qualities, like adventurousness, courage, endurance, and bravery, are not tempered with tender qualities such as compassion, humility and friendship. Likewise, a woman is very timid and unable to be of use at a time of need if her qualities such as humility, compassion, affection, tenderness and shyness are not blended with courage, endurance, truthfulness, and brilliance. Therefore men and women should blend their own qualities with those of the other and enhance their beauty. This alone will lead to the development and welfare of domestic life, and it is the duty of every person. [. . .] The third [objective of marriage] is that the human heart is very weak, and unable to sustain itself without support. That is why no one is able to live alone anywhere without company. If a person is endowed with all the means of happiness and left alone in a forest, he will never agree to stay there; but if he has a companion, he will consider himself to be happy even if beset by great calamities. This proves that a companion is essential in domestic life. [. . .] A person therefore needs a companion who loves him unwaveringly, who remains unaffected by good fortune or misfortune. In this world, the only such companions are husband and wife; the rest are good only for a short while. A completely sincere mutual friendship, which is possible with a spouse, is not possible with anyone else. That is why great, learned men have said: ‘A wife is one half of the husband, a wife is the best friend of all, a wife is the source of the three objects of worldly existence [i.e. religion, wealth and sensual enjoyment], a wife if the source of heaven.’ . . . Thus far I have stated the objectives of marriage. Now let us consider your duties subsequent to marriage. Everybody knows that married couples are happy only if they enjoy mutual love; otherwise there is no end to their miseries. In this society, an evil custom has been followed traditionally, that if a disagreement arises between spouses even in a minor matter, the husband at once slights or even abandons his wife – the very wife who is a lifelong partner in his joys and sorrows, who considers him to be her all-in-all, who feels that she has attained heaven if he speaks well to her – and then he either remarries or starts committing sins forbidden by religion, 58

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such as adultery. Even if men behave in this manner, society does not utter a word. They are not subjected to any kind of royal or social punishment. This being the case, men become wanton, because they alone are the protectors and destroyers of women. There is nobody to defend poor, weak women placed in such a difficulty, and speak out against men. Then what can these weak creatures do? There are some courageous, saintly women who even endure such transgressions and disrespect, and spend their lives in holy religious observances. Many commit suicide to end such misery. And many become wanton just like those men and tarnish their own lives and their families’ reputation by their unholy conduct. Of these three categories, the first is rarely seen, the second is more common, and the third commonest of all. Such sins arise mostly from the hardheartedness and wantonness of men. Men are stronger than women; therefore, whatever they do is bound to be considered right. But such transgression is not befitting to their manliness. [. . .] God has given man greater strength than woman not in order to oppress her and make her unhappy. It is the moral duty [dharma] of a man to refrain from insulting women and to charm them with affection and love them unwaveringly. Be that as it may; let us now turn to women. There are some foolish women who, in the belief that their husbands do not love them, start searching for remedies to charm them. When engaged in this effort, they find many people who possess remedies to charm a person with spells, incantations, charms, amulets, sacred ash, etc. For thus charming their husbands, the foolish women are prepared to do anything which the rogues tell them to do. These women come to great harm at the hands of such people. For example, they waste hard-earned money instead of putting it to good use. These people are wicked and ill-natured; their company leads to violation of modesty and to many other irreligious deeds, and results in public censure. The wicked people, in order to show that their words are true, give some earth, stones, ash, etc., saying, ‘Take this medicine and give it to your husband to eat at such a time in such a manner; then he will be entirely under your control.’ [. . .] The foolish women, in their attempt to use charms and spells, trust the rogues and feed their dear husbands dreadful medicines, which sometimes results in terrible disasters. [. . .] The character of these women, who try such spells and magical devices, comes to the notice of their husbands; and then the husbands lose whatever love they feel for them. So, it is obvious that the spells are of no use. There are several magical devices for charming one’s husband . . . [which] should be employed by all women, in order to 59

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achieve the welfare of all. These valuable magical devices are as follows. First, your conduct should be in conformity with your husband’s wishes. Never do anything contrary to his wishes. Do not ever raise your voice in his presence or treat him with contempt; always do any task which he instructs you to do, as long as it is in conformity with religious precepts, although it involves hard work. Whatever work he tells you to do at a certain time should be done without fail at that particular time. You should not say arrogantly that you are unable to do it, or too tired. If it is totally impossible to perform the task, you should speak to him sweetly, and humbly show him the reason why you are unable to do it. You should not tell him a lie of any kind, or unnecessarily slander anybody in front of him. Do not slander or trick him, or unnecessarily rebuke him and blurt out whatever comes to mind. Never betray his trust, prevent him from doing a good deed, or do anything which would hurt his feelings. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it and beg his forgiveness. If he makes a mistake, do not get angry but explain it to him. Serve him lovingly, to the best of your ability. You should never attempt to attract your husband by wearing ornaments and showy clothes. If a person has good qualities, they themselves draw people’s minds. Try to attract your husband with your virtues. Do not ever, for any reason, deceive your husband. In this world, a woman has no other friend like her husband. He shows you the right path as a teacher would; he sees to your welfare as a father would; he treats you with affection as a mother would; he is worthy of trust, venerable like a god, and as dear as your own life. If you deceive such an incomparable friend, who else do you have in this world, with whom you can behave candidly and be happy? [. . .] Second, a woman sometimes carries false tales about others (her mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, neighbours, etc.) to her husband in order to turn his love away from them and towards herself. Never do such a thing. Nobody trusts a person who slanders others. [. . .] You should assist your husband in all his activities as much as possible. [. . .] When your husband returns home [from work], you should not take him aside and spend time with him on unnecessary talk. It is only proper that you should spend a happy hour or so with him every day, in amusing conversation. But if this limit is exceeded, it leads not to happiness but to the loss of important work; and the couples who spend their day in such sloth begin to detect many annoying qualities in each other, which ultimately leads to quarrels. Then both mind and body are disturbed, and joy disappears from all activities. [. . .] 60

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While conversing with your husband, leave aside unnecessary things like slandering others, and talk about topics like morality, knowledge, religion, and God. If you find anything lacking in your domestic life, suggest to him at an appropriate time that he should make proper arrangements. When his mind is disturbed, for whatever reason, comfort him as much as you can, with sweet words. If he is dejected and disheartened in any enterprise, you should speak words of encouragement to comfort him and give him courage. In adverse times, you should be satisfied to live with him in the same state that he is in. You should never complain about anything. [. . .] Whatever the husband’s condition – good or bad, poor or rich – is also the wife’s. In such a condition, one should not pay attention to the high status of others. A woman, even if her father is a king, does not inherit his rank, but acquires the position of her husband. Therefore the woman who respects her husband and lives in the same condition as he, is honoured and respected by the people. A woman who behaves in a manner contrary to this is not respected, needless to say. See, in our Bharat-varsha, there lived in ancient times great saintly women like Sita, Savitri, Arundhati, Lopamudra, Damayanti, and others, whose fame still shines in Bharat like the spotless moon. Why? Because they were ever devoted to their husbands and were extremely loving. Lopamudra was a princess; whereas the opulence of [her future husband] Sage Agastya consisted only of a wooden staff, an ascetic’s water pot, garments made from the bark of trees and a hut. But immediately on being married to him, Lopamudra put aside her royal robes, valuable gems and ornaments with which her father had dowered her, and donned garments made from the bark of trees, which were suited to her husband’s station; and, detached from all royal pleasures, she followed him into the forest infested with terrible animals such as lions and tigers! Likewise, the pativrata Sita, the brightest ornament of the fair sex, worthy of being remembered at the dawn of each day. Everyone, from children to old people, knows her fame. In this world, there is no simile worthy of her. By giving birth to her, this Land of Bharat attained the distinguished title of ‘the womb which contains jewels’. When this Sita, venerated by all, was newly wedded, she had not experienced even in her dreams the unbearable distress caused by the heat of the sun or severe cold, by wind or rain. But, in spite of entreaties to dissuade her, she accompanied her husband who was on his way to fourteen years’ exile in the forest in order to honour his father’s promise, and went to live in Dandakaranya which was the abode of terrible demons! Alas! At that time, Sita could not even 61

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manage to wear the garments made from the bark of trees which were suitable for forest life. What then did she do? She held them in her hand and looked at Ramachandra with tears in her eyes. Then Rama himself draped those garments on his dear wife. Immediately, and joyfully even in this sad state, she followed Rama who, paying homage to his father, took the royal road towards the forest. At the sight of that sorrowful scene, even the stone-hearted could not help weeping. But Sita felt not a particle of sorrow. She believed that the company of her husband would give her the happiness of heaven even in hell, and being without him even in heaven would give her the torments of hell. Oh, what love was this! What devotion to her husband! Happy indeed was she who possessed such love and devotion to her husband. Later, did Sita escape with only this exile? No. Poor Sita was subjected to every possible humiliation by destiny. But she displayed, even to such cruel destiny, her utmost love for her husband and her courage! For fear of public censure, her husband abandoned her in the forest. How deeply is one affected by the memory of innocent Sita, in the last stages of pregnancy, and deserted in that uninhabited forest! As Bhavabhuti has said, ‘Even a stone bursts into tears and the heart of a diamond breaks asunder with sorrow’!!! [. . .] Bharat-varsha may be inferior to other countries in all other qualities; but no other country is yet worthy enough to equal it in the matter of the fame of saintly women like Sita. Similar are the lives of other great saintly women like Damayanti, Savitri, and others. Therefore, women who desire to enhance the greatness of their sex should reenact the noble and holy life of the saintly woman described above, through their own conduct. As mentioned above, you should not act or speak in a manner which your husband dislikes. But if your husband is prepared to act in contravention of religion, it is your prime duty to give him good advice and dissuade him from such a path. A wife is not really saintly if she agrees with her husband only in order to win his favour, allows him to do as he wishes and assists him in his proclivities. We call such a woman ‘selfish’. Woman is man’s greatest friend in this worldly life; he has no other friend like her. A friend should not flatter. If your friend has acquired a bad habit, and even if he would be hurt or angry and displeased if you advise him against it, you should never hesitate to sacrifice your own happiness and tell the truth in a disinterested manner, for the sake of your friend’s welfare. [. . .] Only a woman who is pure of conduct, in conformity with her husband’s wishes and mindful of religion and God, is fit to be 62

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called saintly. Some women avoid conducting themselves in the manner described above, but try to prove their saintliness only by outward show, such as eating their husbands’ leftover food, drinking the water with which their husbands’ feet have been washed, and so on. But this does not last long. Outward show disappears quickly, like clouds in the season of Sharad [Autumn]; then their true nature is soon exposed. Keeping this in mind, you should offer your husband guileless everlasting love; it will give you everything. There is no one as lowly as a woman who shows outward devotion to her husband, who is her unique friend, and deceives him by guile. While trying to deceive others, she is deceived herself. I have heard many women say, ‘My husband does not love me, he insults me’, etc. In some rare case this charge may be justified; but careful thought shows that in many cases it is not. Women are foolish, they mis­ understand what they are told and do the wrong thing. Naturally, this causes a rift between the couple. [. . .] If your husband is angry, you should soothe his mind with calm, sweet words. At a time of grief, remorse or sorrow, you should calm his mind with sweet words appropriate to the occasion. A person becomes dispirited and lethargic if his efforts do not succeed; at such a time, you should comfort him with words of encouragement. It is a woman’s primary duty to assist her husband in every act, every time, by following his inclinations. Only the women who act accordingly may properly be called their husbands’ better halves. Women who are selfish and do not help their husbands in any way are not called saintly. Why would unselfish women, who help their husbands every moment, not be loved by their husbands? Why would they not be respected? Where is the vile man who would abandon such a valuable gem and all desirable things he has in his own home, and go elsewhere? Conduct yourself as described above; then your husband will be absolutely charmed. In this world there are two unique spells which conquer people – straightforward, guileless and sweet speech, and behaviour according to another’s wishes. Even persons of a demonic disposition are beguiled by these two spells, how would [ordinary] human beings withstand it? It is in our own hands to be worthy of others’ respect and love. The way we treat others is the way others will treat us. If one keeps this firmly in mind, one is not likely to be insulted anywhere. If, in spite of all this, one is [insulted], one should not lose courage. Be that as it may; thus far I have briefly described how women should behave towards their husbands. Now let us consider how they should conduct themselves at home. 63

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6  Domestic duties The great learned men of the ancient past have described four different stages of human life, namely, celibacy (brahmacharya), life of a householder (grihastha), retirement to the forest (vanaprastha) and renunciation (sannyas). Among these four, they have treated the householder’s stage as the most superior, because a person in this stage supports those in the other three. In this world, there is no meritorious deed equal to benevolence. A householder is the most benevolent person of all, and therefore the most superior. The householder’s stage is the state in which men and women, having married in a suitable manner, live as husband and wife in mutual love. [. . .] Domestic duties are the work of women. They should never neglect them. A home where women do not perform household work themselves is not a happy home. The wise have said that ‘the housewife herself is the home’. A woman does not attain the rank of a housewife merely by virtue of being born into the female sex or by becoming a wife. It is very difficult to earn the title of ‘housewife’. [. . .] Now let us consider how the daily routine and domestic duties should be managed. You should always get out of bed before the break of dawn, and should not lie down again even if you feel sleepy. Morning sleep fills the body with extreme sloth, and such irregular sleep every day affects health, giving rise to many types of illness. Therefore, you should cultivate the habit of going to bed at the proper time and getting up before dawn; you will then find ample time to do all your work regularly. Otherwise there is a terrible rush and nothing is done properly. Moreover, there is no time during the whole day for even a little rest. A regular routine leaves no scope for ill health. When in good health, you should never sleep more than six hours. [. . .] As soon as you get up, you should first rinse your eyes and mouth with clean, cool water. All of one’s body organs are not properly active during sleep, so that all kinds of impurities in the body come out through the mouth, eyes, etc., and accumulate there. The saliva in the mouth is highly polluted, like poison. If one swallows it immediately after getting up and before rinsing the mouth, it reaches the digestive tract and causes many types of disease. And the polluted dirt and water from the eyes make the eyes droop. If they do not receive the coolness of water, the light of vision is reduced day by day. Therefore, as soon as you get up, rinse your mouth and eyes properly, dry them with a clean cloth, and then do whatever else you want to do. Do not fail to do this. 64

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At that time one’s mind is cheerful and undisturbed. Because there is no noise of people or rush of work, the mind is concentrated on whatever one does at that time. At such a time, you should recite the name of God, the Protector of all, the Most Compassionate, and the Father of the world, with a pure mind and with devotion. [. . .] After reciting the name of God and saying your prayers, you should think of what needs to be done next. Every task, great or small, should be performed after careful thought. [. . .] If something new is to be undertaken, one should prepare oneself by consulting experienced people who have done it frequently before. Many women think that it is demeaning to ask for advice, but such egoism is a sign of ignorance. You should get up early in the morning before everybody else, and clean the house by sweeping away all dirt and rubbish. Just as the human body accumulates dirt, and a number of diseases erupt if the dirt is not washed off for several days; similarly, if all manner of dirt accumulates in the corners of the house and in bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens, etc., the air in the house becomes polluted. It enters the body when people breathe, and the disease-generating, foul-smelling particles which enter the body with it, act like poison. Such a dirty house, giving rise to polluted air, is the root cause of all diseases. Therefore, all women should be ever mindful of keeping their houses clean. Only women stay at home all the time, therefore they alone are responsible for keeping the house clean, and for the resultant advantages. [. . .] For smearing the house with a coat of cowdung, [the requisite amount of] fresh dung should be mixed with about a quarter of that amount of earth dug up from a clean place, so that it destroys the foul smell and other bad air-polluting qualities of the dung, and also keeps the floor clean. In this manner, the floor of the house, and also the walls – if they are not whitewashed with lime – should be smeared every day or after every four days, so that troublesome insects like bedbugs, mosquitoes and fleas do not breed. If the walls are coated with lime, there is no need to whitewash them again for six months, because lime contains a kind of pungent salt which dispels bad odours. It keeps the air pure and prevents insects which breed in dirt. Acts such as wiping oily hands on the walls, pillars, doors, or door frames of the house, or drawing lines with coal, spitting and wiping mucous on them, are loathsome to the sight and harmful. You should never do such things, nor allow others to do so. If there is space in the garden in front of the house or behind, fragrant flowering plants . . . should be planted in pots or in the earth, in a decorative manner. . . . The fragrance of flowers dispels the bad 65

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smells in the air, and plants keep the air cool and healthy, so that one feels cheerful and energetic after breathing it. Among household duties, tasks like keeping the house clean should be performed by the housewife herself, or by servants if she can afford them. At this juncture, let us consider how one should behave towards servants. It has been observed in many places that servants do not obey the mistress of the house, but make fun of her and give her orders as if they were the masters. This is not the fault of the servants, but of the person who treats them [inappropriately]. The people who perform lowly jobs are usually not of good families, nor deferential. Constant bad company makes their minds totally inferior. It is in your own hands to train them and improve their manners, and make them respect you. They will treat you the same way you treat them. You should talk to servants in strict moderation, that is, only when necessary. You should never jest and joke with them, laugh without reason, or discuss shameful things with them. Nor should you go to the other extreme and always talk to them with an unpleasant face, angrily, harshly, or as if giving orders. You should say whatever has to be said, pleasantly and mildly. [. . .] Always treat them with compassion, knowing that your relationship with them is like that of parents and children. [. . .] All the things in the house should be kept tidily in their proper place so that they can be found quickly and are not mixed with other things. They should be dusted every day so that they do not a ­ ccumulate dirt. All groceries should be cleaned and kept covered or hung in a place where they cannot be destroyed by rats, cats, children, etc. What is to be eaten and drunk should not be kept uncovered; otherwise they are spoilt because dirt and different kinds of insects, like ants, flies, etc. fall into them. When they are eaten, they give rise to a number of illnesses in the body. Grains like lentils and rice, and things like jaggery, sugar, ghee, oil, spices, etc. contain a lot of dirt and dead or living insects. They should be weeded out, ghee, oil, etc. should be strained, and grain should be husked by pounding, rinsed and cleaned; only then should they be used for eating. Many people eat sugar, etc. without cleaning, but it is not good to do so. [. . .] The appearance of the house is the test of a housewife. If a house has everything in its proper place and looks pleasant, everybody immediately knows that the mistress of the house is clever. [. . .] All utensils in the house, such as those used for eating, cooking, storing water, drinking milk, etc., and earthen pots for keeping milk, curds, buttermilk, etc., should be rinsed every day by scrubbing 66

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them clean both inside and outside. Otherwise they accumulate dirt and spoil their contents. Utensils become slimy. If such dirty utensils are used for drinking water, etc., they can cause illness. Similarly, the bedclothes and garments to be worn should be kept clean. [. . .] The garments to be worn should be washed every day and bedclothes after every three or four days. After cleaning everything in the house completely in this manner, you should always bathe early in the morning at sunrise. [. . .] Then you should put on clean, dry clothes, not wet ones. You should not stay in water too long; this causes illnesses like body-ache, rheumatism, fever, etc. Clothes should be draped properly so as to cover the entire body. When women of good families in this country wear ritually pure garments or even ordinary ones, some of them do so in a very bad manner, [which exposes parts of the body]. [. . .] After the bath, one should perform one’s daily routine properly, tidily and quickly. [. . .] Cooking is the primary and most responsible task of women. If the meal is good, tasty and clean, it provides strength and does not cause illness. Therefore cooking should be done after learning the culinary art well. Similarly, it is necessary to learn which food items are fit to be eaten in which season, so that no illness is caused. In sum, it is for the women to arrange for food and drink so that everybody’s health is guarded. [. . .] You should not eat more or better than the rest of the people in the house. Whatever eatable is brought home should be divided properly among all, and you should be content with the rest. You should not feel hurt if you do not get a share. In this fashion, you should behave unselfishly in everything. [. . .] One’s behaviour towards all persons in the house should be ­modest, affectionate and devoted. One should not be garrulous or ­quarrelsome. One should not reply in kind if any one speaks bad words. One should endure everybody’s rebukes or wicked behaviour with great courage. One should not speak to anyone with an unpleasant face. [. . .] A wicked deed should be countered not in kind, but by a good deed. One should show devotion to one’s mother-in-law, fatherin-law, elder brother-in-law, elder sister-in-law and similar venerable persons, as one would to God. One should listen to the advice of all who conform to religion and act accordingly. [. . .] One should behave mildly and affectionately with every one, as far as possible. One should treat one’s younger brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, stepchildren, and such other persons with humility and affection. One should not be inimical to any one, nor let anyone be inimical to oneself. One should not put work aside and waste time in idleness. One should not stand at the door or window of the house and look on the 67

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spectacle in the marketplace. At no time during the day should one sit idly or lie down. It is very improper for women to sleep during the day. In the afternoon, after everyone has eaten, one should inquire after everyone and then eat oneself. The meal should be moderate and agreeable to one’s constitution. [. . .] Then one should finish the housework, and check what is in the house and what is not. Any item that is used up should be ordered immediately and stored properly. A complete account of income and expenditure should be kept. Moderation should be observed in all actions. Expenditure should never exceed income. One should not waste money by squandering it needlessly. [. . .] Only a thing which is indispensable should be bought. [. . .] Money should not be wasted unnecessarily on expensive clothes or such other things. [. . .] One should not do anything without consulting one’s husband; this applies also to spending money. But if he is not at home, one should unhesitatingly do any task which is unavoidable. One should not be afraid to perform any deed thoughtfully and by following the right path. One should never refrain from spending money on good causes, such as religion, benevolence, national welfare; at such times, miserliness is blameworthy. Saintly persons say that there is no religious duty greater than giving. Therefore all people should give according to their capacity. Gifts should be given not in order to win gratitude but with an unselfish mind. [. . .] It is very essential to give food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothes to one suffering from the cold, comfort to one in grief, encouragement to one who is dispirited, shelter to the destitute, etc. One should help, to the best of one’s capacity, persons who are blind, crippled, mute, without arms, the lepers, the aged, the ailing, etc. [. . .] After completing all housework properly, one should also rest for a while, because a person gets tired after working the whole day; and health suffers if there is no rest. But it should always be kept in mind that in all actions, moderation is to be observed. [. . .] Just as money should be spent carefully and well, so should time. It is possible to regain lost wealth, but lost time cannot be regained, as everybody knows. Similarly, after everybody has had the evening meal, one should finish all work and inquire after everyone in the house. Then, after everybody has gone to bed, one should close all the doors, etc. and carefully put away anything that is out of place. Before going to sleep, one should think about the tasks one had listed out for oneself in the morning, about the tasks which were done and left undone, about their results, etc. One should not be immersed in 68

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household duties and be lazy about seeking the way to one’s welfare. One should read moral philosophy, stories containing spiritual knowledge, the shastras which are within one’s comprehension, ­ newspapers, etc.; store in mind whatever good advice one finds in them; and keep one’s mind tranquil, intent on excellence and devoted to religion. [. . .] One should go to sleep at the regular time, that is, one watch after the night starts, and get up at the right time, that is, one watch before the night ends. While performing all household duties, one should always remember that God, our judge, is always near. One should not trespass against Him. If one does bad deeds unknown to others, they might not come to light. But God is omniscient, He watches us. It is impossible for one to commit a bad deed without His knowledge and to escape punishment. Keeping this in mind, one should try to conform to religion in all one’s actions.

7  Nurture and care of children This duty is the most important among all the domestic duties. Therefore women should perform it with very mature and clear thinking. The very brave Napoleon Bonaparte was once asked by some one: ‘How is it that your country, France, is the greatest among all the countries in this world? What is the reason for such extraordinary deeds of your countrymen and for their flourishing condition?’ Thereupon that thoughtful warrior replied briefly: ‘Our mothers elevated our country and all of us to this condition.’ This statement of his is very brief, but upon deliberation it becomes clear that every one of its letters contains all the meaning of great tomes such as the Mahabharata. Truly, the life and death, welfare and wretchedness, superiority and inferiority of the offspring, depends upon its mother. People usually inherit their mother’s qualities to a great extent, because, from the time of conception to the time of birth, the child’s body grows out of the flesh and blood of its mother. Later, as long as it is unable to eat other things, the infant is sustained by her milk. Therefore, a person contains a large share of his mother’s blood. Likewise, he gets her nature along with it. Later children always learn whatever their mother says and does, and behave in a similar manner. This proves that if the mother’s constitution, character and conduct are good, the children also turn out well, and if not, the children will naturally turn out bad. Now-a-days, why have the people of our unfortunate Bharat-varsha become so dispirited, weak and dependent? Their ancestors were so brilliant, brave, dutiful and independent; why have these people, belonging to the same 69

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lineage, reached such a plight? If anyone asks us this, we will reply clearly that the reason for this is the lacklustre constitution of women who have been reduced to a condition of animal-like ignorance and undeserved slavery, by the wrong deeds of the selfish, shortsighted men of this country! Most men in this country believe that women should not be allowed to have any kind of knowledge; if they become knowledgeable, they will prevent the licentious behaviour of the men who will then lose their superiority. With this in mind, they have written the dharmashastras which favour the self-interest of men, stating that, ‘Women are not entitled to study the shastras, they should live with their husbands as servants, only service to the husband gives them salvation.’ Furthermore, they force women to behave accordingly, and prevent them from undertaking any good deed by repeatedly writing and uttering words which revile women, as for example, ‘Women are evil, reckless, deceitful.’ Men do this in order to achieve their self-interest, but, in effect, manage to cut off their own feet with an axe. [. . .] Will barren land, where only grass can grow, produce a sweet mango tree? Then, if the mothers in this country have a lacklustre constitution, how will their progeny be vigorous? Medical Science has stated that, ‘The exact form, constitution, mental disposition, etc. of the woman and man at the time of conception are acquired by the progeny.’ This statement is literally true. At any given time, a person’s state of mind is reflected in his physical activities. What wonder, then, that the reproduction of progeny will follow this rule? The current state of our country proves this. In this country, men’s minds are always filled with inferior feelings about women. Therefore, men do not have open minds, but only make an outward show of deceptive friendship; and, with a feeling of superiority, exercise their power over women as they like. Women themselves, oppressed by such behaviour, do not possess good minds. Due to a permanent servile condition and ignorance, their minds are unclean, dull, lacklustre and untruthful. A desire for religion, love of God and adventurousness cannot exist in such unclean minds. Let the readers consider how well the progeny will turn out if produced by parents of such an inferior disposition and brought up by mothers endowed with the excellent qualities mentioned above. [. . .] At present, some educated male nationalists fill the whole wide world with their roars, orating in a voice like the rumbling of clouds that: ‘Our country is in great distress, it should be uplifted in such and such a manner by learning the arts and skills. In the past there were great, mighty people in this country, who were independent, 70

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but today we are living in subjection and dependence on others. Now, all of us should exert ourselves unitedly for the welfare of our country’, etc. But is this going to yield any results at all? All their oratory comes to naught. Those who hear their words, receive them through one ear and discard them through the other, and, as if afraid that these words from the world of oratory would stick to their bodies, they shake their garments before going home! When ten persons come together, they only waste their time by talking about words like ‘Freedom!’, ‘Glory!’, etc., like idle talk in a gathering of Brahmins. But this talk does not result in any action. How would it? The impatient disposition, which they have inherited from their parents, has no trace of virtues such as courage, keeping promises, sense of duty, etc. The above-mentioned words which they utter are not their own; they have been produced by observing the behaviour of the English and by reading books, newspapers, etc. written in their language. How long will their influence last? One should just listen to the prating of these people. They say, ‘Our ancestors were great’. We say, ‘Yes! That is true! Your ancestors and also ours were great and as tall as seven palm trees; but why are you giving yourselves airs? If you do not possess qualities to match their greatness, your talk only proves that your being born in their lineage has disgraced it. Your ancestors illuminated the world with their virtues, like the flame of a lamp; and you blacken the face of your motherland, like soot from that lamp. Is this not so? What was the reason for your ancestors being so brilliant? The reason was that, in their time, nobody thought of women as servants. They imparted knowledge to women, and inculcated in them qualities like brilliance. They did not behave licentiously and in a self-willed manner, contrary to the interests of women. They protected the rights of women completely. Therefore women acquired virtues, lived in contentment, and were happy like queens even in poverty. Also the progeny produced and brought up by them was brilliant, religious, and honoured its promises.’ If the people of our country want to restore the old state of affairs, they should give up their misguided selfishness, and improve the fundamentals. They should try to inculcate virtues in women, and should not deprive them of their just rights. Women will then acquire an energetic and vigorous disposition. Later, their progeny will acquire their virtues and disposition, and grow up to be trustworthy, courageous and dutiful. Their efforts will then deliver the country from its wretched state and revive its fortune. Until this happens, nothing will be achieved by thousands of declamations, assemblies, etc. If one repeatedly cuts off the roots of a tree while showering nectar on its top, how can one hope to obtain fruits from it? And how wise would 71

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the people be, who cherish such a hope? Be that as it may, we will now turn to our main topic. The women of our country do not know how to take proper care of children, so that the future prospects for the children’s good constitution are spoilt from the beginning. Therefore, mothers should take great precautions to ensure that their children are nurtured in a manner conducive to their good constitution. First, mothers of infants should observe every kind of self-restraint. They should completely give up eating in a self-willed manner, food which is harmful, excessive, stale, dry, spicy; and also give up other immoderate physical acts. If this is not done, the mother’s milk goes bad. Drinking such milk gives the infant indigestion which, in turn, produces all kinds of diseases. All food which is eaten is concocted in the digestive tract in order to produce blood. That blood spreads through the whole body, and forms the very life of a person. The eating of a bad food preparation results in the gastric heat slowing down, and the food remaining undigested; this disrupts all bodily processes. Naturally, then, diseases are produced. A child has limited digestive power; if its diet is disturbed even slightly, it immediately contracts a serious illness. Again, it is very difficult to treat children’s diseases. A proper diet reduces the probability of disease. [. . .] One should never give a strong medicine for a slight complaint, or give medicine for a complaint which is likely to disappear by itself, or give the wrong medicine at the wrong time. Women should, therefore, acquire a good knowledge of common diagnostic medicine. If they are not able to understand the problem, they should consult a traditional physician [vaidya] or a medical doctor. [. . .] Secondly, women should keep firmly in mind that vows, amulets, charmed cords, sacred ash given by holy men as blessings and other such remedies do not help at all. Now let us speak of the regular care of children. Children should be bathed every day in clean and lukewarm water; cold water is even better, if agreeable to their constitution, because a cold-water bath gives physical strength and energy. It is customary to massage the child’s body with oil before the bath. But excessive oil should not be applied; it makes the body slippery and blocks the removal of dirt from the pores of the skin. If excessive oil is applied, it sticks to the body even after the bath. When dust settles on it, the body becomes even more dirty. While applying oil, it is customary to put a drop or two in the child’s eyes. Experienced women claim that oil makes the eyes water, which cleans them and cures eye diseases. But this does not happen. On the contrary, it makes the child cry more, because the sharpness of the oil smarts the eyes 72

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and is also harmful. Some women pour very hot water on the baby’s body, almost scalding it, and hurt that tender body even more by massaging it roughly. Even when the babies start crying in pain, these women do not leave them alone!! Such heartless behaviour is not proper in a compassionate person. Therefore they should stop doing so. Experience shows that when the body is rubbed lightly and bathed in pleasantly warm water, children become cheerful. [. . .] Many women are fond of adorning their children’s bodies with ornaments, but do not pay attention to the cleanliness of their bodies and clothes. [. . .] Many women are in the habit of breast-feeding their infant as soon as it starts crying, without finding out why it is crying. This disturbs the regularity of the child’s feed, and its frequency prevents the milk from being digested. This causes many complaints of the stomach. Therefore, infants should be suckled only at regular times. [. . .] Similarly, while putting a baby to sleep, the mothers in this country feed it opium to keep it quiet; this is a very bad and harmful practice. If the habit of consuming intoxicating substances is acquired in childhood, it is difficult to be rid of it soon. Feeding opium intoxicates children and they lie down in lethargy all the time. [. . .] The following four ways are good for protecting children’s health: 1 Plentiful and clean water, which the skin needs, should be used for bathing the child after massaging its body and washing it clean. [. . .] Garments soiled by faeces and urine, or by sweat, oil, etc., should never be used. They should be washed every day before being used. This keeps children clean, comfortable and happy. 2 Free and clean air to breathe – children should never be kept in a malodorous and confined place which is like a dark prison cell. [. . .] 3 A timely and moderate diet agreeable to the stomach. 4 The proper amount of natural sleep is necessary for the growth and development of the brain. Mothers should guard their children properly in infancy, as described briefly above. [. . .] That is her prime duty. If she has to sacrifice all other happiness to do so, it does not matter, because the protection of children is the repayment of a debt. It has to be done at any cost. One’s parents have exerted themselves to nurture one, and thus imposed a burden of obligations which can never be repaid. One should try to discharge at least a part of it through devotion and service to them, and through the nurture of one’s offspring. [. . .] 73

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Now let us consider how to start a good upbringing. First of all, a mother should be very careful to ensure that her speech, actions and general behaviour are faultless in every way, and should try to ensure that the behaviour of the rest of the people in the house is likewise. [. . .] When Peter the Great, the famous king of Russia, became really great, he performed countless deeds for his country, because of his natural rightmindedness. He acquired many arts and skills, and left behind an immortal fame through his behaviour which was worthy of imitation by all kings. But, although inherently rightminded, he had spent his childhood in bad company and was not well brought up; so he was unable to control man’s [six] ‘enemies’, such as sexual passion, anger, etc. [along with desire, affection, pride and envy]. While under their influence, he would engage in many acts unworthy of him. [. . .] Consequently he frequently uttered the sad words of repentance: ‘I did not receive a proper upbringing in childhood, therefore I am unable to bring myself to the right path.’ [. . .] This proves that if children turn out badly, it is not their fault but the fault of the people who watch over them. Children learn what they are taught. When children are old enough to talk, the mother should teach them to speak in a truthful, sweet, and polite manner. She should not use untruthful, crooked, cruel, and impolite words in the presence of children, nor allow others to do so. She should not allow her children to go near people who are in the habit of using such words. [. . .] In the course of a conversation, many women casually use bad, abusive, and vulgar words directed towards their children and others. After hearing them every day, children develop the habit of speaking the same way, and are unable to rid themselves of the habit, no matter what they do. [. . .] It is the custom of this country to say to a child, as soon as it is able to talk, things like: ‘What type of husband or wife do you want?’, ‘How does so-and-so walk?’, ‘How do you mock someone?’, ‘When will you marry?’, ‘Slap your mother’, ‘Kick so-andso’, ‘Bring such-and-such a thing without so-and-so’s knowledge’, etc. All these things appear trifling to the people here; but they do not imagine, even in their dreams, what disasters they are likely to lead to. [. . .] The last Nawab of Bengal, Suraj-ud-daula, was brought up by his grandfather; he acquired bad habits from childhood because of his pampering and because of bad company. When he grew up, he ruined his country and ultimately himself through his bad qualities, as can be seen clearly after reading history. [. . .] Children should not be allowed to keep bad company. When small children seek out other children to play with, they should be allowed to play only with good children, never with mischievous ones. [. . .] 74

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In order to control their children, some women beat them severely or employ other such cruel methods; but this warps the children’s minds and is a very improper thing to do. [. . .] It is very foolish to try to win over children or others by harsh methods. Mildness is a great weapon. [. . .] Children should not be spoilt needlessly; it prompts them to turn to wrong ways. [. . .] No other stage in human life is as pure and straightforward as childhood. At this stage, children are pliable. It is the mother’s duty to give her offspring good training in childhood. The mother’s conduct is like a mould which shapes the thinking, disposition and conduct of the children. [. . .] The mothers of our country should follow the example of women like Sumitra, Vidula, Kunti, etc, in training their offspring well from childhood so that they will acquire high status and fame later in life. [. . .] Kunti, mother of the Pandavas, had five sons – three of her own and two of her co-wife’s. From their childhood when they were under her supervision, to the time when they grew to be independent and became monarchs, she gave them all an equally good upbringing, without discriminating between her own and others, with the good intention that there should be no hostility among them, and that their mutual love should continue to grow more firm. [. . .] This was the sole reason why those brothers held one another dearer than their own life. [. . .] Sumitra had a son, Lakshman. When her co-wife’s son, Rama, started out on his forest exile, she could not let her only son Lakshman go; even so, she gave him good advice and told him to accompany Rama. She said: ‘Think of Ram as Dasharath [their father], Sita as myself, and the forest as Ayodhya. And, O my son! go happily with Rama.’ Oh! what advice! what a sense of duty! Who can be happier than children who possess a mother so saintly, so mindful of religion, and so able to point out the right path! [. . .] Therefore, the people who suffer at the sight of our country’s distress should try to train the mothers of our countrymen to become well-behaved and knowledgeable. Then, their children will learn from their mothers how to be virtuous and dutiful, and, on reaching adulthood, uplift this fallen country of ours.

8  The ultimate goal Nobody remains in the same state forever. We can see nothing in this ever-changing world which stays in the same condition from beginning to end. The most brilliant object we can see, for which there is no equal, is the sun. Its light illuminates the moon, the stars and the earth. Even this indescribably brilliant sun does not remain 75

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in a changeless state. Sometimes it shows black spots, sometimes it is covered by the shadow of ordinary clouds, sometimes it is eclipsed by the moon which hides it. The sun revolves day and night, together with the planets and their satellites which also revolve. The earth revolves, so do the moon and the stars. The mountains, seas, large and small rivers on this earth undergo transformation every moment, in accordance with the laws of Nature. With the change of seasons, trees are decorated with their native riches such as leaves, flowers and fruits; and, after a while, they are turned into wood and burnt. The human body changes its shape in different stages such as childhood, youth and old age; and it experiences states such as waking, sleeping, dreaming, living and dying. History testifies to the variable condition of nations and of their people at different times for different reasons. All these things mutely advise man every moment regarding the transformation of things: ‘O man! See our state and abandon your ignorance. Understand that nobody retains the same state forever, and do your duty. What is to happen cannot be avoided. Do not harbour conceit about anything.’ A person is quite terrified when he is in distress, and cannot think of what to do. At a time like this, even great, courageous, learned men lose their wits and do the wrong thing. What then can one say about tender-hearted weak women, when such distress befalls them? Therefore, let us briefly consider how women should behave during a time of adversity. The far-sighted, learned men of ancient times have said: ‘One should be afraid of danger only before it strikes; but, once confronted by it, one should overcome it through appropriate measures’. [. . .] While in a happy state, a person should read books of advice written by learned people; and, if he gets an opportunity to spend time in the company of a great man, he should also seek advice about how to act during adversity. He should also think well upon this matter when his mind is calm, and make great effort to cultivate abiding and unflinching courage. [. . .] The condition of all creatures is like a waterwheel – once full and once empty, once high and once low. Such is also the transformation of our state. [. . .] The great warrior Napoleon Bonaparte started originally from a low state, but performed great feats in the course of time through his efforts, and became the emperor of France. Even after reaching this high position, he was compelled to live as a prisoner in a gaol owing to the turning wheel of Time, and had no one to help him or to comfort him with a few sweet words. Had he been a weak-minded person, he would immediately have died of a broken heart at this dreadful time. But he possessed great courage and endurance. Even in this helpless adverse condition, he showed 76

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no anxiety, but, inspired by great courage and heroism, said: ‘Why worry? Even though alone in this gaol, I do not feel fear or abandon hope. Misfortune is but a herald of good fortune. . . . I shall certainly escape shortly, and singlehandedly avenge myself on all my enemies.’ Oh! what courage! We do not even need to look to other countries for such instances of courage in the face of adversity; they abound in our own country. A leader was born 255 years ago in this country of ours, who revived the fallen Bharat-varsha —Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. His birth literally justified the title held by Bharat-bhumi, namely, ‘the womb containing jewels’. He also, like Napoleon, started from an ordinary background and reached the kingly status through his own efforts. Later, the cruel emperor Aurangzeb, that snake who tormented his subjects, arrested him and kept him imprisoned together with his son. They had no chance to escape; even so, that heroic warrior kept up his courage, and effected his escape through great effort. He became a terror for the Mughal dynasty of the Pathans, revived his kingdom and his people, and became immortal through his noble reputation. Many more such instances could be given, but are not mentioned for want of space. When visited by a calamity, a person is unable to see what acts are proper or not proper, and is likely to take the irreligious path. But a person should not do so, no matter what the calamity. Irreligious acts do not lead to any good. . . . Jesus Christ was killed by wicked people who nailed him to the cross; but he felt absolutely no fear or sorrow at that terrible time. Even while dying on the cross in such a pitiable manner, with a steady mind and calm heart he prayed to God the Father for the welfare of all creatures, and endured all agonies with great courage; but he did not slide from the religious path. Such a person is called religious! The reason why such great, religious persons are visited by terrible misfortune is that they are under divine grace. If they are not tested through such occasions, the world would not realise their true worth. [. . .] Many people blame God for the great and small calamities which befall the common man by the will of God. Some say that God is merciless, that there is no justice in His kingdom, that He brings needless misfortune upon innocent creatures. But God is never merciless to any creature; all creatures are the children of God. Even a lowly person is not pitiless towards his children, how then can one say that God who is an ocean of mercy is pitiless? It is true that calamities which befall people are caused by the will of God, but that does not prove that God is merciless. Nothing happens in His 77

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just kingdom without a reason. The calamities which befall people are also not without a reason. They have the following four reasons: 1 To shed light on the true worth of good people, as has been briefly described above. 2 To make human beings understand the value of happiness. A person who is happy since birth does not understand the value of happiness; he is like a stone statue untouched by the experience of happiness. Without the darkness of night, the world would not realise the happiness and benefits of sunlight. Without bitter things, one would not know the taste of sweet things. Similarly, without the occasional experience of unhappiness, nobody would understand the value of happiness. [. . .] 3 To understand the suffering of others. Persons who are always happy become arrogant, troublesome and cruel. Being happy themselves, they are unable to understand the condition of those who are unhappy; therefore such people usually harass others. If many human beings in this world had been happy and had started to harass others due to their inability to understand their unhappiness, then there would have been no peace on earth. [. . .] 4 To pay the penalty for the wrongs one has done. If a kingdom has thieves, cheats and suchlike people who harass others, and if they are not given their just punishment by the king, they do not lose their evil propensity; this results in terrible misfortune. [. . .] Therefore, he who is guilty should be given the punishment he deserves; then his evil habit is broken to a large extent, even if not completely, and others get some peace and quiet. There are many rulers in this world, and it is improbable that they would award punishment which is exactly appropriate to the offences, known and unknown, committed by all. People commit great sins in secret, and pretend to be good and innocent in front of others. If God Omniscient does not punish them suitably for their offences, then they would never give up their evil propensity. [. . .] Some people repeatedly pray to God for happiness which they do not deserve, and then blame Him if He does not grant it. This is greatest ignorance of all, because it is useless to imagine that God, who has arranged for one’s sustenance even before one is born, does not know better than they do. It is a transgression to request something else while He is making proper arrangements to give us whatever we need. God is ever desirous of our welfare. He will never give us anything which is not conducive to our welfare. [. . .] 78

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God is supremely compassionate and the support of all. Blessed is the person who trusts in Him, and who, without letting his mind be distracted, spends his life in devotion to Him and in achieving the welfare of all creatures.

Notes Note: The abridged translation of Stri Dharma Niti would be from Meera Kosambi’s own translation published by Oxford University Press in Kosambi, M. (2000). Pandita Ramabai Through Her Own Words: Selected Works. New Delhi: Oxofrd University Press. 1 The word deshi has been translated here as ‘native’. Elsewhere Ramabai employs the more commonly used word etaddeshiya which has the same meaning. M.K. 2 I do not say that all men work and all women are idle; but in truth, rare are the women who engage in tasks of advancement other than cooking and other essential domestic chores. P.R. 3 All Sanskrit quotations are printed in a different font. 4 This young man was Ramabai’s older brother Srinivas-shastri, as shown by her other accounts. M.K. 5 A Puranik expounds the puranas, and a Haridas performs stories of gods with music and chanting. M.K.

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3 ENGLAND AND CONVERSION TO CHRISTIANITY

Having already criss-crossed the Indian subcontinent by her early 20s, often under trying conditions, Ramabai found it easier to contemplate foreign travel than any of her contemporaries would have. Her plans moved with an astonishing speed until she sailed for England in April 1883. This voyage, arguably the most significant landmark in her life, is captured in her long letter to Mr S. P. Kelkar, secretary of Mumbai’s Prarthana Samaj.1 The wide-ranging narrative (Selection 2), regarded as the first modern Marathi travelogue, is significant for additional reasons. It is prefaced with the controversy surrounding the voyage, comprehensively listing and refuting the objections to it, and reiterating her assurance that she did not contemplate embracing Christianity. The more interesting part of the narrative constitutes vivid and evocative seascapes, sights of Aden, Suez and Malta visited en route, and her cheerful first impressions of Wantage. Ramabai’s self-confidence and strength of character come across in the apparent ease with which she handled this voyage with baby Manorama, accompanied by only a female companion, Anandibai Bhagat, in an age when even Indian men hesitated to embark on such a venture, and also in the boldness with which she returned the condescending gaze of some of her ethnocentric European fellow passengers on board the steamer.2 Her frequently self-deprecating humour leavens the whole narrative, as for example her attempts at English conversations despite her self-confessed lack of the language, or her outlandish attire aimed at warding off the cold. As a travelogue describing the conditions on the steamer, the changing seascape and short sight-seeing visits, the informative letter brims with intellectual curiosity. It is with just pride in her own ability to absorb new sights – but without being overawed – that Ramabai briefly describes London, its well-known landmarks and technological innovations such as the underground railway. Although eminently readable, the text is stylistically uneven. Shifting moods are perhaps inevitable in a long letter which furthermore aims to serve a multiple agenda, but the range here is particularly wide – from the 80

Plate 5  Ramabai with Manorama, early 1886

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philosophical detachment which underpins the entire narrative, at times obtrusively, to the moments of hilarity occasioned by her clumsy attempts to adapt herself to the culture and climate of her new surroundings. The style veers from conversational Marathi to Sanskritized purple passages which arouse suspicions of publication as a hidden agenda – perhaps in Subodha Patrika which had earlier published her Marathi autobiographical account. Subodha Patrika did publish the letter, as a separate booklet with a short biography attached to it. As Ramabai’s staunch friend and supporter, Mr Kelkar planned to cover only the printing cost and send the profit to Ramabai for her expenses in England. The booklet enjoyed a generally positive reception. Kesari’s reviewer (16 October 1883) admitted to having ‘formed a good opinion of Pandita Ramabai after reading this small, 46-page book authored by her . . . [which] contains a great deal of interesting information.’ He also cited her description of the sea on the way to England as a specimen of the ‘numerous gripping passages’ in the book, which ‘will lead any one to form a favourable opinion of Ramabai’s intellect and courage’. This was high praise indeed, coming from Kesari. But the obvious time lag between Ramabai’s writing the letter (15 May 1883) and its publication more than three months later meant that the review appeared when much water had already flown down the Thames. Thus Kesari’s reviewer was quick to seize upon the rumours of Ramabai’s possible conversion (which in fact had already occurred) with the comment: We only hope that her conduct remains uncontaminated in keeping with the sentiment she has frequently expressed in this book, that she returns to India without embracing Christianity as has recently been rumoured, and that she is able to serve the Motherland according to her original plan. But we have doubts about our hope being fulfilled. * In England, Ramabai was taken to St Mary’s Home at Wantage near Oxford and placed under the care of Sister Geraldine. The earlier plan of leaving her under the care of the more sympathetic Sister Eleanor with whom she had established rapport at Pune had to be cancelled ostensibly because she was then working at the Rescue Home at Fulham and the company of ‘fallen women’ was considered unsuitable for Ramabai. It appears that the Home at Wantage also had a section for sexually victimized women.3 But possibly care was taken to keep Ramabai away from them; in fact Ramabai and her ‘family’ had a small wing to themselves. With truly amazing rapidity Ramabai embarked upon her feminist activism in England. She almost immediately sought a meeting with Sir Bartle 82

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Frere, former governor of the Bombay Presidency in the early 1860s, despite knowing little English. Her agenda was an appeal for funding a home for destitute women that she hoped to open through the Arya Mahila Samaj. She submitted Frere a Marathi petition outlining the seamless oppression of Indian women through all stages of life, with a request to get it translated into English and bring it to the notice of ‘our and your sovereign Queen Victoria, our future sovereign the Prince of Wales, Mr Gladstone and other great men of note’.4 In this petition entitled ‘The Cry of Indian Women’, Ramabai deploys a clever strategy: she justifies the ‘audacity’ involved in ‘a poor insignificant being living in a corner’ of India, like herself, approaching such an important personage, by stressing her claim as a colonial subject on the friendship and support of colonial officials like him. The letter contains a strange – and truly audacious – conflation of an awareness of colonial exploitation with an attempt at colonial bonding: Oh India, . . . [m]illions of foreign people have acquired riches through thee, and have become happy; but . . . there is no shelter for thy daughters! Alas, to whom should we resort for redress? . . . Is it proper that one of our sex, the great Queen Victoria, should be the Sovereign of England and Hindoostan [sic], and that we, women, should be subjected to this unbearable torture? You [Englishmen] have conferred various boons on Hindoostan and in return she has made your country wealthier. . . . We take you for our brothers and all assistance from you as a matter of right. . . . I hope and feel that this adventurous mission of mine of bringing to you this cry of my Indian sisters would not prove useless.5 In the event the attempt at fundraising for a proposed ‘destitute home’ in India for female victims of multiple oppressions – probably the first such Indian initiative in England – did prove useless. But the appeal significantly reveals the ideological distance Ramabai had travelled since SDN and presages The High-Caste Hindu Woman. *

Ramabai’s initial ebullience soon withered into deracinated depression in the aftermath of her failure to enter medical college because of the discovery of her incurable deafness – the result of her earlier physical hardships. Added to this was the shock of Anandibai Bhagat’s suicide under mysterious circumstances. Geraldine dismissed the incident by alleging that Anandibai drank poison (meant for external use) to kill herself because she was mentally unbalanced and because Ramabai did not give her the sympathetic understanding she needed. Anandibai was baptized 83

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on her deathbed allegedly to honour her own earlier request.6 But a divergent description is offered by Professor Max Mueller of Oxford who offered Ramabai temporary shelter soon afterwards: that Anandibai was ‘frightened by the idea that she and Ramabai would be made Christians by force’ and to save themselves ‘from such a fate, she tried one night to strangle her [Ramabai]. Failing in that she killed herself.’ To recover from the ‘catastrophe’ Ramabai went to stay with the Mueller family; and he reports that ‘such was her nervous prostration that we had to give her a maidservant to sleep every night in the same room with her’.7 The CSMV completely elided the traumatic aspect of the case and Geraldine even claimed that ‘the shock occasioned by the death of Anandibai brought Ramabai to prepare with great humility for her Baptism’.8 On 29 September 1883, in contravention of her earlier assurances, Ramabai was baptized in the Wantage Parish Church by Canon Butler, the founder of the CSMV. Ramabai now became ‘Mary Rama’ and Manorama was christened ‘Manorama Mary’; but both women continued to use their Indian names. Sister Geraldine was Ramabai’s witness at the ceremony at Wantage Church, and subsequently her spiritual godmother. It was just prior to her conversion that Ramabai wrote a brief biographical account of her life9 – the only such account available to us, other than her later Christian confession, A Testimony (1907, Selection 7). Ramabai’s conversion was a triumph for the CSMV: she was after all a prize convert and expected to bring in many more Indian women and men into the Christian fold. Geraldine insisted that Ramabai was happy after embracing Christianity, but contradicted herself by admitting that she ‘has shrunk from being in any way considered a public character, and has evinced . . . a desire to walk quietly and hiddenly [sic]’.10 *

The causal chain of events leading to Ramabai’s conversion remains unclear. In her various later narratives (e.g. letters to friends, ‘The WordSeed’, A Testimony) taken together, Ramabai has tried to trace a Christian thread running through her entire life.11 She speaks of childhood exposure to the name of Jesus Christ which made a deep impact on her, of her increasing disillusionment with the Hindu doctrine and practices which led to her family’s fatal ordeals, her subsequent sympathy for the Brahmo Samaj and Prarthana Samaj (which she did not join formally) and her continuing quest for a more complete religion which drew her to the religion of Christ, ‘the Divine Saviour’ who could transform and uplift the downtrodden womanhood of India and of every land’.12 It seemed an ideal religion not only for herself but also for all women of India, because Hinduism denied women direct salvation: it was only through worshipping her husband in several lives that a woman could accumulate sufficient 84

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Plate 6  Sister Geraldine

spiritual merit. Additionally Ramabai was attracted by the concepts of love and compassion as the foundation of Christianity. Finally she claimed that Father Nehemiah Goreh had made her realize that the Brahmo and Prarthana Samajes were only pale derivations of Christianity and it was 85

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preferable to go directly to the source. Possibly, her loneliness and social isolation was an additional though hidden dimension, according to Max Mueller.13 Ramabai’s conversion predictably created strong shockwaves across India. Some friends, like Kashibai Kanitkar, had openly shared with her their prediction of her conversion to Christianity under the CSMV’s influence, in view of her earlier religious oscillations. Ramabai had responded with a vow never to embrace Christianity.14 The journalistic reaction to the event was couched in stronger – and often cynical and vicious – language, attributing to her fickleness and financial motives. In an English article, the generally liberal and otherwisesupportive Anglo-Marathi Indu-Prakash of Mumbai (5 November 1883) wrote: ‘The Pandita had no definite views on religion while in India, though she seemed to approve the doctrine of the Brahmo Samaj, and there is nothing striking in the fact that she has accepted the faith of those who started by providing her just with what she most desired – the means to go to England and reside in England.’15 In a Marathi article (11 November 1883) the same paper said: ‘The woman is fickle. She was a Hindu but became a Brahmo, [and has now embraced Christianity]. If she ever finds a Kazi who offers her the appealing advice that Islam is the best path to salvation, she might become a Muslim.’16 The conservative papers converged in their view. Reporting the ‘painful’ news of ‘the conversion of Pandita Ramabai Sanskrita’, ‘the helpless and impecunious but erudite lady’, The Mahratta of Pune (4 November 1883) commented that ‘the learned lady has deceived and disappointed alike her friends and foes’ and ‘enrolled herself into the charitable clan of Christ’ for financial gain.17 The only overt local support came from Phule whose mixture of antiBrahmanism and feminism led him to openly congratulate Ramabai on her religious conversion. A verse lauding it and attributing it to her discovery of Hinduism’s oppression of women and Shudras opened his essay (1884) which he went on to say: While the mischievous influence of Aryan Brahmanism has spread over all of Hindustan, Pandita Ramabai, who was born a true Brahmin, has performed expiation for having lived under the oppressive Aryan religion, through baptism with the aid of Christians, and has found happiness in the society of Christians. Small wonder then that the Brahmins are bawling at Ramabai on account of her having utterly demolished their artificial religion!18 The British Christian community of Maharashtra was predictably jubilant. The Anglican Father Rivington of Mumbai displayed ‘indiscreet exultation’, unfortunately failing to consider that the news had ‘fallen like a 86

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thunderbolt upon her followers and admirers’ and ‘created a profound sensation among the native communities of Western India’, according to The Times of India (14 November 1883). Recent scholarship has sought to unravel this complex set of circumstances variously. Basing herself on Ramabai’s letters, Gauri Viswanathan talks about her ‘anguished search for a personal God’ and her ‘protracted effort to define a conception of divinity that satisfied her craving for interpretive freedom’ as well as her ability ‘to see the divide between two possible meanings of religion as the source of cultural and national identity on one hand and, on the other, as universal moral value.’19 Relying on Ramabai’s letters and various other writings, I have myself earlier analysed the problematic as a matter of Ramabai’s intellectual conviction and spiritual choice.20 However, a rather different interpretation is offered by Susanne Glover who sees at the core of the event a crucial communication gap: the Anglican sisters truly believed that Ramabai intended to make a serious study of Christianity in England prior to conversion. Glover’s research concludes that the CSMV exerted pressure upon Ramabai to convert, though not necessarily amounting to coercion. At the same time ‘Ramabai actively sought her own conversion’ which ensured for her ‘affirmation and status within an internationally powerful religious system, as well as opportunities to further her own education and to realise her ambitions’, and, most importantly, ‘salvation as a woman’ which was denied by the Hindu doctrine and practice.21 *

Even while ideological attacks were being made on Ramabai in India, she was fighting her own battles in England. Conversion may have solved some of her problems, but certainly created new ones. The Anglicans had already decided upon a missionary career for her, but were to face unexpected challenges from her. As her projected medical studies had to be cancelled, an alternative career as a teacher was suggested. The CSMV enrolled her, in about January 1884, in the nearby Cheltenham Ladies’ College – which was and still remains a girls’ school with a teacher training department – to study the natural sciences, mathematics and English.22 This was a stroke of good fortune for Ramabai, although this congenial milieu was constantly contrasted with friction with the Anglican Church in general. Cheltenham Ladies’ College has been strongly associated with its ‘Lady Principal’ or head-mistress, Miss Dorothea Beale (1831–1906), who served in this capacity from 1858 (the year Ramabai was born) to her death.23 She came from an enlightened and refined family which educated its numerous sons as well as daughters. At a young age she became part of the movement 87

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for women’s educations and gradually one of its leaders, championing the ideology of women’s right to a professional career as an option to the trope of domesticity. As an early student of the then new and famous girls’ school known as ‘Queen’s College’, she had already started tutoring in an array of subjects from mathematics and geography to the classical languages, in her senior years. Her favourite and effective subject was the Holy Scripture. Beale was known as a brilliant scholar and sympathetic teacher, hardworking, even-tempered and tactful even while enforcing strict discipline. Her stress on the pupils’ all-round development – intellectual, physical and moral – made the college and her as a person very popular. The college flourished and expanded under her, to offer kindergarten classes and kindergarten teacher training as well. Highly respected, she moved in all the scholarly and progressive circles of her day. Beale was deeply religious and had a personal experience of sectarian fissures; this, combined with her liberal thinking, made her a warm and empathetic mentor for Ramabai, and an effective foil to the impatiently intolerant Geraldine, as discussed later.24 Beale provided Ramabai every help in her religious gropings, sympathizing with what she termed the latter’s ‘appetite for philosophy’.25 Ramabai’s close friendship with her lasted many years as shown by her letters, and she honoured Beale’s memory : ‘Her love and influence, her words of encouragement and her prayers on my behalf, have helped me much in my life and work’.26 The contrast with Ramabai’s life at Wantage could not have been sharper. Her prolonged friction with the CSMV nuns as well as the Anglican Church hierarchy started soon after her conversion. The reason for Geraldine’s love-hate relationship with Ramabai, to be found in her prefatory pieces as editor of the volume of her letters and correspondence, was the status discrepancy between the British missionary and the Indian convert. In the heyday of imperialism, Geraldine had been conditioned to believe implicitly in the racial, cultural and religious superiority of Britain over India. But Ramabai refused to adhere to the inferior stereotype provided for her. Geraldine was repeatedly frustrated by their status discrepancy: Ramabai’s intellectual superiority (and public status as a renowned social reformer) was considerable, while, as she admitted, ‘intellectually I was not equipped for such a work’ as instructing Ramabai in Christianity. Despite her attempts to read ‘a good deal of Hindu literature’ in order to ‘enlarge’ her mind, she had remained culturally insular, having taught only European and Eurasian girls while in India. Geraldine admits that ‘neither my natural gifts nor my educational advantages would have fitted me for the work’. Although she did her best, ‘My best was a poor failure’.27 This level of insularity was not the norm among Western missionaries in Maharashtra. The Reverend J. C. Winslow who wrote a biography of the Reverend N. V. Tilak enjoyed a level of mastery over the Marathi language 88

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and culture which allowed him to appreciate Tilak’s Christian devotional poetry composed in the Hindu idiom.28 The Reverend Dr Justin Abbott had translated from Marathi into English devotional Hindu poetry of two 17thcentury saint poets as well as the well-known autobiography of a contemporary woman who worked for women’s education.29 Such interest in and knowledge of Hinduism as well as the Marathi language and culture were not uncommon among Christian missionaries. Ramabai had the misfortune to encounter a missionary woman who was cast in a very different mould. The interlocked but conceptually distinct strands in the conflict were Ramabai’s theological groping, the racism and imperialism of the Anglican Church, and also its patriarchal authoritarianism. All novices were subjected a certain level of monastic discipline, such as following the daily routine and not leaving the convent premises without written permission. In Ramabai’s case, some of her letters and correspondence were copied and selectively circulated, thus creating an Anglican network that virtually kept her under surveillance. The impact of this combined opposition must have been overwhelming because Ramabai was alone and virtually friendless in England.30 What irked the Anglican community most was that instead of unquestioning faith and obedience expected from all converts, Ramabai sought to engage in theological debates which had been an integral part of the Indian tradition since times immemorial. She brought to the study and understanding of Christianity the same rational and intellectual attitude which had earlier made her analyse and reject both Hinduism and the theism of the Brahmo and the Prarthana Samajes – and which had been used by missionaries in India to critique Hinduism and other Indian religions. The shock and disbelief with which the church reacted to its own weapons being used against itself exposed its double standards. Then there was Ramabai’s intellectual curiosity and independent spirit. These, according to Geraldine, proved that Ramabai ‘took keen delight in intellectual fencing and her pride and vanity were dangerously inflated by her getting hold of points of controversy from her non-Conformist friends and dragging them clumsily and offensively into her letters’.31 Geraldine’s charge also exposes the Anglican insecurity that some other denomination might snatch away this jealously guarded prize possession. Her characteristic rationalism led Ramabai to a selective acceptance of her new religion, expressing doubts about the Anglican dogma or the miraculous birth and divinity of Christ, while subscribing only to the Sermon on the Mount. As she wrote to Miss Beale (who shared the letter with Geraldine): ‘I cannot induce myself entirely to believe the miracles of the Bible.’32 A shocked Geraldine found this attitude heretical and issued her a ‘solemn warning against making for ourselves a self-chosen religion’.33 In the 89

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resultant furore, Ramabai was accused of having undergone baptism on false pretence while withholding complete acceptance of the Christian doctrine – which was a matter of faith and not open to intellectual debate. Geraldine admonished Ramabai that the subordination of the intellect to faith was a pre-requisite for a good Christian: At first the lamp of Faith shone brightly in your heart, and your intellect bowed before it. . . . Humility, childlike simplicity, obedience, truthfulness and trustfulness were there and daily developed themselves in your life. But gradually their graces faded from sight.34 In their place had grown, said Geraldine, ‘rank and poisonous weeds of heresy’. Her advice was not to depend on reason alone to reach the Truth, because only Faith can reveal the deep truths of God. But Ramabai remained adamant. To one reared in the tradition of religious debates, the only way to settle such doubts was through discussion and logical argument rather than browbeating. Predictably she was quick to point out that the weakness of many missionaries lay in their failure to communicate with potential and recent converts in terms of their own religion. Converted Brahmins were undoubtedly a great asset in this task, as already proven by Goreh vis-à-vis Ramabai. Nehemiah, formerly Nilkanth-shastri, Goreh (1825–95) was a Maharashtrian Chitpavan Brahmin whose grandfather had settled in Banaras.35 Already during his orthodox youth he was gripped by religious doubts and switched his faith from Shiva to Vishnu. Then, after years of contesting missionary evangelization, he converted to Christianity in 1848. But his spiritual restlessness and doubt was to remain all his life. He joined various Christian groups and finally the Anglican monastic order, the Society of St John the Evangelist. Goreh retained a strong Indian identity and did not denounce Hindu religion or idolatry as missionaries did; he also valued the religious knowledge of the ancient Indian sages. Again, he never arrived at a comfortable balance between faith and reason. He remained a ‘liminal figure in the nineteenth century Hindu-Christian encounter’ who lacked a role model or a peer to share his religious dilemmas with.36 In many ways Ramabai’s spiritual growth paralleled Goreh’s and he was a mentor she trusted. But a comparison of the two cases exposes the gender dimension of the Anglican objection. Some Anglicans had regarded as admirable Goreh’s continuous spiritual search and intellectual doubts and difficulties over the years: ‘He was always haunted by the fear that possibly some new argument might occur which would turn the balance of probability in favour of Hinduism and against Christianity’ (original emphasis).37 Unthinking submission to dogma was obviously not required of 90

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him – either because he was a man and thus considered able to think for himself or because he was in India and surrounded by friends within and possibly outside the church. On the other hand, as the CSMV had stood in loco parentis to Ramabai, she was exposed to the full force of the authority and authoritarianism of the Anglican Church, conflated with imperialism, racism and patriarchal norms. Thus began Ramabai’s additional contestations. In the spring of 1884, Miss Beale offered her a professorship to teach Indian languages to English young women and men who planned to make a career in India, possibly as missionaries, and inserted a notice in the newspapers to this effect. This sparked an immediate protest, most vociferously from the bishops of Bombay and Lahore (both in England at the time). The latter feared that this might lead to ‘a little undue self-exaltation’, and advised ‘a less prominent position for a short time, with an humbler title as teachership’, without any publicity, which ‘would probably lessen the danger of elation of the mind very considerably’.38 The bishop of Bombay concurred that natives tended to have their heads turned when they come to England and all lionization was to be assiduously avoided.39 Canon Butler agreed that publicity would be bad for Ramabai, because ‘natives’ were notoriously prone to vanity. However, he condescendingly agreed that ‘Mary Ramabai’s knowledge of Indian ways, etc. will give her a power of influence which no English woman can have. All that she needs is an English development of her Indian brains’.40 In the months that followed, Canon Butler had more to say about Ramabai in the same vein, hoping she would develop a humble heart, and not be affected by the ‘courting’ she received. He perceived a danger in Ramabai’s vanity coupled with self-reliance, because ‘to a neophyte in the Faith that self-reliance is intensely dangerous’.41 Geraldine added her mite and accused Ramabai of ‘a want of candour and sincerity’ in common with ‘the generality of the Hindoos’ and insisted that ‘as a Christian, she is bound to accept the authority of those over her in the Church’.42 Thus we have a whole imperial Anglican network practically engulfing Ramabai to exercise absolute control over her while denigrating her. Needless to say Ramabai contested what she perceived as high-handed treatment and insisted with impressive courage on exercising her liberty of conscience: I have a conscience, and mind and a judgment of my own; I must always think and do everything which GOD has given me the power of doing. . . . I have just with great effort freed myself from the yoke of the Indian priestly tribe, so I am not at present willing to place myself under another similar yoke by accepting everything which comes from the priests as authorised command of the Most High.43 91

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She later added that while being fully aware of her ignorance of Christian theology, she could not unquestioningly accept the Anglican teachings as ‘an article of faith’. 44 If Ramabai had been impressed by the gender-egalitarian nature of the Christian doctrine (as compared to the Hindu doctrine), she was soon to discover the patriarchal aspect of the church’s authoritarianism, especially beliefs about a ‘woman’s place’ – beliefs supposedly held only by Indians, but actually shared by the Anglican Church in full measure. Canon Butler bluntly advised that Ramabai should have nothing to do ‘with any but her own sex’.45 The bishop of Bombay warned Beale: ‘Pray believe that her influence will be ruined for ever in India if she is known to have taught young men’.46 Geraldine attempted to impress upon Ramabai that ‘she is bound to accept the authority of those over her in the Church’ and should accept the opinion of those who had a long experience of India and had earned a right to speak.47 Deeply hurt, Ramabai rebelled: ‘I know India and its people . . . better than any foreigners even if they have been staying in India from [sic] long time before I was born.’ She even threatened to leave the shelter of the CSMV and ‘go my own way’, under God’s guidance.48 That she could contemplate such a course, while being alone and penniless in an alien land, shows the depth of her protest. She also expressed surprise that ‘neither my father nor my husband objected [to] my mother’s or my teaching young men while some English people are doing so’.49 In this fraught interaction, an interesting revelation was that Geraldine’s racism was rooted in culture and religion rather than skin colour. For her, the fair-skinned, grey-eyed Ramabai was always a ‘native’ (and thus inferior by definition), but never the dark-skinned Mano who was a Christian baby whom Geraldine genuinely loved.50 Underneath the Anglican opposition to Ramabai lay a fatal conflation of racial-cultural and colonial condescension. To her were attributed all the faults that a ‘native’ seemed to be riddled with. The Anglicans traduced the ‘native’ character – with Ramabai as an example – as a matter of right, secure in the knowledge that she was in their custody and had no means of escape. It occurred too late to Geraldine that imperialism could have had a negative impact on Ramabai: her mind was unable to reconcile ‘Christian liberty and Christian hierarchical government’. Also, the very title ‘the Church of England’ was abhorrent to her as to many other colonial subjects.51 By then Ramabai had already declared her adherence to nondenominational Christianity. Part of the church’s authoritarianism in Ramabai’s case undoubtedly stemmed from their perception of her as an instrument for spreading (Anglican) Christianity in India: ‘One of India’s daughters whom we hoped God was training to carry a ray of light back to that benighted land.’52 This 92

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vested interest preferred to regard her not as an individual convert grappling with her own spiritual doubts, but as a Christian – and moreover ex-Brahmin – wedge into Hindu society. The value of converting Brahmins was evident in Maharashtra – and elsewhere in India – especially at a time when a majority of the Christian converts were the former ‘untouchables’ (now Dalits).53 The missionaries were caught in a dilemma of their own making, according to Elizabeth Hewat: having officially opposed the government’s educational policy of downward filtration and having concentrated on the lower castes, they had courted the danger of making ‘rice Christians’. The obvious corrective strategy was to convert a few high-caste Hindus to spread the message to the rest of society.54 This intensified the pressure on Ramabai to conform. But Ramabai continued to rebel against not only the Christian dogma and the church’s authoritarianism but also its sectarianism. The Anglicans jealously guarded her against other Christian denominations which vied with one another to win so valuable a prize. Ramabai maintained an objective and critical attitude to the ‘Babel of religions in Christian countries’ and the discovery of ‘how very different the teaching of each sect was from that of the other’ as she describes in A Testimony. Moreover, this did not puzzle her because in many of these sects she recognized Indian teachings in a Western garb. Sensing the danger of losing her to another denomination, the Anglicans insisted on their creed being the only true one. Ramabai offered a sharp counter-reaction to the attitude that the ‘Anglican Church is the sole treasury of truth’, that their clergy are ‘the only true priesthood and messengers of truth, and all other bodies of Christians are followers of false imaginations’, that ‘GOD has chosen the Anglican Church only to be His favoured people’.55 She suggested that as a Sister of Charity, Geraldine should have ‘a little more charity towards your brethren of all denominations’.56 Her critical and defiant stance persisted, and she recounted to Miss Beale how Sister Geraldine ‘ran almost mad with anger when I said that she had no right to call the dissenters heretics, because she herself belonged to a Church which is but a dissenting sect of the Roman Catholic’.57 *

Maintaining the distinction between Hinduism as a religion and Indianness as a culture was a challenge which faced many of the Indian Christians of the day, many of whom tried to work out an individual solution to the problem. Ramabai’s pride in her Indian culture remained unabated after her contact with England (and later the USA) and in spite of pressure from the church. Soon after her conversion in late 1883, she assured a friend 93

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that her change of religion did not mean a change of country, nor would her love for her country diminish as a result.58 There were other sites of cultural and denominational confrontation. For one, Ramabai wished not to have to wear a crucifix – something alien to Indians. But, she argued, if she was compelled to wear it, she would rather have it inscribed with Sanskrit rather than Latin words. Her reason was not that Sanskrit was ‘sacred or the language of gods’, but that it was ‘the most beautiful, and the oldest language of my dear native land’.59 Besides, Sanskrit was understood by Indians but Latin was not. This was a mark of Ramabai’s own personal blend of the Indian culture and an alien religion. Two decades later Ramabai focused on indigenizing the Christian ritual and practices. Again, Ramabai interpreted the Christian doctrine in her own way, placing her faith in the Sermon on the Mount, but disbelieving the miraculous elements. She confessed that ‘I cannot believe in the Trinity or the deity of Jesus Christ’ and that she had admitted as much prior to her baptism.60 A bristling Geraldine hurled accusations at her: ‘At first the lamp of Faith shone brightly in your heart, and your intellect bowed before it’ but soon ‘self-will and pride’ took over.61 She also issued a ‘solemn warning against making for ourselves a self-chosen religion’.62 Her early orthodox Brahmin conditioning had left an indelible mark on Ramabai’s lifestyle. She maintained a strict vegetarian diet all her life, and avoided even onions and garlic, as orthodox Hindu women did.63 This was part of Ramabai’s cultural background rather than a residue of Hindu religious beliefs, although Geraldine interpreted it as ‘little clingings to caste prejudices’ which should have been discarded at her conversion, and which fostered the ‘pride’ which held her back from accepting the full teaching of the Gospel.64 The multidimensional struggle is effectively captured in the Letters which also documents Ramabai’s amazingly rapid mastery over English, allowing her to engage in complex discussions on personal, cultural and theological issues. Added to the church’s patriarchal norms were those of Geraldine. The connection between religious conversion and domesticity surfaced in Ramabai’s case in an unusual manner – through Mano who constituted her only family. Geraldine repeatedly targeted Ramabai – a single mother, unusually for the time – for being an inadequate mother. Rather possessively Geraldine appropriated the right to bring up Mano herself, as ‘a Christian child’, especially when she was left at Wantage during Ramabai’s absence at Cheltenham. Geraldine insisted that Ramabai was ‘wholly devoid of motherly intuition’ and ‘at her best she was decidedly wanting in virtues of Christian motherhood’.65 Geraldine was therefore alarmed for a delicate child, who in a foreign land and treacherous climate was subjected to the unwise the child of two years of 94

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age met with at her mother’s hand . . . Ramabai’s child, though inheriting many of her mother’s gifts, was neither physically nor mentally as strong as her mother.66 As a final weapon in her armoury, Geraldine also tried to impress upon Ramabai that her failure to believe wholeheartedly in the Anglican ­doctrine would have disastrous consequences for little Mano, further emphasizing Ramabai’s maternal unfitness: ‘You are spiritually not in a condition to judge in spiritual matters for your child. . . . [Y]ou will have the terrible pain of knowing you have blighted your child’s youth, and perhaps life.’67 Oblivious of these conflicts, Mano remained ‘a very happy child, sometimes playing with her “family” as she called her dolls, sometimes lying on the grass talking to the daisies and kissing the flowers, and sometimes racing round the big old-fashioned garden’ of the Convent.68 But as she grew older, she could not remain unscathed by the continuing tension between her mother and her ‘grandmother’, or ‘Ajeebai’ as she called Geraldine. Interestingly, Ramabai also addressed Geraldine as ‘Dear Old Ajeebai’ in her letters, translating literally into English the Marathi respectful manner of addressing the elderly. Meanwhile Ramabai wrote an essay on ‘Indian Religion’ in a touching attempt to portray Hinduism sympathetically and logically enough to make it acceptable to her English readers. This was possibly written at Miss Beale’s request and appeared in the Cheltenham Ladies’ College magazine just after she left England.69 *

As a colonial subject, penniless and dependent on the CSMV for subsistence, Ramabai’s courage in reversing the Community’s imperialistic-racist, Christian gaze and in contesting its constant Othering is nothing short of astounding. Nor was the expected support forthcoming for her project of helping Indian women. It was mainly – if not only – after her iconization in the USA that some support came from British women, such as Miss Manning’s help in privately distributing HCHW in Britain, or of Frances Power Cobbe’s favourable review of it. Attempts at fundraising were not successful: eminent persons such as Sir William Wedderburn, Professor Max Mueller and Miss Manning together raised only 70 pounds sterling during an eightmonth public campaign on Ramabai’s behalf.70 The unfavourable comparison of England with America vis-à-vis Ramabai rankled in Geraldine’s mind, as shown by her repeated attempts to counter the allegation and claim credit for Britain, in her small commentaries that punctuate Letters. The idea of bonding between British and Indian women was doomed to failure given the asymmetrical structure of imperialism. In India the attempt 95

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was spearheaded by women missionaries who were, as Geraldine Forbes has shown, ‘like all missionaries, clearly implicated in the colonial policy of the British. . . . They were not only the helpmates of the imperialists, they were themselves cultural imperialists’.71 Barbara Ramusack has explored how British women functioned as ‘maternal imperialists’.72 Even British feminists viewed Indian women, according to Antoinette Burton, ‘not as equals but as unfortunates in need of saving by their British feminist ‘sisters’ . . . [and] as helpless colonial subjects’.73 No wonder then, as I have argued elsewhere, Geraldine presented a ‘conflation of spiritual and racial/cultural authority with maternal authority’ whose successful exercise in Ramabai’s case was prevented by the latter’s contestation of colonial power.74 What lends an edge to this exercise is that the encounter was situated in England, specifically at Wantage where Ramabai, alone and unsupported, was exposed to the full force of imperialism. By the end of 1885 she had come to a dead end and saw no hope of a fruitful career or positive future. Ramabai did not write an account of her three-year sojourn and travels in Britain, which included, as shown by her letters, visits to London, Oxford, Bristol and Devon, in addition to long periods spent at Wantage and Cheltenham. Nor was she able to fulfil her earlier promise (at the conclusion of Englandcha Pravas) to write about ‘the domestic arrangements in this country . . . [which] are worth emulating by the women in our country’. When she wrote in detail about the domestic, social and other conditions of the USA, the frequent references to England did not suggest anything worthy of emulation. In fact England pervades the book as a negative temp­ late and an absent presence. *

The social consequences of religious conversion in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century India may be difficult to imagine today when a relatively liberal and secular worldview (at least in some circles) chooses to regard it as a matter of individual preference, spiritual need or intellectual conviction. But mainstream society reacted with various pressures and threats, ranging from ostracism to bodily harm or even death, to potential or actual converts to Christianity – especially Brahmins who were socially influential. All converts were regarded as traitors complicit in the colonial state’s suspected hidden agenda to impose its religion on its Indian subjects. The ubiquitous Christian proselytization – through schools and streetcorner preaching – caused grave concern to the Hindu majority community which was already acutely vulnerable to possible assaults on its religious identity. In Mumbai a Brahmin boycott of Christian schools, ‘the most dangerous weapon in the missionaries’ hands’, was attempted in 1842, but failed in the face of the harsh reality that an English education was 96

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indispensable for any employment under the British government.75 The fear, however, was realized soon enough when some highly publicized Hindu conversions to Christianity took place in the region. Such conversions involved emotional trauma, personal hardship and social ostracism for the convert as well as his family members. The converts were invariably men who had been exposed to a Christian influence in the public sphere; such influence rarely penetrated to the domestic sphere and women’s rare exposure to it was mediated by their husbands. As an exception to this rule, Pandita Ramabai had made this a personal religious choice and therefore was to bear the brunt of open hostility. In the 1840s the religious milieu in Mumbai, the most liberal city in western India, was conservative enough for conversions to cause public scandals and even lead to violence. The most dramatic case was that of a Parsi young man, Sorab Kharsedji who converted at the age of about 18 in 1841.76 As a young lad he had vehemently protested through journalistic articles against earlier Parsi conversions, so that his parents feared no Christian influence when they sent him to a Christian school. But the influence did creep into his life, and he informed them of his decision to convert. His whole family, including his wife who was his own age, pleaded with him, but to no avail.77 His family and especially his community then adopted extreme measures first to prevent him leaving home, then recapture him after his escape and punish him – by hiring a mob to stone him in the street, sending him poisoned food, bribing a jailer to throw him into jail and pushing him out to sea in a fishing boat without oarsmen or provisions. He survived, married again and had a large and illustrious family.78 The earliest, highly visible Hindu conversion was that of Narayan Sheshadri, originally from Andhra, and the first ‘educated’ Brahmin to be baptized in Mumbai in 1843.79 He was a student at a missionary school in Pune and at Dr John Wilson’s Bombay Free Church Institution (later renamed Wilson High School after the famous Scottish missionary). After his conversion at the age of 18, he lost his popularity, was generally reviled and spat at in the streets. He later became a teacher in the institution and also preached in the streets despite threats or actual acts of violence. His younger brother Shripat, 12 at the time, intended to follow suit and deliberately ate ‘forbidden foods’ with the missionaries to violate caste norms. But his family filed a lawsuit against the mission and the underage boy was returned to his family, crying piteously that he would now be obliged to worship idols.80 A liberal priest administered the ritual expiation to purify him and have him accepted in the family and caste; but sadly he was not allowed to have his meals with family members. His caste status remained indeterminate. Another influential but less visible conversion was that of Nilkanthshastri Goreh which occurred in Banaras in 1848. He came from a wealthy 97

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orthodox family and had no missionary schooling or influence. His conversion resulted in his family not only severing all connection with him but even performing a ritual to declare him socially dead.81 Even more dramatic was the conversion of Baba Padmanji in 1854 in Belgaum near Maharashtra’s current boundary with Karnataka and earlier part of the Bombay Presidency, described in detail in his autobiography.82 As a member of a prosperous but ritually low-caste family, Padmanji had clung to the ritual observances during his orthodox upbringing, despite regular Bible study in the Mission School in Belgaum and periodically in Wilson’s Institution in Mumbai under Narayan Sheshadri. Padmanji had been married in 1848 at the age of 16, to an illiterate nine-year-old girl. When the girl-wife came of age, the family planned the usual ritual celebration to consummate the marriage. But Padmanji, a social reformer by now, absented himself from home on the day and went to stay permanently with the Reverend Taylor at Belgaum’s Mission Chapel. Taylor’s house was located within the fort and its gates, locked for the night, kept his family out. The following day Padmanji withstood his mother’s tearful appeals and later only visited his family occasionally. Padmanji’s young wife was destined for a tragic life. His marriage had remained unconsummated, leaving her in a precarious predicament. She was repeatedly prevented by her father and brother from even having private speech with her husband. Padmanji lost a court case to gain access to her. After the death of her orthodox relatives, she wanted to be accepted as Padmanji’s wife; but he had meanwhile married a Christian woman in 1860, after waiting several years. Another famous conversion to Christianity was that of N. V. Tilak at Mumbai’s American Mission Church in February 1895, after some years of privately studying the major religions of India and trying to formulate the basic tenets of a new egalitarian religion stressing fraternity and opposing idol worship.83 Later he studied Christianity under Justin Abbott and evaded his suspicious and alert relatives to go secretly to Mumbai to be baptized. His family read the news in the papers. The community expressed its general hostility by sending him poisoned sweets and dispatching an armed gang to beat him up, though he escaped unscathed both times.84 The event relegated his wife Lakshmibai to the tragic life of a widow, sheltered by her relatives, while her husband was still alive. After a painful period of separation, she overcame her fears and joined him, albeit living in a separate nearby house. Then came her experiments in tight-rope walking – living in a separate part of the same house, while observing the orthodox Brahmin rules of purity and pollution – which could obviously not be sustained for long. Finally she converted as well, in 1900. Such highly publicized conversions made some Western missionaries sanguine about fulfilling their agenda of Christianising India; Bishop 98

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Thoburn who had spent four decades in Bengal even authored, rather prematurely, a book entitled The Christian Conquest of India.85 This was the regional scenario which would have framed Pandita Ramabai, had she returned immediately to Maharashtra as a single mother who had embraced Christianity, along with her daughter, guided by her own conscience. But her return was delayed by a few years during which she had nurtured through correspondence her tenuous support structure back home, especially within the Prarthana Samaj. And when she did return, it was from a position of unimagined strength.

Notes 1 Kelkar, the letter’s unnamed addressee, is erroneously identified as D. G. Vaidya in the unpaginated prefatory note to the reprint of 1988. The reprinted book consists of Ramabai’s letter as Part I (pp. 1–27) and Vaidya’s biography of Ramabai as Parts II and III (pp. 29–77). Pandita Ramabai, Pandita Ramabai Yancha Englandcha Pravas, Mumbai: Maharashtra Rajya Sahitya ani Sanskriti Mandal, 1988. Part I is the text (unfortunately riddled with typographical errors) used for translation here. 2 Anandibai Bhagat was a school teacher of the Maratha caste. A nominal escort was provided by Bank Bihari Sharma who went to his friends on arrival in London. Ramabai met him at Bristol later, and he was eventually baptized by the Society of St John the Evangelist before he went back to India. Letters, p. 20. 3 Personal communication from the nuns at St Mary’s Home during my visit in December 1999. 4 A mimeograph of ‘The Cry of Indian Women’ is available in the archives of the Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission. The translation was presumably made by a CSMV nun and is literal enough to allow clear glimpses of the Marathi original. It is reproduced in Meera Kosambi, ed, Pandita Ramabai through Her Own Words, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000, pp. 105–14. 5 Kosambi, ed, Pandita Ramabai, pp. 111–3. 6 Letters, p. 9. 7 F. Max Mueller, ‘Ramabai’ in Auld Lang Syne, Second Series, London and Bombay: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1899, pp. 121–9 (ref. p. 127). 8 Letters, p. 14. 9 Ibid., pp. 15–18. This account, dated c. September 1883, was also probably translated by one of the CSMV sisters. It has been reproduced in Kosambi, ed, Pandita Ramabai, pp. 115–8. 10 Letters, p. 22. 11 ‘The Word-Seed’ is reproduced in Kosambi, ed, Pandita Ramabai, pp. 325–7. 12 Pandita Ramabai, A Testimony, Section entitled ‘England’. 13 Mueller, Auld Lang Syne, Second Series, p. 128. 14 Vaidya, Shrimati Kashibai, pp. 90–1. 15 Cited in Tilak, Maharashtrachi Tejeswini, p. 145. The issues of Indu-Prakash for 1883 are not available. 16 Ibid., p. 144. 17 The Mahratta, 4 November 1883. 18 Jotirao Phule, Mahatma Phule Samagra Vangmaya, p. 286, my translation. 19 Viswanathan, Outside the Fold, p. 121.

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20 Kosambi, ‘Indian Response to Christianity’. 21 Susanne L. Glover, ‘Of Water and of the Spirit’, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Sydney, 1995, pp. 77, 75. The documents accessed by Glover were unfortunately not available at the CSMV, Wantage, which I visited in December 1999; the archives had been in some disarray in the intervening years. 22 Most biographers and scholars of Ramabai believe this was a real college in the modern sense. 23 Elizabeth Raikes, Dorothea Beale of Cheltenham, London: Archibald Constable and Co., 1908. 24 For a discussion of the triangular interaction among Ramabai, Geraldine and Beale, see Antoinette Burton, ‘Restless Desire’ in At the Heart of the Empire: Indians and the Colonial Encounter in Late-Victorian Britain, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1998, pp. 72–109. 25 E. Raikes, Dorothea Beale, p. 299. 26 Ibid., p. 301. 27 Letters, p. 5. For a discussion of Ramabai’s relationship with Sister Geraldine and the Anglican Church in general, see Meera Kosambi, ‘Motherhood in the East-West Encounter’, Feminist Review, No. 65 (Summer), pp. 49–67 (ref. p. 64). 28 J. C. Winslow, Narayan Vaman Tilak, Calcutta: Association Press, 1923. 29 For example, Justin E. Abbott, tr., Bahinabai, reprint, Delhi: Motilal Banarasidass; and Parvatibai Athavale, My Story, tr. by J. E. Abbott, New York, London: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1930. 30 Outside the CSMV, Ramabai had Professor Max Meuller as a friend, but neither he nor anybody else would have helped her out of her predicament. Her other acquaintances were seemingly interested in her mainly as a potential convert to their own rival denominations. 31 Letters, p. 4. 32 Ibid., p. 155. Ramabai must have found it disconcerting that copies of her letters were circulated among all those who were thought to be concerned with her well-being. 33 Letters, pp. 33, 87–113. 34 Ibid., pp. 91–2. 35 Jon Keune, ‘The Inter- and Inter-Religious Conversions of Nehemiah Nilkantha Goreh’, Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies, Vol. 17, pp. 45–54. 36 Ibid., p. 50. 37 Cited in Elizabeth G. K. Hewat, Christ in Western India, Bombay: Wilson College, 2nd edn, 1953, p. 249. 38 Letters, p. 43. 39 Ibid., p. 44. 40 Ibid., p. 45. 41 Ibid., p. 76. 42 Ibid., pp. 114–5, 43. 43 Ibid., p. 59. 44 Ibid., p. 156. 45 Ibid., p. 45. 46 Ibid., p. 44. 47 Ibid., p. 47. 48 Ibid., p. 50. 49 Ibid., pp. 59–60. 50 The point is developed further in Kosambi, ‘Motherhood’. 51 Letters, pp. 404–5.

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52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69

Ibid., p. 107. Winslow, Narayan Vaman Tilak, p. 52. Hewat, Christ and Western India, pp. 170, 175. Letters, pp. 111–2. Ibid., pp. 112–3. Ibid., p. 170. Dnyanodaya, –- — 1883, p. 566. Letters, p. 28. Ibid., p. 88. Ibid., pp. 91–2. Ibid., p. 104. Tilak, Maharashtrachi Tejaswini, p. 170. Letters, pp. 100–1. Ibid., pp. 315–6. Ibid., p. 315. Ibid., pp. 92–3. Lissa M. Hastie, Manoramabai, Kedgaon, Mukti Mission, 1922, p. 6. Cheltenham Ladies’ College Magazine, No. XIII, Spring 1886. This is reproduced in Kosambi, ed, Pandita Ramabai, pp. 119–25. 70 Letters, p. 210. 71 Geraldine H. Forbes, ‘In search of the “Pure Heathen” ’, Economic and Political Weekly, 26 April 1986, pp. WS 2–8 (ref. p. WS 8). 72 Barbara Ramusack, ‘Cultural Missionaries, Maternal Imperialists, Feminist Allies’ in Western Women and Imperialism, edited by Nupur Chaudhuri and Margaret Stroebel, pp. 119–36, Bloomington and Indianahpolis: Indiana University Press, 1992, pp. 119–36 (ref. p. 119). 73 Antoinette Burton, ‘The White Woman’s Burden’ in Western Women and Imperialism, edited by Nupur Chaudhuri and Margaret Stroebel, pp. 119–36, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1992, pp. 137–57 (ref. p. 137). 74 Kosambi, ‘Motherhood’ in Crossing Thresholds. 75 Hewat, Christ in Western India, p. 124. 76 Ibid., pp. 116–21. 77 Richard Sorabji, Opening Doors, Delhi: Penguin Books India, 2010, pp. 5–6. Nothing more was heard of this wife. 78 With his second wife he ran Victoria School in Pune. His daughter, Cornelia Sorabji, was to become India’s first woman lawyer. 79 Hewat, Christ in Western India, pp. 121–6. 80 Ibid., p. 126. 81 Keune, ‘The Inter- and Intra-Religious’, p. 46. 82 Baba Padmanji, Arunodaya, Bombay: Bombay Tract and Book Society, 3rd edn, reprint, 1963. 83 Lakshmibai Tilak, Sampurna Smriti-chitre, Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, 1989, p. 216. 84 Ibid., p. 221, fn. 85 James M. Thoburn, The Christian Conquest of India, Boston: American Baptist Missionary Union, 1906.

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Selection 2 ENGLANDCHA PRAVAS (VOYAGE TO ENGLAND, 1883, ABRIDGED TRANSLATION) St Mary’s Home, Wantage, Berkshire England [c. end of May 1883]

Dear Brethren,1 Your letter arrived yesterday afternoon. I have no words to describe the feelings it evoked in me. No one except a person like me, who has travelled far and wide, and endured a prolonged separation from kith and kin, will understand my state of mind. How can one who has never been pricked by a thorn know the sensation? But then again I think a person as happy as myself would be rare indeed, for others cannot grasp the nature of happiness as well as I can (don’t think I am conceited because I say this). Only he who has experienced great sorrow knows the value of happiness. One who has passed all his days in happiness cannot appreciate it. I have been a life-long exile [literally, forest-dweller] and also seen much sorrow, which is why God has given me the capacity to experience even a little joy to the fullest. It is true that absolutely nobody desires unhappiness or adversity, but such is not the case with me. I pray to God, as the revered mother of the Pandavs had once done: ‘O Lord of the universe! keep me in a state of adversity at all times and in all places’. Because, that alone brings me happiness. You might wonder at this long introduction: it is the prologue to a play. Act I of the play has already appeared in your Subodh Patrika.2 Act II is still to be published, and may take some time.3 This is Act III and its prologue. This act will not end for another seven to eight years, by my conjecture. . . . Human life is a drama, and the only authentic one. Theatre performances are but mummery, lacking authenticity. People fond of 102

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watching plays should therefore carefully watch the drama of their own lives. . . . About a year ago I had informed you of my plan to travel to Europe shortly. Accordingly I left Mumbai for England on 20 April at about four in the afternoon, on the steamer ‘Bukhara’, as you know. My coming here at the present time is a risky venture, or – in your opinion – a great mistake. You have advanced many reasons for this, and, in a sense, they are not wrong. However, people have imputed diverse motives for my coming here, owing to misconceptions or their personal inclinations. This is very sad indeed. Be that as it may. At one time I almost cancelled my plan, either because of my friends’ advice, or because I had no time to spare. It was very uncertain, mainly because I had no acquaintances in this new country, and did not think it reasonable to leave my country in haste before making arrangements for my stay here. Before coming here I had tried to discover from a number of my friends whether or not arrangements for my stay could be made somewhere in this country. The inquiries revealed that about Rs 4,600, in addition to the return fare, would allow a person to spend two years in this country. Verily I am the daughter of Lakshmi and my name is also Rama!4 What problem can I have? [. . .] I lack for nothing – except one thing!! To travel to England under such circumstances seemed to me quite fanciful. . . . In Pune I had become acquainted with the Sister Superior at St. Mary’s Home [of the Community of St. Mary the Virgin],5 and was also on friendly terms with several other European women. So I put the same query to them. Many of them disappointed me utterly. Some said, ‘Had you been a Christian, some arrangement could have been made’. Others said, ‘Work with us as a novice first, then we will see’. One woman wrote to me from London, ‘Come here alone for six months; leave your daughter in India. If your stay here can be extended, that will solve the problem; otherwise you can return home’. But this was impossible, the two major difficulties being the need to leave my two-year old baby behind in order to travel so far; and the idea of coming here only for only six months which would be neither here nor there. . . . After a few days, I heard from the said Sister Superior that many of their Sisters bound for India needed to learn Marathi. If I undertook the work, they would bear my expenses (for food, etc.), and also give me an English education. One of their Sisters had returned home from India some time ago for a change of air; and we became well-acquainted.6 At the Sister Superior’s suggestion, I sent a return message [through her] clarifying that their undertaking to bear my expenses should be unselfish – that is, 103

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without the hope of putting me under an obligation in order to convert me to Christianity, or any other ulterior motive. Only then would I stay with their Community, not otherwise. When she accepted my condition, I decided upon my place of stay in this country and made preparations to travel. Now let us consider the reasons for my wishing to come to this country at this juncture, and the reasons of my friends and wellwishers to oppose them. The chief arguments against were the following:   1 I have a weak constitution and a very young daughter: this was the strongest argument.   2 I cannot speak English.   3 After my departure, the Arya Mahila Samaj and my other endeavours would become dormant.   4 It is not proper to live among Christians.   5 It is not proper to come to a pleasure-loving country like England at this young age.   6 I have no knowledge of this country, so I might come to harm at the hands of the many deceitful people here.   7 I would be so dazzled by the prosperity of England that I would lose all my love for my own country.   8 One gentleman even said, ‘What will you say in the presence of learned women like Mrs. Fawcett and Miss Manning? You don’t even understand English well enough!’   9 Another gentleman said, ‘What will you gain from seeing all the famous sites in England if you don’t know their history? What will you understand if you see the pillar in London, known as ‘Cleopatra’s Needle’?7 You will see many such things, so learn their history first. Besides, you are still young. As one gets older, one acquires considerable weight. Go there after 10 or 12 years’. 10 Some said, ‘If you intend to study medicine, you should pass the basic examinations here. You should spend at least another four years of hard study here and pass the Matriculation Examination before going abroad’. Some imagined that I had absolutely no faith in my friends in my own country, and placed sole reliance on the missionaries. And so on. Thus clearly almost no one found my coming here reasonable or proper. Then why did I want to? It is not that I possessed a sharper intellect than the learned people who advanced these reasons. But such is human nature that every person feels he knows what is best 104

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for him. [. . .] As I am not beyond the pale of the human race, it is but natural that I should feel the same. The reasons for my opinion being contrary to the others’ were as follows: 1. Although my constitution is not as strong as it should be, my weakness does not arise from any disorder. I had occasion to consult an old and experienced European doctor (in fact, a Civil Surgeon) at about this time last year. He assured me that I suffer from no bodily disorder and that my constitution is unusually strong – the reason being that the elements in my body, such as blood, body fat, etc. have not been depleted prematurely or excessively. Also, my life thus far, since the age of about eight, has been spent in constant travel; and the climate of hundreds of places has agreed with me. And, having walked on foot for about 2,000 miles, for want of a vehicle, I also possess tolerance for heat and cold. As my diet and habits have always been moderate, there is generally no fear of contracting any disease. The climate of a cold region like the Himalayas – where it snows – had agreed with me, so there is no reason to believe that the cold climate of England would harm my constitution. Now remains the question of my young daughter and whether or not the climate at sea and in this country would agree with her. When the girl’s mother was only six months old (a mere infant), her parents put her in a cane basket, placed it on a servant’s head, and started on their travels! From that day to this, she has been unable to escape travel; how then would her daughter develop a delicate constitution? Besides, it is not as if the girl’s mother has nurtured her delicately. [. . .] The girl was barely eight months when her mother took her on her travels from one end of India to the other (from Kochar to Madras and then to Pune, Mumbai, etc.), at the height of the summer. Have become well-acquainted with my daughter’s constitution during the journey, I do not believe that the climate here will disagree with her. 2. I have travelled through many parts of India, even without the faintest idea of the local language, but was not inconvenienced at all during my stay there. After spending a few days in one place and hearing the same language spoken all around me, I would soon be able to speak, write, and read the language. Why should I not be able to learn English the same way? Now it is true that English is a language foreign to our land. But then all languages are foreign to a newborn babe, even so it learns a language after hearing people speak it. Consider me a newborn babe with regard to English; just as other children learn it, so will I. It 105

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is not as if I would have to give long lectures immediately on arrival here. I wished to come here precisely with the intention of learning [English]. Why then should my ignorance of the language bring disgrace upon me? 3. The Arya Mahila Samaj is not located just at one place; nor can I possibly be present wherever it has a branch – being unable to assume different forms and be in many places simultaneously, like Krishna. It is my duty to appeal to people to establish a branch of the Samaj; but to start it and make it flourish is the duty of its members and is not in my hands. Wherever people keep the Samaj going, it will continue to function despite my absence. And where such people are lacking, it will not function even if a 1,000 Ramabais are present, as for example, the Arya Mahila Samaj at Ahmednagar. 4. Why is it improper to live among Christians? It is rare to find a country without Christians. If one decides to live in water, where can one find dry land? Even if one should happen to find a clod of earth, that too would be wet. He who wants to jump into the sea cannot afford to fear the cold. The only fear is that of accepting the Christian religion. Many Christians have preached to me to do so even in India. If one is not firm of resolve, what difference does it make whether one stays in India or in England? My being with this [Anglican] Christian Community does not meet with the approval of the padres of many other Christian groups, as they have made quite clear to me. We should bear in mind that just as the Hindu religion has different sects, such as Shaivites, Shaktas, Vaishnavites, and Tantriks, the Christian religion has many different denominations, such as Roman Catholics, Protestants, Greek Orthodox, Church of England, Church of Scotland, Church of Germany, Methodists, and Unitarians. The adherents of these denominations harbour a great deal of mutual animosity. Just as in India the Vaishnavites take a cleansing bath when they lay their eyes on a Shaivite, so do these sectarians have their own customs. But, after all, this is a cold region. Such hourly baths would give one a dreadful cold, and despatch one to Jesus Christ in the midst of one’s life, to wait patiently until Judgement Day! This is probably why these wise people did not introduce such a practice. As mentioned above, whenever the padres and nuns of different denominations advised me not to have any truck with this Community [of SMV] and not to live in their Home, I listened quietly and said to myself, ‘Friends, you are all the same to me. The only difference is that some are tall and others short, some white and others red, some fat and others thin’. After all, they are all beads carved out of the same wood, and strung on the same thread. 106

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Late on the eve of my departure, a padre-saheb visited me and tried to dissuade me from coming here, and especially to this Community. But all my preparations were made and my decision was irrevocable. At last, when all his attempts failed, the inwardly annoyed saheb said to me, ‘Look, Madam, you are planning to go without consulting us, you don’t speak the language of the country, nor do you have much money. Under these circumstances, should any calamity befall you, we will not give you any assistance, because you refuse to heed us’. Actually he had no right to speak thus, because I had never asked him for any assistance. Even so, I replied, ‘Sir, what does it matter if you do not help me? My God will help me. Man has no power to kill or save man. How can a person, who is himself in the jaws of a tiger, save another from the tiger?’ (Just as this saheb spoke without justification, so would my countrymen have done, had I asked them for assistance to come here. This fear prevented me from asking anybody at all for help, because obviously I have come here against everybody’s wishes.) 5. A person can never bring himself to do what he does not want to do, whether he goes to England or to a land a thousand times more pleasure-loving. When it comes to sensuous pleasures, there is no difference between the young and the old. In our country, there have been many rich royal hermits. [. . .] And there are thousands of old men whose bodies might be cremated tomorrow, and who are ‘young and strong’ as befitting the description, ‘with a body debilitated, hair grey, a mouth without teeth’ who marry girls of eight or nine years, to keep the perpetual sacred fire burning in their homes.8 A brave man can be tested only when he ventures into a jungle. Renunciation born of deprivation cannot be termed renunciation. It is sheer hypocrisy to say that one does not desire a thing just because one cannot get it, or that one does not like it because one does not have it. I want to test my mettle right in the midst of this pleasure-loving land. 6. Even though I do not know this country and there may be many deceitful people here, why should it worry me? It is not as if everybody here is deceitful. All the women in the Community where I stay belong to very respectable and wealthy families, and they have renounced everything to become nuns only for the sake of religion. Even gentlemen of great repute are forbidden to stay in this Home, how then would deceitful men or women gain entry here? Besides, many respectable men and women come here to pay calls. Those who have not seen this Community or understood its worth may say what they will; but I greatly admire the respectable ways and pure conduct of these women. 107

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7. It is contrary to human nature to forget the country of one’s birth just because one is dazzled by the prosperity of England. A person who abandons or kicks out his mother because she is poor and old, and pays respect to some rich, young, and good-looking woman as his mother, should be called a demon in human disguise. Or, as Bhartrihari has said, ‘We know not who they are’, or what they should be called. Undoubtedly our unfortunate Mother[land] has given birth to many a human demon who comes to England, is dazzled by the prosperity here, and treats the land of his birth with contempt. But I do not think that I have been possessed yet by this kind of a demonic spirit which would lessen my love for my Mother; and may this never happen, by the grace of God! 8. To those who imagine that my purpose in coming here is only to give lectures in the presence of women like Mrs. Fawcett and Miss Manning, my only answer is that seven to eight years have yet to pass before such a day dawns. Then I might perhaps be able to converse with them. Besides, even if such an occasion arises, this is not my sole purpose. My purpose is far greater, and will be fulfilled without my uttering a single word, by the grace of God. . . . 9. I hope to learn the history of a place as and when I visit it. It seems to my meagre intellect that one would gain more knowledge by actually visiting a place than by learning its history at home. Inevitably one acquires ‘weight’ with age. This can be ascertained just by looking at Mrs. Mitchell.9 One day this lady and I went for a drive, and I was afraid that the carriage would break down the moment she got in! But that did not happen, by the grace of God! Truly, knowledge, more than advanced age is responsible for one’s gaining ‘weight’. [. . .] 10. My intention is to study medicine. But staying on in India and passing the Matriculation Examination after four years would not have helped at all in medical studies here. Because a new rule stipulates that one cannot enter a medical college here even with a B.A. from India, without passing the Matriculation of London University. I could have stayed in India and studied at the Medical College in Madras; but at Madras one does not acquire the kind of knowledge I need in order to serve my countrywomen. My aim is not merely to study medicine here and then go around advertising myself as an ear specialist or a dentist, dispensing medicines and drugs. My purpose is much higher. The Matriculation Examination of London University is easier than the one in India. I feel confident of passing it in one or two years if I stay here, whereas in India I would not have developed the ability to pass this examination even after four years. One can work longer hours here than in India; one does not feel tired 108

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even if one works for 12 hours at a stretch, because this is a cold country. But such exertion would never be possible for a person like me in a hot country like India. And one can learn much from observation and practice here, as many experienced friends had told me in India and as I have now discovered from my own experience. Be that as it may. I have explained to you, one by one, all the reasons which made me want to come to this country at the present time. I do not claim that they are all absolutely faultless, because human knowledge is never free of error. Many of my friends had suggested that I should stay in India and continue my efforts for the uplift of women and also pursue my studies. But the human constitution, especially mine, is not strong enough to manage two such tasks simultaneously. I believe that such an attempt would lead to neither being done well. Before I left Bombay, you yourself and many other friends, men as well as women, had written to me to cancel my plan. But I am very sorry that I had no time then to write and explain to you all the reasons for my wanting to come here. This single letter will now provide answers to all those letters. To those who believe that I have no faith in my countrymen and regard only the Christians as my benefactors, I say with affection: ‘Dear brethren, you have no reason whatsoever to say this. Had you or others like you been here in England, you would have known whom I love more. I believe that all my friends are my benefactors. Who would not be prompted to help one whose benefactor is God Almighty? I do not treat anyone with enmity, therefore I will not have enemies. You know that one’s true nature cannot be disguised forever’. Many of my countrymen and women visited me the day I left Mumbai, and some even accompanied me to the steamer to see me off. I feel very sorry that I left rather suddenly and did not have time to meet many of my friends. Naturally I am extremely sad at my long separation from the country of my birth and from my countrymen and women. But I constantly remember the stream of tears shed for my sake by many of my brothers and sisters out of selfless affection for me. It is true that I felt great sorrow on the occasion; but now an indescribable and unprecedented happiness is beginning to emerge from the same sorrow. [. . .] The human heart is very weak, and so is mine. I had assumed that very few people in this world truly loved me. I am not useful to anyone, why then should anyone love me? I kept on asking myself, ‘If no one loves you, why do you yearn for love?’, and received the same answer, ‘I cannot say why I yearn for it’. It is human nature (at least my nature, if not necessarily 109

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everybody else’s) to love others and wish to be loved in return. And human nature has no cure. When I think of those unselfish friends, I really feel an indescribable happiness. Only those who love others without any selfish interest and without any kinship are truly blessed and truly happy in this world. These are the people I regard as God. [. . .] The myth has it that the churning of the great Ocean yielded first the Halahal Poison and then the life-giving Nectar. In my own life, I have experienced this several times. You too should remember that Poison is followed by Nectar. Every unhappy person sustains his life only with this hope. Without this hope alive in his heart, he could not bear to live even for a moment in this world full of sorrow. *

You and my other friends who came to the steamer to see me off stepped into the boat and returned to shore. One friend, who had come in a boat to meet me, had almost reached the steamer and even put his foot on the ladder of the steamer, when the steamer started. Naturally he had to turn back. I watched my friends returning to shore as long as they were within sight. For about two hours at sea, the shore of my dear native land was visible, and I watched it with unblinking eyes from the deck. How can I describe all the different feelings in my heart at that moment? I cannot recall ever having experienced such a whirl of emotions. I was on a steamer in the middle of a dreadful sea surging with unending rows of waves, and just such a sea was raging in my heart. I cannot describe the waves which rose, clashed together, and subsided again without a trace into the womb of that fathomless sea. When Bharat-bhumi was lost to sight, I paid my last homage and went to the deck at the bottom of the steamer. Our cabin was very small and had a total of six berths in [two] rows; if it had held six passengers, we would have been greatly inconvenienced. The steamer was quite crowded, but all the other passengers were Europeans, and we the ‘Natives’ of India. No European woman came to stay in our cabin for fear of pollution from our proximity. This animosity harboured by many Europeans for the Natives suited us very well on this occasion. . . . And the cabin became the sole domain of the three of us – myself, my friend Anandibai Bhagat, and my daughter. It had only one small porthole which let in breeze. But our side of the steamer had no breeze. As the cabin was enclosed on all sides, we suffered greatly from heat during the day, and especially at night. Until we crossed the Red Sea and reached the Suez Canal, I found the heat on this voyage to be worse than the summer heat 110

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in Marwad or the Madras Presidency in India. But I don’t know how accurate my estimate was. Our food arrangement on the steamer was separate from that of the other passengers, that is to say, we had employed a cook at about six rupees for ourselves. He brought our meals to our cabin every day. We could have arranged to cook ourselves, but there was no place to cook other than the sailors’ kitchen; and I could not bring myself to even step into it because of the filth everywhere, let alone cook there. With our eyes shut we accepted whatever our cook brought us, and thanked God profusely for providing such plentiful fare in the middle of the deep sea. The food items we received were boiled potatoes, rice, bread, jam (a sweet preserve made out of a certain type of English fruit), salt, powdered pepper, ground mustard, and ‘condensed milk’ for the child. (Milk is condensed and packed in tin boxes; when required, a couple of teaspoonfuls are mixed with hot water and fed to children, and also used by adults in their tea.) In addition, we had brought along our homemade mango pickle, and a homemade lemon pickle given by a friend; they greatly improved our meals. But, for one thing, we were not accustomed to the European-style purodash or half-cooked rice;10 and, for another, we could not be content with ‘self-sufficient’ [raw] foodstuffs without vegetables, lentils, curries, etc., prepared in our own style, and were unable to eat our fill. For these reasons we were compelled to spend 27 days on the steamer in a state of partial fasting. This was not very difficult for me because I was used to satisfying my hunger and thirst with just water during my travels in India. But it was a severe trial for my friend who had never left home before. Opposite our cabin was the dining hall for the other passengers. When they sat down to their meals, I wished that I lacked the sense of smell, because of the stink of their fish, meat, and other dishes. (It was only I who thought of it as stink, the diners themselves undoubtedly considered it a fine aroma!) This was not my very first sea voyage. Earlier, when my father was alive, we had been on the sea a couple of times, from Mangalore to Mumbai, then on to Dwarka, and back to Mumbai. For this or some other reason, I did not suffer from seasickness this time. On the second day I threw up twice because of the heat and had occasional dizzy spells. But Anandibai and many others were very sick. The only Indian passengers on the Bukhara were the three of us, my [Brahmo] co-religionist, Babu Bank Behari Sharma, and a young Parsi male. We would gather on one side of the deck of a morning or evening, and chat about all manner of things. Naturally we had no contact with the European community; but there was an old 111

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European gentleman who treated us with great kindness. He was a merchant from Manchester – a place very well known to Indians. Having accumulated great wealth in trade during his youth, he had given up business in old age and planned to spend the rest of his life happily at home, without a care. But his idea of happiness was not to lie idly in bed and spend his time sleeping. During the preceding 19 months he had travelled around the world. These travels cost him about 1,000 pounds sterling, as he told me once. He collected local information from everywhere and wrote it down in his note-book. [. . .] And he has bought altogether about 7,000 photographs depicting scenes from the more famous places. Of these, he showed me about 160 from India; they were very interesting and accurate depictions. I have visited many of these places. He asked me for whatever information I had about their names and history. What a great gain it would be if the example of this old man is followed by the pleasure-loving, idle rich of our country! Be that as it may. This man spoke no Indian language, and I was a ‘hedgescholar’ of English!11 What a situation! It was just as well that no Europeans were around when we conversed, otherwise they would have laughed uncontrollably to hear me speak! I could understand what the man said, but could not reply adequately, because I had no prior practice of speaking English. He would somehow gather my meaning with the help of some words and some gestures. During the first 27 days since we left Mumbai, we sighted land only four to five times. Otherwise we saw only the fathomless sea below and the endless sky above. I cannot tell you what different thoughts entered my mind when we sat on deck of an evening and watched the unparalleled, indescribable beauty and grandeur of the sea and the sky. On one side the sun would be about to set, with its tender evening rays reflected everywhere in the endless blue skies, especially in the rows of clouds, like piles of fluffy white cotton, spread across the west. It conjured up a vision of the peaks of our fabled golden Mount Meru of the puranas, lifting up their heads to kiss the sky, or it seemed as if Krishna’s Golden Dwarka,12 imagined to be in the belly of the ocean, or Ravan’s Lanka, had manifested itself before me. After sunset many a star peeped out at us one after another from the heavenly heights, from behind the curtains of clouds which flitted about at the mercy of the winds, only to hide their faces again behind them – just as women in the secluded quarters of the house gently pull aside the curtain and peep out of the window only to hide their faces quickly within for fear of being seen. If the sky happened to be cloudless, innumerable constellations of stars would 112

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be visible, creating the impression of white jasmine flowers offered by devotees, scattered about in the dark current of the Yamuna. The beauty of the scene would be unparalleled on such an occasion, if the moon had already risen. The vast semicircle of the fathomless sea below could be seen united with the clear semicircle of the heavens above; and within would be the stars, scattered everywhere in the sky like pearls, with their reflections in the sea. I would then fantasise that the sky and the sea formed two halves of an enormous seashell and that I could see the pearls scattered within as well as the shiny insides of the shell itself! The waves surging in the moonlit sea would make the sea-water appear white, glittering like molten silver. When the friction of the waves in the stormy sea emitted phosphorus sparks we could see Vadavagni imagined by our ancient poets.13 The unceasing sound of waves in that boundless sea would awaken me in the middle of the night, and I would peep at it through the porthole. It would be quiet everywhere on the steamer with all the passengers asleep, dark in the cabin (it is forbidden to keep the cabin light on after 10 at night), and only the sea to be seen ahead, behind, on every side. At such a time my state of mind would be exactly what would be expected of any human being. I would constantly ponder over the greatness of God Who has created this infinite universe and the smallness of man engrossed in the conceit of his fleeting glory, negligible like an atom. I would think of my own situation at the time, and the major happy and unhappy events in my life; of why I was leaving my country to travel to such a far-off land, what I was to do in future, and how I should serve my motherland; of how all my dreams would drown in an instant if, by some stroke of misfortune, the ship were to go under; and of many such things. Be that as it may. On 26 April at about two in the afternoon, we reached the port of Aden. The town of Aden is situated on the southwestern coast of Arabia, and is surrounded by a range of tall mountain peaks. There are absolutely no trees, bushes, or grass anywhere on the mountain or in its vicinity. Black rock everywhere, high mountain peaks around, and the sea in front – this is the landscape of Aden. It is not a pleasing sight, but it delighted us because during the previous six days we had not set eyes on even a clod of earth, let alone land. The moment the mountains of Aden came into sight from a distance, we stood up craning our necks, and waited eagerly to reach the port. As soon as the steamer entered the port, we went ashore in a small boat. There we hired a carriage to see the town. All the houses there are single-storied and flat-roofed. The population consists of 113

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Arabs, Africans, and traders from India and many other countries. The town, surrounded by mountains, appears as if it is set within a large fort. In addition, it also has a protective wall. Extreme heat, shortage of water, and arid earth everywhere – such is the condition there. There is only one site worth-seeing: a series of ten large tanks, built one above the other between two tall mountain peaks, in order to catch and store rain water. They must supply a great deal of water to the people there. There are also one or two wells which are very deep. At a lower level, a small garden has been made by planting wild trees which grow on sandy beaches. People go there to take the air. In our country someone would have pulled out such trees and thrown them away as useless rubbish. But what efforts are made in Aden to save those trees! Guards are posted all around to prevent people from touching them. Black boards have been put up everywhere with English notices in large letters that anybody who plucks leaves will be prosecuted. This is but natural. As a poet has said, ‘In a country with sparse vegetation, even the lowly castor oil plant is regarded as a large tree’. In a place like Aden, that garden undoubtedly has greater worth than paradise, or the Eden Gardens of Calcutta! But I was greatly surprised to see, in a place such as this, a shirish [mimosa sirisha] tree so loved by our great poet Kalidas. The tree was completely covered with flowers. I had seen many such trees in Panjab and Assam, and was delighted to see the tree again after such a long time. I said to myself, ‘Just as these flowers bloom even in the arid land of Aden, so does happiness sometimes arise out of sorrow’. Be that as it may. The steamer remained anchored at Aden for six hours. After leaving Aden, we reached Suez on 1 May. The passengers who wanted to go by the overland route via Brindisi to see Paris and other cities boarded the train there. We had to leave the ‘Bukhara’ and go on board another steamer called ‘Kaiser-e-Hind’. This steamer was much larger than the first one and had arrived from Calcutta. It was terribly overcrowded. Our male co-passengers somehow found cabin accommodation, but there was no vacant second class cabin for us. So we were accommodated in a first class cabin. But one woman came with her daughter to share it because of the overcrowding elsewhere. She was Indian, but Christian; and her customs and manners were like those of Europeans. Therefore, she could not bear the proximity of us Natives. But what could the poor thing do? She had no choice but to stay with us. As a result, we, as well as she herself, were greatly inconvenienced. The town of Suez is about two miles inland. It has some places, like the docks, which are worth-seeing. There are neither horses 114

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nor carriages at Suez. Everybody goes about on large donkeys which substitute for horses. [In India] we had the custom of parading a person around on a donkey as punishment. But in Suez people are happy to mount a donkey for a ride! Many prominent European men and women from our steamer went about on these donkeys. We, too, did not hesitate to enjoy the experience! Suez is not a very large town. Its population is entirely Egyptian. Women walk about in the streets but cover their faces, except for the eyes, with veils. The next morning we left Suez and after sailing through the Suez Canal, our steamer reached the Mediterranean Sea in the evening. The Suez Canal is broad enough for two large steamers to sail side by side. As soon as we reached the Mediterranean, we closed all the portholes in our cabin, because the waves were very high. Even with the portholes closed we got a sea bath every now and then. The steamer rocked much more in the Mediterranean than in the Arabian and the Red Seas. That is where the cold season began. We put aside our cotton clothes and donned woollens. The cold weather had already started in a small way at Suez, but not enough to make woollen clothes necessary. (If you have read the story of Robinson Crusoe, you will get a good idea of our present appearance. For lack of clothes, Robinson Crusoe had fashioned strange garments for himself out of animal skins. Our garments are not made of skin, but perhaps look even stranger. In this cold country we cannot afford to retain our native costume in its entirety. On the one hand, our hearts are always alive with national pride; on the other, the cold weather tries to subjugate us. Caught between these two difficulties, we are in the same situation as King Trishanku who was neither in heaven nor on the earth, but stood suspended mid-air, as the legend goes. Our dress is made partly of woollens and partly of cotton cloth. We cannot abide even for an instant without stockings on our feet. It is summer in this country, but the weather is as cold as the month of Magh [JanuaryFebruary] in Prayag. These days we wear our Deccan shoes,14 but when it begins to snow in winter, it will be essential for us to wear knee-high boots. It is impossible to walk barefoot either at home or outside. If one walks about without shoes and stockings even for a short while, one loses all sense of whether one’s feet are on the ground, or the ground is on one’s feet! That is why the English people wear shoes day and night. Even a very poor person cannot manage without shoes. One might be able to manage without food, but woollen clothes and shoes are absolutely essential. It is more difficult to endure the cold here than pangs of hunger.) 115

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On 6 May we reached the island of Malta in the morning. At about 10, we went to see the town. This was the very first European town I saw in my entire life. It is a large, well-planned town. The streets are very clean and there is no noise anywhere. Thousands of people pass through the bazaar, but there is no sound other than that of carriage wheels. In our country one sees multi-coloured turbans in the bazaars, but not here. All are dressed in black clothes and black hats; only their faces and hands are visible outside the black costume. When we went into the town, all the people stared at us. They must have wondered who had sent them such novel specimens covered in white cloth, and where they were to be exhibited! In India we had been told by some European women and also by Native Christian women who had adopted the European dress, ‘In Europe you will not be able to go about dressed in our [Indian] style. If you do, you will be chased by small boys clapping their hands’. But how would we be able to put on heavy gowns like those women? Moreover, I was a vegetarian and also hungry; I did not have the strength to bear the weight of a gown. So I wore some woollen clothes for protection from the cold, covered myself with my sheet, and went to see the town. All the people just gazed at us. It is true that children, and even some grown-ups, began to smile faintly at our strange clothes, but no one clapped his hands. It is a civilized country, so it is not customary to laugh openly at any one or make fun of any one walking in the streets. The island of Malta is now under English rule. The English Governor lives there. The people speak a language called Maltese which is somewhat like Arabic. The people are called Maltese, but their customs and manners are just like those of the English. All the men and women dress like the English; but the women, instead of wearing bonnets, cover their heads with a black cloth, similar to that worn by Christian nuns, but somewhat strange in shape. We saw the Governor’s mansion there. Two of its enormous drawing rooms are well worth-seeing. One of them is filled with armours and weapons which were used in battle by the Maltese about 500 to 600 years ago, all made of iron and steel, and very large. An ordinary man would not be able even to lift them. One wonders what manner of huge demons they were who donned such armours to fight battles! The armour of a man described as a ‘giant’ was massive. The headpiece itself weighs 37 pounds (about 18 and a half seers), which will give an idea of the weight of the armour and the strength of the warrior who wore both. We heard that this man was a Spaniard and General of the Maltese army. In another part of the same drawing-room, there are several earthen pots made about 116

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600 years ago. The lovely designs on them as well as their colours look as good as new. The other drawing-room is also very spacious. All its walls are covered with charming embroidered tapestries. The pictures on these tapestries, depicting America’s scenic forests, the uncivilized American Indians, Africans, elephants, horses and a variety of birds, as well as other designs, are so lifelike that, seen from a distance, one would not imagine that they are embroidered. We were informed by a knowledgeable person there that this embroidery is about two hundred years old. We then went on to see a church belonging to Christians of the Roman Catholic denomination. It has several seats for the religious preceptors (padres). They are like small cells, and are made of wood. There is a chair-like place to sit inside, and on either side there are small latticed windows in the walls made of wooden planks. Through these windows the people kneeling outside can confess their sins in whispers to the religious preceptors sitting inside, through whom they beg God for forgiveness. Then the Roman Catholic preceptor, called Monk [sic], says a prayer and tells the person that his sins have been forgiven. The Roman Catholics believe that such an assurance dispels fear of punishment in the next life. When the Monks die, they are not buried like ordinary people. Their bodies are dried in the sun for a long time and kept in a secure place. We saw many such corpses in the vault of the Church. They had been placed upright in tall niches. Some of the corpses were quite old. All around the Church were statues of Mary, Joseph, and Christ, showing different stages in their lives. The Roman Catholics worship images of Christ like other idol-worshippers. The only difference is that they worship only the images of Christ and Mary, whereas others worship images of innumerable deities. The people in Malta mostly profess the Roman Catholic doctrine. They are very industrious people, though there are many beggars around. There is a brisk trade everywhere. A very strong and beautiful fort surrounds the town of Malta. Although military advantage has been foremost in the construction of the town, it does not lack other amenities. In olden times, the people of the town were very brave. This island town was famous in history for a number of ancient wars. We were very pleased by the charm, cleanliness, and tidiness of the people. Our steamer was anchored off this island for 10 hours. Four days later we reached the town of Gibraltar. We did not go into the town for lack of time. But we saw its layout from the steamer, because it stretches from the seashore up to the top of a mountain, in row upon delightful row of houses. The town is surrounded by a big and strong fort, and dotted with gardens which give it a 117

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very handsome appearance. It is a famous town in Spain, reputed in history for a number of great wars. The steamer stopped there for about four hours. Then we crossed the Strait of Gibraltar at night and entered the Atlantic Ocean. The following day, the Bay of Biscay did not display the calm and profound appearance of the Ocean; it was in a very stormy mood at the time. It took us two days and a night to cross the Bay. With the surging of waves day and night, our steamer faced heaven and the netherworld alternately. The waves rose up to the deck and bathed the person standing there. Nobody except the sailors went on the foredeck. Most of the passengers were seasick because of the violent rocking of the ship, and kept to their beds. For two days we did not feel fit enough to leave the cabin. When the steamer rocked we felt as if we would be tossed out of our beds and thrown against one another. We could not manage even to stand up in the cabin. If we sat up, our heads would hit the wall because of the rolling of the steamer. On 13 May we reached a port where many passengers disembarked to go by railway to London and other destinations. It had a strong seaside fort and a fleet of warships, and was a very charming place. The present season is the spring and summer in these parts. So we are able to see the beauty of nature in its youth. On the 16th, our steamer anchored quite far from the city of London. All the passengers disembarked there and came to London by train. A Sister who was a friend of mine had written a letter to her brother, which I had posted at the above-mentioned port. The gentleman came to receive us as soon as he got it, and so did two Sisters from one of the many London branches of St. Mary’s Home. We came to London with them by rail. As soon as we reached, the gentleman took his leave and went home, and we accompanied the Sisters to their Home. They welcomed us very hospitably. Babu Bank Behari Sharma took his leave at the railway station and went to the house of the gentleman with whom he was to stay. On the 17th I went with a Sister to the Docks (the Thames river has a port with many docks for steamers) to fetch my luggage left on the steamer. London is a very large city. Just as Mumbai has tramways to move about in the city, London has railways. The horse carriages are very expensive. We were staying at a place on the very edge of London. From there we travelled by railway through the city for about two hours, during one of which the train went through a specially constructed railway tunnel under the city. This underground route is like the tunnels on the way from Pune to Mumbai. The trains are lit because that part of the route is dark. The two of us went to the Docks to get my luggage and brought it home. The luggage 118

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is inspected in the Docks in order to prevent opiates from being brought into the country without paying the customs duty. On that occasion I had no time to stay in London and see its famous sites. Even so, on the way I saw two imposing buildings, the Parliament House and the Lord Mayor’s residence. I also saw the stone pillar called Cleopatra’s Needle which the English brought from Egypt to London and raised on the bank of the Thames, as I have already mentioned, and many other buildings, though only from the outside. At present I am engrossed in my studies, so I am unable to visit any places and write about them, or to give you information about the manners and customs of this country. Perhaps another time. The things which I observe ordinarily are as follows: This being the summer, the earth is covered everywhere with the sheer green of trees, creepers, grass, and flowering shrubs. No patch of earth is bare. The people have a keen appreciation of natural beauty. The people of our country are also fond of gardens, but unfortunately cannot make them look really beautiful. The people here tend their gardens with great care. Even women of reputed families and their lovely, rosebud-like little girls are seen watering trees, picking an assortment of flowers to make bouquets, or just enjoying the sight of flowers and trees. Seeing them thus does not fail to remind me of the forest homes of the holy sages described in our Mahabharat and of the wives and daughters of these sages similarly engaged in enhancing the beauty of the forest. There are big tall trees called ‘elms’ on either side of the streets and also in gardens. Their shade is very dense and cool. The extraordinary feature of this tree is that it is covered with sheer green leaves from its foot to its top. Its large branches grow high on the trunk, but from the bottom of the tree to the height of these branches, there are tiny, finger-sized twigs sprouting from the trunk, growing close together and covered with sheer green leaves. That is why the tree looks as if it is draped with creepers from top to bottom. These and many other trees, several types of creepers (spread over trees), and the blossoms of many colourful flowers make such a charming scene as to create the illusion that we may really be in paradise. Even in the wild grass covering the ground, tiny white and yellow flowers called daisies bloom everywhere. This flower is shaped a little like the chrysanthemum. There are many kinds of such 119

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wild flowers everywhere. Even the woods are abloom with natural beauty. This scene reminds me of the forest region in the Himalayas, and in the Khasi and Garo Hills on the banks of the Brahmaputra river. Be that as it may. The people of the numerous good families here are highly cultured and polite. At the same time, the people of the lower class are uncouth beyond limit. In my next letter I will write to you about the domestic arrangements in this country. They are worth copying by our countrywomen.

Notes Note: This is a slightly abridged translation of Part I of D. G. Vaidya, Pandita Ramabai Yancha Englandcha Pravas, Mumbai: Maharashtra State Board for Literature and Culture, 1988. I have divided the single narrative into two sections. 1 This form of address (bandhav) for Mr S. P Kelkar of the Prarthana Samaj is unusual, and probably conveys Ramabai’s sense of both brother and co-religionist. M.K. 2 Ramabai’s biography was published earlier in Subodh Patrika. M.K. 3 This refers to Ramabai’s travels in India, according to the original editor, Mr Vaidya. M.K. 4 Ramabai’s mother was named Lakshmi (the Goddess of Wealth); ‘Rama’ is another name for Lakshmi. M.K. 5 In one of the Christian sects, men and women remain unmarried all their lives and engage in evangelization. These women are called Sisters. The chief of all the Sisters in the convent is called Superior. P.R. 6 The reference is probably to Sister Eleanor; see Letters, p. 8. 7 This pillar was erected in memory of Cleopatra, wife of Antony, Consul or Emperor of Rome. It was in Egypt, but the English uprooted it and erected it in London on the bank of the River Thames, in order to commemorate their victory over the Turks. I saw it from the carriage on my way home the day I reached London, and it reminded me of this conversation. P.R. 8 [Peshwa] Bajirao II had married a girl of 9 or 10 when he was 60 and blind, to maintain the perpetual sacred fire [agnihotra]. This lady now lives in Nepal. Oh, the fate of our Indian women! Bajirao-saheb was a ruler who belonged to my caste, and he was also my kinsman. But that does not mean that I approve of his vices. A few days ago a 65-year-old man married an 11-year-old girl by paying her father Rs 30,000, as you surely know. There are thousands of such sanctimonious men in our country. P.R. (Ramabai’s kinship with the Peshwa stemmed from his having married a girl from the Abhyankar family as one of his several wives. M.K.) 9 Mrs. Murray Mitchell has been mentioned earlier in connection with the Education Commission. M.K. 10 Purodash is half-cooked rice offered in oblation to fire during sacrificial rites. M.K.

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11 The Sanskrit word used here is aranya-pandit, translated in Moles worth’s Marathi-English Dictionary as ‘hedge-scholar’. M.K. 12 When I was small, my father had stopped for 10 or 11 months at Dwarka on the seacoast near Cutch. Sometimes of an evening we would go for a walk on the white beach by the shore. Oh! What happy days they were! Never will such days return in this lifetime. True to my childish nature, I would gather a lot of cowries, shells, pebbles, and stones in my long skirt, and take them home. What joy I felt at the time! In those days my gaze was not lost in appreciating the beauties of the sea or the sky, as it is today. My parents, sister, and brother would walk together talking amongst themselves, and I would dawdle, sometimes ahead of them and sometimes behind, collecting pebbles, stones, and whatever else I could find on the beach. I would think that my parents and siblings were quite unappreciative, because they did not collect conches, shells, pebbles and stones as I did! One day the priests of Dwarka spread the rumour that it was Kapila Shashthi, and that Krishna’s Golden Dwarka would rise from underneath the sea in the evening, to appear before the devotees. Whosoever was desirous of a darshan was to come to the seashore. Accordingly, thousands of devotees flocked to the seashore. We also went, tempted by a desire for the holy sight of Dwarka. In a short while, the sun began to descend towards the western sky, and its golden light spread over the range of clouds as described above, beautifying them greatly. The priests pointed to the sky and said, ‘Behold the golden Dwarka’. At these words, many devotees paid their respects to Dwarka, reverently joining their palms together! The priests managed to fill their purses really well on that holy day. P.R. 13 Vadavagni is the mythological fire at the bottom of the ocean. 14 The Deccan shoes were made of red leather, and shaped like slippers, with an upturned toe. M.K.

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The event that took Ramabai to the USA was as fortuitous as it was timely and fortunate. In December 1885 an unexpected letter came from Dr Rachel Bodley, dean of the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, the first medical college in the world – founded in 1851 – to grant formal degrees to women.1 The letter was an invitation to attend the graduation, or ‘commencement’ in American parlance, of Anandibai Joshee in March 1886 as India’s very first woman doctor – coincidentally in vicarious fulfilment of Ramabai’s own thwarted ambition. In contravention of the CSMV’s express wishes, Ramabai decided to accept the warm invitation, and left for the USA after almost three years in England. Bodley’s objective was to enlist Ramabai’s support to establish Anandibai within her larger project for women’s emancipation in India: the news that Ramabai ‘braved a wintry ocean to witness Anandibai receive her degree as a Doctor of Medicine’ would signal to Indians that she extended her sanction and support, and ‘enfolded her and her work in [Ramabai’s] future leadership’.2 Thus it was as an internationally renowned advocate of Indian women’s advancement that Ramabai arrived in the USA and was instantly lionized. At her maiden public speech in Philadelphia on 12 March 1886, the day after the graduation, Ramabai proved her amazing ability to straddle East and West, combining her Brahmin mystique with a Westernized persona, her Sanskrit learning with an English education and her nationalistic pride with an objective critique of Indian society. That her fair-skinned, grey-eyed beauty elicited instant racial acceptance not extended to other Indian visitors is also apparent from contemporary descriptions. As the well-known feminist writer Caroline Healy Dall was to note: Ramabai is strikingly beautiful. Her face is a clean-cut oval; her eyes dark and large, glow with feeling.3 She is a brunette, but her cheeks are full of color. Her white widow’s saree is drawn closely over her head and fastened under her chin. There is nothing else about her to suggest the Hindu.4 122

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Plate 7  Ramabai in the USA, c. 1886

It has to be remembered that the baffling American use of the term ‘Hindu’ to denote an Indian national and not an adherent of Hinduism resulted from their use of ‘Indian’ to denote an American Indian. A person whose Hindu religion was to be emphasized was usually called a ‘heathen’ at the time. Thus Ramabai became an instant success not only as an Indian Christian champion of Hindu women’s cause but also a racially and even culturally acceptable one, as was reiterated in other accounts. Her British biographer 123

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Helen Dyer was to later remark in the same spirit that ‘there was never any trace of Oriental languor about Ramabai’.5 Judicious advance publicity in The New York Times (7 March 1886) by Bodley opened all doors to Ramabai, and glowing accounts of her life and her maiden public speech appeared in the regional American press. The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin (13 March 1886) described her as a ‘Hindoo woman of high caste, her slight figure wrapped in the white robe of Indian widowhood, out of which looked a face of most picturesque beauty and expression’ and valorised her unwritten address, delivered in fluent, idiomatic English: Standing in an easy attitude, with her hands clasped upon the desk before her, and speaking with a voice of the most musical sweetness and distinctness, and with the unembarrassed manner of a genuine simplicity, she told the story of Hindoo womanhood to her American audience in a fashion that won all hearts and riveted all attention. . . . [She proved] herself a woman who would be remarkable under any nativity. . . . And when the earnest little lady suddenly closed her address by asking an American company of educated and refined men and women to join with her in a moment’s silent prayer ‘to the Great Father of all the nations of the earth’ in [sic] behalf of the millions of her Hindoo sisters to whose cause she has given her life, there was something almost startling in the strangeness of the unique situation. This was the essence of the complex American response to Ramabai: she was ‘one of us’ in terms of religion and even race, and simultaneously the exotic Other imbued with the Brahmin mystique. She shared the Western worldview but championed the highly troped Hindu widow from her speaking position as an Indian embedded within a Western discourse. Finally she served as a potential, locally available and direct conduit for Americans to engage in philanthropic aid to India which had thus far been conducted solely within the British sphere of influence. This was significant, given the American – and generally Western – complicity in the British imperial project with a shared ethnocentric view of India, combining racial, cultural and religious superiority. The American Mission, western India’s oldest Christian mission functional since 1813,6 had eulogized the ‘beneficent’ British government in India through its AngloMarathi weekly, Dnyanodaya of Mumbai. Its English article entitled ‘The Destiny of the White Race’ (6 August 1885), for example, maintained that: It is fortunate for India that it is England that rules over her. No other of the white races is so fitted to fulfil her high mission over 124

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so great an empire. Better than all, it is the mission of the white race to be the instrument through which is carried to the world a pure religion, a true idea of God, a knowledge of a real Saviour. This view was not surprising considering that support from the colonial state was pivotal to the Mission’s functioning in India.7 But at home, Americans had harboured an ambition to breach the British monopoly of aid to India and make wider inroads into the country through missionaries and medical doctors, while retaining the donor-recipient paradigm as a constant. American women especially were deeply invested in the trope of the ‘tragic Hindu widow’ and wanted to realign the structure of foreign aid to Indian women by gaining entry through Ramabai. She was favourably located within the American discourse on India, being regarded as an Indian rather than a ‘native’ (as in England) besides being a Brahmin woman converted to Christianity who was a ‘Hindu critic of Hinduism’. She was also a ‘Christian critic of Christianity’8 – but mainly in England and rarely in the USA which did not have any Christian denomination as a state religion.9 Clearly Ramabai’s Christian affiliation enabled her entry into many American reform discourses. The Christian underpinnings of the American women’s movement have been well documented. Morantz-Sanchez, for example, has noted that among many nineteenth-century reformers, ‘the religious impulse was transformed into a social commitment and the pursuit of a profession’.10 Barbara Welter has similarly noted the feminization of American religion in interaction with the reform movement of the same period.11 Ramabai had melded her Indianness with a Christian discursive practice. Orientalist overtones dovetailed neatly into admiration and respect in Bodley’s description of Ramabai as ‘the high-caste Brahmin woman, . . . educated, refined, rejoicing in the liberty of the Gospel, and yet by preference retaining a Hindu’s care as regards a vegetable diet, and the peculiarities of the dress of Hindu widowhood’.12 Meanwhile back home, the Maharashtrian response to Ramabai’s success in the USA was equally complex. The aforementioned report from The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin was reproduced by The Mahratta of Pune (2 May 1886). Significantly, it was offset by the new and enduring installation of Anandibai Joshee as the icon of educated yet conventional and ‘Hindu’ Maharashtrian womanhood which served to permanently seal her contrast with Ramabai who had changed her religion and thus ‘betrayed’ India. This also legitimized ideological attacks on Ramabai (in a scenario that Bodley could not have imagined when she invited Ramabai). As Ramabai found her niche in the feminist and other reform circles, especially in Philadelphia and Boston, her American sojourn stretched from the intended three months to almost three years, from March 1886 to 125

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October 1888. Initially she studied the educational system in Philadelphia. Then she sent five-year-old Mano with an acquaintance first to Wantage and then on to Pune to await her arrival. Mano lived with the CSMV sisters in Pune and studied at their School of the Epiphany. Ramabai herself travelled from coast to coast in order to publicise her plan to promote her proposed residential school for high-caste widows in India. Her strongest support seems to have come from Frances Willard, president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), who soon became a staunch friend. This facilitated Ramabai’s later access to the WCTU’s worldwide network. In ideological terms, arguably the greatest impact on Ramabai was made by Frances Willard who served as a vice president of the ‘Ramabai Association’ formed in December 1887 in Boston. (Later, in July 1888, ‘The Ramabai Association of the Pacific Coast’ was established.) Willard herself was impacted deeply enough by Ramabai to keep her photo on her desk.13 In her autobiography Willard speaks admiringly albeit somewhat patronisingly of ‘this gentle Hindu woman’, of her ‘perception, conscience, benevolence, and indomitable purpose’; of her being ‘a woman-lover, not as an antithesis of a man-hater, for she is too good-natured not to love all humanity with equal mother-heartedness, but because women need special help’.14 At the same time Willard admits to viewing Ramabai as a Christian wedge into Hindu society: I cannot help cherishing the earnest hope that, under Pundita Ramabai’s Christian sway, women never yet reached by the usual missionary appliances of the church may be loosed from the prison house of ignorance, lifted out of the habitations of cruelty, and led from their darkness into the marvelous light of that gospel that elevates women, and with her lift the world towards heaven.15 Ramabai entered the highest American feminist circles through Willard’s invitations to her to attend the annual meeting of the WCTU at Nashville, Tennessee, in November 1887, and also to speak at the historic convention of the International Council of Women held in Washington, DC, in March-April 1888. The latter event was attended by a galaxy of famous feminists including Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mary A. Livermore, and Lucy Stone. Willard acknowledges that ‘Pundita Ramabai, in her white robes, was a central figure, and her plaintive appeal for the high-caste Hindu widows, a memorable event in the convention’.16 Ramabai was also able to meet pioneering women educators such as Mrs Quincy Shaw who was later closely associated with Ramabai’s Sharada Sadan in India and Elizabeth Peabody. The Sadan served as an entry point for Americans, specifically American women, into western India’s 126

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social reform movement, for the first time under nonmissionary – albeit Christian – auspices. On her return journey to India, Ramabai was accompanied by Emma Ryder, an independent medical doctor of New York who hoped to found a Temperance Hospital for Women and Children, and was awaited in Mumbai by Miss Demmon, a schoolteacher who was to help with teaching duties.17 The Ramabai Association soon sent its members to India: Sarah Hamlin from San Francisco for organizational assistance in 1889–90, and Judith Andrews of Boston to inquire into the problems in Ramabai’s school in 1893–4.18 They were followed by a stream of American missionary women who worked with Ramabai over the years. The American involvement in Ramabai’s plans exposed two sites of tension. One was the question of American women’s exercise of agency on behalf of their disprivileged and supposedly ignorant ‘heathen’ sisters. The second was the identification of the needs of Indian women who were implicitly or explicitly constructed as passive recipients of aid. Kumari Jayawardena shows, in her analysis of Indo-American women’s (and men’s) interaction, that Ramabai’s project provided ‘an early example of the dilemmas of “global sisterhood” and the predicaments caused by policy disagreements between Western fund-raisers and Eastern recipients’.19 A mutually acceptable mix of feminism, nationalism and Christianity remained elusive. *

In her Introduction to The High-Caste Hindu Woman (henceforth HCHW, Selection 3) Bodley refers to the ‘zenana’ – a term loosely used to denote women’s secluded quarters in conventional Indian homes. She assumes that Ramabai has written in the belief that if the depths of thralldom in which the dwellers in Indian zenanas are held by cruel superstition and social customs were only fathomed, the light and love in American homes, which have so comforted her burdened heart, might flow forth in an overwhelming tide to bless all Indian women.20 Ramabai would have agreed with Bodley’s identification of American women as a source of inspiration and aid to herself, but not as agents of Indian women’s liberation; the linchpin of Ramabai’s agenda was her faith in self-help as the only deliverance. This significantly imbues Ramabai’s request to her American readers, conveyed paradoxically by Bodley herself: ‘to help me educate the high-caste child widows; for I solemnly believe that this hated and despised class of women, educated and enlightened, are, by God’s grace, to redeem India!’21 This divergence in the perception of agency was crucial. 127

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Exposure to the feminist movement in the USA and a desire to sketch the life of the typical high-caste Indian woman on whom Ramabai’s struggle was focused prompted her to script her incisive and cogent analysis, HCHW, in June 1887. This was and still remains Ramabai’s most and internationally renowned book – and one I regard as ‘an unofficial Indian feminist manifesto’. Its tone certainly seems militant even compared to some 21st-century Indian feminist writings. The book was privately published with the help of the WCTU as part of her fundraising effort, and its wide outreach may be assessed from the fact that 9,000 copies were sold out within the first year and the third edition with another 1,000 copies was ready by June 1888. In HCHW Ramabai sustains with great success her authorial position as a simultaneous insider and outsider. The text opens with the introductory essence of Hinduism to her American readers in a masterly cultural translation, calculated to make the religion acceptable to her Christian readers, in the spirit of her earlier article ‘Indian Religion’ in The Cheltenham Ladies magazine. The chapters that follow offer a feminist critique of the Indian woman’s seamless oppression as an unwanted daughter, tyrannized wife and sometimes a marginalized widow – all with the explicit sanction of the Hindu scriptures whose negative stereotype women had internalized over the centuries. A ray of hope comes at the end with Ramabai’s agenda of alternative shelter, education and self-reliance through vocational training for women. The balancing act that frames the text is admirable: providing an accurate picture of the institutionalized oppression of Hindu women while retaining the Western readers’ sympathy and averting their contempt. Thus Ramabai begins by explaining some integral aspects of Hindu society – such as the caste system – as a natural product of the social division of labour, critiquing only its rigidity and ascription by birth which evolved over the centuries. Interestingly, after describing the caste hierarchy she does not explain the label ‘high-caste’: one tends to assume that this refers to Brahmins, but she obviously includes the three upper varnas – Brahmins or scholars and priests, Kshatriyas or warriors, and Vaishyas or traders, excluding only Shudras – as she did later while enrolling ‘high-caste’ students in her Sharada Sadan. This makes one wonder retrospectively whether Ramabai is referring to both the Brahmin and ‘Brahminising’ or ‘Sanskritizing’ sections of society.22 Also, even while narrating the pressures under which women live, she tries to make the accounts less harrowing by inserting anecdotes and adopting a light vein. Another thread running through the text is the past glories of India, as for example the ancient custom of women selecting their own husbands through svayamvar. Ramabai’s main contribution here is to cogently internationalize Indian women’s problems. Within Maharashtra she was not the only woman 128

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to articulate them; her salient thoughts and arguments were shared and voiced – albeit piecemeal – by her women contemporaries. Thus the undesirability of daughters was underlined also by Kashibai Kanitkar, as being so prevalent in her own family and all around, that the awareness of being ‘universally despised’ was etched into girls’ earliest memories. Kashibai’s own father, along with two Brahmins under the family’s patronage, raved and ranted at the news of a girl born into any family of their acquaintance.23 The resultant inferiority complex was naturally interiorized by girls, writes Kashibai, stressing that ‘a girl is an object of acute dislike’, never a source of happiness, and never looked upon her with favour, because the parents incur a great loss through raising her and giving her away in marriage with a large dowry.24 Child marriage was another dire calamity, says Ramabai: ‘It is not easy to determine when the childhood of a Hindu girl ends and the married life begins.’ The girl-bride was usually left with her natal family until she reached puberty and then sent to her marital family so that the marriage could be immediately consummated. Kashibai’s impassioned picture of the young bride’s emotional and practical suffocation in her new and usually hostile milieu was presumably drawn from her lived experience. Also Rakhmabai (embroiled by her husband in a lawsuit for the restitution of conjugal rights) wrote two letters to The Times of India (1885) under the pseudonym ‘A Hindu Lady’ on child marriage and enforced widowhood. The first letter (26 June 1885) described in telling words the ‘wicked and inhuman treatment’ meted out to a young daughter-in-law who worked hard the whole day with the servants. She added: ‘(I don’t say like the servants, for they have the option of refusing to work, which she has not)’ (original emphasis). Rakhmabai added that verbal abuse and corporal punishment were calculated to make the girl ‘as docile as a beast and as submissive as a slave’. What infuriated the male Marathi readers, apart from Rakhmabai’s writing an English letter for the perusal of European readers, was her claim that ‘the treatment which even servants receive from their European masters is far better than falls to the share of us Hindu women’. But Ramabai is careful to introduce a positive note: not all Indian marriages are unhappy because of a lack of mutual love. Besides, the wife may be ‘content to remain in bondage’, never having enjoyed or even envisioned freedom of thought and action. The only thing missing is ‘the family having pleasant times together’ which had impressed Ramabai in Western society. Rakhmabai’s letter on enforced widowhood in The Times of India (19 September 1885) also echoes Ramabai’s thoughts and again does so far more abrasively. She sees a widow being treated as ‘a leper of society, doomed to pass her life in seclusion, and not allowed to mix freely with her people’, besides being ‘unbeloved of God and despised of man – a social pariah and domestic drudge’, who can be saved only by enlightened British 129

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legal and moral intervention. Ramabai advocates not state intervention, but self-help. In a separate chapter Ramabai traces the effect of ancient Sanskrit treatises on the permanent moulding of the Indian psyche. The salience of these sociolegal texts in fact underpinned the entire social reform discourse. The status of a woman as her husband’s property was asserted by Kesari (13 April 1888): If a Hindu husband sees his disobedient wife walking on the street or entering some house, he may drag her home or enter a stranger’s house to bring her home; in neither case is he liable to a lawsuit according to the Hindu religion. . . . A man who finds his cow wandering about and puts a rope around her neck and brings her home is not liable to a lawsuit according to English law. The Hindu religion considers a woman to be on par with property and cattle. The only distinction is that as a human being she is entitled to food and clothing. In this regard Ramabai also inserts her anti-colonial protest while commenting on the helplessness of Indian women – caught between the oppressive Hindu customs on the one hand and on the other the British promise of non-interference in Indian religious matters (through Queen Victoria’s Proclamation following the armed uprising of 1857). She launches a powerful attack on the colonial state for its apathy to Indian women (even under a female sovereign), seeing this as a promise made by British men to Indian men, in order to retain their rule and profits in India. Significantly Ramabai stresses the eugenic dimension of the problem in the chapter on ‘How the Condition of Women Tells upon Society’ by discussing ‘the doctrine of prenatal influence’. Only a woman strong in body and alert in mind can produce healthy and capable progeny; thus it is in society’s interest to take good care of its mothers – an argument she had earlier made in SDN. This approach converged with that of the social reformers who usually argued – either from conviction or as a matter of strategy – for women’s well-being primarily in terms of its social benefits. The argument leads to her agenda for women: self-reliance, education and Indian women teachers. Last comes her ‘appeal’ for American aid for her project to survive the first ten years. But here she makes the fatal mistake of describing her endeavour as a means ‘to prepare the way for the spread of the gospel . . . [in] the Indian zenanas’. This was to be flung at her five years later by Pune’s social conservatives bent on sabotaging her residential school for women. As a portrait of Indian women’s lives drawn accurately and sensitively by an insider-outsider, HCHW received rave reviews in the English-language 130

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press.25 Frances Willard said in the WCTU paper, The Union Signal of Chicago (July 1887): ‘The Pundita has put herself into a book . . . in choicest English . . . [which] is both a heartbreak and a joy.’ The Cincinnati Commercial Gazette (3 September 1887) called this ‘Hindu woman’s story’ ‘the outline of a colossal tragedy’, while The Press of Philadelphia (11 September 1887) labelled the book ‘a cry for help’. To Frances Power Cobbe (The Times of London, 1 October 1887) Ramabai’s proposed residential school for widows seemed ‘the best prospect of lightening the vast load of misery’ inflicted upon Hindu women and ‘of generally leavening Hindu society with Christian sentiments towards women’. This publicity contributed to the formation of the Ramabai Association in Boston in December 1887, to collect funds for her proposed residential school for widows in India. The Association had the well-known Unitarian minister, the Reverend Dr E. E. Hale, as its president, and Frances Willard as one of the vice presidents. As Helen Dyer points out, the president and vice presidents comprised members of five denominations, the board of trustees composed a group of non-sectarian business and professional men and a similarly non-sectarian executive committee was formed entirely of women.26 The campaign soon gathered momentum as an American social movement which trickled down even into the remotest corners of the country. A number of ‘Ramabai circles’ were established across the country, enlisting members who had to pledge an annual subscription of only a dollar for ten years. The outreach of the circles was enormous: by 1890 they numbered 75 and the annual membership was reduced further to attract those of lower means into the Association’s ambit. The Association in turn pledged financial support for ten years for a secular, non-sectarian residential school for child-widows in India; afterwards the school was expected to be self-supporting. *

The educationist in Ramabai surfaced also in other ways – an excellent example is her Marathi travelogue-journal United Stateschi Lokasthiti ani Pravasa-vritta, literally ‘The Conditions of the People in the USA, and an Account of Travels There’, and registered under the English title The Peoples of the United States (henceforth USLP).27 She started writing it in the USA in 1886 (as indicated by her references to Anandibai Joshee in the present tense28) and completed it after her return to India. It was published in Mumbai in December 1889, in time for the annual session of the Indian National Congress to be held in Mumbai.29 In the preface Ramabai clarifies her intention of sharing ‘with my dear countrymen and women’ at least partly ‘the happiness I derived from seeing the marvellous things in the United States’, and guarantees it being a true 131

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account without exaggeration.30 The book is set within the larger nationalist paradigm which valorises the free, progressive and egalitarian American democracy, repeatedly contrasted with imperial Britain. The contrast is reinforced with references to the war of independence through which America successfully threw off the British colonial yoke, and thus qualified itself as a model for India. The book opens with Ramabai’s voyage from Liverpool to Philadelphia and goes on systematically to outline in eight more chapters the history of the USA, its system of government, domestic conditions, educational system, religion, condition of women and trade and industries. This comprehensive factual description is frequently leavened by humorous personal anecdotes and lyrical descriptions of natural beauty. The title page mentions this as the first volume, although no more volumes were published; nor is there any indication of what subject-matter was saved for a subsequent volume. What fascinates Ramabai most about the USA are the concepts of democracy and of citizenship (for which she borrows the Sanskrit word – jaanapada – to mean ‘a person who controls his janapada, that is, country’.)31 She concludes the chapter on the American system of government with an eloquent and impassioned description of its ultimate symbol – the Statue of Liberty which carries a torch in one hand to shed the light of freedom, and a book in the other to disseminate knowledge. Her location as a colonial subject surfaces immediately in her poignant words: It is no wonder that the sight of this land also fills the heart of a proud but enslaved person with joy, allows him to forget his sorry state for a brief while and be immersed in the heavenly happiness of freedom; and makes him earnestly wish that all the people in all the countries of the world would acquire such a system of government, such liberty, equality, and fraternity.32 Concerning American domestic conditions, Ramabai is attracted by the close-knit nuclear family which enjoys many activities together, and which allows women to function without – at least conspicuous – restraints. Intertwined with this is the absence of a rigid social hierarchy or an urban-rural divide. She describes the family life of a simple farmer, enjoying a high level of education and refinement, in these words: The same man we saw in dirty clothes in the morning on his way to his farm, a plough on his shoulder, or going to fertilize his farm or chop wood, is seen in the evening in clean clothes, sitting happily by the fire chatting with his wife and children, or reading a book or a magazine. . . . There is a piano in his parlor, and a couple of newspapers on the table; and volumes by scholars 132

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and poets . . . are kept on the bookshelf not for mere decoration but for serious study by the family. The family members are well informed about the events in their own country and in others.33 What touches Ramabai most deeply is the high status of women and the optimism and hope it breeds in little girls, which she contrasts in powerful words with the situation of Indian girls: [American girls] are not subjected to separation from their mothers and oppression in their husbands’ homes, which results from the custom of child marriage prevalent in our country. The budding hope in the heart of an American girl is not scorched by disappointment and unhappiness [as in India] at the thought that she is only a woman and therefore incapable of achieving anything, that she will have to spend her entire life in subjection, that she is not destined for the joy of freedom; that, if her husband dies tomorrow, she will be disgraced as a child widow, tormented, starved, made to slave in the house against her will, cursed, forced to have her head shaven by the barber, or detested as a destitute; that she has no protector in this world or the next!34 The chapter ‘Education and Leaning’ contains, among other things, Ramabai’s appreciation for the unifying power of the English language which binds together diverse ethnic communities in the public sphere while allowing them the freedom of privately enjoying their own culture. This inspires in her the idea that Hindi, as the largest language in India, should be utilized at least to forge political unity in India: When our National Congress meets . . ., the words of the speakers from one part of India cannot be understood by the people from another. Then they deliver long orations in English; but what use are they to the common people? Erasing all the existing languages of our country and putting English in their place is like drowning India in the sea and installing the British Isles in that spot.35 The longest chapter in the book, about a quarter of its length, is understandably ‘The Condition of Women’. Here Ramabai highlights, often with the help of statistical data, the strides American women have made in terms of education, employment and legal rights, and their collective effort resulting in women’s national clubs and organizations. Here the pride of place goes to the WCTU. Her eyewitness account of its 14th annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee, in November 1887 forms a historical source material. It is enlivened by her observations about and personal 133

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experience of the less progressive Southern women as compared to the Northern ones she had hitherto associated with – revealing yet again her preferred discursive location in the liberal New England area. The paradox of an Indian woman (supposedly oppressed and ignorant) encouraging some reluctant women (from the South of the progressive America) to share the dais with her while she delivered a lecture makes for delicious irony. What sustains the reader’s interest throughout the book is an array of Ramabai’s personal experiences – of American seasons, including her excitement at the first sight of snow; customs and manners, such as the American taboo on walking barefoot; fashions and foibles, especially women’s tight-lacing and wearing feathers in their bonnets – that are explicitly or implicitly contrasted with the conditions back home, so that this very different society is brought alive. An unexpected and endearing facet of Ramabai’s interest in American society is her championship of its oppressed sections, especially American Indians (whom she refers to as ‘our Red Brethren’) and African Americans. Slavery and its abolition claim her empathetic attention in USLP, and an extension of this is her letter to Manorama about Harriet Tubman whom she had met twice at the latter’s house in Auburn, New York. After describing Tubman’s risky but successful efforts to lead fellow Southern slaves to freedom in the Northern states, Ramabai concludes: You know, my dear child, there are thousands of little children like you and women like me in our dear India who are as badly treated as the slaves in olden times. I hope my child will remember the story of Harriet and try to be as helpful to her own dear countrywomen as Harriet was and is to her own people.36 Whether or not the six-year-old Mano grasped the significance of all this, the letter – the only evidence of Ramabai’s meetings with Tubman available to us – testifies to the breadth of Ramabai’s interests, sympathies and circle of acquaintances. It is also proof of Ramabai’s attempts to groom Mano for a career as a feminist activist in her own image. Equally surprising is Ramabai’s involvement in the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). In USLP she describes with revulsion various forms of such cruelty – from the slaughtering of animals for food to fishing as a sport and the killing of birds to adorn women’s bonnets. She reacts strongly enough to want to propagandize the matter. She requested the president of the Massachusetts SPCA to send her some leaflets on this subject, so that she could distribute them on trains and street-cars, and give them to her friends. This short and succinct letter was reproduced in the SPCA’s publicity material as the ‘Pundita Ramabai Pamphlet’.37 134

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Ramabai’s obvious agenda is to present the USA as a model for India to follow in its nationalist struggle to overthrow British colonial rule and build a modern nation through collective action and mobilization of civil society. Within this larger project, the American women’s movement and achievements are to serve as a blueprint for Indian women’s emancipation. The book’s strength and weakness lie in Ramabai’s unique and complex authorial position that inhabits it – as a Sanskrit- and English-educated Brahmin steeped in the Hindu scriptures (who spontaneously sees American universities as ‘temples of Saraswati’), but who (as a Christian convert) is also involved in the denominational intricacies of Christianity; one who is prompted by intellectual curiosity to traverse American political and economic terrains, but is strongly anchored in feminism. If Ramabai’s breadth of interest and knowledge enlarged the scope of the book, they also precluded rapport with her readership, composed mainly of Maharashtrian males with far more limited interests and well-defined prejudices. Predictably, her feminist enthusiasm also alienated this readership. Among the book’s various reviews, by far the most favourable was the Marathi review in Indu-Prakash (6 January 1890) which emphasized that it was an eyewitness account with occasional social comment, and that its informative contents would inspire Indians to be industrious. That the author’s tender-hearted nature manifests itself frequently in her language was also appreciated. The paper advised everyone to make a point of reading it at least once. The reviewer also stressed that this was only the second book in this genre in Marathi.38 More representative was Kesari’s tersely critical review (7 January 1890) which drew attention to Ramabai’s ‘occasional comments on Indian society which, though not universally acceptable, were worth considering’. But it also added that lashing out ‘at the male sex . . . is a bad habit [she] has formed. Who knows how she intends to fulfil her object without the help of men!’ However, it was surprising, given Kesari’s articulation of the acute Indian male sensitivity to criticism from a woman, that such criticism was given a hearing at all. Ramabai’s account of the seemingly utopian existence of American women deeply impacted its few literate Maharashtrian women readers. In her review of the book, Kashibai Kanitkar exclaimed on behalf of Indian women: Such a golden day will never dawn for us! However, we must swallow these words quickly before they reach anyone’s ears for fear of committing ‘treason against men’, just as our men are afraid of committing treason when they discuss the [British] government.39 By highlighting the ‘domestic colonization of women’ at least a century before the concept gained currency among international feminist circles, 135

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Kashibai has impressively underscored Ramabai’s own theme of Indian women’s pervasive oppression. Again, Kashibai seemed to be the only reviewer to respond to the nationalistic spirit which imbues the book: she insisted that every family man should acquire this book for his personal collection; every supporter of women’s education should get the women in his family to read the pages concerning women as if it were the Bhagavad Gita; and every patriot should get his sons to study it.40 *

Ramabai’s residential base in America was Philadelphia. But the sheer volume of her travels within the USA (and briefly also Canada) as seen from her letters and from USLP is impressive, as are her lively accounts of the places she visited, stressing the beauty of nature and sometimes adding social comment. Soon after her arrival in the USA, she visited the Niagara Falls with Anandibai Joshee in September 1886 and found it to be one of the most beautiful and grandest sights of the world; no words are sufficiently expressive to describe its beauty and grandeur. . . . I do not wonder that the ancients were moved to worship the Almighty Being manifested in such objects. I stood there stupefied with wonder. Death, Life, Eternity seemed to stand before me.41 In May 1887 Ramabai was in upstate New York and in Jamaica Plains, Massachusetts. In the summer of 1887 she visited Chicago and the nearby health resort of Saratoga. She was also in Iowa and Nebraska, probably the same summer. In November 1887 she visited Lekoy and Auburn, New York. Then she went to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend the annual meeting of the WCTU, travelling via Louisville, Kentucky. In December 1887 she oversaw the setting up of the Ramabai Association in Boston. The year 1888 seems to have been particularly busy. January saw Ramabai travelling from Philadelphia to Indianapolis by the scenic route through the Allegheny Mountains. In February she was in and around Hartford, Connecticut. In March she travelled from Philadelphia to New York in thick winter snow, and then to Washington, DC, to attend the meetings of the International Council of Women. April found her in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Boston. During a visit to Toronto in May, Ramabai gave a ‘most interesting lecture, so clever and amusing’, reported a former Cheltenham student who thought she was ‘very hard on the male sex’ and held 136

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‘very extreme views on the subject of women’s rights’.42 In July she went by train to Denver, Colorado, where she stopped a few days to visit friends. From there she went through the impressive Royal Gorge, where solid walls of granite . . . [rise] on both sides as if to meet the sky. The rays of the sun never reach the depths of this Grand Canyon, the river [Arkansas] flows merrily between the two walls so cool and fresh. The blue sky makes a lovely canopy of the great temple of the grand beauty of the mountains. She also visited the ‘more beautiful and grander’ Black Canyon of the Gunnison where ‘the rocks are cut as if by heavy iron instruments by flowing water’ and its winding course seems to have formed ‘a grand castle for the dwelling of wild beauty of the mountains’.43 Finally, by July 1888, Ramabai reached San Francisco, with its ‘vast bay girded on three sides by high hills and [forming] a splendid harbour.’44 Here she attended the annual meeting of the National Education Association, and was given ‘a splendid reception’ by the Young Women’s Christian Temperance Union on 20 July, ‘during which hundreds of people called to pay their respects to the distinguished woman’. Ramabai made a half-hour speech ‘on her favourite scheme for the emancipation of East Indian widows principally, and women generally’, asking for funds to sustain her work for ten years.45 From San Francisco Ramabai made an excursion in September to what was then the Washington Territory and to Portland, Oregon, and had an opportunity to admire their ‘snow-clad mountains’ and ‘immense forests of pine and fir trees’.46 On 28 November Ramabai sailed for India from San Francisco by the Pacific route, accompanied by Dr Emma Brainard Ryder, a physician (not connected with the Ramabai Association) who was to offer health care to Indian women. On behalf of her proposed institution, Ramabai had lectured 113 times in the USA and Canada from December 1887 when the Association was formed to October 1888 when she left for India.47 *

On 19 December 1888 Ramabai reached Japan. The voyage was rough and the rarely calm ‘Pacific’ Ocean was terrifying, as Ramabai wrote to Geraldine in a long descriptive letter.48 But she went on to say that the ‘beautiful sunrise kingdom’ and its ‘most polite, gentle and kind people’ left the ‘most beautiful and pleasant impressions . . . in my head and heart.’ Ramabai briefly mentioned the sights she saw there – Yokohama, Tokyo, 137

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Mount Fujiyama and various temples and statues – and gave a concise history of the country. In passing she mentioned having addressed ‘at least eight meetings’, helped by efficient women interpreters. Newspapers duly reported the gist of her talks, but also provided biographical accounts embroidered with imagined, exotic details. The Japan Weekly Mail of Yokohama (29 December 1988) reported the arrival of the ‘learned lady, originally a Brahmin of high caste’ who had been ‘in England and America for the past few years completing her education.’ The paper supplied a fanciful description of her early life – including an alleged upbringing by her father in ‘a mountain resort of the Himalayas’, seclusion until the age of 16, travel to Calcutta where both she and her brother ‘obtained high University degrees’, and after her brother’s death, her marriage to ‘one of the University staff’. Ramabai’s lecture in Tokyo on 23 December 1888 was well attended, the hall and the galleries being ‘literally packed with an audience composed of men and women in almost equal proportions.’ The meeting was presided over by the president of the Tokyo Women’s Temperance Union, and the English lecture was simultaneously interpreted into Japanese. The paper described Ramabai in terms as racial as American papers had done: ‘Short of stature, with a strikingly intelligent and intellectual face of the pure Aryan type.’ Her short lecture was followed by that of Dr Ryder, and then a collection was taken in aid of her cause. Copies of a bulletin containing Ramabai’s portrait and an ‘accurate’ account of her career were available for sale in the street after the meeting. Ramabai’s second public lecture in Tokyo, on 28 December 1888, was longer, and ‘ended with a rosy forecast of the blessings that must result from the regeneration of women’ wrote the obviously sceptical reporter of The Japan Mail Summary (Yokohama, 16 January 1889), adding that ‘her dream of a golden age’ of gender equality hardly seemed believable. After the meeting, Ramabai was ‘received in audience by their Imperial Highnesses’ Prince Komatsu and his wife. From Japan Ramabai went to Canton; but no details of this visit are available.49 The next port of call was Hong Kong which she reached on 15 January 1889. Here she was hosted by an Indian gentleman in whose house she held a reception attended by ‘a number of Indian merchants and residents . . . and a few Europeans,’ reported The Hong Kong Daily Press (16 January 1889). Again the paper dwelt appreciatively on Ramabai’s attractive and almost Western appearance: The Pundita, who was attired in native dress, is a lady rather under the medium height and with the exception of her costume, would almost pass for a European. She has thick dark hair cut rather short, an intelligent and rather handsome countenance, 138

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and large dark eyes, which, when she speaks, are lit up with animation. She speaks English fluently and with scarcely any perceptible accent. In her half-hour talk Ramabai explained her objective of establishing Western-style schools in India for women, especially the down-trodden child widows. She spoke eloquently about the need to educate women, a strong generation of children could not be born of ignorant mothers. She then appealed to the Indian community to help her ‘to free the enslaved women of India’ by contributing money to supplement the funds she received from the USA, arguing that if perfect strangers had done so much, surely her own people should exert themselves for the emancipation and education of their countrywomen. After Ramabai’s speech, Dr Emma Ryder was invited to explain her part in Ramabai’s project. She prefaced her talk by refuting the long-cherished belief that women were intellectually inferior to men, and explained that she would look after the women’s hospital that Ramabai planned to build (but which was not to materialize). Reporting Ramabai’s departure for India on 22 January, The Mail Supplement to The Hong Kong Daily Press (23 January 1889) commented again on her earlier speech, expressing sympathy with her cause of emancipating women in India ‘where women are practically held in bondage and the monstrous customs of infant marriage and compulsory widowhood exist’. The paper lauded her planned movement to rescue child widows, ‘those unfortunate victims of habitual cruelty’. Ramabai herself had felt trepidation as she approached India, but the ‘interest and enthusiasm’ she aroused in Hong Kong was great; and she was urged to stay longer to create a public interest in her work.50 Her farewell underscored the admiration and respect of the Indian community: two young men walked on either side of the chair – which they had decorated with flowers – in which she was carried to the ship. She wrote to the Ramabai Association of her delight and pride in this ‘chivalrous spirit’: it aroused optimism about the scenario in the near future ‘when my sisters would be honored by our brothers, not because they were mothers of superior beings, but because they were women’ (original emphasis).51 In February 1889 Ramabai reached her native shores, having encircled the globe within a period of six years – from Mumbai to England, further to Philadelphia and overland to San Francisco, and finally via Japan and Hong Kong back to Mumbai. None of her contemporaries, not even the few men who had travelled abroad, had visited so many countries or made such an international impact through speeches. This possibly aroused jealousy which underlay some of the opposition she later encountered. But her immediate reception left little to be desired. 139

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Notes 1 Some medical colleges in Europe admitted women and allowed them the same training as male students, but did not award them degrees. The Woman’s Medical College is currently a coeducational institution renamed the Medical College of Pennsylvania and has moved from downtown Philadelphia to the suburbs. 2 The Letters and Correspondence of Pandita Ramabai (henceforth Letters) compiled by Sr Geraldine and edited by A. B. Shah, Bombay: The Maharashtra State Board for Literature and Culture, 1977, p. 165. 3 The reference to ‘dark’ eyes seems a racial stereotype; Ramabai’s eyes were greygreen, a feature fairly common among Chitpavan Brahmins and regarded as a sign of beauty. 4 Dall, The Life of Dr. Anandabai, pp. 130–1. Dall’s spelling of Anandibai’s name is wrong, but presumably matches its American pronunciation. 5 Dyer, Pandita Ramabai, p. 30. 6 The American Mission had initially been denied permission to proselytize, in keeping with the East India Company’s policy. In 1813 the Company’s charter was revised in this regard and the American missionaries, waiting in Mumbai, at once started their operations, known later as the American Marathi Mission. Hewat, Christ and Western India, 1953. 7 That Americans long continued to view India through a British imperial prism was proved by the controversial Mother India (1927) by Katherine Mayo. See Katherine Mayo, Selections from Mother India, edited by Mrinalini Sinha, New Delhi: Kali for Women, 1998. 8 The phrase is derived from Ian Tyrell, Women’s World, Women’s Empire, Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1991. 9 Ramabai clarifies her objection to England’s state religion in USLP; her critique of American religious denominations is relatively mild. 10 Regina Markell Morantz-Sanchez, Sympathy and Science, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985, p. 104. 11 Barbara Welter, ‘The Feminization of American Religion’ in Clio’s Consciousness Raised, edited by Mary S. Hartman and Lois Banner, New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1974. 12 Bodley, ‘Introduction’, 1981, p. xvii. 13 Frances Willard, Glimpses of Fifty Years, Chicago: Woman’s Temperance Publication Association, 1889, p. 423. 14 Ibid., p. 557–8. 15 Ibid., p. 561. 16 Ibid., p. 416; also Report of International Council of Women, 1888, pp. 12–8. Significantly, Ramabai does not mention her own lectures or their warm reception. 17 Letters, pp. 230–4; Ramabai Association, Annual Report of 1890, pp. 17, 21. Dr Ryder’s plan was not pursued. 18 Ramabai Association, Annual Report of 1890, pp. 22–3; 1894, pp. 12–26. 19 Kumari Jayawardena, ‘Going for the Jugular of Hindu Patriarchy’ in Unequal Sisters, edited by Vicki L. Ruiz and Ellen Carol DuBoi, 3rd edn, New York and London: Routledge, 2000, p. 197. 20 Bodley, ‘Introduction’, p. vi. 21 Ibid., p. xix. 22 ‘Sanskritisation’ is the apt label given by the anthropologist M. N. Srinivas to a process of upward social mobility practised by a subcaste (by not available to individuals) to claim a higher ritual status within the caste hierarchy by

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imitating the strict ritual practices (e.g. vegetarianism, banning widow remarriage) observed by Brahmins or another caste higher than itself. 23 Kosambi, Feminist Vision or ‘Treason against Men’?, Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2008, p. 11. 24 Ibid., pp. 61–2. 25 These reviews appear in the four-page leaflet mentioned earlier. A scrapbook in the archives of the Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission has a wide collection of clippings of similar reviews and other news items about Ramabai, albeit sometimes without the name and date of the newspaper. 26 Dyer, Pandita Ramabai, p. 24. 27 Pandita Ramabai, United Stateschi Lokasthiti ani Pravasa-vritta, Mumbai: Maharashtra Rajya Sahitya ani Sanskriti Mandal, 1996 (1st pub. 1889). For an unabridged, annotated translation with an introduction, see Meera Kosambi, trans. and ed., Returning the American Gaze: Pandita Ramabai’s ‘The Peoples of the United States’ (1889), Delhi: Permanent Black, 2003. 28 Anandibai died in February 1887. 29 This is indicated by a printed slip of paper inserted near the title page of the book’s copy in the library of the University of Mumbai, Fort Campus. 30 Charges of exaggeration were advanced against her when she delivered lectures about her American experience on her return; Kosambi, Returning, p. 53. 31 Kosambi, Returning, pp. 93–4. 32 Ibid., p. 94. 33 Ibid., pp. 99–100. 34 Ibid., p. 100. 35 Ibid., p. 149. 36 Letters, p. 208. 37 The pamphlet is available in the archives of the Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission. 38 The first travelogue-journal was a description of England by Karsandas Moolji which had been translated from the Gujarati. Ramabai’s ‘Voyage to England’ was only a travelogue. 39 Kosambi, Feminist Vision, p. 72. 40 Ibid., p. 68. 41 Letters, p. 174. 42 Letters, pp. 209, 181. The letters were addressed to Miss Beale. 43 Letters, p. 216. 44 Letters, pp. 214–5. The letter was written to Miss Beale by a past student of Cheltenham Ladies’ College. 45 The San Francisco Chronicle, 21 July 1888. 46 Letters, p. 223. 47 Ramabai Association, Annual Report of 1898, pp. 3–4. 48 Letters, pp. 226–30. 49 Ramabai Association, Annual Report of 1890, p. 15. 50 Ibid. 51 Ibid.

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Selection 3 THE HIGH-CASTE HINDU WOMAN, 1887

To the memory of my beloved mother Lakshmibai Dongre whose influence and able instruction have been the light and guide of my life this little volume is most reverently dedicated

Contents1 1 Prefatory Remarks 2 Childhood 3 Married Life 4 Woman’s Place in Religion and Society 5 Widowhood 6 How the Condition of Women Tells Upon Society 7 The Appeal

1.  Prefatory remarks In order to understand the life of a Hindu woman, it is necessary for the foreign reader to know something of the religion and the social customs of the Hindu nation. The population of Hindustan numbers two hundred and fifty millions and is made up of Hindus, Mahomedans, Eurasians, Europeans, and Jews; more than three-fifths of this vast population are professors of the so-called Hindu religion in one or the other of its forms. Among these the religious customs and orders are essentially the same; the social customs differ slightly in various parts of the country, but they have an unmistakable similarity underlying them. 142

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The religion of the Hindus is too vast a subject to be fully treated in a few paragraphs; it may be briefly stated, however, somewhat thus: All Hindus recognize the Vedas and other apocryphal books as the canonical scriptures. They believe in one supreme spirit, Paramatma, which is pure, passionless, omnipresent, holy, and formless in its essence, but when it is influenced by Maya, or illusion, it assumes form, becomes male and female, creates everything in the universe out of its own substance. A Hindu, therefore, does not think it a sin to worship rivers, mountains, heavenly bodies, creatures, etc., since they are all consubstantial with God and manifestations of the same spirit. Any one of these manifestations may be selected to be the object of devotion, according to a man’s own choice; his favourite divinity he will call the supreme ruler of the universe and the other gods, servants of the supreme ruler. Hindus believe in the immortality of the soul, in as much as it is consubstantial with God; man is rewarded or punished according to his deeds. He undergoes existences of different descriptions in order to reap the fruit of his deeds. When at length he is free from the consequences of his action, which he can be by knowing the Great Spirit as it is and its relation to himself, he is then re-absorbed into the spirit and ceases to be an individual; just as a river ceases to be different from the ocean when it flows into the sea. According to this doctrine, a man is liable to be born eight million four hundred thousand times before he can become a Brahman (first caste), and except one be a Brahman he is not fit to be reabsorbed into the spirit, even though he obtains the true knowledge of the Paramatma. It is, therefore, necessary for every person of other castes to be careful not to transgress the law by any imprudent act, lest he be again subjected to be born 8,400,000 times. A Brahman must incessantly try to attain to the perfection of the supreme knowledge, for it is his last chance to get rid of the misery of the long series of earthly existence; the least trifling transgression of social or religious rules however renders him liable to the degradation of perpetual births and deaths. These, with the caste beliefs, are the chief articles of the Hindu creed at the present day. There are a few heterodox Hindus who deny all this; they are pure theists in their belief, and disregard all idolatrous customs. These Brahmos, as they are called, are doing much good by purifying the national religion. As regards social customs, it may be said that the daily life and habits of the people are immensely influenced by religion in India. There is not an act that is not performed religiously by them; a humorous author has said, with some truth, that ‘the Hindus even sin 143

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religiously.’ [. . .] Each custom, when it is old enough to be entitled ‘the way of the ancients’, takes the form of religion and is scrupulously observed. These customs, founded for the most part on tradition, are altogether independent of the canonical writings, so much so that a person is liable to be punished, or even excommunicated, for doing a deed forbidden by custom, even though it be sanctioned by religion. [. . .] Without doubt, ‘caste’ originated in the economical division of labour. The talented and most intelligent portion of the Aryan Hindus became, as was natural, the governing body of the entire race. They, in their wisdom, saw the necessity of dividing society, and subsequently set each portion apart to undertake certain duties which might promote the welfare of the nation. The priesthood (Brahman caste) were appointed to be the spiritual governors of all, and were the recognized head of society. The vigorous, warlike portion of the people (Kshatriya, or warrior caste) was to defend the country, and suppress crime and injustice by means of physical strength; assisted by the priesthood, they were to be the temporal governors in the administration of justice. The business-loving tradesmen and artisans (Vaisya, or trader caste) had also an important position assigned under the preceding classes or castes. The fourth, or servile class (Shudra caste) was made up of all those not included in the preceding three castes. In ancient times persons were assigned to each of the four castes according to their individual capacity and merit, independent of the accident of birth. Later on, when caste became an article of the Hindu faith, it assumed the formidable proportions which now prevail everywhere in India. . . . Intermarriage of castes was once recognized as lawful, even after caste by inheritance had been acknowledged, provided that a woman of superior caste did not marry a man of an inferior caste; but now law is overruled by custom. Intermarriage cannot take place without involving serious consequences, and making the offenders outcasts. The four principal castes are again divided into clans; men belonging to high clans must not give their daughters in marriage to men of low clans. To transgress this custom is to lose family honour, caste privilege, and even intercourse with friends and relatives. Besides the four castes and their clans there are numerous castes called collectively, ‘mixed castes’ formed by the inter-marriage of members of the preceding; their number is again increased by castes according to employment, as scribe, tanner, cobbler, shoemaker, tailor, etc., etc. Even the outcasts, such for example as the sweeper, have their own distinctions, as powerful among themselves as are those of the high castes. Transgressors of caste rules are, from the highest to the lowest, subject to excommunication and severe 144

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punishment. [. . .] For, although ‘caste’ is confessedly as outgrowth of social order, it has now become the first great article of the Hindu creed all over India. Thoughtful men like Buddha, Nanak, Chaitanya, and others rebelled against this tyrannical custom, and proclaimed the gospel of social equality of all men, but ‘caste’ proved too strong for them. Their disciples at the present day are as much subject to caste as are any other orthodox Hindus. Even the Mahomedans have not escaped this tyrant; they, too, are divided into several castes, and are as strict as the Hindus in their observances. Over a million Hindu converts to Christianity, members of the Roman Catholic Church, are more or less ruled by caste. The Protestant missionaries, likewise, found it difficult in early days to overcome caste prejudice among their converts, and not many years ago, in the Madras presidency, clergymen were compelled to use different cups for each separate caste when they celebrated the Lord’s Supper. The Vedas are believed by the devout Hindu to be the eternal, self-existing Word of God, revealed by Him to different sages. Besides the Vedas there are more than twenty-five books of sacred law, ascribed to different inspired authors who wrote or compiled them at various times, and on which are based the principal customs and religious institutes of the Hindus. Among these, the code of Manu ranks highest, and is believed by all to be very sacred, second to none but the Vedas themselves. Although Manu and the other law-givers differ greatly on many points, they all agree on things concerning women.2 According to this sacred law a woman’s life is divided into three parts, viz.: 1st, Childhood; 2nd, Youth or married life; 3rd, Widowhood or old age.

2. Childhood [. . .] A son is the most coveted of all blessings that a Hindu craves, for it is by a son’s birth in the family that the father is redeemed. Through a son he conquers the worlds, through a son’s son he obtains immortality, but through his son’s grandson he gains the world of the sun.—Manu, ix, 137. There is no place for a man (in Heaven) who is destitute of male offspring.—Vasishtha, xvii, 2. If a man is sonless, it is desirable that he should have a daughter, for her son stands in the place of a son to his grandfather, through whom the grandfather may obtain salvation. 145

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In Western and Southern India when a girl or a woman salutes the elders and priests, they bless her with these words: ‘Mayst thou have eight sons, and may thy husband survive thee.’ In the form of a blessing, the deity is never invoked to grant daughters. Fathers very seldom wish to have daughters, for they are thought to be the property of somebody else; besides, a daughter is not supposed to be of any use to the parents in their old age. Although it is necessary for the continuance of the race that some girls should be born into the world, it is desirable that their number by no means should exceed that of the boys. If unfortunately a wife happens to have all daughters and no son, Manu authorizes the husband of such a woman to supersede her with another in the eleventh year of their marriage. In no other country is the mother so laden with care and anxiety on the approach of childbirth as in India. In most cases her hope of winning her husband to herself hangs solely on her bearing sons. [. . .] After the birth of one or more sons girls are not unwelcome, and under such circumstances, mothers very often long to have a daughter. And after her birth both parents lavish love and tenderness upon her, for natural affection, though modified and blunted by cruel custom, is still strong in her parent’s heart. Especially may this be the case with the Hindu mother. [. . .] If a girl is born after her brother’s death, or if, soon after her birth, a boy in the family dies, she is in either case regarded by her parents and neighbours as the cause of the boy’s death. She is then constantly addressed with some unpleasant name, slighted, beaten, cursed, persecuted and despised by all. [. . .] Brothers, in most cases, are, of course, very proud of their superior sex; they can know no better than what they see and hear concerning their own and their sisters’ qualities. They, too, begin by and by to despise girls and women. It is not a rare thing to hear a mere slip of a boy gravely lecture his elder sister as to what she should or should not do, and remind her that she is only a girl and that he is a boy. Subjected to such humiliation, most girls become sullen, morbid and dull. There are some fiery natures, however, who burn with indignation, and burst out in their own childish eloquence; they tell their brothers and cousins that they soon are going to be given in marriage, and that they will not come to see them, even if they are entreated to do so. Children, however, soon forget the wrong done them; they laugh, they shout, they run about freely, and are generally merry when unpleasant speeches are not showered upon them. Having little or no education, except a few prayers and popular songs to commit to memory, the little girls are mostly left to themselves, and 146

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they play in whatever manner they please. When about six or seven years of age they usually begin to help their mothers in household work, or in taking care of the younger children. [. . .] From the first moment of the daughter’s birth, the parents are tormented incessantly with anxiety in regard to her future, and the responsibilities of their position. Marriage is the most expensive of all Hindu festivities and ceremonies. The marriage of a girl of a high caste family involves an expenditure of two hundred dollars at the very least. Poverty in India is so great that not many fathers are able to incur this expense; if there are more than two daughters in a family, his ruin is inevitable. For, it should be remembered, the bread-winner of the house in Hindu society not only has to feed his own wife and children, but also his parents, his brothers unable to work either through ignorance and idleness, their families and the nearest widowed relatives, all of whom very often depend upon one man for their support; besides these, there are the family priests, religious beggars and others, who expect much from him. Thus, fettered hand and foot by barbarously cruel customs which threaten to strip him of everything he has, starvation and death staring him in the face, the wretched father of many girls is truly an object of pity. Religion enjoins that every girl must be given in marriage; the neglect of this duty means for the father unpardonable sin, public ridicule and caste excommunication. But this is not all. The girl must be married within a fixed period, the caste of the future husband must be the same, and the clan either equal or superior, but never inferior, to that of her father. The Brahmans of Eastern India have observed successfully their clan prejudice for hundreds of years despite poverty; they have done this in part by taking advantage of the custom of polygamy. A Brahman of a high clan will marry ten, eleven, twenty, or even one hundred and fifty girls. He makes a business of it. He goes up and down the land marrying girls, receiving presents from their parents, and immediately thereafter bidding good-bye to the brides; going home, he never returns to them. The illustrious Brahman need not bother himself with the care of supporting so many wives, for the parents pledge themselves to maintain the daughter all her life, if she stays with them a married virgin to the end. In case of such a marriage as this, the father is not required to spend money beyond his means, nor is it difficult for him to support the daughter, for she is useful to the family in doing the cooking and other household work; moreover, the father has the satisfaction first, of having given his daughter in marriage, and thereby having escaped disgrace and the ridicule of society; secondly, of having obtained for himself 147

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the bright mansions of the gods, since his daughter’s husband is a Brahman of high clan. But this form of polygamy does not exist among the Kshatriyas, because, as a member of the non-Brahman caste, a man is not allowed by religion to beg or receive gifts from others, except from friends; he therefore cannot support either many wives or many daughters. Caste and clan prejudice tyrannized the Rajputs of North and Northwestern and Central India, who belong to the Kshatriyas or warrior caste, to such an extent that they were driven to introduce the inhuman and irreligious custom of female infanticide into their society. This cruel act was performed by the fathers themselves, or even by mothers, at the command of the husband whom they are bound to obey in all things. It is a universal custom among the Rajputs for neighbours and friends to assemble to congratulate the father upon the birth of a child. If a boy is born, his birth is announced with music, glad songs and by distributing sweetmeats. If a daughter, the father coolly announces that ‘nothing’ has been born into his family, by which expression it is understood that the child is a girl, and that she is very likely to be nothing in this world, and the friends go home grave and quiet. After considering how many girls could safely be allowed to live, the father took good care to defend himself from caste and clan tyranny by killing the extra girls at birth, which was as easily accomplished as destroying a mosquito or other annoying insect. Who can save a babe if the parents are determined to slay her, and eagerly watch for a suitable opportunity? Opium is generally used to keep the crying child quiet, and a small pill of this drug is sufficient to accomplish the cruel task; a skilful pressure upon the neck, which is known as ‘putting nail to the throat’, also answers the purpose. There are several other nameless methods that may be employed in sacrificing the innocents upon the unholy altar of the caste and clan system. Then there are not a few child-thieves who generally steal girls; even the wild animals are so intelligent and of such refined taste that they mock at British law, and almost always steal girls to satisfy their hunger. Female infanticide, though not sanctioned by religion, and never looked upon as right by conscientious people, has nevertheless, in those parts of India mentioned, been silently passed over unpunished by society in general. As early as 1802 the British government enacted laws for the suppression of this horrid crime; and more than forty years ago Major Ludlow, a kind-hearted Englishman, induced the semi-independent States to prohibit this custom, which the Hindu princes did, by a 148

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mutual agreement not to allow anyone to force the father of a girl to give more dowry than his circumstances should warrant, and to discourage extravagance in the celebration of marriages. But caste and clan prejudice could not be overcome so easily. Large expenses might be stopped by law, but a belief, deeply rooted in the hearts and religiously observed by the people for centuries, could not be removed by external rules. The Census of 1870 revealed the curious fact that three hundred children were stolen in one year by wolves from within the city of Umritzar [Amritsar], all the children being girls, and this under the very nose of the English government. In the year 1868 an English official, Mr. Hobart, made a tour of inspection through those parts of India where female infanticide was most practised before the government enacted the prohibitory law. As a result of careful observation, he came to the conclusion that this horrible practice was still followed in secret, and to an alarming extent. The Census returns of 1880–1 show that there are fewer women than men in India by over five millions. Chief among the causes which have brought about this surprising numerical difference of the sexes may be named, after female infanticide in certain parts of the country, the imperfect treatment of the diseases of women in all parts of Hindustan, together with lack of proper hygienic care and medical attendance.

3.  Married life It is not easy to determine when the childhood of a Hindu girl ends and the married life begins. The early marriage system, although not the oldest custom of my country, is at least 500 years older than the Christian era. According to Manu, eight years is the minimum, and 12 years of age the maximum marriageable age for a high caste girl.3 The earlier the act of giving the daughter in marriage, the greater is the merit, for thereby the parents are entitled to rich rewards in heaven. There have always been exceptions to this rule, however. Among the eight kinds of marriages described in the law, there is one form that is only an agreement between the lovers to be loyal to each other; in this form of marriage there is no religious ceremony, nor even a third party to witness and confirm the agreement and relationship, and yet by the law this is regarded as completely lawful a marriage as any other. It is quite plain from this fact that all girls were not betrothed between the age of eight and twelve years, and also that marriage was not considered a religious institution by the Hindus in olden times. All castes and classes could marry in this 149

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form if they chose to do so. One of the most noticeable facts connected with this form is this: women as well as men were quite free to choose their own future spouses. In Europe and America women do choose their husbands, but it is considered a shame for a woman to be the first to request marriage, and both men and women will be shocked equally at such an occurrence; but in India, women had equal freedom with men, in this case at least. A woman might, without being put to shame, and without shocking the other party, come forward and select her own husband. The Svayamvara (selecting husband) was quite common until as late as the 11th century, A.D., and even now, although very rarely, this custom is practised by a few people. [. . .] The lawless behaviour of the Mahomedan intruders from the 12th century, A.D., had much to do in universalizing infant marriage in India. A great many girls are given in marriage at the present day literally while they are still in their cradles; from five to 11 years is the usual period for their marriage among the Brahmans all over India. As it is absurd to assume that girls should be allowed to choose their future husbands in their infancy, this is done for them by their parents and guardians. [. . .] Although Manu has distinctly said that 24 years is the minimum marriageable age for a young man, the popular custom defies the law. Boys of 10 and 12 are now doomed to be married to girls of seven and eight years of age. A boy of a well-to-do family does not generally remain a bachelor after 17 or 18 years of age; the respectable but very poor families, even if they are of high caste, cannot afford to marry their boys so soon, but even among them it is a shame for a man to remain unmarried after 20 or 25. Boys as well as girls have no voice in the selection of their spouses at the first marriage but if a man loses his first wife, and marries a second time, he has a choice in the matter. Although the ancient law-givers thought it desirable to marry girls when quite young, and consequently ignored their right to choose their own husbands, yet they were not altogether void of humane feelings. They have positively forbidden parents and guardians to give away girls in marriage unless good suitors were offered them. [. . .] But, alas, here too the law is defined by cruel custom! It allows some men to remain unmarried, but woe to the maiden and to her family if she is so unfortunate as to remain single after the marriageable age. Although no law has ever said so, the popular belief is that a woman can have no salvation unless she be formally married. It is not, then, a matter of wonder that parents become extremely anxious 150

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when their daughters are over eight or nine and are unsought in marriage. [. . .] Poor parents cannot have the advantage of marrying their daughters to boys of prosperous families, and as they must marry them to someone, it very frequently happens that girls of eight or nine are given to men of 60 and 70, or men utterly unworthy of the young maidens. [. . .] It not unfrequently [sic] happens that fathers give away their daughters in marriage to strangers without exercising care in making inquiry concerning the suitor’s character and social position. It is enough to learn from the man’s own statement, his caste and clan, and the locality of his home. I know of a most extraordinary marriage that took place in the following manner: the father was on a pilgrimage with his family, which consisted of his wife and two daughters, one nine and the other seven years of age, and they had stopped in a town to take rest for a day or two. One morning the father was bathing in the sacred river Godavari, near the town, when he saw a fine-looking man coming to bathe there also. After the ablution and the morning prayers were over, the father inquired of the stranger who he was and whence he came; on learning his caste, and clan, and dwelling-place, also that he was a widower, the father offered him his little daughter of nine, in marriage. All things were settled in an hour or so; next day the marriage was concluded, and the little girl placed in the possession of the stranger, who took her nearly 900 miles away from her home. The father left the place the day after the marriage without the daughter, and pursued his pilgrimage with a light heart; fortunately the little girl had fallen in good hands, and was well and tenderly cared for beyond all expectation, but the conduct of her father, who cared so little to ascertain his daughter’s fate, is none the less censurable.4 [. . .] Marriage is the only ‘Sacrament’ administered to a high caste woman, accompanied with the utterance of the Vedic texts. It is to be presumed that the texts are introduced in honour of the man whom she marries, for no sacrament must be administered to him without the sacred formulae. Henceforth the girl is his, not only his property, but also that of his nearest relatives. For they (the ancient sages) declare that a bride is given to the family of her husband, and not to the husband alone. —Apastamba, II, 10, 27, 3. The girl now belongs to the husband’s clan; she is known by his family name, and in some parts of India the husband’s relatives will not allow her to be called by the first name that was given her by her 151

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parents; henceforth she is a kind of impersonal being. She can have no merit or quality of her own. Whatever be the qualities of the man with whom a woman is united in lawful marriage, such qualities even she assumes, like a river united with the ocean.—Manu, ix, 22. [. . .] Childhood is, indeed, the heyday of a Hindu woman’s life. Free to go in and out where she pleases, never bothered by caste or other social restrictions, never worried by lesson-learning, sewing, mending or knitting, loved, petted and spoiled by parents, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, she is little different from a young colt whose days are spent in complete liberty. Then lo, all at once the ban of marriage is pronounced and the yoke put on her neck forever! Immediately after the marriage ceremony is concluded the boy takes his girl-bride home and delivers her over to his own mother, who becomes from that time until the girl grows old enough to be given to her husband, her sole mistress, and who wields over the daughter-in-law undisputed authority! It must be borne in mind that both in Northern and Southern India, the term ‘marriage’ does not mean anything more than an irrevocable betrothal. The ceremony gone through at that time establishes religiously the conjugal relationship of both parties; there is a second ceremony that confirms the relationship both religiously and socially, which does not take place until the children attain the age of puberty. In Bengal the rule is somewhat different, and proves in many cases greatly injurious to the human system. In some very rare cases the girls are allowed to remain with their own parents for a time at least. In the North of India the little bride’s lot is a happier one to begin with; she not being forced to go to her husband’s home until she is about 13 or 14 years of age. The joint family system, which is one of the peculiarities of Eastern countries, is very deeply rooted in the soil of India. There may not unfrequently [sic] be found four generations living under one roof. The house is divided into two parts, namely, the outer and the inner court. The houses, as a rule, have but few windows, and they are usually dark; the men’s court is comparatively light and good. Houses in country places are better than those in the crowded cities. Men and women have almost nothing in common. The women’s court is situated at the back of the house, where darkness reigns perpetually. There the child-bride is brought to be forever confined. She does not enter her husband’s house to be the head of a new home, but rather enters the house of the father-in-law 152

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to become the lowest of its members, and to occupy the humblest position in the family. Breaking the young bride’s spirit is an essential part of the discipline of this new abode. She must never talk or laugh loudly, must never speak before or to the father and elder brother-inlaw, or any other distant male relatives of her husband, unless commanded to do so. In Northern India, where all women wear veils, the young bride or woman covers her face with it, or runs into another room to show respect to them, when these persons enter an apartment where she happens to be. In Southern India, where women, as a rule, do not wear veils, they need not cover their faces; they rise to show respect to elders and to their husbands, and remain standing as long as they are obliged to be in their presence. The mothers-in-law employ their daughters in all kinds of household work, in order to give them a thorough knowledge of domestic duties. These children of nine or ten years of age find it irksome to work hard all day long without the hope of hearing a word of praise from the mother-in-law. As a rule, the little girl is scolded for every mistake she commits; if the work be well done, it is silently accepted, words of encouragement and praise from the elders being regarded as spoiling children and demoralizing them; the faults of the little ones are often mistaken for intentional offences, and then the artillery of abusive speech is opened upon them; thus, mortified and distressed, they seek to console themselves by shedding bitter tears in silence. In such sorrowful hours they miss the dear mother and her loving sympathy. I must, however, do justice to the mothers-in-law. Many of them treat the young brides of their sons as their own children; many are kind and affectionate, but ignorant; they easily lose their temper and seem to be hard when they do not mean to be so. Others again, having themselves been the victims of merciless treatment in their childhood, become hard-hearted; such a one will do all she can to torment the child by using abusive language, by beating her and slandering her before the neighbours. Often she is not satisfied by doing this herself, but induces and encourages the son to join her. I have several times seen young wives shamefully beaten by beastly young husbands who cherished no natural love for them. As we have seen, the marriage is concluded without the consent of either party, and after it the bride is not allowed to speak or be acquainted with the husband until after the second ceremony, and even then the young couple must never betray any sign of their mutual attachment before a third party. Under such circumstances they seldom meet and talk; it may therefore be easily understood that being cut off from the chief means of forming attachment, the young 153

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couple are almost strangers, and in many cases do not like their relationship; and if in the midst of all this, the mother-in-law begins to encourage the young man to torment his wife in various ways, it is not strange that a feeling akin to hatred takes root between them. A child of 13 was cruelly beaten by her husband in my presence for telling the simple truth, that she did not like so well to be in his house as at her own home. In spite, however, of all these drawbacks, there is in India many a happy and loving couple that would be an honour to any nation. Where the conjugal relation is brightened by mutual love, the happy wife has nothing to complain of except the absence of freedom of thought and action; but since wives have never known from the beginning what freedom is, they are generally well content to remain in bondage; there is, however, no such thing as the family having pleasant times together. Men spend their evenings and other leisure hours with friends of their own sex, either in the outer court or away from home. Children enjoy the company of father and mother alternately, by going in and out when they chose, but the children of young parents are never made happy by the father’s caresses or any other demonstration of his love in the presence of the elders; the notion of false modesty prevents the young father from speaking to his children freely. The women of the family usually take their meals after the men have had theirs, and the wife, as a rule, eats what her lord may please to leave on his plate.

4.  Woman’s place in religion and society [. . .] Our Aryan Hindus did, and still do honour woman to a certain extent. The honour bestowed upon the mother is without parallel in any other country. Although the woman is looked upon as an inferior being, the mother is nevertheless the chief person and worthy to receive all honour from the son. One of the great commandments of the Hindu Scriptures is, ‘Let thy mother be to thee like unto a god.’ The mother is the queen of the son’s household. She wields great power there, and is generally obeyed as the head of the family by her sons and by her daughters-in-law. But there is a reverse side to the shield that should not be left unobserved. This is best studied in the laws of Manu, as all Hindus, with a few exceptions believe implicitly what that law-giver says about women: It is the nature of women to seduce men in this world; for that reason the wise are never unguarded in the company of females. 154

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For women are able to lead astray in this world not only a fool, but even a learned man, and to make him a slave of desire and anger.—Manu, ii, 213–4. Women do not care for beauty, nor is their attention fixed on age; thinking ‘it is enough that he is a man,’ they give themselves to the handsome and to the ugly. Through their passion for men, through their mutable temper, through their natural heartlessness, they become disloyal towards their husbands, however carefully they may be guarded in this world. Knowing their disposition, which the Lord of creatures laid in them at the creation, to be such, every man should most strenuously exert himself to guard them. When creating them, Manu allotted to women a love of their bed, of their seat and of ornament, impure desires, wrath, dishonesty, malice and bad conduct. For women no sacramental rite is performed with sacred texts, thus the law is settled; women who are destitute of strength and destitute of knowledge of Vedic texts, are as impure as falsehood itself, that is a fixed rule.—Manu, ix, 14–18. Such is the opinion of Manu concerning all women; and all men with more or less faith in the law regard women, even though they be their own mothers, ‘as impure as falsehood itself.’ [. . .] Such distrust and such low estimate of woman’s nature and character in general, is at the root of the custom of seclusion of women in India. This mischievous custom has greatly increased and has become intensely tyrannical since the Mahomedan invasion; but that it existed from about the 6th century, B.C., cannot be denied. All male relatives are commanded by the law to deprive the women of the household of all their freedom: Day and night woman must be kept in dependence by the males of their families, and if they attach themselves to sensual enjoyments, they must be kept under one’s control. Her father protects her in childhood, her husband protects her in youth, and her sons protect her in old age; a woman is never fit for independence.—Manu, ix, 2,3. Women must particularly be guarded against evil inclinations, however trifling they may appear; for if they are not guarded, they will bring sorrow on two families. Considering that the highest duty of all castes, even weak husbands must strive to guard their wives.—Manu, ix, 5, 6. 155

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[. . .] Those who diligently and impartially read Sanskrit literature in the original cannot fail to recognize the law-giver Manu as one of those hundreds who have done their best to make woman a hateful being in the world’s eye. To employ her in house-keeping and kindred occupations is thought to be the only means of keeping her out of mischief, the blessed enjoyment of literary culture being denied her. She is forbidden to read the sacred scriptures, she has no right to pronounce a single syllable out of them. To appease her uncultivated, low kind of desire by giving her ornaments to adorn her person, and by giving her dainty food together with an occasional bow which costs nothing are the highest honours to which a Hindu woman is entitled. She, the loving mother of the nation, the devoted wife, the tender sister and affectionate daughter, is never fit for independence, and is ‘as impure as falsehood itself.’ She is never to be trusted; matters of importance are never to be committed to her. I can say honestly and truthfully, that I have never read any sacred book in Sanskrit literature without meeting this kind of hateful sentiment about women. True, they contain here and there a kind word about them, but such words seem to me a heartless mockery after having charged them, as a class, with crime and evil deeds. Profane literature is by no means less severe or more respectful towards women. [. . .] Proverbs ‘Never put your trust in women.’ ‘Women’s counsel leads to destruction.’ ‘Woman is a great whirlpool of suspicion, a dwelling-place of vices, full of deceits, a hindrance in the way of heaven, the gate of hell.’ Having fairly illustrated the popular belief about women’s nature, I now proceed to state woman’s religion. Virtues such as truthfulness, forbearance, fortitude, purity of heart and uprightness are common to men and women, but religion, as the word is commonly understood, has two distinct natures in the Hindu law; the masculine and the feminine. The masculine religion has its own peculiar duties, privileges and honours. The feminine religion also has its peculiarities. The sum and substance of the latter may be given in a few words: To look upon her husband as a god, to hope for salvation only through him, to be obedient to him in all things, never to covet 156

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independence, never to do anything but that which is approved by law and custom. ‘Hear now the duties of women,’ says the law-giver, Manu: By a girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, nothing must be done independently, even in her own house. In childhood, a female must be subject to her father, in youth, to her husband, when her lord is dead, to her sons; a woman must never be independent. She must not seek to separate herself from her father, husband, or sons; by leaving them she would make both her own and her husband’s families contemptible.—Manu, v, 147–9. [. . .]

Marital rights [. . .] The wife is declared to be the ‘marital property’ of her husband, and is classed with ‘cows, mares, female camels, slave-girls, buffalo-cows, she-goats and ewes.’ (See Manu, ix, 48–51.) The wife is punishable for treating her husband with aversion. [. . .] But no such provision is made for the woman; on the contrary, she must remain with and revere her husband as a god, even though he be ‘destitute of virtue, and seek pleasure elsewhere, or be devoid of good qualities, addicted to evil passion, fond of spirituous liquors or diseased,’ and why not! How much impartial justice is shown in the treatment of womankind by Hindu law can be fairly understood after reading the above quotations. In olden times these laws were enforced by the community; a husband had absolute power over his wife; she could do nothing but submit to his will without uttering a word of protest. Now, under the so-called Christian British rule, the woman is in no better condition than of old. True, the husband cannot as in the golden age, take her wherever she may be found, and drag her to his house, but his absolute power over her person has not suffered in the least.5 He is now bound to bring suit against her in the courts of justice to claim his ‘marital property,’ if she be unwilling to submit to him by any other means. A near relative of mine had been given in her childhood in marriage to a boy whose parents agreed to let him stay and be educated with her in her own home.4 No sooner however, had the marriage ceremony been concluded than they forgot their agreement; the boy was taken to the home of his parents where he remained to grow up to be a worthless dunce, while his wife through the kindness and 157

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advanced views of her father developed into a bright young woman and well accomplished. Thirteen years later, the young man came to claim his wife, but the parents had no heart to send their darling daughter with a beggar who possessed neither the power nor the sense to make an honest living and was unable to support and protect his wife. The wife too had no wish to go with him since he was a stranger to her; under the circumstances she could neither love nor respect him. A number of orthodox people in the community who saw no reason why a wife should not follow her husband even though he be a worthless man, collected funds to enable him to sue her and her parents in the British Courts of Justice. The case was examined with due ceremony and the verdict was given in the man’s favour, according to Hindu law. The wife was doomed to go with him. Fortunately she was soon released from this sorrowful world by cholera. Whatever may be said of the epidemics that yearly assail our country, they are not unwelcome among the unfortunate women who are thus persecuted by social, religious and State laws. Many women put an end to their earthly sufferings by committing suicide. Suits at law between husband and wife are remarkable for their rarity in the British Courts in India, owing to the ever submissive conduct of women who suffer silently, knowing that the gods and justice always favour the men. The case of Rakhmabai, that has lately profoundly agitated Hindu society, is only one of thousands of the same class.6 The remarkable thing about her is that she is a well-educated lady, who was brought up under the loving care of her father, and had learned from him how to defend herself against the assaults of social and religious bigotries. But as soon as her father died the man who claimed to be her husband brought suit against her in the court of Bombay. The young woman bravely defended herself, declining to go to live with the man on the ground that the marriage that was concluded without her consent could not be legally considered as such. Mr. Justice Pinhey, who tried the case in the first instance, had a sufficient sense of justice to refuse to force the lady to live with her husband against her will. Upon hearing this decision, the conservative party all over India rose as one man and girded their loins to denounce the helpless woman and her handful friends. They encouraged the alleged husband to stand his ground firmly, threatening the British government with public displeasure if it failed to keep its agreement to force the woman to go to live with the husband according to Hindu law. Large sums were collected for the benefit of this man, Dadajee, to enable him to appeal against the decision to the full bench, whereupon, 158

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to the horror of all right-thinking people, the chief-justice sent back the case to the lower court for re-trial on its merits, as judged by the Hindu laws. The painful termination of this trial, I have in a letter written by my dear friend Rakhmabai herself, bearing date Bombay, 18 March 1887. I quote from her letter: The learned and civilized judges of the full bench are determined to enforce, in this enlightened age, the inhuman laws enacted in barbaric times, four thousand years ago. They have not only commanded me to go to live with the man, but also have obliged me to pay the costs of the dispute. Just think of this extraordinary decision! Are we not living under the impartial British government, which boasts of giving equal justice to all, and are we not ruled by the QueenEmpress Victoria, herself a woman? My dear friend, I shall have been cast into the State prison when this letter reaches you; this is because I do not, and cannot obey the order of Mr. Justice Farran. There is no hope for women in India, whether they be under Hindu rule or British rule; some are of the opinion that my case so cruelly decided may bring about a better condition for woman by turning public opinion in her favour, but I fear it will be otherwise. The hardhearted mothers-in-law will now be greatly strengthened, and will induce their sons, who have for some reason or other, been slow to enforce the conjugal rights to sue their wives in the British Courts, since they are now fully assured that under no circumstances can the British government act adversely to the Hindu law. Taught by the experience of the past, we are not at all surprised at the decision of the Bombay court. Our only wonder is that a defenceless woman like Rakhmabai dared to raise her voice in the face of the powerful Hindu law, the mighty British government, the 129,000,000 men and the 330,000,000 gods of the Hindus, all these having conspired together to crush her into nothingness. We cannot blame the English government for not defending a helpless woman; it is only fulfilling its agreement made with the male population of India. How very true are the words of the Saviour, ‘Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.’ Should England serve God by protecting a helpless woman against the powers and principalities of ancient institutions, Mammon would surely be displeased, and British profit and rule in India might be endangered thereby. Let us wish it success, no matter if that success be achieved at the sacrifice of the rights and the comfort of over 100,000,000 women. 159

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Meanwhile, we shall patiently await the advent of the kingdom of righteousness, wherein the weak, the lowly and the helpless shall be made happy because the great Judge Himself ‘shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.’

5. Widowhood We now come to the worst and most dreaded period of a high-caste woman’s life. Throughout India, widowhood is regarded as the punishment for a horrible crime or crimes committed by the woman in her former existence upon earth. The period of punishment may be greater or less, according to the nature of the crime. Disobedience and disloyalty to the husband, or murdering him in an earlier existence are the chief crimes punished in the present birth by widowhood. If the widow be a mother of sons, she is not usually a pitiable object; although she is certainly looked upon as a sinner, yet social abuse and hatred are greatly diminished in virtue of the fact that she is a mother of the superior beings. Next in rank to her stands an ancient widow, because a virtuous, aged widow who has bravely withstood the thousand temptations and persecutions of her lot commands an involuntary respect from all people, to which may be added the honour given to old age quite independent of the individual. The widow-mother of girls is treated indifferently and sometimes with genuine hatred, especially so, when her daughters have not been given in marriage in her husband’s life-time. But it is the child-widow or a childless young widow upon whom in an especial manner falls the abuse and hatred of the community as the greatest criminal upon whom Heaven’s judgment has been pronounced. In ancient times when the code of Manu was yet in the dark future and when the priesthood had not yet mutilated the original reading of a Vedic text concerning widows, a custom of remarriage was in existence. Its history may be briefly stated: The rite of child-marriage left many a girl a widow before she knew what marriage was, and her husband having died sonless had no right to enter into heaven and enjoy immortality, for ‘the father throws his debts on the son and obtains immortality if he sees the face of a living son. It is declared in the Vedas, endless are the worlds of those who have sons; there is no place for the man who is destitute of male offspring.’ The greatest curse that could be pronounced on enemies was ‘may our enemies be destitute of offspring’. In order that these young husbands might attain the abodes of the blessed, the ancient sages invented the custom of ‘appointment’ by which as among the Jews, the Hindu Aryans raised up seed for the deceased husband.7 The husband’s brother, cousin or other 160

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kinsman, successively was ‘appointed’ and duly authorized to raise up offspring for the dead. The desired issue having been obtained any intercourse between the appointed persons was thenceforth considered illegal and sinful. The woman still remained the widow of her deceased husband, and her children by the appointment were considered his heirs. Later on, this custom of ‘appointment’ was gradually discouraged in spite of the Vedic text already quoted ‘there is no place for the man who is destitute of male offspring.’ The duties of a widow are thus described in the code of Manu: At her pleasure let her emaciate her body by living on pure flowers, roots and fruit; but she must never even mention the name of another man after her husband had died. Until death let her be patient of hardship, self-controlled, and chaste, and strive to fulfil that most excellent duty which is prescribed for wives who have one husband only.—Manu, v, 157–8. [. . .] [N]or is a second husband anywhere prescribed for virtuous women.—Manu, v, 162. A virtuous wife, who after the death of her husband constantly remains chaste, reaches heaven . . . —Manu, v, 160. In reward of such conduct, a female who controls her thoughts, speech, and actions, gains in this life highest renown, and in the next world a place near her husband. —Manu, v, 166. The following are the rules for a widower: A twice-born man, versed in the sacred law, shall burn a wife of equal caste who conducts herself thus and dies before him, with the sacred fires used for the Agnihotra, and with the sacrificial implements. Having thus at the funeral, given the sacred fires to his wife who dies before him, he may marry again, and again kindle the (nuptial) fires. [. . .] And having taken a wife, he must dwell in his own house during the second period of his life.—Manu, v, 167–9. The self-immolation of widows on their deceased husband’s pyre was evidently a custom invented by the priesthood after the code 161

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of Manu was compiled. The laws taught in the schools of Apastamba, Asvalayana and others older than Manu do not mention it, neither does the code of Manu. The code of Vishnu, which is comparatively recent, says that a woman ‘after the death of her husband should either lead a virtuous life or ascend the funeral pile of her husband’.—Vishnu, xxv, 2. It is very difficult to ascertain the motives of those who invented the terrible custom of the so-called Suttee, which was regarded as a sublimely meritorious act. As Manu the greatest authority next to the Vedas did not sanction this sacrifice, the priests saw the necessity of producing some text which would overcome the natural fears of the widow as well as silence the critic who should refuse to allow such a horrid rite without strong authority. So the priests said there was a text in the Rig-veda which according to their own rendering reads thus: Om! let these women, not to be widowed, good wives, adorned with collyrium, holding clarified butter, consign themselves to the fire! Immortal, not childless, not husbandless, well adorned with gems, let them pass into the fire whose original element is water. Here was an authority greater than that of Manu or of any other law giver, which could not be disobeyed. The priests and their allies pictured heaven in the most beautiful colours and described various enjoyments so vividly that the poor widow became madly impatient to get to the blessed place in company with her departed husband. Not only was the woman assured of her getting into heaven by this sublime act, but also that by this great sacrifice she would secure salvation to herself and husband, and to their families to the seventh generation. Be they ever so sinful, they would surely attain the highest bliss in heaven, and prosperity on earth. Who would not sacrifice herself if she were sure of such a result to herself and her loved ones? Besides this, she was conscious of the miseries and degradation to which she would be subjected now that she had survived her husband. The momentary agony of suffocation in the flames was nothing compared to her lot as a widow. She gladly consented and voluntarily offered herself to please the gods and men. [. . .] The act was supposed to be altogether a voluntary one, and no doubt it was so in many cases. Some died for the love stronger than death which they cherished for their husbands. Some died not because they had been happy in this world, but because they believed with all the heart that they should be made happy hereafter. Some to obtain great renown, for tombstones and monuments were erected to those who thus died, and afterwards the names were inscribed on the long list of family gods; others again, 162

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to escape the thousand temptations, and sins and miseries which they knew would fall to their lot as widows. Those who from pure ambition or from momentary impulse, declared their intentions thus to die, very often shrank from the fearful altar; no sooner did they feel the heat of the flames than they tried to leap down and escape the terrible fate; but it was too late. They had taken the solemn oath which must never be broken, priests and other men were at hand to force them to remount the pyre. In Bengal, where this custom was most in practice, countless, fearful tragedies of this description occurred even after British rule was long established there. Christian missionaries petitioned the government to abolish this inhuman custom, but they were told that the social and religious customs of the people constituted no part of the business of the government, and that their rule in India might be endangered by such interference. The custom went on unmolested until the first quarter of the present century, when a man from among the Hindus, Raja Ram Mohun Roy, set his face against it, and declared that it was not sanctioned by the Veda as the priests claimed. He wrote many books on this subject, showing the wickedness of the act, and with the noble co-operation of a few friends, he succeeded at last in getting the government to abolish it. Lord William Bentick, when Governor-General of India, had the moral courage to enact the famous law of 1829, prohibiting the Suttee rite within British domains, and holding as criminals, subject to capital punishment, those who countenanced it. But it was not until 1844 that the law had any effect upon orthodox Hindu minds. That the text quoted from the Veda was mistranslated, and a part of it forged, could have been easily shown had all Brahmans known the meaning of the Veda. The Vedic language is the oldest form of Sanskrit, and greatly differs from the later form. Many know the Vedas by heart and repeat them without a mistake, but few indeed are those that know the meaning of the texts they repeat. ‘The Rig-veda,’ says Max Muller, ‘so far from enforcing the burning of widows, shows clearly that this custom was not sanctioned during the ­earliest period of Indian history. According to the hymns of the ­Rig-veda, and the Vedic ceremonial contained in the Grihya-sutras, the wife accompanies the corpse of her husband to the funeral pile, but she is there addressed with a verse taken from the Rig-veda, and ordered to leave her husband and to return to the world of the living.’ ‘ “Rise, woman,” it is said, “come to the world of life, thou sleepest nigh unto him whose life is gone. Come to us. Thou hast thus fulfilled the duties of a wife to the husband, who once took thy hand and made thee a mother.” ’ 163

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‘This verse is preceded by the very verse which the later Brahmans have falsified and quoted in support of their cruel tenet. The reading of the verse is beyond all doubt, for there is no various reading, in our sense of the word, in the whole of Rig-veda. Besides, we have the commentaries and the ceremonials, and nowhere is there any difference to the text or its meaning. It is addressed to the other women who are present at the funeral, and who have to pour oil and butter on the pile. ‘May these women who are not widows, but have good husbands, draw near with oil and butter. These who are mothers may go up first to the altar, without tears, without sorrow, but decked with fine jewels.’ It was by falsifying a single syllable that the unscrupulous priests managed to change entirely the meaning of the whole verse. Those who know the Sanskrit characters can easily understand that the falsification very likely originated in the carelessness of the transcriber or copyist, but for all that the priests who permitted the error are not excusable in the least. Instead of comparing the verse with its context, they translated it as their fancy dictated and thus under the pretext of religion they have been the cause of destroying countless lives for more than two thousand years. Now that the Suttee-rite, partly by the will of the people and partly by the law of the empire, is prohibited, many good people feel easy in their minds, thinking that the Hindu widow has been delivered from the hands of her terrible fate; but little do they realize the true state of affairs! Throughout India, except in the Northwestern Provinces, women are put to the severest trial imaginable after the husband’s death. The manner in which they are brought up and treated from their earliest childhood compels them to be slaves to their own petty little interests, to be passionate lovers of ornaments and of self-­adornment, but no sooner does the husband die than they are deprived of every gold and silver ornament, of the bright-coloured garments, and of all the things they love to have about or on their persons. The cruelty of social customs does not stop here. Among the Brahmans of Deccan the heads of all widows must be shaved regularly every fortnight. Some of the lower castes, too, have adopted this custom of shaving widows’ heads, and have much pride in imitating their high-caste brethren. What woman is there who does not love the wealth of soft and glossy hair with which nature has so generously decorated her head? A Hindu woman thinks it worse than death to lose her beautiful hair. Girls of fourteen and fifteen who hardly know the reason why they are so cruelly deprived of everything they like are often seen 164

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wearing sad countenances, their eyes swollen from shedding bitter tears. They are glad to find a dark corner where they may hide their faces as if they had done something shameful and criminal. The widow must wear a single coarse garment, white, red or brown. She must eat only one meal during the twenty-four hours of a day. She must never take part in family feasts and jubilees, with others. She must not show herself to people on auspicious occasions. A man or woman thinks it unlucky to behold a widow’s face before seeing any other object in the morning. A man will postpone his journey if his path happens to be crossed by a widow at the time of his departure. A widow is called an ‘inauspicious’ thing. The name ‘rand,’ by which she is generally known, is the same that is borne by a Nautch girl or a harlot. The relatives and neighbours of the young widow’s husband are always ready to call her bad names, and to address her in abusive language at every opportunity. There is scarcely a day of her life on which she is not cursed by these people as the cause of their beloved friend’s death. The mother-in-law gives vent to her grief by using such language as, when once heard, burns into a human heart. In short, the young widow’s life is rendered intolerable in every possible way. There may be exceptions to this rule, but, unhappily, they are not many. In addition to all this, the young widow is always looked upon with suspicion, and closely guarded as if she were a prisoner, for fear she may at any time bring disgrace upon the family by committing some improper act. The purpose of disfiguring her by shaving her head, by not allowing her to put ornaments or bright garments on her person, is to render her less attractive to a man’s eye. Not allowing her to eat more than once a day, and compelling her to abstain from food altogether on sacred days, is a part of the discipline by which to mortify her youthful nature and desire. She is closely confined to the house, forbidden even to associate with her female friends as often as she wishes; no man except her father, brother, uncles and her aunt-cousins (who are regarded as brothers) are allowed to see or speak with her. Her life then, destitute as it is of the least literary knowledge, void of all hope, empty of every pleasure and social advantage, becomes intolerable, a curse to herself and to society at large. She has but few persons to sympathize with her. Her own parents, with whom she lives in case her husband has no relatives, or if his relatives are unable to take care of her, do, of course, sympathize with her, but custom and religious faith have a stronger hold upon them than parental love. They, too, regard their daughter with concern, lest she bring disgrace upon their family. 165

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It is not an uncommon thing for a young widow without occupation that may satisfy mind and heart, and unable longer to endure the slights and suspicions to which she is perpetually subjected, to escape from her prison-home. Bur when she gets away from it, where shall she go? No respectable family, even of a lower caste, will have her for a servant. She is completely ignorant of any art by which she may make an honest living. She has nothing but the single garment which she wears on her person. Starvation and death stare her in the face; no ray of hope penetrates her densely-darkened mind. What can she do? The only alternative before her is either to commit suicide or, worse still, accept a life of infamy and shame. Oh, cruel, cruel is the custom that drives thousands of young widows to such a fate. [. . .] There is a class of reformers who think that they will meet all the wants of widows by establishing the re-marriage system. This system should certainly be introduced for the benefit of the infant widows who wish to marry on coming to age; but at the same time, it should be remembered that this alone is incapable and insufficient to meet their wants. In the first place, widow-marriage among the high-caste people will not for a long time become an approved custom. The old idea is too deeply rooted in the heart of society to be soon removed. Secondly, there are not many men who will boldly come forward and marry widows, even if the widows wish it. It is one thing to talk about doing things contrary to the approved custom, but to practise is quite another matter. It is now about 50 years since the movement called widow-marriage among the high-caste Hindus was started, but those who have practised it are but few. I have known men of great learning and high reputation who took oaths to the effect that if they were to become widowers and wished to marry again they would marry widows. But no sooner had their first wives died than they forgot all about the oaths and married pretty little maidens. Society threatens them with excommunication, their friends and relatives entreat them with tears in their eyes, others offer money and maids if they will consent to give up the idea of marrying a widow. Can flesh and blood resist these temptations? If some men wish to be true to their convictions, they must be prepared to suffer perpetual martyrdom. After marrying a widow they are sure to be cut off from all connection with society and friends, and even with their nearest relatives. In such a case no faithful Hindu would ever give them assistance if they were to fall in distress or become unable to earn their daily bread; they will be ridiculed by, and hated of, all men. How many people are there in the world who would make this 166

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tremendous sacrifice on the altar of conscience? The persecution to be endured by people who transgress established customs is so great that life becomes a burden. A few years ago a high-caste man in Cutch (Northwestern India) ventured to marry a widow, but to endure the persecution which ensued was beyond his power, and the wretched fellow was soon after found dead, having committed suicide. Re-marriage, therefore, is not available, nor would it be at all times desirable, as a mitigation of the sufferer’s lot. So, the poor, helpless high-caste widow with the one chance of ending her miseries in the Suttee rite taken away from her remains as in ages past with none to help her.

6.  How the condition of women tells upon society Those who have done their best to keep women in a state of complete dependence and ignorance, vehemently deny that this has anything to do with the present degradation of the Hindu nation. I pass over the hundreds of nonsenses which are brought forward as the strongest reasons for keeping women in ignorance and dependence. They have already been forced out into the broad day-light of a generous civilization, and have been put to the fiery proof of science and found wanting. Above all, the noble example of thousands of women in many countries have burned the so-called reasons to ashes. But their ghosts are still hovering over the land of the Hindus and are frightening the timid and the ignorant to death. Let us hope that in God’s good time, all these devils shall be forever cast out of India’s body; meanwhile it is our duty to take the matter into serious consideration, and to put forth our best endeavours to hasten the glad day for India’s daughters, aye, and for her sons also; because in spite of the proud assertions of our brethren that they have not suffered from the degradation of women, their own condition betrays but too plainly the contrary. Since men and women are indissolubly united by Providence as members of the same body of human society, each must suffer when their fellow-members suffer, whether they will confess it or not. In the animal as well as in the vegetable kingdom, nature demands that all living beings shall freely comply with its conditions of growth or they cannot become that which they were originally designed to be. Why should any exception to this law be made for the purdah women? Closely confined to the four walls of their house, deprived throughout their lives of the opportunity to breathe healthy fresh air, or to 167

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drink in the wholesome sunshine, they become weaker and weaker from generation to generation, their physical statures dwarfed, their spirits crushed under the weight of social prejudices and superstitions, and their minds starved from absolute lack of literary food and of opportunity to observe the world. Thus fettered, in ninety cases out of a hundred, at the least calculation, they grow to be selfish slaves to their petty individual interests, indifferent to the welfare of their own immediate neighbours, much more to their nation’s wellbeing. How could these imprisoned mothers be expected to bring forth children better than themselves, for as the tree and soil are, so shall the fruit be. Consequently we see all around us in India a generation of men least deserving that exalted appellation. The doctrine of ‘pre-natal influence’ can nowhere be more satisfactorily proved than in India. The mother’s spirits being depressed, and mind as well as body weakened by the monotony and inactivity of her life, the unborn child cannot escape the evil consequences. The men of Hindustan do not when babes, suck from the mother’s breast, true patriotism, and in their boyhood, the mother, poor woman, is unable to develop that divine faculty in them owing to her utter ignorance of the past and present condition of her native land. Fault-finding with neighbours, bitter feelings towards tyrant relatives expressed in words and actions, selfish interest in personal and family affairs, these are the chief lessons that children learn at the mother’s knee, from babyhood up to the seventh or eighth year of age. Again, how does it come to pass that each succeeding generation grows weaker than the one preceding it, if not because the progenitors of each generation lack the mental and physical strength which children are desired to inherit? The father may have been free and healthy in mind, as well as in body, but the mother was not; she undoubtedly has bequeathed the fatal legacy of weakness and dullness to her children. The complete submission of women under the Hindu law has in the lapse of millenniums of years converted them into slavery-loving creatures. They are glad to lean upon any one and be altogether dependent, and thus it has come to pass that their sons as a race, desire to depend upon some other nation, and not upon themselves. The seclusion, complete dependence and the absolute ignorance forced upon the mothers of our nation have been gradually and fatally telling upon the mental and physical health of the men, and in these last times they have borne the poisonous fruit that will compel the Hindu nation to die a miserable and prolonged death if a timely remedy is not taken to them. Moreover the Hindu woman’s ignorance prevents liberal-minded and progressive men from making necessary and important changes 168

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in the manners and habits of the household; bigoted women also prevent their husbands and sons from such important enterprises as crossing the ocean in the pursuit of useful knowledge, of for purposes of trade. To add to all the disabilities of the Hindu mother in the discharge of her sacred maternal duties, she is, as a rule, wholly ignorant of the commonest hygienic laws. It must be remembered that she is herself a girl scarcely out of her babyhood, when she becomes a mother. At about 14, 15 or 16 years of age she cannot be expected to know all that is necessary in order to take good care of her child. The first and second of the children of this young mother usually die, and if they survive, they are apt to grow up to be weak and unhealthy adults. Until they are seven or eight years of age, the children of the household are left to themselves without any one to take care of them, and no influence is exerted to mould their character at this most interesting and important period of life. Who but an intelligent and loving mother can do this all-important work for her children at that age? Having thus far endeavoured to bring to the notice of Western women the condition of a class of their oriental sisters, I now desire to direct their attention definitely to our chief needs. After many years of careful observation and thought, I have come to the conclusion that the chief needs of high-caste Hindu women are: 1st, Self-Reliance; 2nd, Education; 3rd, Native Women Teachers. I. Self-Reliance. The state of complete dependence in which men are required by the law-giver to keep women from birth to the end of their lives makes it impossible for them to have self-reliance without which a human being becomes a pitiful parasite. Women of the working classes are better off than their sisters of high castes in India, for in many cases they are obliged to depend upon themselves, and an opportunity for cultivating self-reliance is thus afforded them by which they largely profit. But high-caste women, unless their families are actually destitute of means to keep them, are shut up within the four walls of their house. In after-time, if they are left without a protector, i.e., a male relative to support and care for them, they literally do not know what to do with themselves. They have been so cruelly cropped in their early days that self-reliance and energy are dead within them; helpless victims of indolence and false timidity they are easily frightened out of their wits and have little or no strength to withstand the trials and difficulties which must be encountered by a person on her way toward progress. But it is idle to hope that the condition of my country-women will ever improve without individual self-reliance; therefore, is it not the duty of our Western sisters to teach them how they may become self-reliant? 169

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II. Education. The lack of education among the women of India can be fairly realised by scanning the report of the Educational Commission for 1883, and the census returns of 1880–81. Of the ninety-nine million seven hundred thousand women and girls directly under British rule, 99,500,000 are returned as unable to read and write; the remaining 200,000 who are able either to read or write cannot all be reckoned as educated, for the school-going period of a girl is generally between seven and nine years of age; within that short time she acquires little more than ability to read the second or the third vernacular reading-book, and a little knowledge of arithmetic which usually comprehends no more than the four simple rules. It should be remembered that the 200,000 women able to read or write are the ‘alumnae’ of the government schools, mission schools, private schools conducted by the inhabitants of India independently, private societies and Zenana mission agencies all reckoned together. It is surprising how even this small number of women can have acquired the limited knowledge indicated, when we consider the powers and principalities that are incessantly fighting against female education in India. Girls of nine and 10 when recently out of school and given in marriage are wholly cut off from reading or writing, because it is a shame for a young woman or girl to hold a paper or book in her hand, or to read in the presence of others in her husband’s house. It is a popular belief among high-caste women that their husbands will die if they should read or should hold a pen in their fingers. The fear of becoming a widow overcomes their hunger and thirst for knowledge. Moreover the little wives can get but scanty time to devote to self-culture; any one fortunate enough to possess the desire and able to command the time is in constant fear of being seen by her husband’s relatives. Her employment cannot long be kept secret where everyone is on the lookout, and when discovered she is ridiculed, laughed at and even commanded by the elders to leave off this nonsense. Her literary pursuits are now at an end unless the proceedings of the elders be interfered with by her progressive husband; but alas, such husbands are extremely rare. Our schools, too, are not very attractive to children; the teachers of primary schools, (and it is to these schools that girls are usually sent), are but nominally educated, and do not know how to make the lessons interesting for children. Consequently a great many of the girls who have been educated up to the second or third standard (grade) in these primary schools make it their business quickly to forget their lessons as soon as they find an opportunity. Shut in from the world and destitute of the ability to engage in newspaper and useful book-reading, they have little or no knowledge of common 170

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things around them, and of the most important events that are daily occurring in their own or foreign lands. Ignorant, unpatriotic, selfish and uncultivated, they drag the men down with them into the dark abyss where they dwell together without hope, without ambition to be something or to do something in the world. III. Native Women Teachers. American and English women as Zenana missionaries are doing all they can to elevate and enlighten India’s daughters. These good people deserve respect and praise from all, and the heart-felt thanks of those for whose elevation they toil, but the disabilities of an unfriendly climate, and of an unknown tongue make it exceedingly difficult for them to enter upon their work for some time after reaching India; and then, ‘what are these among so many?’ They are literally lost among the nearly one hundred millions of women under British rule to whom must be added several millions more under Hindu and Mahomedan rule. In America and in England we hear encouraging reports from mission fields, which state that a few thousand Hindu and Mahomedan women and girls are being instructed in schools or in their own homes, but these seem as nothing, compared to the vast multitude of the female population of Hindustan. In a country where castes and the seclusion of women are regarded as essential tenets of the national creed, we can scarcely hope for a general spread of useful knowledge among women, through either men of their own race or through foreign women. All experience in the past history of mankind has shown that efforts for the elevation of a nation must come from within and work outward to be effectual. The one thing needful, therefore, for the general diffusion of education among women in India is a body of persons from among themselves who shall make it their life-work to teach by precept and example their fellow-countrywomen.

7. The appeal In the preceding chapter I have tried to tell my readers briefly the sad story of my countrywomen, and also to bring to their notice what are our chief needs. We, the women of India, are hungering and thirsting for knowledge; only education under God’s grace, can give us the needful strength to rise up from our degraded condition. Our most pressing want and one which must immediately be met is women-teachers of our own nationality. How can these womenteachers be supplied? I have long been thinking over this matter and now I am prepared to give [an] answer. [. . .] 171

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Again, according to the census of 1881 there were in India 20,936,626 widows, of all ages and castes. Among these were 669,100 under 19 years of age, viz.: Under nine years of age

 78,976

From 10 to 14 years of age

207,388

From 15 to 19 years of age

382,736 ——––— 669,100

Girls of nine and 10, or 13 years of age, whose betrothed husbands are dead, are virgin widows, and these, if of high-caste families, must remain single throughout life. Now if there were suitable educational institutions where young widows who might wish to be independent of their relatives and make an honest living for themselves might go to be instructed in useful handiwork, and educated for teachers, many horrid occurrences might be prevented, and at the same time these widows would prove a welcome blessing to their countrywomen. But alas! institutions have not been founded anywhere in India where high-caste widows can receive shelter and education. [. . .] Is there then no way of helping and educating these high-caste widows? Can none of these obstacles be removed from their path? Yes! they can be removed, and the course which in my judgment can most advantageously be taken in order to succour the widows and the women of India in general, may be stated as follows: I Houses should be opened for the young and high-caste childwidows where they can take shelter without the fear of losing their caste, or of being disturbed in their religious belief and where they may have entire freedom of action as relates to caste-rules, such as cooking of food, etc., provided they do not violate the rules or disturb the peace of the house wherein they have taken up their abode. II In order to help them make an honourable and independent living, they should be taught in these houses to be teachers, governesses, nurses and housekeepers, and should become skilled in other forms of hand-work [sic], according to their taste and capacity. III These houses should be under the superintendence and management of influential Hindu ladies and gentlemen, who should 172

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be pledged to make each house a happy home and an instructive institution for those who seek its opportunities. IV The services of well-qualified American ladies as assistants and teachers should be secured in order to afford the occupants of the houses the combined advantage of Eastern and Western civilization and education. V Libraries containing the best books on history, science, art, religions and other departments of literature should be established in these houses for the benefit of their inmates and of other women in their vicinity who may wish to read. Lectureships should also be established in the libraries, and the lecturers should be engaged with the distinct understanding that they do not speak irreverently of any religion or sacred custom while lecturing in that house or library; the lecturers should embrace in their topics, hygiene, geography, elementary science, foreign travel, etc., and the lectures should be designed primarily to open the eyes and ears of those who long have dwelt in the prison-house of ignorance, knowing literally nothing of God’s beautiful world. It is my intention after my return home (which I trust may be within a year from this time) to establish at least one such institution. I am fully aware of the great responsibility the trial – and it may be the failure – will involve; but as someone must make a beginning, I am resolved to try, trusting that God, who knows the need of my country-women, will raise up able workers to forward this cause, whether I succeed in it or not. The great majority of my country-people being most bitterly opposed to the education of women, there is little hope of my getting from them either good words or pecuniary aid. For the present it is useless to reason with high-caste Hindu gentlemen concerning this matter; they only ridicule the proposal or silently ignore it. There are some among them who would certainly approve and would help to carry the idea into effect, but they must first realize its advantage and see its good results. One must have the power of performing miracles to induce this class of men to receive the gospel of society’s well-being through the elevation of woman. Such a miracle, I have faith to believe, will be performed in India before the end of the next ten years, and if this be true, the enterprise will prove self-supporting after that period with only native aid. There is even now a handful of Hindus, entertaining progressive ideas, who are doing all they can to reform the religious and social customs of Hindustan and who 173

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will, without doubt, support my work from the beginning; but they have little with which to forward the cause except their personal services. An institution of the kind indicated, where the pupils must be ­supported and the foreign teachers liberally paid for their services, cannot be founded and afterwards kept in a flourishing condition without money. Therefore I invite all good women and men of the United States to give me their help liberally in whatever way they may be able for a period of about ten years; it is my solemn belief that it is the most sacred duty of those who dwell in this highly-favoured land to bestow freely talents of whatever kind they may possess to help forward this educational movement. I venture to make this appeal because I believe that those, who regard the preaching of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to the heathen so important as to spend in its accomplishment millions of money [sic] and hundreds of valuable lives, will deem it of the first importance to prepare the way for the spread of the gospel by throwing open the locked doors of the Indian zenanas, which cannot be done safely without giving suitable education to the women, whereby they will be able to bear the dazzling light of the outer world and the perilous blasts of social persecution. Mothers and fathers, compare the condition of your own sweet darlings at your happy fire-sides with that of millions of little girls of a corresponding age in India, who have already been sacrificed on the unholy altar of an inhuman social custom, and then ask yourselves whether you can stop short of doing something to rescue the little widows from the hands of their tormentors. Millions of heart-rending cries are daily rising from within the stony walls of Indian zenanas; thousands of child-widows are annually dying without a ray of hope to cheer their hearts, and other thousands are daily being crushed under a fearful weight of sin and shame, with no one to prevent their ruin by providing for them a better way. Will you not, all of you who read this book, think of these, my countrywomen, and rise, moved by a common impulse, to free them from life-long slavery and infernal misery? I beg you, friends and benefactors, educators and philanthropists, all who have any interest in or compassion for your fellow-creatures, let the cry of India’s daughters, feeble though it be, reach your ears and stir your hearts. In the name of humanity, in the name of your sacred responsibilities as workers in the cause of humanity, and, above all, in the most holy name of god, I summon you, true women and men of America, to bestow your help quickly, regardless of nation, caste or creed. 174

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Notes 1 In abridging the text, the ‘In Memoriam’ to Anandibai Joshee has been omitted. Here as in Ramabai’s other English texts, the American spelling has been changed to British English, and figures in words have been rendered in numerals. M.K. 2 The translation of the sacred texts quoted throughout this work are those found in the well-known Sacred Books of the East, edited by Prof. Max Mueller, Clarendon Press, Oxford. P.R. 3 A man aged thirty years shall marry a maiden of twelve who pleases him, or a man of twenty-four a girl of eight years of age.—Manu, ix, 94. P.R. 4 This episode describes Ramabai’s own parents’ marriage at Paithan, as mentioned earlier. M.K. 5 This refers to Ramabai’s older sister Krishnabai. M.K. 6 For the Rakhmabai case and controversy, see Kosambi, Crossing Thresholds, pp. 237–73. M.K. 7 This refers to the custom of ‘niyoga’. M.K.

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5 RETURN TO MAHARASHTRA Sharada Sadan

Having reached her native shores on 1 February 1889 after an absence of six years, Ramabai settled down in Mumbai with Manorama. On 11 March 1889, after speedy consultations with her old friends and supporters, she opened ‘Sharada Sadan’, or Home of Learning, a residential school for upper caste women, primarily widows.1 That she elicited reformist support and escaped social ostracism can be attributed partly to her continuous contact with public leaders in Maharashtra through letters and partly to her massive fundraising in the USA (with a pledge of $5,000 or Rs 15,000 per year for 10 years) for an ambitious venture which would introduce a paradigm shift in the project of women’s emancipation. All this had created a wave of genuine good will for her. Sharada Sadan’s glittering inaugural function and the presence of a galaxy of Indian social reformers and British sympathizers generated a great deal of newspaper publicity in Mumbai and Pune. Significantly, Ramabai signalled the feminist and nationalist nature of her project by appointing Kashibai Kanitkar, still a budding Marathi writer, to preside over the function, rather than a renowned public man or a British woman. Ramabai herself made a speech outlining the history of the project, its aims and its secular character. Speeches were also made by Justice K. T. Telang and Rao Saheb V. A. Modak, as reported by Mumbai’s liberal Anglo-Marathi paper, Indu-Prakash (18 March 1889). The ambitious and ideologically revolutionary venture underscored Ramabai’s enterprising spirit, organizational capability and nationalist credentials. It also generated excitement in which her change of religion was at least temporarily forgotten if not forgiven. A certain ambivalence predictably surfaced in newspapers. Embedded within a generally positive article by Indu-Prakash (4 March 1889) was a note of caution that Ramabai’s conversion to Christianity might create obstacles and slow down her progress by creating doubt in the minds of Hindu widows wishing to seek shelter in the Sadan. The conservative Kesari (12 February 1889) seemed

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Plate 8 Sharada Sadan group, c. 1890. Seated on chairs: Manorama and Ramabai (centre), Godubai (later Anandibai Karve, extreme left) and Miss Hamlin (fourth from right).

to have called a temporary truce and astonishingly extended fulsome praise to Ramabai: It is a marvellous deed to collect thousands of rupees in a foreign land by begging on behalf of people of an alien religion and of alien tradition and customs. The fact that this was accomplished by a weak, unsupported woman through her firm resolve, courteousness, and other laudable traits makes us pity our menfolk, and also makes us feel proud that such an extraordinary woman was born in our midst. By our misfortune she has been somewhat alienated through her religious conversion, which is sad indeed.2 Kesari retained its excitement for a few months, having seemingly overcome – at least temporarily – its anger for Ramabai’s perceived ‘betrayal’. The paper even argued (on 28 May 1889) that: Today our society is in great need of women like Panditabai. Her pure conduct, mature thinking and deeply ingrained concern for the uplift of her compatriots will impress upon the minds of our people the beneficial effects of good education, as no other circumstance, institution, or effort will. It is our misfortune that Panditabai has changed her religion. But it will not be proper to

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dissociate from her for this reason alone. It is to her credit that she did not discard her patriotism along with her religion. It is obvious from her conduct thus far and from the thoughts she has expressed in public that she has not undertaken this task for the propagation of Christianity. Therefore it will be self-destructive to harbour suspicions about her, keep a distance from her, and refuse to help her cause. All the leading social reformers of the Bombay Presidency supported the Sadan; many served on its advisory board. The general reaction was captured by the Kesari’s optimistic prophesy (12 February 1889): ‘If her conduct remains straightforward, people will shortly develop trust in her.’ *

Sharada Sadan’s immediate inauguration after Ramabai’s arrival would seem highly surprising because, in addition to the negative repercussions of her having ‘lost caste’, doubts had been expressed more than a year earlier by public leaders about the feasibility of an ‘asylum’ for women. Such a project had already been discursively questioned and almost vetoed in a public correspondence among a circle of liberal Indians and Englishmen through The Times of London and reproduced in The Times of India. The impulse came from Max Mueller’s letter to The Times (22 August 1887) about the Rakhmabai case, in which he also cited HCHW. He commented on the Hindu practice of child marriage and resultantly the large number of young widows: the 1881 Census of India had recorded 78, 976 widows under the age of nine, 207,388 under 14, and 382,736 under 19. Bemoaning the enforced celibacy of these widows who were ‘treated as lepers’, were ‘goaded into suicide or infamy’ and had ‘no idea what happiness in life means’, he suggested deploying British funds for a residential school for child widows. The flood of prompt responses included one from Justice Scott, then in Britain on furlough, who considered the scheme both unnecessary and impractical (The Times, 24 August 1887). This was proven to him by a recent meeting in Mumbai of about 20 ‘leading natives’ and three Europeans. The conclusions were that such an institution run by Europeans would be strongly opposed; it would be misused by many Indian families ‘only too glad to get rid of the expense and burden of their child widows’; most families would be deterred by the mingling of castes and breach of caste rules, and by the ‘inevitability’ of widow re-marriage (although the logic was not explained). Therefore the institution would be useful only for widows subjected to ill treatment – and this was rare. The difference between ‘ill treatment’ of widows and the accepted – albeit 178

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oppressive – conventional treatment of them was perhaps not recognized. The only solution seemed to be to support and broaden the scope of private initiatives, like the one by an (unnamed) enlightened and benevolent ‘Hindoo gentleman’ of Mumbai who had already sheltered destitute widows in his house. A more balanced and reasonable argument was advanced by N. G. Chandavarkar (The Times of India, 14 September 1887). By clearly stating that ‘the lot of the Hindoo widow needs to be greatly ameliorated’, he exposed those who were in denial on the issue. But the usefulness of such an ‘asylum’ remained a vexed question. Chandavarkar admitted that initially it would attract only a small number of widows because of the strong orthodox prejudice and consequent attempts to discredit its objectives. In other words, an alternative ‘home’ for women was a risky proposition; the very idea of allowing women to leave the strict family supervision and control was unthinkable because most men harboured moral anxiety on this score. Additionally, widows even from oppressed homes would be unwilling to go to an unknown place and live among strangers. His proposed solution was to slowly create public awareness through a committee of liberals and carve out an ideological space for such an institution first. Other letters followed. While this Indo-British discourse was in progress, the Ramabai Association was already being planned, to be founded at Boston in December 1887. A little more than a year later Sharada Sadan was opened. Its first annual report gives interesting details. ‘The Ramabai Association’ had been incorporated in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts ‘for the purpose of assisting in the education of child widows in India’ and was to be ‘entirely unsectarian in character’.3 The ambiguity about the latter issue surfaced in the statement of the Reverend George Gordon, one of the Association’s vice presidents: the Sadan’s objective was ‘simply to bring an educated, an emancipated life, according to the Christian conception, to the degraded and suffering souls in India; to bring a life of Christian freedom and power and joy to those who are without it’. Thus the institution was above denominational or sectarian differences, but definitely a Christian one because of the ingrained equation of ‘emancipation’ with Christianity, coupled with the binary between Western and non-Western to coincide with the binary between freedom and oppression. The Reverend Mr Hazen, not an office-bearer, but a missionary who had several years’ experience in India, added that Hinduism (i.e. Indianness) and Christianity could coexist in the life of a person. ‘As the influence of Christianity is brought to bear, it will crowd out superstition’ without external interference. Mr Hazen also argued that ‘superstition will disappear before the light of Christianity, just as false ideas of astronomy have disappeared before the light of science’.4 But this was expected not to interfere with Indian nationalism. Thus Judith Andrews, chair of 179

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the executive committee, claimed that Ramabai left India a Hindu (i.e. Indian) and ‘returned a Christian, but none the less a Hindu, a true and loyal Hindu’.5 Judith Andrews’s comprehensive report clarifies crucial points: that by ‘upper castes’ Ramabai meant the three upper varnas from which Sharada Sadan could receive girls;6 and that Ramabai had permission to enrol nonwidow pupils, until a full complement of widows could be enrolled.7 In December 1889 Miss Sarah Hamlin from San Francisco (who was trained in Boston to help Ramabai) arrived in Mumbai and decided to live in the Sadan ‘with natives’ (while Miss Demmon, the teacher, lived outside); she was to play a complex role in the Sadan’s future.8 Hamlin shared with Andrews her appreciation of the magical effect that Ramabai’s little touches of affection had on the girls. Indians being undemonstrative in public, being caressed was a new experience, especially to the widows. When they saw Ramabai giving Mano a good-night kiss, they wanted one too. This affectionate treatment, combined with education and a new social conditioning, was to transform their lives. At the time of Hamlin’s arrival, the nine-month-old Sadan already had 25 girls, including 10 widows: 15 of these were boarders. The Association had an income of $36,285 or Rs 108,855 contributed by 57 Ramabai Circles in the USA and Canada and by individual members. The outreach of Ramabai’s movement in North America was unimaginably vast, considering that by 1894 the number of Ramabai circles increased to 75.9 The panel of officers for 1889–90 listed a president, five vice presidents (including Frances Willard), ten trustees including (Mrs Quincy Shaw), a treasurer, an executive committee of nine (including Judith Andrews and Sarah Hamlin) and two secretaries. Pandita Ramabai was named principal of Sharada Sadan as well a member of the advisory board in Mumbai which also had seven illustrious citizens: Dr Atmaram Tarkhad, Dr V. A. Modak, K. T. Telang, N. G. Chandavarkar, Dr S. V. Kane, S. P. Kelkar and R. V. Madgaonkar.10 The advisory board in Pune had Dr R. G. Bhandarkar, M. G. Ranade and (‘Lokahitavadi’) G. H. Deshmukh. *

Notices about the Sadan’s objectives were placed in all the leading newspapers at least in Mumbai and Pune. Thus the Sadan’s agenda wrought a paradigm shift in the reform discourse with its objective of empowering women with education, vocational training and, even more importantly, alternative shelter outside the confines of frequently oppressive homes. The venture sought to liberate women – mainly the ‘despised’ widows – from narrow domesticity and usher 180

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them into the public sphere as educated, useful, income-earning members of society. This potential for women’s empowerment and possibly even gender equality posed a clear threat to the existing patriarchal structures of authority. Arguably it was a glimmer of this possibility – however remote – that hastened the gradually growing opposition to Ramabai and the Sadan. The Sadan’s first widow pupil Godubai Natu (nicknamed Baya, and renamed Anandibai Karve after her remarriage) figured prominently in the institution’s early history. She was a Brahmin child widow who had lived in rural Konkan first with her parents and then parents-in-law who ritually disfigured her in adulthood. She was brought to Mumbai by her older brother who studied there, mainly to help with the housework, his wife having died recently. As a partial reformer, he also wanted to educate her – which the newly opened Sadan rendered feasible (although she was over the stipulated age limit of 21). But Godubai found it difficult to manage housework and studies, and Ramabai arranged monetary compensation for her brother who then allowed her to stay at the Sadan.11 This was a time when young women’s formal schooling was considered hazardous even in a relatively progressive, cosmopolitan city like Mumbai. A great deal of unpleasantness attended Godubai’s daily walks to and from the Sadan as a day pupil through the largely Maharashtrian locality of Girgaum, dressed like a Brahmin widow in the mandatory maroon sari with its loose end completely covering her shaven head (Plate 8), and escorted by the Sadan’s peon. People thronged their balconies to see the ‘spectacle’. The local mindset had obviously not changed much during the ten years since Anandibai Joshee had encountered worse harassment while walking to school alone in the same locality, as mentioned earlier. Ramabai conveyed some of the day pupils from their homes to school and back in ‘a hooded carriage drawn by bullocks’ and accompanied by a peon for greater safety, as recollected years later by the son of a former pupil.12 The principle of religious neutrality and freedom was strictly followed within the Sadan, in that the Hindu girls could privately do their own worship ritual. Ramabai claimed the same liberty for herself. She said her daily prayers with Manorama in her room, during which her door remained open as always. Whether she was walking a tightrope and the open door was a strategy for indirectly inviting and influencing her pupils is not certain. Predictably some of the girls came in to listen and were impressed enough to stay. Soon it appeared – at least to Ramabai’s eager mind – that Godubai was on the verge of accepting Christianity. Two other widows saw Godubai praying with Ramabai and decided to join them. Ramabai wrote to Geraldine in 1889 that although Godubai was of legal age and could make her own decisions, she could not ‘bear the idea of hurting her parents’ feelings by embracing Christianity openly. I do not urge upon her . . . I have left the work of her and others’ conversion in the hands of God’.13 181

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Ultimately Godubai did not convert, nor does she mention such a possibility in her autobiography.14 The question resolved itself when she accepted a proposal of marriage from D. K. Karve; they were married at Pune (and her first name changed to Anandibai) on 11 March 1893 which marked the Sadan’s fourth anniversary. Incidentally remarriage may have solved some problems for Godubai but created others. Her self-narrative describes the various degrees of ostracism the couple had to face, the death threats received by Karve and his paradoxical attempt to keep his ‘remarried’ and therefore permanently ‘polluted’ wife away from his Widows’ Home lest she arouse doubts in the minds of conservative guardians that remarriage was the institution’s agenda. *

Ramabai’s early letters to Sister Geraldine about the Sadan provide a number of short sketches of the lives of the Sadan’s pupils. For several years, a series of such ‘widowhood narratives’ routinely appeared in Ramabai’s letters to friends in England, annual reports to the Ramabai Association of Boston and also circular letters to Christian institutions. They were variations on the core theme of a girl married in childhood, widowed early (sometimes after a spell of happiness with a loving husband), then harassed and battered by in-laws almost driving her to suicide and finally helped by friends to escape to the Sadan and enjoy a meaningful life. Thus far the plight of widows had been sketched in heart-rending words by many social reformers and also by prominent Marathi novelists, both Hindu and Christian.15 But the use of widows’ stories – at times as first-person narratives – for ethnographic documentation to validate the need for a special shelter for them was Ramabai’s innovation. She brought alive these tragedies by succinctly sketching the rich details of each case and making her readers feel their palpable presence. Now ensconced in the region’s – and the country’s – social and political life, Ramabai participated vigorously in both. She even breached the male bastion of the freedom struggle by leading a delegation of four women (including Kashibai Kanitkar) from the Bombay Presidency to the fifth annual session of the Indian National Congress, held in Mumbai in December 1889. She then made her presence felt at the Third National Social Conference (held in tandem with the fifth Congress session).16 One of the Conference resolutions opposed the disfigurement of widows by shaving their heads, and in her speech Ramabai emphasized the coercion practised by the widows’ families, and the one-sidedness of the custom because no widower was willing to bear this perpetual sign of mourning. Her final comment, received with ‘loud and prolonged cheers’, was: ‘If [men] came to the conclusion not to disfigure their widows, they might perhaps find that their 182

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women, like the Spartan women of old, were ready to cut their hair, and give it to their husbands for their bow strings in time of need.’17 Meanwhile Ramabai’s American travelogue-journal, USLP, had been hastily published in December 1889 so as to be available to the delegates of the Congress session in Mumbai, as mentioned earlier. By then she had delivered several lectures on her USA visit and especially about the position of women there. These were widely reported in the Marathi press, especially in Kesari and the Marathi section of Dnyanodaya, in August 1889. The latter made a particular mention of Ramabai’s emphasis on social equality, unity and nationalism in the USA which transcended class/caste loyalties, and the high status of American women in the USA, with quotes.18 The reception accorded to her lectures in Pune was uneven. On one occasion when she had made a trip to the city from Mumbai, a certain section of Pune’ society openly aired its intolerant opposition in an uncivilized manner, according to G. G. Agarkar’s editorial in Sudharak.19 Young men in this so-called Home of Learning (as Pune has been known) heckled her with obscene comments which elicited indulgent laughter from their elders. Agarkar bemoaned that ‘such arrogance and shamelessness’ could not be eradicated as long as women were not respected or admired for their extraordinary qualities and while they were regarded ‘as instruments of reproduction and as slaves’.20 He also attributes such conduct to the encouragement and justification provided by certain (unnamed but easily identifiable) newspapers. The Arya Mahila Samaj also remained active, and its meetings were held at Sharada Sadan before it moved to Pune in November 1890. In 1890– 91 Ramabai tried to mobilize support for the Age of Consent Bill. The bill sought to raise the minimum legal age limit for girls as regards sexual intercourse (within or outside marriage) from 10 to 12 years; a violation of the age limit would constitute the crime of rape.21 It encountered a great deal of opposition in the Bombay Presidency where the reformist initiative had been launched, and also elsewhere in the subcontinent. The strongest argument from orthodox Brahmins was that the shastric injunction to consummate marriage within 16 days of the bride’s reaching puberty would be violated by the bill, should this occur before she was 12. The dilemma of the husband in such cases was posed succinctly as a choice between ‘going to hell or going to jail’. The reformist rejoinder underplayed the importance of this rule and pointed out the many other prevalent infractions which went unnoticed and unpunished. Ramabai garnered support for the bill from the Arya Mahila Samaj and collected signatures for a petition to be placed before the Viceroy’s Council in Calcutta. An English report in Indu-Prakash (2 March 1891) gave a sympathetic account of Ramabai’s touching plea to the members to help end ‘this inhuman long-standing atrocious custom, and thus save from 183

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misery and woe thousands of their hapless sisters and daughters . . . for “the question concerns our most vital interests rather than that of men” ’. Predictably, Kesari, which opposed the bill and by this time Ramabai as well, disapprovingly claimed (on 24 February 1891) that she tried to justify the Samaj’s existence by debating the issue. When asked whether any woman present would be willing to send her own son-in-law to jail for the ‘crime’ of early consummation of marriage, Ramabai had returned the seemingly unthinkable reply that ‘a son-in-law is not more important than a daughter’. Meanwhile personal harassment of Ramabai continued. In July 1891, the sensationalist newspaper, Pune-Vaibhav, published a report that Gopalrao Joshee, the late Dr Anandibai’s husband, who had just converted to Christianity intended to marry Ramabai.22 She sued the paper for defamation and was supported by an array of witnesses including C. N. Bhat, R. G. Bhandarkar and G. G. Agarkar, the Reverend Fox and Mr. Kirkham, and represented by renowned lawyers. Pune-Vaibhav was represented by B. G. Tilak and others. The magistrate ruled that it was a case not of libel but of harassment, and should be settled out of court. Accordingly the paper was compelled to tender an unconditional apology.23 *

Ramabai had slid comfortably into her old niche in the progressive Brahmin circles of Maharashtra and remained distant from the Indian Christian community. Ironically, while the reformist Hindus criticized her unnecessary exit from the Hindu fold, the local Christians challenged her religious credentials: both factions questioned the precise nature of her Christian belief. She offered a clarification in a long Marathi letter addressed to the editor of Subodha Patrika.24 It was quickly reproduced in Dnyanodaya (25 April, 2 May and 16 May 1889). This was Ramabai’s exhaustive and final answer to the oft-asked question as to why she converted and whether baptism was essential to proclaim her private acceptance of her new faith at the risk of alienating mainstream society and reducing her usefulness. Ramabai claimed that while the Hindu and other scriptures contain many great precepts, she found the teaching of Christ, as expressed in the Sermon on the Mount, ‘the most superior of all, most profound, and a veritable treasury of all the truths in the world’. Its precepts are ‘flawless, because they are endorsed by the testimony of the indwelling spirit’, while the Bible as a whole is flawed by various interpolations. She explained the need for the ritual of baptism because rituals were associated with all faiths, as for example, a Prarthana Samajist gave up the sacred thread, signed a register and attended Sunday services. Thus baptism is a touchstone to test the 184

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sincerity of one’s belief. As for her reason for being non-denominational: ‘When one can obtain as much nectar-like water as one wants from Christ, that fresh-water spring of True Religion, it is not at all necessary to get it from taps or pipes of difficult, abstruse, and impure precepts or denominations.’ This predictably drew a rejoinder from the Indian Christian community. The most unsympathetic and even hostile response was authored by the Reverend Baba Padmanji who wrote in Marathi under the pen-name ‘Khristadas’, or ‘Servant of Christ’. He first complained that Ramabai had communicated her religious beliefs not to Christian newspapers or Christian friends, but to Hindu newspapers. Then he targeted her selective and subjective acceptance of Christianity: It is tragic that after spending so many years in England and America, Ramabai has brought with her such a squeezed-out residue of religion. Panditabai has thrown away nectar and collected water already used for cooking, discarded the philosopher’s stone and put an ordinary stone in her bag.25 Khristadas also pointed to the ‘vast difference and disparity in her Faith and the Faith we Christians hold’: Ramabai rejected the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and Resurrection, the miracles performed by Christ, the belief that Christ died for the sins of others and that those who did not accept Christianity went to eternal hell. Also, she only accepted the teachings of Christ, as laid down in the Sermon of the Mount. He further challenged Ramabai to prove that the Sermon itself was not one of the spurious portions which she claimed that the Bible was full of.26 Ramabai was not without sympathizers in this community, however; some advised tolerance because she was a neophyte and lacked a long experience of Christian life.27 What also rankled was Ramabai’s perceived social distance from the Indian Christian community. As Khristadas remarked: ‘From the beginning this lady has been drawn to the Theists. She has among them her “dear brothers” and “dear sisters”; it would be difficult to find her having such close relatives among us, the Native Protestant Christians’.28 An episode that aggravated the feeling of Ramabai’s affinity with uppercaste Hindus was her purana-based talk in a temple, reported by Dnyanodaya. The context was Ramabai’s visit to Solapur in early July 1889 to deliver lectures on women’s education and other reform issues, at meetings presided over by Svarnakumari Devi, sister of Satyendra Nath Tagore, Sessions Judge of Solapur District. For the benefit of the women in the nearby town of Barsi, unused to attending lectures, Ramabai narrated a purana in a Hindu temple one day, using it as a point of departure for a reformist talk 185

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in her usual style. This drew a critical comment from the Marathi editors of Dnyanodaya (11 July 1889) and also an anonymous letter signed Laksha (which means ‘attention’, while ‘lakshya’ means a target or aim; both senses are implied here). The letter censured Ramabai for her ‘improper act’ of narrating a Hindu purana in a Hindu temple, and speculated that she would not hesitate to read the Koran in a Muslim mosque if invited to do so. The writer was obviously a former Brahmin, judging by his familiarity with the rituals associated with purana recitals. Incidentally many of Ramabai’s critics wrote anonymously or pseudonymously; she is not known to have ever done so. Ramabai answered good-humouredly, first denying any impropriety in reaching out to illiterate women with a reformist message via the only medium they were familiar with, and then offering to take up the challenge of reciting a purana in a temple and the Koran in a mosque, provided the two communities agreed to open their doors to her and listen to her talks.29 ‘Laksha’ continued his attack (Dnyanodaya, 1 August 1889), interrogating Ramabai’s preference to address only high-caste Hindu women and not low-caste ones, claiming that as a Christian she should have discarded belief in the caste hierarchy. He also alleged an obvious bias in favour of the rich in the company she kept. Another cause for Christian opposition was Sharada Sadan’s general approach: Ramabai had appealed to only Hindu and not Christian guardians to send their daughters there.30 Also critiqued in Dnyanodaya (in English, 18 June 1891) was Ramabai’s secular policy which would make Hindus suspect her of secret proselytization and Christians ‘blame her for hiding her light under a bushel’. An overtly Christian Home would be far better ‘for the Pandita, and better for the widows of India’. Thus while the Hindu society’s response to Ramabai and Sharada Sadan gradually progressed from warm support to hostile opposition, the Christian community’s reaction was equal and opposite. Interestingly this paradox was played out in the USA as well. The Reverend E. E. Hale, president of the Ramabai Association, said in his address in March 1892 that in the USA the Association was attacked for ‘being unchristian’ and for ­supporting Ramabai’s secular school, while in India it was attacked for ­supporting a Christian institution which inculcated Christianity among the Sadan’s pupils.31 *

Ramabai moved Sharada Sadan to Pune in November 1890 in order to reduce expenses and reach needy widows in the orthodox heartland of Maharashtra. The Bombay Advisory Board opposed the move, but Sarah Hamlin strongly supported it and assiduously cultivated the Pune elite. She 186

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also appointed a Managing Committee whose role seemed questionable: it tried to make the Sadan ‘strictly Hindu’ and Ramabai herself was forbidden to enter the kitchen and dining room when orthodox girls were having their meals. This committee was dissolved in August 1891.32 Although the annual reports of the Ramabai Association had only praise for Hamlin, after her return home shortly afterwards, she seems to have disappeared from the committees of the Ramabai Association. The gradual shift in the response of Pune’s educated Brahmin community to the Sadan makes for dramatic reading. Its initial support, voiced by Kesari (28 May 1889), had been unconditional: Our society today greatly needs women like Pandita Ramabai. The beneficial effects of good education will be more firmly imprinted on people’s minds through her mature thinking and zeal for the uplift of her countrymen than through any other institution or through other efforts. But the irreconcilable tension embedded into the very core of the Sadan’s religious neutrality was bound to surface soon. Rumblings, already heard in Mumbai, were magnified in Pune. Ramabai herself had shared with Dr Bodley her plan to place the sacred books of Hinduism and Christianity side by side on the shelves of her school library, and ‘for the rest, earnestly pray that God will guide them to His saving truth’.33 In Pune special steps were taken to win the support of Pune’s influential Brahmin leaders. On behalf of the Advisory Committee, Rao Bahadur Nulkar invited a few eminent citizens for a visit to inspect the Sadan’s residential and educational arrangements. The immediate impression seemed favourable, but hostile voices began to be heard almost at once. Surprisingly it was Sarah Hamlin who insinuated into the discourse the idea of Ramabai’s violation of the pledge of religious neutrality by leaving her door open during her private prayers, claiming that this amounted to ‘religious instruction’. According to Ramabai, ‘No one would have thought it so but for the suggestion of Miss Hamlin’.34 This casts doubt over Hamlin’s role in the controversy and her true feelings about Ramabai, despite the Association’s numerous references to her loyalty to Ramabai. Perhaps this stemmed from cultural prejudice. While still in Mumbai, Hamlin had taken the liberty (in August 1890) to complain to Geraldine – whom she did not know personally – about Ramabai’s Indian upbringing of Mano which she perceived to be shockingly faulty: I cannot tell you how strongly I wish Mano could have been left under your influence and that of the noble Sisterhood surrounding you, and have not infrequently said so to her mother, but Ramabai, 187

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with grateful appreciation for all your kindness to her, maintains that Mano is best with her own people.35 A year earlier Sister Eleanor had expressed herself more bluntly in reporting to Geraldine the news gathered during Dr Ryder’s brief visit from Mumbai that: Mano is as dirty as a little pig, hair cut short, only one garment, a frock often open behind, sits on the floor, eats with her fingers. Ramabai erroneously thinks she is doing right in making her like the common Hindoos . . .36 But the real problem created by Hamlin seems to have been the interpretation of ‘religious neutrality’. If Ramabai sought to stretch it in one direction, Pune’s Brahmin community predictably tried the opposite. They attempted to appropriate the Sadan as a Hindu institution by endorsing idol worship or purana narrations within the common areas of the Sadan as being consistent with religious neutrality. Another and major cause for opposition was the tremendous conservative resistance to the perceived ‘pampering of widows with a diet of milk and ghee’. Widows were required to be ‘punished’ for killing their husbands through sins in their past life and could not escape perpetual expiation through ritual disfigurement, renunciation from worldly life and emaciation through subsisting on only one meagre meal a day. That Ramabai affectionately allowed them to share a normal life with other girls seemed offensive to the orthodox majority of Pune. Ramabai also encouraged Godubai to let her hair grow; she concealed it with her padar which was tightly pinned under her chin (Plate 8). The Sadan’s ‘modern’ lifestyle became conspicuous in 1892 when Ramabai bought a new house for it in the Civil Lines area inhabited mostly by the British and moved there from the earlier rented premises in the city.37 She displayed her astute business sense and capability in bargaining for a good price for the house, lowered from $12,000 to $9,000; an additional $5,000 was sent her from America for constructing more buildings in the three-acre compound. The business deal involved an adventure. As the four men handpicked by Hamlin to assist Ramabai in matters related to the Sadan failed to act, Ramabai took herself to Matheran, a hill station near Mumbai where the owner of the house was recuperating with his family. She took the night train from Mumbai, rode up the 16 miles to Matheran on a hired horse early in the morning, clinched the deal and rode down in the scorching sun. M. G. Ranade and N. G. Chandavarkar helped with the legal paperwork.38 Now Ramabai also set up the Bodley Memorial Library in the Sadan. 188

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The Sadan’s new house was inaugurated on 26 July 1892, with enthusiastic celebrations. A morning service was held and the Reverend Sorabji Kharsedji (now Ramabai’s neighbour) made a congratulatory speech, with more to follow in the evening by Bhandarkar and others. Subodha Patrika claimed that Sharada Sadan’s history may well deserve to be written in characters of gold. It is a Hindu woman’s pluck which brought it into existence, and it is American generosity which supports it. Such an example of humanity is beyond all praise. . . . [A]t least one of the natives of India, and that one a woman, has shamed us all by setting us a high and inspiring example. While we men have been prating, preaching, and calculating, she has gone to work, and shown in a few years what a woman can do where men have failed. . . and turned a noble dream into an accomplished fact.39 The Sadan flourished and offered an enviable lifestyle far beyond the imagination of Pune’s average middle-class family. Its spacious bungalow was surrounded by a garden teeming with flowers which the girls tended, enjoyed and also wore in their hair, in a seeming idyll, as described by Krishna Gadre.40 She and the other girls spent their leisure time in a drawing room furnished with a sofa set and chairs, chatting or reading the various books kept there. In addition to their regular lessons, Ramabai talked to them about trees and flowers, showed them birds through binoculars and pointed out stars from the roof terrace in early mornings. Krishna comments that any child widow would want to enjoy such pampering and spend her time in such a lovely atmosphere. She goes on to describe the delicious food served daily and the occasional banquets. More important for Ramabai was the transformed mindset of her girls: their ‘selfish, suspicious, and fretful natures’ gradually gave way to solidarity, and ‘enforced self-denial’ to ‘voluntary self-sacrifice’.41 Also valuable was the continued support from reformers. In late 1892 Ramabai Ranade invited all the students of the Sadan to her house for a Diwali feast.42 The Ramabai Association received regular letters as well as annual reports and newspaper clippings from Ramabai; the Association was also easily accessible to Indian leaders. The March 1893 report of the Executive Committee cites several congratulatory speeches and letters: C. N. Bhat praised Ramabai’s efficient and economical management of the Sadan and expressed deep gratitude to the Association for ‘having advanced the cause of female education in India’ and ‘opened to Hindu widows many a career of usefulness’ by supporting Ramabai.43 Bhandarkar found ‘the harmonious mixture of Hindu and European ideas of house-keeping’ in the Sadan ‘very pleasing’.44 Agarkar spoke of the ‘splendid institution’ conducted 189

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admirably, and in his usual forthright style thanked the Association for having enabled Ramabai to establish in the centre of rank Brahmanic superstition a noble asylum for the shelter and education of high caste Hindu widows, whose unspeakable misery, which we could not or would not relieve, has justly made us the laughing-stock of the whole civilized world.45 Francina Sorabji, wife of the Reverend Sorabji and principal of Victoria School for girls, wrote eloquently about the Sadan’s girl-widows, ‘those once down-trodden, miserable beings converted into happy, bright, intelligent, young girls, with the light of love and freedom shining in their eyes, where once only fear, shrinking, and misery were seen’. She also stressed the fact that all the girls and women in the Sadan were occupied even outside school hours, working in the garden, doing small chores and helping to tend the sick, under Ramabai’s watchful eye.46 *

Underneath the Sadan’s seeming idyll, tension had simmered for some time. Built into the core of its foundational concept were multiple conflicts. One of them related to Hindu ideology: patriarchy defined a woman solely in terms of her usefulness to her husband; a widow was therefore rendered superfluous and dispensable, a sinner in perpetual need of expiation. The project of reclaiming widows on a noticeable scale and rehabilitating them as ‘normal’, happy individuals worthy of being educated and made into useful citizens was considered generally dubious. Unsurprisingly, the hostility just below the surface burst through as soon as an opportunity was found. Devadatta Tilak (son of the Reverend N. V. and Lakshmibai Tilak) claims that a ‘specific faction’ in Pune – the B. G. Tilak faction – was bent on proving that Ramabai’s ulterior motive was to lure the girls into embracing Christianity, and so did not allow her to work in peace.47 Kesari (23 June 1891) warned its readers that the Sadan’s Christian funds would inevitably tilt the balance against the wishes of the Hindus. The only viable alternative was to create a new fund to establish a separate Sadan for destitute widows along Hindu lines. This was obviously not feasible, given the general lack of wealth and unwillingness to donate money to social causes. The first storm broke out in 1891 over (unfounded) allegations of proselytization and led to a regular ideological war. Kesari openly blamed Ramabai for independent action without consulting the local advisory board, for encouraging her girls to give up idol worship and religious ritual, and for taking them to church. The paper alleged that the American funding was 190

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not altruistic but had an ulterior religious motive, and finally that Hindus would not benefit from the Sadan if its management remained in the hands of ‘a wilful and unrestrained, converted woman like Pandita Ramabai; we should regard this as a school for evangelisation and conduct ourselves towards the Pandita as we do towards the missionaries’. On the opposing side, Agarkar’s Sudharak in Pune and Subodha Patrika of Mumbai supported Ramabai; charges and counter charges were freely made. In an editorial entitled ‘The Sharada Sadan and Its Malicious Critics’, Sudharak (6 July 1891) attacked the ‘clouded vision of the biased people’ who persecuted an extremely useful and innocent institution, because of envy for the achievement of its extraordinary founder. ‘Inside stories’ of the Sadan and reports of interviews with its inmates were published, and articles from Indian, British and American newspapers cited, with contradictory conclusions. Sudharak insisted that Ramabai’s intention was to ensure that the Sadan would be wholly indigenously funded after the first ten years, and this precluded a Christianising agenda as claimed by Kesari. The latter threatened (on 14 July 1891) to hold M. G. Ranade, member of the advisory board, personally responsible if any of the girls converted in ‘Pandita Ramabai’s Mission House for Widows’. *

This was perhaps the darkest period in Ramabai’s life, leading further towards total faith in Christianity. While overcome by despair, she had an epiphany.48 The hostility in Pune prompted her to complain to Geraldine on 2 July 1891 that people insisted on misunderstanding her and the sky seemed permanently full of black clouds.49 This was also a time of great spiritual questioning and doubt for her, leading to an awareness of the deficiency in an intellectual acceptance of Christ without the emotional support of unquestioning faith. Thus far she had studied books about the Bible, now she studied the Bible closely and surrendered herself unconditionally to Christ. An influential book which put her in a receptive frame of mind for ‘finding Christ’ was Haslam’s From Life unto Death. At this point came a revelation – like a burst of light followed by great relief as if ‘a great and unbearable burden is rolled away from the heart’, as she described later in A Testimony. This was also an assurance of deliverance and ‘the love of the Father’. In theological terms, this experience fit the well-known template in the conversion history of Christian saints, according to the Reverend Nicol Macnicol, but what gave her narrative ‘its exceptional quality’ was its ‘evident intensity and vividness’. Macnicol claims that this experience ushered Pandita Ramabai ‘into the fellowship of the great saints’.50 Christian epiphanies, recorded in similar terms all over the world, are usually associated with the moment of conversion; the difference in 191

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Ramabai’s case was that she was already a Christian at the time. It brings to mind a well-known case in Maharashtra, that of Lakshmibai Tilak who had been placed in a precarious predicament by her husband’s conversion to Christianity. When Lakshmibai finally joined him several months later despite her relatives’ discouragement, her balancing act of observing the strict Brahmin rules of purity collapsed after some time. One evening she was compelled to drink water drawn from a well by a non-Hindu; the resultant emotional and physical revulsion brought on a high fever. That night, as she lay on her bed weak with weeping, with her eyes closed, she saw bright sunlight, experienced new thoughts and felt the shackles of caste discrimination fall off. The revelation did not immediately inspire her to embrace Christianity, but it followed in due course.51 *

Surprisingly enough, initially the conservative opposition of journalistic Pune to Ramabai was split, with The Mahratta assuming a neutral stance which provoked its sister paper Kesari into retaliation. But the former changed its view and started opposing Ramabai, maintaining that ‘female education is dear to us, but certainly not at the expense of our religious beliefs’. Citing this, Dnyanodaya (31 August 1893) gleefully identified the real problem as a lack of funds and suggested the addition of the words, ‘neither at the expense of our purse’. (The truth of this was already borne out by the news item that the donations by Maharashtrians to Sharada Sadan had totalled only Rs 95 by September 1992.52). There was an outburst against the Sadan in 1891–2, fuelled by a woman earlier employed as a matron at the Sadan, who was dismissed for playing mischief and exercising a bad influence over the girls. When she left, she took away with her a young widow who was her relative, and immediately joined forces with the faction inimical to Ramabai and eager to malign her. ‘A terrible storm surged around us for a time’, says Ramabai, prompting the feeling that ‘we are among strange and hostile people in a strange land’. Although some girls were withdrawn from the Sadan, by March 1892 there were still 43 left: 30 widows, 3 deserted wives, 3 married girls, and 7 unmarried girls. Of these, 38 were boarders.53 The storm seemed to have blown over. But resentment festered among the conservative majority of Pune Brahmins. Over the next two years the controversy accelerated to the point where Kesari (22 August 1893) anticipated its violent culmination in an editorial provocatively entitled ‘Religious Rioting and Possible Killings in Pune’. A new and worse storm finally broke over the Sadan in 1893. Devadatta Tilak sees it as a result of a plot to distort and exploit the conversion of a temporary resident of the Sadan but not within it. The central 192

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character in the drama was a Gujarati girl from Kutch in Gujarat whose mother enrolled her in Sharada Sadan for her education. The girl’s desire to be baptized was discouraged by Ramabai. Later she was admitted to a Mumbai hospital for treatment, but left without telling anyone and was baptized by a missionary of her acquaintance at Thane near Mumbai.54 The mystery about the girl’s access to the missionaries and ability to manage the complicated logistics is solved by Helen Dyer who admits to having stagemanaged the whole, ‘without Ramabai’s knowledge or consent’.55 Dyer apparently became acquainted with girl during a stay at Sharada Sadan in Pune and responded to her appeal to be saved from her mother who was a devadasi (or, in Dyer’s words, ‘a “holy” Hindu harlot’) in Mumbai.56 The note of self-satisfaction in Dyer’s narrative suggests that she was blithely unaware of the untold and permanent harm this did to Ramabai. The event led to Ramabai’s total loss of credibility, mental anguish and permanent exile from mainstream society. Rumours were rife while the bitter drama was played out. So disastrous seemed the possibility of the actual conversion of a Sadan inmate that on 13 August 1893 all three members of the advisory board – R. G. Bhandarkar, M. G. Ranade and C. N. Bhat – sent their resignation letter (promptly reproduced by Kesari on 22 August 1893 both in the original English and in Marathi translation) to the Ramabai Association of Boston. They argued that the board had been defunct for the previous two years, they were unable to reason with Ramabai and therefore unwilling to accept responsibility for Ramabai’s recent deviation from the policy of strict neutrality, such as encouraging the girls to attend her private prayers which had allegedly led two girls to accept Christianity. They felt compelled to sever all connection with the Sadan if it was to be conducted as an avowed proselytizing institution. No new advisory board was ever again appointed in India by the Association. Considerably strengthened by this triumph, Kesari continued its incendiary attack: in an editorial under its favourite rubric, ‘Sharada Sadan or a Widows’ Mission House’, the paper (28 August 1893) talked about ‘the venture of this female padre [‘padrin-bai’] to set afire the ancient religion of her compatriots with the help of foreigners’. It argued that a similarly dangerous activity in the political sphere would have incurred the charge of treason and a proportionate penalty, but Hindus take a liberal view of religious matters and so Ramabai was saved. It also published (on 3 October 1893) a public declaration addressed to the guardians that if they wished to withdraw their wards from the Sadan, the girls would be accommodated and educated at the Female High School at Pune, with financial assistance from a number of eminent persons. Also the three members of the erstwhile advisory board declared their intention to support the education of the girls at the Female School at their own expense (of one rupee 193

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per girl per month). Some girls were indeed withdrawn from the Sadan in a strong boycott. The breach between Ramabai and the mainstream Hindu society – and later, even the social reformers – never healed. The Ramabai Association expressed disappointment over the fact that the resignation letter was publicized in local newspapers before it was dispatched to Boston and that Ramabai’s explanations were not heeded.57 Judith Andrews was sent in December 1893 to inquire into the matter, and on hearing both sides concluded that the interpretation of ‘religious neutrality’ by Hamlin and Ramabai had been crucially different. Hamlin’s Managing Board had made the school strictly Hindu in its functioning: the girls were denied the option of attending private Christian prayers within the Sadan or receiving Christian religious instruction outside, while Hindu practices were followed by them both within and outside the Sadan.58 In effect, the Managing Board had appropriated the institution for themselves, violated the Association’s constitution and thus demonstrated that ‘the theories and practice of some of the great reformers’ were arguably ‘widely at variance’.59 While completely exonerating Ramabai, Andrews denied the possibility of permanent damage, claiming that the so-called death-blow has not killed it and will not kill it. But the desertion of old friends and advisers and the withdrawal of so many girls ‘nearly killed Ramabai’.60 She also insisted that even if the Sadan had closed down, its legacy would have lived on through innovations such as the introduction of the kindergarten system, arousing an interest in educated wives among young men and a general awareness of considering the welfare of widows. *

One of the Sadan’s visibly successful outcomes was Godubai’s marriage to Professor D. K. Karve. In a letter (presumably at Andrews’ request) Karve outlined the benefits Godubai had received from the Sadan, in addition to having escaped the inevitable suffering of child widows, such as disfigurement, near-starvation, enforced asceticism – all the markers of ‘the great iniquity and heartlessness of our social arrangements’. There were also numerous practical advantages: Godubai had developed a ‘keen love of knowledge’ and her mind was ‘enlarged and enlightened’, her views about social reform had changed and she had been moulded into ‘an excellent wife and an excellent companion’.61 Soon, in 1896, Karve himself established an association to perpetuate Ramabai’s legacy by opening a widows’ home, ‘Anatha-balikashram’ (Home for Destitute Girls), as a ‘Hindu alternative’ to the allegedly Christian Sharada Sadan.62 He claimed that her inspirational institution had been anticipated on a small scale (and a duration of 15 years) in Bengal by 194

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Babu Shashipad Bannerji at his house near Calcutta and followed in the Madras Presidency by Viresh Lingam Pantalu.63 Karve’s was the fourth such institution. Initially Karve started the ashram in a private house in Pune city, but soon the plague epidemic prompted a move to the village of Hingane six miles outside the city. Karve was then teaching mathematics at Fergusson College in Pune, and trudged to the ashram every evening, to walk back the next morning. His description of the other obstacles in his path contrasts vividly with the early conditions in Sharada Sadan. Funding was predictably the main problem and after contributing his entire saving of Rs 1,000, Karve was able to collect only Rs 2,220 during the first year after constant travels. During the first year, the ashram had four resident widows studying there, five years later, in 1903, the number increased to only 21 and 9 non-widow pupils joined them.64 Comparing the numbers to those of Sharada Sadan, Karve offers as the reason for the ashram’s slow growth the public fear of widow remarriage.65 But the institution did grow, a college was opened a few years later, and in 1916 also a university which soon changed its name from Karve University to the S.N.D.T. Women’s University; in 1923 it moved its main campus to Mumbai.66 Another noteworthy attempt for the rehabilitation of widows was the Pune branch of the ‘Seva Sadan’ opened in Mumbai in 1908 by the Parsi social reformer B. M. Malabari. Ramabai Ranade undertook the management of this branch which also provided education and the traditional income-generating skills to widows. Significantly, she promoted the ideology of service as a woman’s right.67 Thus both these successors to Sharada Sadan operated within the overall patriarchal paradigm: Anatha-balikashram aimed at making girls good and educated wives, homemakers, mothers and citizens (although Karve also insinuated into his project the idea of late marriages for girls). Seva Sadan emphasized women’s advancement within traditional women’s roles. Both were extremely beneficial because they could function smoothly within the mainstream society without challenging conventional norms, even while the pioneering Sharada Sadan was marginalized and thus failed to help high-caste widows and gender equality as originally intended. The liberal endorsement of Ramabai had gradually evaporated after the major Sadan scandal. Sudharak had loyally supported Ramabai through her time of trial; but with Agarkar’s early death in 1895, Ramabai lost a staunch supporter and Maharashtra a liberal reformer (although Sudharak continued publication). By 1895 the social reform movement in Maharashtra was itself generally on the wane, the major social reformers (Phule, Deshmukh, Telang and Agarkar) having died. Tilak gained unchallenged ascendancy of public leadership in Maharashtra (and soon in India); it was sealed by Ranade’s 195

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death in 1901 and lasted until his own death in 1920. This translated into the overt acceptance of the priority of political struggle over social reform. Tilak’s career coincided with Ramabai’s, and his hostility – which amounted to her constant demonization – was to shape his contemporaries’ and later generations’ assessment of her. An interesting part of the campaign to denigrate Ramabai was the strategy of setting up alternative female icons in Maharashtra. By far the most popular and enduring icon of ‘modern’ Maharashtrian womanhood was Ramabai Ranade whose total devotion to her husband and whose entry into institutionalized social work for women within the patriarchal paradigm was unquestioningly endorsed by the conservatives and reformers alike. But periodically the conservative faction, led by Kesari, also installed other female icons. First it was Anandibai Joshee who had gone to the USA for medical studies but who had vowed that ‘I will go as a Hindu, and come back here to live as a Hindu’.68 She served as the perfect foil to Ramabai who had gone to England at exactly the same time but converted to Christianity. Later it was Annie Besant, a highly educated, Western, Christian woman who was prominent on the social and political scene of both Britain and India, and who was ‘enlightened’ enough to discard Christianity in favour of Hinduism – again a perfect foil to Ramabai who had travelled in the opposite direction.69 *

By 1895 Ramabai was seriously concerned about Sharada Sadan’s future after the Association ceased to support it in 1898, at the end of ten years. She made a plan to buy a large farm, plant a fruit orchard in part of it and thus ensure a steady future income. The whole enterprise would cost $6,000 which the Association was not empowered to sanction by its constitution, but Ramabai’s American friends raised more than half the price individually and she bought the land.70 This was located in Kedgaon, about 40 miles southeast of Pune. Meanwhile Sharada Sadan prospered, offering education all the way from kindergarten to the newly added matriculation standard. The young women who had already qualified in various professions at the Sadan left to teach elsewhere as kindergarten or school teachers, or obtain training as nurses; some settled down to family life after marriage or remarriage. But two controversial incidents were reported in March 1896. One was the actual conversion of the Sadan girls: 12 of them were baptized of their own free will. The president and vice presidents had responded to her earlier plea for advice by letting her judge the matter herself. The freedom of religious choice meant that the girls’ request could not be denied, but they could not be allowed to stay on as students of the institution intended solely 196

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for Hindu women. The girls begged to stay on and earn their keep: some continued to work as pupil-teachers, some agreed to work as housemaids.71 The other incident was Ramabai’s visit to pilgrimage centres in North India, especially Vrindavan and Mathura where widows – treated as redundant by their families – were allegedly left to fend for themselves. Determined to rescue them, Ramabai travelled there dressed as a pilgrim.72 She saw thousands of Hindu widows living in temples and routinely forced by priests into the flesh trade as a money-making proposition for themselves – thus creating a new class of captive prostitutes.73 This venture could not be expected to go uncritiqued. When Agarkar’s Sudharak supported it, a wrathful Kesari (16 June 1896) immediately retaliated in its usual style, by ridiculing Ramabai’s charges, insisting that the instances of immorality found in India are no more than those in Europe, and generally blaming and defaming Ramabai instead of disproving her charges: We know not whether to be astonished or to cry at the sight of our brother the Sudharak happily allowing himself to be caught in the deceitful web of a woman who was born in a Brahmin family but married a Shudra even before she gave up her Hindu religion and embraced Christianity, who ventured to be baptised along with her little daughter soon after her lord and master died, and who came here to temporarily allure men like Dr Bhandarkar and Justice Ranade. The article ended by maintaining that ‘Pandita Ramabai’s screams (in her own defence) are like the barking of a rabid dog’. The degree of Ramabai’s success in the rescue mission for widows remains unclear. But the following year there was an influx of women and children in the Sadan: Ramabai had rescued 47 young widows from the famine districts in Central India, who could barely be accommodated in the Sadan which already housed as many; and she planned to bring in many more. This placed the Association’s officer-bearers in a quandary because Ramabai had no mandate to house such women in the Sadan. The other problem was that ‘secularity has been displaced by religion’ in Sharada Sadan: short of openly proselytizing, Ramabai had given the Sadan’s inmates to understand that she would like them to convert. There was a morning bell for Christian prayers which were optional, but almost all the girls attended. This evoked mixed reactions. But in her report Judith Andrews responded very warmly to Ramabai’s heart-rending accounts of the famine distress and of her childhood experiences of famine (Selection 4). A committee of five was appointed to look into Sadan more closely.74 The Association’s annual meeting in March 1898 was crucial as marking the end of the original pledge of ten years’ support to Sharada Sadan. 197

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A degree of suspense surrounded it, especially as Ramabai herself had agreed to attend it. In February 1898 she sailed for America, leaving Sharada Sadan in charge of Soondrabai (or Sunderabai) Powar who had helped Ramabai in various ways for years, and the new Mukti Mission in charge of Miss Minnie Abrams, a Canadian missionary. During a brief stop en route, Ramabai picked up Manorama from England and took her to the USA to complete her education. In 1896 Ramabai had sent the 15-year-old Mano to England for schooling, in the care of Mr and Mrs Dyer. Here she attended a succession of boarding schools, independently of the CSMV, but was in regular touch with Geraldine through letters. This was the time Mano developed ­problems with her eyesight: but Ramabai responded with vacillation. After having obtained glasses for her, she stopped her from wearing them during her brief experiment with faith healing. Mano, caught in a bind again, complained to Geraldine that she could not study properly, but did not want to grieve her mother.75 These tensions were resolved when Mano continued her studies in the USA. The annual report of 1898 presents an interesting overview. The Ramabai circles, pioneered by Cornell University in early 1887, even before the Ramabai Association was formed, had increased to about 75.76 During its first ten years, the Association had collected $91,578 and spent $87,624.77 In return for the money, the Association had acquired in Pune property worth $50,000 and at Kedgaon a farm worth $10,000, as Ramabai pointed out.78 The Association wanted to convey this real estate to Ramabai, but she refused. In her speech Ramabai gave a glowing account of Sharada Sadan which offered the entire programme of study from kindergarten to matriculation as well as some vocational training, and which had during the previous ten years helped 350 girls (of whom 75 were still there) with education and income-earning skills. Equally eloquent was her account of Mukti which already sheltered more than 300 girls. She now asked the new Association for $20,000 a year for the two institutions together.79 At the same meeting in March 1898, the existing association was ­dissolved and the new ‘American Ramabai Association’ was formed ­practically as its reincarnation, with many of the earlier office-bearers continuing at Ramabai’s request. The new association undertook to enlarge the scope of their work and support separately both Sharada Sadan at Pune on the old basis as a secular school for high-caste Hindu widows and Mukti Sadan (Home of Salvation) at Kedgaon as an overtly Christian institution for high-caste women and girls who were unmarried, deserted wives or famine victims. (It was unclear how the caste of the famine survivors was established before rescuing them and whether Ramabai could have turned away low-caste famine victims.) Funds were collected as before, but without the 198

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former ten-year pledge. The formal distinction between a ‘secular’ and a ‘Christian’ institution was soon emptied of all meaning, as will be seen. Meanwhile Ramabai’s friend and chair of the new association’s executive committee, Judith Andrews, declared that if Kedgaon was already known as ‘a Christian colony in itself’, it could easily become ‘a stronghold of Christianity, as Poona is said to be a stronghold of Brahmanism’.80 The ambivalence about the desirability of proselytization obviously lingered. At Mukti the famished skeletons rescued from famine areas were now fleshed out into healthy women who managed cooking, cleaning and other housework, received schooling and acquired skills such as working in the fields, running a laundry (with equipment sent by Mrs Quincy Shaw from the USA) and a dairy and weaving saris and carpets on handlooms.81 Ramabai was justifiably proud of both the rehabilitation of these women (numbering 365 at that point in time) and Mukti’s strides towards self-sufficiency. In early July 1898 Ramabai received a telegram from London desiring her presence urgently; she left the USA in the hope of finding an English association in the making but was disappointed. She then sailed immediately to India and reached in August.82 This brings up the triangular relationship among India, Britain and the USA. At one point Judith Andrews sought to answer the oft-asked question as to why England did not support Ramabai’s work, by reasoning (unconvincingly) that England’s intervention would inevitably have been under the aegis of the Anglican Church and thus sectarian, and that the British government had taken a pledge of non-interference in India’s social and religious matters (in the aftermath of the uprising of 1857).83 But the question disturbed Ramabai’s British friends for years: as late as in 1917 Sister Geraldine still grappled with the need to justify Britain’s actions and characteristically blamed Ramabai for their failure – claiming that Ramabai’s mind was unable to reconcile ‘Christian liberty and Christian hierarchical government with its ramifications and discipline.’84 The difference between an acceptable Christian hierarchy and the Hindu caste hierarchy with its ‘unjust and cruel laws and practices’ was not as apparent to Ramabai as it was to Geraldine. Reluctantly Geraldine brought herself to acknowledge the all-pervasive imperialism: ‘The very title “The Church of England” was something abhorrent’ to Ramabai, because ‘England to an Indian has an unsavoury sound.’85 Other British women were far more honest and forthright about the workings of imperialism, and admitted that: it had been reserved for American women fully to appreciate and generously to aid this modern apostle of culture to her fellow women of India. . . . We look upon the Hindu . . . woman as 199

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one of a conquered race, a dweller in our Indian dependency. The American regards her as an equal and a comrade.86 But Geraldine would not forgo credit for Ramabai’s accomplishments and insisted that ‘the body of her work was given by America, the soul by her sojourn in the Wantage Community’.87

Notes 1 Indu-Prakash, 18 February 1889. The name was decided in advance, although it is erroneously associated with Sharada Gadre, the first non-widow pupil enrolled there. The site of the Sadan’s building, behind Wilson College at Chowpatty, cannot be identified today. But the street going roughly north from Chowpatty beach past the College bears the name ‘Pandita Ramabai Marg’. 2 Kesari’s stance is very surprising because Agarkar, the only known liberal among its Marathi editors, had already resigned. 3 Ramabai Association, Annual Report of 1890, p. 2. 4 The two speeches are summarised in Ibid., pp. 9–10. 5 Ibid., pp. 15–16. 6 The Sadan opened with two pupils: the widow Godubai Natu and the unmarried Sharada Gadre, both Brahmins. 7 Ramabai Association, Annual Report of 1890, p. 9. 8 It was Hamlin’s departure in December that led to the Ramabai Association’s annual meeting being adjourned from 15 December (the association’s anniversary) to 11 March (the Sadan’s anniversary); Ramabai Association, Annual Report of 1890, p. 23. 9 Ramabai Association, Annual Report of 1894, Boston, p. 5. 10 I might mention that R.V. Madgaonkar (or Madgavkar) was my mother’s paternal grandfather. 11 For a discussion of Godubai’s life and career, see Meera Kosambi, ‘Women for All Seasons’ in Crossing Thresholds, Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2007, pp. 336–68. 12 The Times of India, 20 April 1922. 13 Letters, p. 247. 14 Anandibai Karve, Maze Puran, 2nd edn, Mumbai: K.B. Dhavale, 1951. This omission could have resulted from prudence, because Ramabai had by then been discredited. 15 The two most famous Marathi novels about widowhood are by a Christian and Marathi novelists, respectively: Baba Padmanji, Yamuna Paryatan, 5th edn, Pune: Snehavardhan Prakashan, 1994; H.N. Apte, Pan Lakhyat Kon Gheto!, Pune: A.V. Patwardhan, 5th edn, 1929. 16 The National Social Conference was a liberal event spearheaded by Ranade and others two years after the Indian National Congress was founded; its annual meetings were held immediately following the Congress sessions and at the same venue until 1895 when Tilak mounted severe opposition to this, threatening to burn the cloth pandal. 17 The Times of India, 30 December 1889, cited in Padmini Sengupta, Pandita Ramabai Saraswati, Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1970, pp. 194–5. 18 Dnyanodaya, 1, 8, and 22 August 1889.

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19 Reproduced in G.G. Agarkar, Agarkar-Vangmaya, edited by M.G. Natu and D.Y. Deshpande, Khanda 1, Mumbai: Maharashtra Rajya Sahitya ani Sanskriti Mandal, 1984, pp. 267–9. 20 Ibid. p. 269. 21 See Kosambi, ‘Child Brides and Child Mothers’, in Crossing Thresholds, pp. 274–310. 22 Dr Anandibai Joshee had returned to India in late 1886 and succumbed to tuberculosis in February 1887. 23 Indu- Prakash, 3 August 1891. 24 The editor was still S.P. Kelkar. 25 Dnyanodaya, 4 April 1889. 26 Idem., 28 March 1889; 4 April 1889. 27 Idem., 18 April 1889. 28 Idem., 28 March 1889. 29 Idem., 25 July 1889. 30 Idem., 21 August 1890. 31 Ramabai Association, Annual Report of 1892, p. 31. 32 Ibid., pp. 17–18. 33 Bodley, Introduction, p. xviii. 34 Letters, p. 265. 35 Letters, p. 256. 36 Letters, p. 240. 37 The kind of houses and the lifestyles they shaped were very different in the two areas of Pune, as in most major Indian cities which had a dual indigenous and British spatial stamp. 38 Ramabai Association, Annual Report of 1892, pp. 11–13. 39 Cited in Ramabai Association, Annual Report of 1893, p. 15. 40 Krishnabai Gadre, Smriti-sumane, Kedgaon: Mukti Mission, 1939, pp. 39–40. Krishna was the younger sister of Sharada Gadre, the Sadan’s first unmarried pupil who had already converted to Christianity; Krishna’s writing style is also imbued with the Christian idiom. 41 Ramabai Association, Annual Report of 1892, p. 16. 42 Sudharak, 7 November 1892. 43 Ramabai Association, Annual Report of 1893, p. 18. 44 Ibid., p. 37. 45 Ibid., pp. 18–19. 46 Ibid., pp. –- -. 47 Tilak, Maharashtrachi Tejaswini Pandita Ramabai, p. 268. 48 This discussion is based partly on Meera Kosambi, ‘Indian Response to Christianity, Church and Colonialism’, Economic & Political Weekly, 24–31 October 1992, pp. WS 61–71. 49 Letters, p. 262. 50 Nicol Macnicol, Pandita Ramabai, Calcutta: Association Press, 1926, p. 88. 51 Lakshmibai Tilak, Sampurna Smriti-chitre, Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, 1989, especially pp. 64–8. 52 Sudharak, 19 September 1892. 53 Ramabai Association, Annual Report of 1892, pp. 21–2. 54 Tilak, Maharashtrachi Tejaswini, pp. 306–13. 55 Dyer, Pandita Ramabai, p. 38. 56 Ibid., p. 36. 57 Ramabai Association, Annual Report of 1894. 58 Ibid., pp. 17–18, 20.

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59 Ibid., p. 20. 60 Ibid., p. 21. 61 Ramabai Association, Annual Report of 1894, pp. 27–8. 62 D.K. Karve, Atma-vritta, Hingane: Anatha-balikashram, 1928, p. 234. 63 Ibid, pp. 227–8. Karve had personally visited the other three. His autobiography does not clarify whether his own ashram was started in 1896 or 1899. 64 Ibid., p. 320. 65 Ibid., p. 238. 66 The university came to be officially known after Shrimati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey (S.N.D.T.) after a substantial grant from the Thackersey family. 67 Kosambi, Crossing Thresholds, p. 317. 68 Dall, The Life of Dr Anandabai, p. 87. 69 Besant’s promotion of a Sanskrit education in schools and discouragement of widow remarriage was enthusiastically supported by Tilak and his paper. Kesari, 1904. 70 Ramabai Association, Annual Report of 1895, pp. 35–6. 71 Ramabai Association, Annual Report of 1896, pp. 14–15. 72 Ramabai’s photo, dressed as a Hindu pilgrim for a journey, has been reproduced in some texts, e.g. Jennie Chappell, Pandita Ramabai, London: Pickering and Inglis Ltd, (n.d.); Dongre and Patterson, Pandita Ramabai, PP??; each time the photo has a different caption. 73 A recent parallel to the outcry about the sensitive issue was seen some years ago: the shooting of Deepa Mehta’s film Water, dealing with this theme historically, was violently disrupted by an organised mob in the vicinity of Vrindavan. The film had to be re-shot in Sri Lanka. 74 The Ramabai Association, Annual Report, 1897. 75 ‘Letters of Manorama’, p. 75. 76 For Ramabai’s contact with some Cornell students, and her visit to the family of one of them, see M. Kosambi, Returning the American Gaze, Delhi: Permanent Black, 2003, pp. 101–2. 77 The Ramabai Association, Annual Report, 1898, p. 6. 78 Ibid., p. 36. 79 Ibid., pp. 29–38. 80 The American Ramabai Association, Report of the First Annual Meeting held March 24, 1899, Boston, 1899, p. 18. 81 The American Ramabai Association, Report, 1899, pp. 26–9. 82 Ibid., 1899, p. 16. 83 The American Ramabai Association, Report of the Second Annual Meeting held March 28, 1900, Boston, 1900, p. 18. 84 The Letters and Correspondence of Pandita Ramabai, p. 404. 85 Letters, pp. 404–5. 86 Cited in Dnyadodaya, 24 November 1892. 87 Letters, p. 415.

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6 KEDGAON AND MUKTI MISSION

The closing years of the nineteenth century found Pandita Ramabai grappling with two natural disasters: famine and plague. Together they led to the establishment and phenomenal growth of Mukti Mission into a church-dominated settlement of more than 2,000 people spread over a large area. The widespread famine in Gujarat and Central India evoked in Ramabai chilling childhood memories of famine and the starvation deaths of her parents. With her assistants she scoured the famine districts to rescue women and children from untold suffering, death and moral danger, as detailed in her ‘Famine Experiences’ (Selection 4). It was a time when parents sold their children for a morsel of food, the government’s relief measures were stalled by indifference at higher levels and corruption at lower levels, people flocked from princely states to British area and were pushed back – an occurrence that Ramabai likens to the horrifying sati ritual when the burning widow tried to escape the funeral pyre of her dead husband, but was pushed back with long sticks by the waiting relatives surrounding her. At Kedgaon these famine victims numbering almost 2.000, brought through repeated massive rescue operations from 1896 onward, were housed in tents and sheds. This led to the gradual creation of ‘Mukti Sadan’ (Home of Salvation). The rehabilitation of these barely human, skeletal and wild figures to ‘normal’ and decent women and girls was a hard task and a major triumph for Ramabai (see Plate 12). Among the famine survivors were also many boys for whom ‘Sadanand Sadan’ was separately constructed; but it was soon shifted out of Mukti to another mission house. In the interests of future self-sufficiency Ramabai had purchased in 1892 a 100-acre plot of land in the village of Kedgaon, about 40 miles southeast of Pune, and started a fruit orchard there. (The Association initially referred to it as the ‘Mango Farm’ and later as the ‘Mukti School’.) With an addition of small parcels of land, Mukti came to spread over 230 acres.319 This site was to become the permanent home for Ramabai and her institutions. 203

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Plate 9  Mukti Church

Plate 10  Meals at Mukti, c. 1900

Thus it was mainly outside the orbit of the mainstream upper-caste society of Maharashtra that Ramabai’s project of helping women expanded to enormous proportions. At about the same time, bubonic plague intruded upon Pune’s Sharada Sadan directly. The epidemic radiated from Mumbai and ravaged all the 204

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major cities of western India, initiating a massive shift of urban populations to temporary semi-rural or rural locations. Under strict instructions from the authorities, Ramabai evacuated the Sharada Sadan girls and had to house them in sheds, huts, and tents for months at Kedgaon, though separately from the famine survivors who were physically diseased and morally degraded. This arrangement was later to be finalized, with Sharada Sadan becoming one of the many sections of the larger and burgeoning institution renamed Mukti Mission. Ramabai describes her personal exposure to the dreaded plagueprevention measures in a letter published in May 1897 by the liberal paper Bombay Guardian (Selection 5). Equally important are the wider context and repercussions, which brought her into the public gaze in a positive light for arguably the last time. The epidemic, one of the dark patches in the history of the Bombay Presidency, is remembered for several reasons – high mortality figures, the general panic leading whole families to flee congested cities and inflamed anti-colonial passions among all religious communities because of the draconian measures callously implemented by the military and civilian personnel of the Special Plague Committee. House searches conducted by British soldiers invaded private spaces and defiled ritually pure areas, such as the worship room and kitchen. The idols in homes and temples, as well as property, were unnecessarily destroyed. The body searches intended to detect suspicious swellings symptomatic of the plague violated privacy in an even more offensive manner, and made women particularly vulnerable to harassment. Suspected plague patients were segregated and forcibly admitted to special hospitals and camps, thus depriving the family of the chance to provide them care. This violation of the sanctity of the home led to a public outrage and resistance, and even rioting among the Hindu and Muslim population of Mumbai and Pune.1 Even the government was compelled to grudgingly admit that these measures were ‘essentially unpopular’, but claimed that ‘an unreasoning fear of all forms of control’ was as responsible for the large-scale emigration as fear of the epidemic itself, and ‘eventually led to riots and bloodshed’.2 The public protest was to culminate in the murder of the Special Plague Officer Rand (and mistakenly also that of Ayhurst, an officer whose carriage accompanied his) in Pune in June 1897. The perpetrators, the Chaphekar brothers (later honoured as heroes), were apprehended and appealed to the Bombay High Court; their petition was drafted by B. G. Tilak who was at the time incarcerated in Yerawada Jail in Pune.3 Ramabai was among the very few leaders with the courage to take a public stand against these atrocities through her published letter. Her protest went further to identify a moral danger within the supposedly protected part of the public sphere – danger posed by doctors arbitrarily identifying women as plague patients to be compulsorily hospitalized, 205

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and by the personnel of the plague hospital abducting women patients who were not strictly guarded by their relatives at all times. The general tenor of her letter and the specific references to the carelessness of British officials as well as the indifference and complacency of ‘sahibs and memsahibs’ were provocative enough to invite a swift reaction. Sister Geraldine, a staunch imperialist, accused Ramabai of adding ‘fuel to fire by [her] childish, sensational and seditious letter’.4 Warnings came from Ramabai’s British friends in India and England (including Dorothea Beale) together with the advice that she ‘ought to make a written recantation of statements made in her letter’. The letter itself was brought up in the House of Commons two months after its publication.5 The Anglican view of the actual situation as articulated by the Reverend Page was that ‘no persons in our missions at Poona were attacked by the plague’ while the ‘heathen recognised the plague as God’s visitation, and they at once set to work to fast and pray’.6 The health disaster also had a political fallout. Unwittingly implicated in the antigovernment political resistance on this issue was G. K. Gokhale, the ideological heir of the moderate leader M. G. Ranade and editor of Sudharak since Agarkar’s death. Gokhale was then in England for work related to the Finance Commission, and was persuaded by his friends in India to lodge a formal protest before the British Parliament. But when an inquiry was subsequently instituted in Mumbai, the same friends declined to testify and begged him not to even disclose their identities, in a deplorable lack of moral courage. Acutely embarrassed, Gokhale was compelled to tender an unconditional apology and witness the end of his political ambitions. The only person to willingly and openly support him was Ramabai. Reinstated – albeit temporarily – in the public consciousness, Ramabai was commemorated in a popular Marathi song for her courage and contestation of the colonial state.7 In Ramabai’s ‘Plague Letter’ as in her ‘Famine Experiences’ surfaced arguably her last antigovernment rhetoric. *

Ramabai’s expanded sphere of activities was reflected in the deliberations and actions of the American Ramabai Association which now needed to collect additional funds. At its first annual meeting in March 1899, Judith Andrews, chair of the new Executive Committee, appealed for more funds by approaching women’s clubs in the USA for what she considered ‘pre-eminently woman’s work’ – to give Indian women a taste of the ‘active freedom and happiness that come from a liberal education, diversity of occupation’ and a meaningfully happy family life’.8 The already-vast Ramabai network in that country was sought to be both further enlarged 206

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and feminized. This effort was aided by the public speeches delivered at various places by Manorama (who had also addressed the Association in March 1899) and the five Indian girls who were studying with her at the Chesborough Seminary.9 The then 77 Ramabai circles and private individuals contributed funds as before, and along with the usual $6,000 for Sharada Sadan, an unusually sumptuous amount of about 8,000 was remitted for ‘Mukti school’.10 New circles were formed in response to newspaper and journal reports about Ramabai’s perseverance despite adversities like plague and famine; these reports were judiciously placed by Judith Andrews, ending with an appeal for donations on a war footing. Money was contributed by women college graduates and touchingly also by little children willing to forgo their pocket money or desired purchases.11 Some donors made inquiries about Ramabai’s possible violation of secularity in Sharada Sadan. Andrews was careful to point out that the Sadan offered complete freedom of religion to the Hindu girls as well as those who had willingly become Christian, and that Mukti made no such claim because its inmates were orphaned and destitute girls and women without guardians, and to them Ramabai openly preached Christianity.12 Ramabai’s own report described the forced evacuation of Sharada Sadan girls to Kedgaon because of the plague and also the routine followed by Mukti’s inmates as well as the rescue of more famine victims.13 It was left to Manorama (who came to Boston only to attend the meeting) to describe how the older inmates of Mukti had volunteered to take care of the fresh lots of skeletal babies and young girls Ramabai brought from the famine areas.14 The Association’s efforts were redoubled during 1900–01: secular and religious newspapers throughout the country were encouraged to publish extracts from reports and leaflets about Ramabai’s activities; 5,000 copies of the previous report and more than 4,000 of the last leaflet brought out by the Association were distributed on demand; and a new edition of The High-Caste Hindu Woman (without Dr Bodley’s Introduction) was to be shortly published in New York with Ramabai’s consent.15 All went smoothly at the Association’s annual meeting in 1902, with the president, Dr E. W. Donald lauding ‘Ramabai in India and “Andrewsbai” in America’ as ‘the two solid pillars upon which rests that bridge over which go our gifts and our prayers for Ramabai’s work’.16 Ramabai’s general report of Mukti for the period July 1900 to July 1901 brought the happy news that Mukti and Kripa Sadans had received private donations amounting to Rs 144,586 from diverse countries besides India and the USA – including Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, Australasia, Hawaii, Egypt, China and Ceylon.17 Mainstream Maharashtra took scant notice of these happenings, except in Kesari’s occasional ideological attacks. Its comment (28 January 1902) 207

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on Ramabai’s massive rescue of famine victims was acerbically hostile as usual: During the famine, hordes of underage girls and older women have been brought from Gujarat, Rajputana, Madhya Pradesh, and other regions under the pretence of saving their lives, and currently about 2,500 girls and women have been caught in the [fishing] net of this highly deceptive woman [and are housed] in Sadans or different prison-houses, such as Mukti Sadan, Sharada Sadan, Kripa Sadan! The paper accused ‘Ramabai the Jailer’ of strictly guarding all these women. Perhaps as a result of such negative newspaper reports, in July 1902 the Association suddenly hardened its stance towards Ramabai’s activities. This possibly occurred in response to her proposed relocation of Sharada Sadan at Kedgaon (the students had been shuttling back and forth because of the plague scare) and sale of its property in Pune. This was disallowed because the sale deed had not been legally transferred from the old association to the new one, so that no one was authorized at the time to sell the property. Another underlying reason was the simmering discontent over reports of proselytization within Sharada Sadan. The Association’s president, Dr E. W. Donald, sent a searching questionnaire to Ramabai in this regard, mindful of its ‘implied covenants’ with the people of both India and America, that no effort would be made to convert the Sharada Sadan pupils to Christianity and full freedom of religion would be guaranteed. Should the Sadan be moved to Kedgaon, its pupils would be subjected to undesirable influence from the now-Christian (and low caste/class) women there. It was even suggested that Manorama should be made principal of the Sadan, leaving Ramabai free to conduct Mukti as a Christian institution.18 Ramabai’s candid answers to the questionnaire probably shocked the Association because of the revelation that all 123 pupils then in Sharada Sadan were Christian and had converted after entering the Sadan. But Ramabai truthfully stated that no influence was exerted on them and they had converted willingly. Earlier, when the girls were Hindu, they had been allowed to observe their rituals.19 (The large-scale conversion of Sharada Sadan’s pupils to Christianity was to later lead to S. M. Adhav’s claim that Ramabai was ‘the pioneer-founder of an indigenous national evangelistic mission in India – probably the first of its kind’.20) Inexplicably Donald’s earlier, stern stance towards Ramabai evaporated as suddenly as it had emerged and the annual report of March 1903 ended on the usual laudatory note, with assurances of ‘a larger, wider, more intelligent, and more magnificent support’ for Ramabai’s work.21 208

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The status quo continued in the relationship of Ramabai’s institutions and the American funding agency, although support for Mukti had dropped considerably after the first couple of years. The population of Mukti had burgeoned to about 2,000, and Ramabai’s attempts to teach the girls formal subjects, household chores and income-earning skills had met with success. But even at such a distant and rural location, there was no safety from the plague which had spread from cities to the villages around. A young teacher at Mukti received a visit from his brother, accompanied by his wife and children; the visitor was already infected and died in a specially built hut in a remote part of the Mukti lands.22 In her report Ramabai continued to speak of widows and their suffering and made a direct attack on ‘English women, like Mrs Besant, declaring that the Hindu widow should never marry again’.23 This had followed shortly after Tilak’s vitriolic verbal attack in Kesari (12 January 1904) which exhibits a surprising lapse from good taste.24 It was also practically the last notice the paper took of Ramabai’s activities. The occasion was her public speeches in Bangalore under the auspices of the American Mission, in which she critiqued the Hindu doctrine and practice of oppressing widows and suggested Christianity as an emancipatory alternative. Tilak retaliated through a favourite anti-reform strategy – ridiculing rather than refuting her arguments. He starts with describing Mukti’s residents as ‘widows caught in Ramabai’s net during the unprecedented opportunity of the last couple of famines’. The article then sinks lower to sketch how she studied the Bible and prayed hard, and how ‘Lord Jesus shed His grace on this dear female devotee during just one night!’ Tilak then exposes her strategy to Christianise Indian widows who live in seclusion within the family, while doubting whether people should allow the ‘deceptive tigress in sheep’s clothing’ to reach these widows. His parting shot is that having discarded everything Hindu, Ramabai should also abandon the Hindu title of ‘Pandita’ and start calling herself ‘Reverandaa’. This suggested label appears at first glance like the feminine form of the masculine title ‘Reverend’. But it also involves a crude play on the word ‘raand’ (with the variations ‘randaa’ and ‘randi’), a vulgar word used for a prostitute and sometimes also a widow. But Ramabai’s champions were willing to defend her despite their reservation about her evangelization. Subodha Patrika conceded the compulsions involved in her vast enterprise of rescuing, sheltering and feeding 3,000 people: We too feel sorry that Ramabai converted 3,000 children. But were we prepared to make any provision for even 300 people, let alone 3,000? . . . Would it have been possible for her to exert herself to this extent without converting them? She is a Christian, 209

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she holds an intense faith in Christianity, and the burden of all her work is borne by Christian foreigners; why then should she not convert them? We would have been happy if instead of converting them, she had left it to them to make that decision on attaining majority. But what she did was only human and we are not at all willing to blame her for it.25 Here Subodha Patrika succinctly identified the double standards adopted by many of Ramabai’s critics: earlier they had blamed her for ‘pampering’ widows but would not themselves ensure simple, humane treatment for them; now they blamed her for converting famine victims but would not themselves rescue or feed any of them. *

In 1900 Manorama returned to India and shared her mother’s responsibilities as vice principal of Sharada Sadan. This was the beginning of her independent career, albeit in her mother’s footsteps. In Ramabai’s biographies, Manorama has usually been treated as a postscript to her mother’s life, but her own achievements were substantial and would have received far greater and more appreciative notice had they not been overshadowed by her mother’s. Mano’s life had always followed its separate trajectory to suit Ramabai’s many and international activities. As a child she had accompanied her mother from Bengal to Maharashtra, then to Wantage, and briefly to the USA, before being sent back to Pune. She had been educated in various schools in Pune (including the CSMV’s School of the Epiphany) and Mumbai, and also at home. Then followed four years of schooling, from 1896 to 1900, in England and the USA. After finishing her schooling Manorama had hoped to go to Mount Holyoke College and then pursue medical studies, as she wrote to Sister Geraldine. This long-cherished dream of working in India as a medical doctor resonated with that of many foreign missionary women. In part this would have been a fulfilment of Ramabai’s own vicarious dream, though she did not seem to have promoted it. Unfortunately Manorama was compelled to hasten to India to help her ailing mother and she shared with her grandmother her intense disappointment at the collapse of her plans.26 On her return she worked at Sharada Sadan, and also helped her mother run Mukti Mission. Underneath Manorama’s calm and warm exterior lay hidden some deep conflicts.27 While negotiating a peripatetic daughterhood on different continents, outside a stable and sheltered family milieu, she had scrambled to meet the opposing demands of her mother and grandmother (or Ajeebai), Sister Geraldine. Her genuine affection for both of them comes across in 210

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the letters she was trained to dictate even before she could write. At about the age of six, having returned from the USA to Wantage, she wrote to her mother short notes typically ending with ‘sixty loves and kisses’ and to her temporarily absent ‘sweet darling Ajeebai’ pleading for her immediate return. But the strain of her mandatory weekly letters to Geraldine repeatedly expressing her gratitude led to guilt-induced dreams as early as the age of nine.28 At 25 she was still apologizing for delays in writing to Geraldine, assuring her that the reason was not ingratitude: ‘I do indeed appreciate all your love and kindness to me and thank you with my whole heart.’29 At one level Manorama’s balancing act between dual expectations – in her case her mother’s and grandmother’s – was not unusual, compared to average families. At times their expectations converged: both women wanted her to work as a missionary and assist her mother, though Geraldine envisioned her also as an Anglicized and Anglican foil to her mother. But she enjoyed as little success in making the girl a ‘brown memsahib’ as did Ramabai in making her an authentic product of Indian culture. Manorama remained a cultural hybrid – an Indian Christian peripheral to and ignorant of mainstream Hindu society. In fact she paid her first overnight visit to a Hindu home at the relatively late age of 22 – the age when her mother had accomplished the complex transition from orthodox Hinduism to the Brahmo Samaj and developed a genuine interest in Christianity, besides acquiring a deep knowledge of many regions of India. During this overnight stay Manorama was moved to pity by ‘the sad, sad faces of those poor Hindu widows, absolutely without hope, peace, or joy.’30 Her desire was to bring to Indian women ‘the same privileges which we have enjoyed’.31 The sentiments had also been frequently voiced by Ramabai – but as an insider; Manorama’s words have the ring of foreign missionary rhetoric. *

After the nearly 2,000-strong community was sheltered in Mukti, Sharada Sadan soon formed one of its many sections, and was technically still a Hindu institution for upper-caste widows. Of the other sections, there was one for aged women. Another was specially created for visually impaired women; Manorama had studied Braille in England and now taught these women herself. They were also taught some income-earning skills. By all accounts these blind women were – and still are – always well-groomed, self-reliant and active. One photo in the Mukti Archives shows them going to the dining room for lunch in an orderly line, each one holding on to the shoulder of the one ahead of her. Other published photos show a woman being taught Braille, another reading the Bible in Braille to village women and two visually impaired women making cane baskets.32 211

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A whole section was reserved for Ramabai’s ‘special friends’ who were physically and mentally challenged. They were felicitated on 11 December which was observed as a ‘Day of Celebrations’, when incidentally all the animals at Mukti were also fed with special items of food made individually by the other girls.33 Mukti’s sections were always housed in separate buildings to help different categories of women with specific problems; this was a pioneering, inclusive and radical intervention in the praxis of Indian social reform. Ramabai had obviously drawn inspiration from similar efforts she had seen in England and America. One unique section was ‘Kripa Sadan’ (Home of Mercy) opened in 1899 to rehabilitate the so-called fallen women whom Indian society had thus far utterly shunned and condemned – to the extent of ‘invisibilising’ them in the reform discourse, as Ramabai points out in her pamphlet ‘A Short History of Kripa Sadan’ or Home of Mercy, printed in 1903 for private circulation.34 Traditionally the punishment prescribed for such victimized women by the ancient Hindu sociolegal treatises, which further victimized the victim and continued to shape the nineteenth-century mindset, was the royal command to have them thrown to the dogs on the outskirts of the town, as sinners beyond the pale. This injunction was occasionally dredged up as an expression of extreme hatred for female ‘sinners’, as for example by Kesari (4 April 1887) during the Rakhmabai controversy because her refusal to join her husband was presumed to stem from immoral intent. An eye-opener for Ramabai had been her visits in 1883 to the ‘rescue homes’ in England, at Fulham and elsewhere, run by the CSMV Sisters, where the women victims were reclaimed with compassion, and enabled to live a useful life of dignity. Ramabai began to see these women rather as innocent victims of exploitation by ‘fallen men’ who themselves were ensured social protection for their transgressions against women because of the normatively entrenched gender asymmetry. Her visit to North India to rescue victimized widows from pilgrimage centres was not as successful as expected. But in and around Pune she found such widows who obviously could not be accommodated in Sharada Sadan and were placed in suitable institutions run by the Salvation Army and other missionary bodies. But a large influx of such women victims came along with other famine survivors rescued by Ramabai in the late 1890s. Mukti Mission, already in existence, was not a proper home for them in view of the other girls there. Unexpected help came from a few American missionary women with whose help a separate, fenced-in house was built within the Mukti compound for these destitute women who attended school regularly, received Christian instruction and were taught some vocational skills according to their abilities. Thus was Kripa Sadan started in 1899, and a network of missionary women, mostly foreign, came to be associated with it for various lengths 212

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of time. Of the 2,000 girls gathered from the famine district in 1900 and 1901, more than 350 had to be placed in Kripa Sadan – many of them died soon because of earlier starvation and incurable diseases. In 1903 about 200 such girls lived there, either in the completed part of the new building or in temporary sheds nearby; 75 of them were under 16 and had to be separated from the older and hardened cases and 86 girls of all ages were placed in a temporary rescue hospital. Ramabai reproduces brief life stories of these young women in a set of ‘victimized women’s narratives’ to highlight their sufferings, shame and ‘diabolical treatment . . . received at the hands of heartless men and women’.35 The template for the narratives inhered child marriage, marital harassment including battery which left psychological and often also physical scars, household drudgery and near-starvation, parents’ refusal to help because of poverty or social pressure, eviction from the marital home leading to begging in the streets as the only option – and then inevitably to prostitution. Chance information brought these women to Kripa Sadan and to the hope of a normal life. Many of them died, ‘innocent victims sacrificed to man’s lust’, as Ramabai put it.36 Many of the girls and women were appreciative of the new life they received in Kripa Sadan with benefits they could enjoy for the first time ever. But some older and more brutalized of them resented the discipline and constraints imposed on them and rebelled. The situation fuelled the politics of hostility against Ramabai. She alleges that her conservative opponents made false reports to the government that the girls were maltreated and wanted to be set free. They even instigated the trouble-makers among the girls to rebel, resulting in their attempts to set the house and shed on fire three times in 1902. Later the guilty ones confessed their crime and asked to be forgiven. Several discontented girls ran away. Orthodox society had shunned these women and social reformers preferred not to notice them, taking for granted houses of ill fame as an inevitable part of society. Commotion was caused only when some of the women converted to Christianity. In concluding her ‘History of Kripa Sadan’ Ramabai engages explicitly with the individuals – identified only as ‘yellow-robed swamis’ – who had proclaimed to the men and women of the West the superior position of Hindu women compared to their Western counterparts, and castigates it as false and superficial romanticism. She deploys the potent metaphor of Agra’s splendid imperial Mughal palace for the grand philosophy of Hinduism which hides underground dungeons and torture chambers.37 She also exposes the lack of compassion and humanitarian feelings of her ‘Brahman brethren’ who mourn for the girls who have become Christian and are thus ‘lost to society’ and weakened the nation, but never think of ‘the thousands of young widows who are yearly led astray, and whose lives are destroyed’.38 Ramabai saved some of these 213

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thousands but could not change the mindset of mainstream society and its indifference to them. *

Spatially Mukti grew into a vast settlement of various buildings, permanent and temporary. These clustered broadly in the centre of a large expanse, surrounded by fields as well as fruit orchards and vegetable gardens which provided all the food needed for the self-sufficient community of Ramabai’s dreams.39 A dairy was installed, with 100 cattle and as many sheep to supply milk and milk products. Thus the originally rocky and barren terrain was transformed into ‘a land of milk and honey’ through hard work guided by the philosophy of self-reliance.40 Mukti’s distant location, far from Pune and other major cities and towns, was mitigated by its close proximity to the Kedgaon railway station, and initially a tonga, or one-horse carriage, usually met every train to receive visitors and convey them to Mukti. The narrow road leading to Mukti’s entrance divided the settlement into two: on the left side was the hospital, the rescue home and home for aged women; on the right all the core buildings, constructed mostly of stone. This entire area still retains its original design and purpose, with only slight changes. As one entered the small gate to this latter residential area, a short path led to the office, with Ramabai’s room to the right (which has been preserved as it was, with a life-size cut-out of her). Right of it was the dining room, with the kitchen beyond. In Ramabai’s time vegetarian meals were served Maharashtrian-style, with diners sitting on the floor on squat wooden boards with very short legs and eating out of plates set on the floor in front of them. Ramabai herself was a strict vegetarian all her life, and did not eat even onions and garlic, in accordance with the orthodox Brahmin diet.41 In Western countries this had posed obvious problems and Rajas Dongre mentions Ramabai’s anecdotes about having had to subsist on potatoes or go hungry, even at the dinner parties given in her honour. During meals Ramabai frequently fed little babies morsels from her plate with her fingers.42 Since that time, the dining room has been ‘modernised’ with tables and chairs, and non-vegetarian food is regularly served. To the left of the office stood a row of one-storied rooms with attached bathrooms, for the use of overnight or day visitors. In Ramabai’s time there were several missionary women staying here and in other buildings for long stretches: about 25 missionaries from Britain and Scandinavia, the USA and Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Usually each of these was responsible for a specific department. Just as volunteers and funds flowed in from other countries, so did Ramabai extend whatever help she could out of her meagre funds to the needy in other countries, such as orphans and the 214

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destitute in China and the USA.43 The Mukti inmates were willing to forgo little and scarce luxuries or even meals to contribute to these donations. Arguably the most conspicuous irony of the last two decades of Ramabai’s life was her location as an integral part of the close-knit international Christian community while being totally marginalized from mainstream Maharashtra that surrounded her. What always dominated the Mukti landscape was the large Mukti Church built in 1899 to hold 2,000 people. It was constructed by Krishnarao Dongre, Ramabai’s nephew, in the shape of a cross as designed by her.44 The stone used for the construction had been quarried while digging the 13 wells – each one named individually, such as Favour, Faith, Hope, and Mercy – which supplied the rocky and barren land with water. The large multipurpose structure intended as a locale for collective prayers and sermons also served as a set of classrooms for varied students from kindergarten children to Bible women.

Notes 1 Rajas K. Dongre and Josephine F. Patterson, Pandita Ramabai: A Life of Faith and Prayer, Madras: The Christian Literature Society, 1963, p. 26. The book provides a map of 144 acres beyond which presumably lay fields. 2 Jim Masselos, ‘The Outside Inside: Incursions into the Marathi Household at the End of the Nineteenth Century’ in Home, Family and Kinship in Maharashtra edited by Irina Glushkova and Rajendra Vora, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. –- -?? 3 The Gazetteer of Bombay City and Island, Vol. III, p. 175. 4 B.R. Sunthankar, Maharashtra, 1858–1920, Bombay: Popular Book Depot, 1993, pp. 491–9. 5 Letters, p. 348. 6 Ibid. 7 Letters, pp. 346–7. 8 Kelkar, Lokamanya Tilak, p. 331. 9 American Ramabai Association, Annual Report, 1899, p. 2. 10 American Ramabai Association, Annual Report, 1900, p. 5. 11 Ibid., p. 6. The latter was to decline quite a lot later. 12 Ibid., p. 12. 13 Ibid., p. 14. 14 Ibid., pp. 22–7. 15 Ibid., pp. 32–8. 16 American Ramabai Association, Annual Report, 1901, pp. 5, 13–15. 17 American Ramabai Association, Annual Report, 1902, p. 3. 18 Ibid., p. 15. 19 Letters, pp. 369–73. 20 American Ramabai Association, Annual Report, 1903, pp. 27–33. 21 S.M. Adhav, Pandita Ramabai, Madras: The Christian Literature Society, 1979, p. 18. 22 American Ramabai Association, Annual Report, 1903, p. 46. 23 American Ramabai Association, Annual Report, 1904, pp. 19–21.

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24 Ibid., p. 21. 25 This article, the only piece Tilak wrote about Ramabai, was an editorial note, but has been labelled an ‘editorial’ and given the rubric ‘Panditabainche Paanditya’ (The Learning of Panditabai) in Samagra Lokamanya Tilak, Vol. 5, pp. 492–4. 26 Cited in S.D. Ramteke, Agresar Stri-kaivari Pandita Ramabai, Kedgaon: Ramabai Mukti Mission, pp. 46–7. The number 3,000 cannot be explained. 27 The Letters of Manorama Mary Medhavi compiled by Sister Geraldine, Archives of the Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission. 28 This discussion relies heavily on Kosambi, Crossing Thresholds, pp. 311–35. 29 ‘Letters of Manorama Mary Medhavi’, pp. 28, 36. This was a typed manuscript prepared by Geraldine in 1907 (the same time as the manuscripts of The Letters and Correspondence of Pandita Ramabai was prepared), though without an introduction or editorial comments. 30 Ibid., p. 161. 31 Ibid., p. 143. 32 Ibid. 33 Ramteke, Agresar Stri-kaivari, facing pp. 64 and 80. 34 Dongre and Patterson, Pandita Ramabai, p. 41. The following description is based on this work, supplemented by personal knowledge. 35 This text is reproduced in Kosambi, Pandita Ramabai, pp. 247–60. 36 Ibid., p. 283. 37 Ibid., p. 287. 38 Ibid., pp. 292–3. 39 Ibid., p. 293. 40 This description of Mukti is drawn from personal knowledge and Dongre and Patterson, Pandita Ramabai, especially pp. 3–4 and map facing p. 26. 41 Dongre and Patterson, Pandita Ramabai, p. 26. 42 Ibid., p. 39. 43 Ibid., p. 40. 44 Manorama Medhavi, Pandita Ramabai: The Widows’ Friend, Melbourne, etc.: George Robertson & Co., 1902, pp. 180–1. 45 Dongre and Patterson, Pandita Ramabai, pp. 3–4.

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I have long been wishing to thank the kind friends who have so generously sent help at this time of our need and now I am glad to be able to write a few lines to express my gratitude. [. . .] Several friends have asked me to give an account of my visit to the famine districts, which I do very gladly, and hope that you will find it convenient to give a little space in your columns and publish it. I must, however, preface this account with a few of my recollections of the last famine. Many people who lived and worked in it will remember how millions of poor people were starved to death, and how the great part of Madras Presidency and the Southern Marathi [sic] country were laid waste by the famine of 1876. When I heard of the present famine and its havoc in the Central Provinces, my heart sank within me, and I cried to God for help on behalf of those dear country people of mine. I feel deeply for these poor dying people, because I have myself known what it is to suffer from hunger and thirst, and have seen my dearest relatives die of starvation. My recollections carry me back to the hard times some twenty-two years ago. The last great famine of the Madras Presidency reached its climax in the years 1876–77, but it began at least three years before that time. I was in my teens then and so thoroughly ignorant of the outside world, that I cannot remember observing other people’s condition, yet saw enough of distress in our own and a few other families to realize the hard heartedness of unchanged human nature. High caste and respectable poor families who are not accustomed to hard labour and pauperism suffered then as they do now more than the poorer classes. My own people among many others fell victims to the terrible famine. We had known better days. My father was a land-holder and an honoured Pandit, and had acquired wealth by his learning. But by and by when he became old and infirm and blind in the last days of his earthly life, he lost all the 217

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Plate 11  Famine Survivor, c. 1900

property in one way or another. My brother, sister, and myself had no secular education to enable us to earn our livelihood by better work than manual labour. We had all the sacred learning necessary to lead an honest, religious life, but the pride of caste and superior 218

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learning and vanity of life prevented our stooping down to acquire some industry whereby we might have saved the precious lives of our parents. In short, we had no common sense, and foolishly spent all the money we had in hand in giving alms to Brahmans to please the gods, who, we thought, would send a shower of gold mohurs upon us and make us rich and happy. We went to several sacred places and temples, to worship different gods and to bathe in sacred rivers and tanks to free ourselves from sin and curse, which brought poverty on us. We prostrated ourselves before the stone and metal images of the gods, and prayed to them day and night; the burden of our prayer being that the gods would be pleased to give us wealth, learning, and renown. My dear brother, a stalwart young fellow of twenty-one, spoilt his health and wasted his fine well-built body by fasting months and months. But nothing came of all this futile effort to please the gods – the stone images remained as hard as ever, and never answered our prayers. [. . .] We knew the Vedanta and knew also that we worshipped not the images but some gods whom they represented – still all our learning and superior knowledge was of no avail. We bowed to the idols as thousands of learned Brahmans do. We expected them to speak to us in wonderful oracles. We went to the astrologers with money and other presents to know from them the minds of god concerning us. In this way we spent our precious time, strength and wealth in vain. When no money was left in hand we began to sell the valuable things belonging to us – jewelries [sic], costly garments, silver-ware, and even the cooking vessels of brass and copper, were sold to the last, and the money spent in giving alms to Brahmans till nothing but a few silver and copper coins were left in our possession. We bought coarse rice with them and ate very sparingly, but it did not last long. At last the day came when we had finished eating the last grain of rice – and nothing but death by starvation remained for our portion. Oh the sorrow, the helplessness, and the disgrace of the situation! We assembled together to consider what we should do next, and after a long discussion came to the conclusion that it was better to go into the forest and die there rather than bear the disgrace of poverty among our own people. And that very night we left the house in which we were staying at Tirpathy [Tirupati] – a sacred town situated on the top of Venkatghiri [sic] and entered into the great forest, determined to die there. Eleven days and nights – in which we subsisted on water and leaves and a handful of wild dates – were spent in great bodily and mental pain. At last our dear old father could hold out no longer, the tortures of hunger were too 219

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much for his poor, old, weak body. He determined to drown himself in a sacred tank nearby, thus to end all his earthly suffering. It was suggested that the rest of us should either drown themselves or break the family and go our several ways. But drowning ourselves seemed most practicable. To drown one’s self in some sacred river or tank is not considered suicide by the Hindus, so we felt free to put an end to our lives in that way. Father wanted to drown himself first, so he took leave of all the members of the family one by one. I was his youngest child, and my turn came last. I shall never forget his last injunctions to me. His blind eyes could not see my face, but he held me tight in his arms, and stroking my head and cheeks, he told me in a few words broken with emotion, to remember how he loved me, and how he taught me to do right and never depart from the way of righteousness. His last loving command to me was to lead an honourable life if I lived at all, and serve God all my life. He did not know the only true God but served the – to him – unknown God with all his heart and strength; and he was very desirous that his children should serve Him to the last. ‘Remember my child,’ he said, ‘you are my youngest, my most beloved child. I have given you into the hands of our God, you are His and to Him alone you must belong and serve all your life.’ He could speak no more. My father’s prayers for me were, no doubt, heard by the Almighty, the allmerciful Heavenly Father whom the old Hindu did not know. The God of all flesh did not find it impossible to bring me, a great sinner and an unworthy child of His, out of heathen darkness into the saving light of His love and Salvation. I can now say to the departed spirit of the loving parent: ‘Yes, dear father, I will serve the only true God to the last.’ But I could not say so when my father spoke to me for the last time. I listened to him, but was too ignorant, too bewildered to understand him or make an intelligent answer. We were after this dismissed from my father’s presence; he wanted an hour for meditation and preparation before death. While we were placed in such a bewildering situation, the merciful God, who so often prevents His sinful children from rushing headlong into the deep pit of sin, came to our rescue. He kept us from the dreadful act of being witnesses to the suicide of our own loved father. God put a noble thought into the heart of my brother who said he could not bear to see the sad sight. He would give up all caste pride and go to work to support our old parents, and as father was unable to walk, he said he would carry him down the mountain into the nearest village, and then go to work. He made his intentions known to father and begged him not to drown himself in the sacred tank. So the question was settled for that time. Our hearts 220

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were gladdened and we prepared to start from the forest. And yet we wished very much that a tiger, a great snake, or some other wild animal would put an end to our lives. We were too weak to move and too proud to beg or work for earning a livelihood. But the resolution was made, and we dragged ourselves through the jungle as best we could. It took us nearly two days to come out of the forest into a village at the foot of the mountain. Father suffered intensely throughout this time. Weakness caused by starvation and the hardships of the life in the wilderness hastened his death. We reached the village with great difficulty, and took shelter in a temple, but the Brahman priests of the temple would not let us stay there. They had no pity for the weak and helpless. So we were obliged again to move from that temple and go out of the village into the ruins of an old temple where no one but the wild animals dwelt in the night. There we stayed for four days. A young Brahman seeing the helplessness of our situation gave us some food. The same day on which we reached that village, my father was attacked by fever from which he did not recover. On the first day at the beginning of his last illness, he asked for a little sugar and water. We gave him water, but could not give sugar. He could not eat the coarse food, and shortly after he became unconscious and died in the morning of the third day. The same kind young Brahman who had given us some food came to our help at that time. He could not do much. He was not sure whether we were Brahmans or not,2 and as none of his covillagers would come to carry the dead, he could not for fear of being put out of caste come to help my brother to carry the remains of my father. But he had the kindness to let some men dig a grave at his own expense, and follow the funeral party as far as the river. Father had entered the order of a Sannyasin before his death. So his body was to be buried in the ground according to the commands of the Shastras. As there was no one else who could help carry the dead, my brother tied the body in his dhoti like a bundle, and carried it alone over two miles to its last resting place. We sadly followed to the river bank, and helped him a little. So we buried our father outside the village, away from all human habitation, and returned with heavy hearts to the ruins of the old temple where we had taken our abode. That same evening our mother was attacked by fever, and said she would not live much longer. But we had to leave the place, there was no work to be found and no food to be had. We walked with our sick mother for a while, and then some kind hearted people gave us a little food and money to pay our fare as far as Raichur. 221

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There we stayed for some weeks, being quite unable to move from the town owing to the illness of our mother. Our life at Raichur was a continuous story of hopelessness and starvation. Brother was too weak to work, and we could not make up our minds to go to beg. Now and then kind people gave us some food. Mother suffered intensely from fever and hunger. We too suffered from hunger and weakness, but the sufferings of our mother were more than we could bear to see. Yet we had to keep still through sheer helplessness. Now and then when delirious, mother would ask for different kinds of food. She could eat but little, yet we were unable to give her the little that she wanted. Once she suffered so much from hunger that she could bear it no longer, and sent me into a neighbour’s house to beg a little piece of coarse bajree cake. I went there very reluctantly. The lady spoke kindly to me, but I could on no account open my mouth to beg that piece of bajree bread. With superhuman effort and a firm resolution to keep my feelings from that lady I kept the tears back, but the expression of my face told its own story. The kind Brahman lady, guessing what was in my mind, asked me if I would like to have some food, so I said, ‘Yes, I want only a little piece of bajree bread.’ She gave me what I wanted and I felt very grateful, but could not say a word to express my gratitude. I ran to my mother in great haste and gave it to her. But she could not eat, she was too weak. The fever was on her, she became unconscious and died in a few days after that. Her funeral was as sad as that of my father, with the exception that two Brahmans came to help my brother and me, to carry her body to the burning ground, about three miles from the town.3 I need not lengthen this account with our subsequent experiences. My elder sister also died of starvation, after suffering from illness and hunger. During those few months before our sister died, we three travelled on foot from place to place in search of food and work, but we could not get much of either. My brother and myself continued our sad pilgrimage to the northern boundary of India, and back to the east as far as Calcutta. Brother got work here and there, but most of the time we lived an aimless wanderer’s life. Very often we had to go without food for days. Even when my brother had got some work to do, he got so little wages, only four rupees a month, and sometimes much less than that, that we were obliged to live on a handful of grain soaked in water, and a little salt. We had no blankets or thick garments to cover ourselves, and when travelling we had to walk barefooted, without umbrellas, and to rest in the night, either under the trees on the roadside, or the arches of bridges, or 222

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lie down on the ground in the open air. Once on the banks of the Jhelum, a river in the Punjab, we were obliged to rest at night in the open air, and tried to keep off the intense cold by digging two grave-like pits and putting ourselves into them, and covering our bodies – except the heads, with dry sand of the river bank. Sometimes the demands of hunger were so great, that we would satisfy our empty stomachs, by eating a handful of wild berries, and swallowing the hard stones together with their coarse skins. Four long years we suffered from scarcity. We did not mind it much as we were young and strong, we could stand it much better than our poor old parents and weak sister. The Heavenly Father very mercifully removed them from this earth, and that none of their children, whom they loved so much, died or were separated from them in their life-time, gave us some satisfaction, but the memory of the last days of their life, full of sorrow, almost breaks my heart. I would never have written this account had not the necessity of my present situation obliged me to do so. None of my friends can ever understand what my feelings are for the famine people unless they know that I have had once to go through the same experience as that of the starving thousands of Central India. Yet I must say that suffering alone is not able to produce sympathy for other sufferers. My own experience of the unconverted state of mind and the present knowledge of my fellow country-women and girls, whom I have ample opportunity to study, shows that suffering in itself has rather a hardening effect on the human heart. It takes away almost all delicate feelings from the soul, making it as hard as a stone. I can quite understand now what God meant when He said to Israel, ‘I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.’ Unless God change our hearts through the wonderful regenerating action of His Holy Spirit, we never have true love and sympathy for our fellow men. Later on I shall give an example of this. But now I must pass on to the chief subject of this article. A little over four months ago [September 1896] I heard of the distress of the people in Central India, and at once my heart went out to them in sympathy. The human common sense said, ‘You had better stop here,’ and ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it, here. You have no means and no strength to do what you wish. Your powers are limited and you will not be held responsible for not doing anything to help those famished people. Indeed, what can a weak woman do to help the dying thousands? Besides the Government of India and other benevolent people are doing what they can do to relieve the poor and the needy. There is nothing for you to do.’ I tried to quiet my conscience in this manner, but louder and 223

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louder spoke the voice of God from within my heart. ‘Remember the days of old.’ ‘Thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondsman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee,’ and, ‘Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’ A missionary lady, Mrs. Drynan, of Rajputana, accompanied me part of the way, to gather some children for mission orphanages of Poona. We went to Sohagpur first, and began the work at once. We found out from the good people there that we could not get the orphan children without the permission of the Government. So our first business was to go and see the physician in charge at the Hospital, and the Tahsildar in charge of the Poor House. We went to the Hospital too early, about 8:30 in the morning. The doctor was not there, but right before that hospital were walking three little famished skeleton-like forms, and this first sight of their distress I shall never forget. The three children, we found out, were of the Chamar caste, their father had died some time ago, and the mother had died only the day before. The eldest was a girl of about seven, the second a boy of five, and the youngest a baby boy three years of age. The girl was protecting herself from the intense cold with a covering of rags, and the two boys had nothing on their bodies. Their wrinkled faces and the ghastly death-like expression told the story of the terrible suffering they were in. The agony and dismay I felt at seeing that sight cannot be told in words. I was perfectly powerless, and could do nothing but cry to the Father to help me. As we could do nothing, we had to harden our hearts and turn our step towards the Poor House, where we expected to find the Tahsildar. The memory of the three little ones, especially the youngest child, who I am sure could not have lived many days after that, haunts me to this day. Whenever I think of them my heart is filled with indescribable sorrow. I could neither sleep nor rest for the thought of them for many days. We did not get the children, though we tried our best. It took us such a long time to go and see the officer in charge of the Poor House, and by the time we returned, they had gone somewhere, and no one could tell us where they were. I went again to that place, made a thorough search all over the town, and round about it, but did not find them. Perhaps they fainted on their way to the town in quest of food, and fell down in some ditch on the roadside, and died there of hunger. The Lord have mercy upon us all and give us repentance for not going to help such innocent little sufferers. It will take me too long to describe all that I saw and heard at the Poor houses and relief camps visited. So I will say in general what most affected my mind. 224

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The first Poor House we saw was no house at all. It was a grove in [sic] the outskirts of the town. Groups of famished people were seen sitting or lying in ashes on dirty ground. Some had rags to cover their bodies, and some had none. There were old and young men, and women and children, most of them ill, too weak to move about, and many suffering from leprosy and other horrible diseases. Bad men, and women, pure young girls, innocent children and old people, good, bad, and indifferent, were freely mixing and conversing with each other. They slept in the open air or under the trees at night, and ate the scanty and coarse food provided by the Government. The food was nothing but dry flour and some salt. There were several starving orphan children who could not cook for themselves, and had no one to work for them. So they had either to eat the dry flour or depend upon the tender mercies of their fellow sufferers, the older persons, who took as much of their food as they could, with the right of their might. The poor people seem to have lost all human feeling. They are most unkind towards each other and the little children around them. They do not care even for their own children. Some parents eat all the food they get for themselves and for their little ones, and become quite fat, while their children are starved and look like skeletons, and some are even in a dying state and yet their fathers and mothers feel no affection for them. Parents can be seen taking their girl children around the country and selling them for a rupee or a few annas, or even for a few seers of grain. The food given to the children is snatched from their hands, and eaten by their stronger neighbours. In some places, the Government officials give two pice or more to each child, or old or sick person, unable to work, but what can a baby of two or three years of age do with two copper pieces in hand? The pice are soon stolen and the little ones left to die of starvation. In other places – food, i.e., wheat or jowari flour, and some kind of pulse, are cooked into dal and roti and then distributed to the poor. The Government officials are kind, and are doing what they can to help the poor people at the relief camps and in the Poor Houses. But the means at their disposal make it impossible to meet the demands of the needy ones. What are a few thousand rupees among so many thousands, to be supported for months? Perhaps about eight or ten annas, or at the most, a rupee per month is allowed for each person; and how much and what kind of grain will that sum bring? Alas! Alas for the poor who are obliged to eat all the food given to them at the Poor Houses. Few of the subordinate officers, such as the Mukadams ad cooks who have it in their power to give or withhold 225

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from the poor the food sent for them, have any heart or conscience. The grain, the very cheapest kind, is bought and ground into flour, without being cleaned of the sand and earth it contains. Then the heartless cooks steal the flour and put a quantity of earth into it, while they cook the dal and roti – and nobody notices that the food is thus adulterated. The poor people are too much afraid of the Mukadams to complain to the higher officials. The flour and pulse so adulterated, then made into roti and dal, do not look any better than cakes of cowdung. The people in the Poor Houses are in such a degraded condition that even the pigs who wander round about our villages, do not begin to be compared with them in filthiness. The absolute nakedness of almost all little children, and hundreds of older people ­covered with dirt, and sometimes with filthy rags, their skeleton-like bodies full of frightful sores, and their sad wrinkled faces wearing a ghastly, death-like expression, and their forlorn condition are all an indescribably sad sight. The European and Native officers employed to look after the interests of the dying thousands are hard at work, and try to do as much as they can. But it is impossible for them to find out what goes on behind their backs. The sepoys and Mukadams are the real masters and rulers of these places. Take for instance a Poor House containing over two thousand poor people, and a relief camp where over 15,000 people are working. What can one or two, or half a dozen superior officers, do for these thousands? They are obliged to leave the work in the hands of the Mukadams, who can do whatever they like. They use their sticks and tongues freely. They pull and push the working coolies, even women. This is no good sign at all. Wicked men and women are everywhere on the look-out for young women and girls. They entice them by offering sweetmeats and other kinds of food, clothing, and fair promises to take them to nice places and make them happy. So hundreds of girls, young widows and deserted wives, are waylaid as they go to the relief camps and Poor Houses, in search of food and work, and taken away before they place themselves in the custody of the Government. The wicked are not afraid of the judgment of God, they are sinning away their lives in the midst of the fearful scene of famine and pestilence. May the merciful Father help these children! One of my workers was walking on the road one day, when she saw a little girl of about 12 years old sitting on the roadside. She looked sad and hungry. My worker spoke kindly to her and found out that she was an orphan. When the worker asked her if she 226

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would like to come to me, the girl said she had an older sister, and would go anywhere with her. In the meanwhile the sister, who had gone to wash, came back to the place where the child was sitting. From her my worker heard their pathetic story. Their father had died about three weeks ago. They had no one to take care of them, and did not know where to go to get food. They were on their way to the relief camp. Someone had told them that there was a lady near the place, who had come to gather some children to give them a home, so they had come to the sarai [shelter] to look for her. From this statement we knew they were looking for me, but I left the sarai before they came, and so missed seeing them. My worker then asked the older girl, who is about fourteen, if she and her sister would like to come and stay under my care. The girl said she would. She begged of my worker with tears in her eyes, that she should be placed under the care of good people. For she had met with so many bad people after her father’s death, and they had tried to tempt her into evil. But she had resolutely refused to go with them. While the conversation was taking place, half a dozen or more wicked men had gathered around my worker, and were about to take the girls away, by frightening them out of their wits, but God saved the children from the dreadful fate and they were safely brought to me. God help the young girls and young women who are obliged to go to the relief camps and Poor Houses. The sight of the pitiable condition of these poor orphan girls brought to my memory the state which I was in some 22 years ago. I bless and thank God for not having allowed us to go to the relief camps in the days of our need. My sister, a fine young woman of 25, and myself a girl of 16 would have easily fallen into the cruel hands of the wicked people of such places. The very remembrance of relief camps and Poor Houses and the condition of our sisters there makes me shiver, and I tremble with fear for several thousands of young women and girls, who are being sacrificed to the devil in these hard times. There are not many girls who will resist the devil in the face of starvation and death. God be thanked for protecting the virtue of these innocents. But it has been my sad lot to see many little girls ruined for life. Even the little children seemed to have lost all their innocence and were acting like little devils. What lies, what thefts, what indecent language! ‘Oh God,’ I exclaimed when I saw them. ‘Save us, save our nation from utter destruction.’ It seemed as if nothing short of a great flood would be able to wash away all this sin from the face of our country. I wonder at the mercifulness and long-suffering of our Father, who is still bearing with us. 227

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It is impossible for the Government officers alone to look after the little children and to protect the virtue of young women and girls. There is a large field of work for you and for me if only we undertake to do it. Old people and middle aged persons and delicate women who are unable to break 12 baskets of stone, and carry it to the appointed place, and who cannot get their wages at the relief camps, unless they do so much work every day, need our help. The sad sight of aged men and delicate women stretching forth their sore hands and begging you to help them, pouring out their sorrow into your ears, and lamenting over their hard fate while their tearful eyes look straight into yours to find out if there were a particle of sympathy for them, is altogether too much to bear, for a person having a heart of flesh. Why do not good Christian people in England and America send money to the missionaries in this country, who are so anxious to help the poor people, and are trying hard to do as much as they can for them, but cannot do more for want of means? The great motherly heart of missionary ladies is yearning for the dying children and other poor of the Central Provinces. Let benevolent people send generous donations to them for feeding and caring for the Lord’s little ones. Men can do much, but all godly women must come forward at this time and care for little children and protect young women whom the Government officials are not able to help and care for. It is woman’s work and cannot be left to the officers and their subordinates. My sympathies are excited by the needs of young girl widows especially at this time. To let them go to the relief camps and Poor Houses or allow them to wander in the streets and on the highways means their eternal destruction. Ever since I have seen these girls in the famine districts – some fallen into the hands of wicked people; some ruined for life and turned out to die a miserable death in a hopeless, helpless manner; some in the hospitals only to be taken into the pits of sin there to await a cruel death; some bearing the burdens of sin utterly lost to the sense of shame and humanity – hell has become a horrible reality to me, and my heart is bleeding for those daughters of fond parents who have died leaving them orphans. Who with a mother’s heart and a sister’s love can rest without doing everything in her power to save at least a few of the girls who can yet be saved from the hands of the evil ones! So, regardless of the trying financial state of my school, I went to work in the Central Provinces to get a few of the helpless young widows. The Father, who is a very present help in trouble, has enabled me to get some sixty widows, forty-seven of whom will go to school 228

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to study, and others will work. Over Rs 850 were spent in fetching them here. Of this amount about Rs 525 were given me by friends, and I thank them for it. To go to work to get these widows, to fetch them here from Central India and to feed them and clothe them is an awfully expensive business. Harder still is the work of civilising them and teaching them habits of cleanliness. They are no better than the brute animals. The filthy habits they have acquired during these years of famine have become second nature with them. It will take a long time to civilise and teach them. We can do all things in the Power of the Lord. The Lord has put it into my mind to save three hundred girls out of the famine district and I shall go to work in His name. The funds sent to me by my friends in America are barely enough to feed and educate fifty girls, and several people are asking me how I am going to support all these girls who may come from Central India. Besides their food and clothing, new dormitories and dining rooms must be built. Our present school-house is not large enough to hold more than one hundred girls at the most. And how are these emergencies to be met? I do not know, but the Lord knows what I need. I can say with the Psalmist: ‘I am poor and needy, but the Lord thinketh upon me,’ and He has promised that: ‘Ye shall eat in plenty and be satisfied and praise the name of the lord your God – that hath dealt wonderfully with you; and My people will not be ashamed.’ My girls and I are quite ready to forego all the comforts, give up luxuries and live as plainly as we can. We shall be quite contented to have only one meal of common coarse food daily of necessary, and so long as we have a little room or a seer of grain left in this house, we shall try and help our sisters who are starving. It seems a sin to live in this good house and eat plenty of good food and be warmly clothed, while thousands of our fellow creatures are dying of hunger and are without shelter. If all of us do our part faithfully, God is faithful to fulfil His promises and will send us the help we need at this time. I humbly request you to pray for me and mine that we may be made strong in the Lord, and walk by faith and not by sight. Believe me yours In the Lord’s service Ramabai P.S. The good missionaries at Hoshangabad, Itarsi, Narsingpur, Jabalpur and Bina have been very kind to me and helped me a great deal in my work. Our dear friend Miss Richardson, of Bombay, went to work with me and has aided me by giving passage money 229

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for the girls whom I brought here. I thank all these good friends for extending their help and for their goodness to me. Ramabai Poona, January twentieth, 1897.

Notes 1 Portions of the Letter which deal in detail with the demoralization of the people consequent upon the famine, have been omitted. P.R. 2 It is surprising that the Dongres could not prove their Brahmin origins by reciting the sacred texts. M.K. 3 Even more harrowingly Ramabai had to help carry the bier of her mother – which high-caste women never did. Being the youngest and the shortest, she had to place the end of the wooden pole on her head instead of the shoulder (as is usually done), which was physically much more painful. Vaidya in Pandita Ramabai, Englandcha Pravas, p. 51. M.K.

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Selection 5 ABOUT GOVERNMENT PROVISIONS DURING PLAGUE EPIDEMIC, 1897

Dear Guardian, I have come here to live in the Plague Hospital, but am safe and sound, thank God. I have come here to take care of one of my babies, who was sent here by order of the doctor on plague duty on the railway station; I dare not send anyone else to this dangerous place. It is a truly dangerous place, though it looks all nice and clean as far as the hospital arrangements are concerned. There are so many doctors and nurses and servants to look after the patients here, but the internal state of affairs is questionable. The higher authorities do not know much about it, I suppose. Some of the doctors on plague duty act very strangely on the railway stations. A young man was sent here last night. He is as fat and healthylooking as anyone can be, but he is living here because he was sent here by the doctor. One day when I was taking my girls from Talegaum [sic] to Kedgaum [sic], the doctor on duty examined all the girls in the train. One of the girls was very ill from the effects of heat and hardships which she had to bear at Talegaum. The doctor let her go, but made another girl who had nothing the matter with her to get down from the railway carriage and frightened her out of her wits. She got very much excited and began to cry. After examining her, the doctor was obliged to let her go as she had no fever. Yesterday, however, the same doctor I think found a little child in a party of our girls who returned home from Kedgaum. The child is suffering from itch. She is a famine baby and had slight fever. He ordered us to send her at once to the Plague Hospital. This morning she had no fever, but the surgeon says we have to stop here for two or three days. However, this is not a matter of grief to me. About two months ago, when Mr. Plunkett paid his first visit to my school, some famine girls were suffering from various diseases, such as itch, mumps, disorder of the stomach, etc. Mr. Plunkett told me to send all the girls to the Sassoon Hospital, even though they should 231

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not have much to suffer from. He assured me at the same time that all the girls would be safe and well taken care of at the Hospital. So I sent many of my girls there, and most of them returned home soon. One of those girls, a famine widow, had strong fever on her. She was taken for a plague case, and was sent to this Plague Hospital. We were told that none of us would be allowed to come here unless we stayed as long as the doctors thought fit. I could send no one to take care of the poor girl, and could not come myself, as I had to look after 180 girls, and remove them from Poona at the order of the magistrate. By the time I had a little time to come to Poona and make enquiries, nearly six weeks had elapsed; and when I enquired for her at the Sassoon Hospital on last Saturday, the surgeon informed me that the girl had died long ago. Would to God she had died instead of living as she lives now. After my arrival here last night I enquired for her, and found out that she was well and living here. I desired to see her, but this morning I was told by the servant and watchman that the girl was ‘kept’ by a watchman of this Hospital. This man says she has gone away, he does not know where. Two medical practitioners and two women servants told me last night that the girl was well, and I should see her this morning. The same persons change their word this morning, and say she is not here; she was discharged some time ago, and ‘they did not feel bound to inform me of her discharge from the Hospital’. Strange management is this. Now the girl is gone to the devil, lost, lost for ever! O dreadful thought! My heart aches for her, for she was a good child. I wish I had died before anything of this kind had happened to one of my girls. I owe all this grief and other troubles to the Poona city authorities. God knows how many young girls of good character have been separated from their friends in this way and obliged to go to the Plague Hospital and Segregation Camp and be ruined and lost for ever. The Lord knows how many heart-broken mothers are weeping for their lost children. The City Magistrate, with other people living in style, know little and care less for the hundreds of poor unfortunate victims of their careless rule. The sahibs and memsahibs occasionally visiting Segregation Camps are very pleased with the outside cleanliness of these places. They seem to think that we poor ‘natives’ do not suffer from heat and other inconvenience. There are no proper bathrooms and resting places here. The people who come here to take care of their sick friends have to suffer much. I had to lie down in the open ground all night. The pricking stones, bugs, mosquitoes, and fleas made it impossible for me to go to sleep. They told me to sleep in the 232

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ward, a miserable shed with five beds in it. One patient who looks very much like a plague-stricken woman is lying down on a charpai [a simple cot]. She vomits very often; my little child is obliged to be next to her. Her son slept on the ground near her charpai, and I was told to sleep near the child, about six feet apart from him. What do you think of this? I suppose the Hospital authorities think that Indian women are lost to all sense of shame and propriety. I have to be baking here in the heat and must write for I have much writing to do. The surgeon told me I had bad eyes and must take care of them. I requested him to let me go into a separate room with my child, where I could have a little shaded place. He kindly consented to let me go into a vacant ward, but hear now that it had been occupied by plague-stricken people. I must choose between either having my eyes blinded by the sun, have sun-stroke or headache, or consent to breathe in the plague germs by going into a ward formerly occupied by plague patients. The filthiness of the only bathroom assigned for women living here is indescribable. Women who come here to take care of their sick relations must give up all modesty or suffer pain. Never before have I felt so mortified or put to shame but now this evil has come upon me and I have to thank the authorities for it. I am writing this with my sore eyes to warn patients and friends of young women against the moral evils of the plague hospitals and segregation camps. Their young women are never safe in such places. Some of my girls offered to come here to take care of the child and now I am glad I did not allow them to come. I shall never let a girl come alone to this dreadful place while I have a little strength in me. God help the young women who may be obliged to come to such a place as this and may He open the eyes of our City Magistrate and his colleagues to see the evils resulting from their heartless unjust rule. I am mourning over my lost child as much as ever a mother mourned and wish death had put an end to all this. May mothers protect their girl-children even though it may be at the cost of their own lives. Believe me Yours in the Lord’s service Ramabai. Government Plague Hospital May 18, 1897.

233

Selection 6 TO THE FRIENDS OF MUKTI SCHOOL AND MISSION, 1900

Dear Friends, A year has passed since I wrote the last year’s account of Mukti. Several friends have again and again asked me to write more about this School. It is a little over three years since the Lord called me to take up famine relief work. From a small beginning of temporal character the Mukti School has grown into a permanent and large institution. Three hundred girls rescued from starvation in 1897 have received regular secular and Christian instruction. They are the children of many prayers; much love and labour has been bestowed on them, and now I am able to say, with great joy, that the workers have not laboured in vain. The money which so many friends have sent for them has not been spent in vain. The Lord is very good to let us see the fruit of our labour, and He is giving us abundant joy as we see the girls growing in grace and proving themselves worthy of the love and labour spent on them. In the Mukti Sadan 580 and in the Kripa Sadan 60 girls are being trained to lead a useful Christian life. The number of the inmates of these Homes is doubled and will increase as days pass by. God is greatly blessing the work here and the prayers of our friends in all parts of the world are answered daily. Including the 100 girls of the Sharada Sadan I have altogether nearly 750 girls under training. It will be easily imagined that they need a large number of teachers and helpers to train them. I have only 16 paid teachers from outside, in these Homes. There are 85 other persons to help me in the three institutions. Thirty-three teachers, 10 matrons and 42 workers in different branches of Industry are daily labouring for the good of their sisters and their own improvement. Although they are dependent on these Schools for their daily bread, they may be said to earn their own living as most of them receive no pay or have but nominal pay. The Sharada Sadan has trained 70 teachers and workers in the past 11 years, and the Mukti School has trained nearly 80 girls to earn 234

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their own living in the past three years. Of the old and new girls 85 have found work in their own mother institutions, and 65 of the old girls are either married or earning their living as teachers and workers in different places. A question has often been asked, namely, what is going to become of all these girls? It is not difficult to answer it. India is a large country, and a vast amount of ignorance prevails everywhere. Men and women of education and character are needed to enlighten this and the coming generations. I have had a 100 requests from missionaries and superintendents of schools to give them trained teachers, Bible-women and matrons. I had quite as many and more requests from young men to give them educated wives. It will not be difficult to find good places and comfortable homes for all these young girls when the proper time comes. Our first duty is not to think of what may happen tomorrow, but what can we do for and how shall we train these young lives to-day. Each day brings fresh need and new hopes and new work with it. So the lives of the workers here are full of today’s work and care. We have but little time left to think of the morrow. My heart is burdened with the thought that there are more than 145,000,000 women in this country who need to have the light of the knowledge of God’s love given them. All the work that is being done by missionaries and their assistants in this vast country is but a drop in the ocean. It will be very small help to add our particle to that drop. But every particle added will increase the drop, so it will be multiplied and permeate the ocean until it becomes a stream of the living water that flows from under the throne of God, to give life and joy to this nation. My aim is to train all these girls to do some work or other. Over 200 of the present number have much intelligence, and promise to be good school teachers after they receive a few years’ training. Thirty of the large girls have joined a training class for nurses. Some girls have mastered the trade of oil making. Others have learnt to do laundry work and some have learnt dairy work. More than 60 girls have learnt to cook very nicely. Fifty or more have had some training in field [i.e. farm] work, but want of rain has stopped that branch of our industry which will, I hope, be started again after the rain falls. Forty girls have learnt to weave nicely and more than 50 girls have learnt to sew well and make their own garments. The rest small and large girls are learning to do some work with the three R’s. One of the smaller girls rescued from starvation in the last famine is taking charge of a few of our blind girls. Miss Abrams very kindly taught her to read the blind characters. The girl herself is studying hard while engaged in teaching the blind girls to read the Scripture. 235

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Besides reading the Scripture she teaches them tables, mental arithmetic and geography in her spare hours. She sees to their bathing, taking meals at proper time, and can be seen going about her work with her family of the blind and feeble-minded girls. Her heart goes out to the feeble and friendless and, as soon as she sees someone who is not loved by other girls, she befriends her and takes charge of her at once. She is a truly converted Christian girl trying to follow in the steps of her Divine Saviour. This – and other instances of converted girls trying to do what they can to alleviate the sufferings of their sisters while yet in school and busy with their work – is a great encouragement to us workers who thank God for being so good as to let us see that our labours are not lost. Some girls who are not intellectually bright are learning other work. Some of them have a mother’s heart which is full of love for children. They are appointed as matrons and have small groups of children under their charge and love and care for them like their own mothers. These very girls who are so gentle and loving now were very wild, greedy and selfish before their conversion to Christ. One would have hardly believed that they could ever be so changed and be what they are now. But the Scripture says ‘Nothing is impossible with God’. His love has won their hearts and He has made them new creatures in Christ. It must not, however, be understood that our School and Mission and the workers connected with them are models of perfection. We are all very defective, make many mistakes, and our flesh many a time gets the better of us. You will find many faults in us if you look out for them. The Lord knows that we are nothing but dust. But He in His supreme love does not give us up for lost but chastises us back into the right way and lets us know why He chastised us. We thank Him with all our hearts for His unspeakable love and mercy. Most of my helpers have joined the Bible Training Class taught by Miss Abrams. The daily study of the Word of God has made them willing workers. ‘The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.’ We have found that nothing helps so much to make matters straight as the study of God’s Word. Out of this Bible Training Class I hope there will rise a trained band of Bible-women who will take the Gospel to their sisters in their own homes. Some girls have already begun to go about in the villages around here. They are working as Zenana Bible-women and Sunday School teachers in their spare time. No one who has not lived here for some time can have any idea as to how many different kinds of work the Mukti girls have to do. Kedgaum [sic] is by no means a romantic place. The girls have to walk a long distance in the burning sun, bare-footed and without umbrellas over their heads, to go to bathe by the wells. They have to rise as 236

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early as four and work in the morning in order to get their day’s work done. The following are the hours assigned to different work: A.M. 4 to 4.30 Washing. “ 4.30 to 5 Singing. “ 5 to 7 Preparation of lessons. “ 7 to 8 Breakfast. “ 8 to 10 School. “ 10 to 10.30 Prayers. “ 10.30 to 11 Recess. “ 11 to 2 p.m. School. P.M. 2 to 2.30 Recess and midday meal. “ 2.30 to 3.30 Bible Study and other work. “ 3.30 to 5.30 Bathing and washing clothes. “ 5.30 to 6 Evening prayers. “ 6 to 7 Dinner. “ 7 to 8 Rest and play. “ 8 to 4 Retire for the night. The hour of bathing and school are changed in different seasons. The girls cannot bathe in cold water early in the morning in cold and rainy seasons, so they have school in the morning. In very hot months, from March to the end of June, they have their bath in the morning and have school for four hours only. They have their holidays in the month of May, and a fortnight’s vacation at Christmas time, and school is always closed on Saturdays, Sundays and other festival days. In long holidays as in May and December they have to do some little work in order to keep their minds busy. The girls who cook in the morning have to rise as early as two o’clock in the morning. Two classes having 25 or 30 girls in each have to cook and serve by turns. Those who cook in the morning have their rest in the afternoon and can retire early. Their time of work is changed after a few weeks. When one class has mastered the work assigned to it, another takes up the work and the former one begins to learn something else. In this way all the girls are trained to do almost every kind of work done here. All get sleep from seven to eight hours. They are neither over-fed nor get too delicate food, but none of them are under-fed. They get three good meals a day as a rule. The weak and sick ones, as well as the very little children, have milk and other nourishing food. We have a regularly trained hospital nurse – a good Christian woman – to look after the sanitary conditions of the place. She has a large band of girls working under her. Some of the girls who need and desire for hospital treatment in their sickness are sent to Poona to the Zenana Mission Hospital or to the Sassoon General 237

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Hospital. But most of the girls know the Lord as the Saviour of their souls as well as their bodies and ask for prayers in their sickness and are healed according to their faith. Yet I have to record 13 deaths during the past year; 11 died from the effects of famine, one died of fever and one of small-pox. Chicken-pox, small-pox and measles were brought by the new girls arrived from the famine districts this year. I have tried my best to separate them from the older girls. Arrangements have been made to quarantine the new-comers – and all the small-pox and measles cases are placed in a separate compound by themselves. New sheds have been built and the houses enlarged as fast as help came. No time, labour or money have been spared to save life and make the girls comfortable. But weakness produced by prolonged starvation and the extreme heat caused by want of rain have been too difficult to cope with. Yet I cannot but thank God out of the fullness of my heart in so wonderfully protecting so many hundreds of lives from plague and famine. Although life at Kedgaum is hard, the girls look fat and healthy and are full of spirits. I find that hard work makes better women of the girls. The easy and comfortable city life is, of course, preferable to the flesh, but life in places like Kedgaum with fewer comforts and harder work is more conducive to bodily and spiritual health. You have heard and are still hearing about the great famine which is devastating this country. The land has not yet recovered its former state; it is still suffering from the effects of the last great famine; and yet a greater famine has come upon it so soon. The people are too weak to bear it and are dying like so many animals in times of epidemics. The condition of Gujerat and Rajputana is worse than that of any other famine-stricken part of India. The land for hundreds of miles is quite dry with no crops and no grass growing. Small streams and rivers which form a net-work all over the country have dried up long ago, and the large rivers have dwindled down into threads of small steams of water. Large wells too have scarcely any water. Trees in the jungles have been shorn of their foliage and deprived of their branches, a few stumps are left standing here and there; they look very much like the starving people around the country. Only a few green bushes which are perhaps poisonous and will not be touched by man or beast are left here and there, and there leaves are almost the only green things seen on the dry land. The fertile country of Gujerat [sic] was never so dry and destitute as it looks now. Large herds of hungry and thirsty cattle move about like armies of ghosts. I have never seen such a ghastly sight in my life. They have nothing but skin and bones left and fall down dead at any 238

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moment. I have passed trains upon trains loaded with cowhides. Piles of bones of dead animals and of men and women can be seen near railway stations. The traffic in cowhides and bones has been flourishing in Gujerat and Rajputana for months. Some people are profiting by it, but the death of so many cattle means a great loss to the agriculture of this country for years to come. But turning from the cattle we see a more pitiful and heart rending sight in the human skeletons moving about in search of food. Nearly 6,000,000 people are at work in Government relief camps, and the number is fast increasing. But there are many more poor people who are too weak to work and too helpless. Many high-caste people who are too proud to work in relief camps are dying of famine in their own homes. Life in relief camps is very hard. The people are asked to break twelve basketful of stone in small pieces and have from three to five pice or 3/4 to 1 & 1/4 penny a day. Digging of the ground, breaking stone, carrying earth to a long distance is the work they have to do in relief camps. The money they get for a hard day’s labour is not enough even to give them one coarse meal a day. Out of this money they have to bribe the Mukadams, in order to get work, and the Marwari who measures out so much grain for the money deceives them and gives them a very small quantity of old and bad grain. The camps have no shade trees nor sheds to protect from cold or heat. They have to work in the burning sun all day and sleep in open air all night. They cannot get water to bathe and wash and have very little of it to drink. Small children under eight years of age get a little food from the Government kitchen. They have very insufficient shelter and almost no clothing on their bodies. No one can blame the Government for such a state of things, for the famine is very great and the means at their disposal are small. They have to depend largely on the subordinate workers and employees, most of whom have little or no conscience. The Mukadams and Clerks are mostly busy in filling up their own purses and the higher officials, who know what the grievances of the poor people are, feel very helpless for want of good conscientious workers. Everyone is not able to stand this hard camp life; so many of the weak, poor men and women go about begging or seek admittance in Poor Houses. Many of the starving people wandering in jungles have eaten up all the fruit of the cactus and sycamore and wild berries found in the land and are now eating leaves, barks and small twigs of the trees. Vast numbers of children and famished old people can be seen picking a few grains from the dusty roads over which carts of grain have passed. They are found gathering and winnowing manure and 239

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dust in the bazars and on highways in hopes of finding a few particles of grain for satisfying their hunger. They are filling their empty stomachs with sand and small stones in order to escape the pangs of hunger. They are drinking filthy and muddy water wherever they can find it. They cry out continuously for food and water, and strike their stomachs and their heads in great agony. Many who have no strength left in them to say even a word to express their suffering lie down on the road sides and in the Poor Houses and suffer silently. Some of them simply stare at you when you see them – their poor lightless eyes so deeply sunk in their sockets through which their death agonies are expressed haunt you day and night. They are so silent and still that their very silence speaks loudly of how very great sufferings they have gone through. Numberless such skeletons are lying down everywhere, and dying away without even a groan or sigh, for they have no strength even for that! Who will understand what these poor people must have suffered and are suffering? Filthiness caused by want of water to wash bodies and clothes is added to starvation. The sores on the bodies and heads of children and grown up people are fearful. Their rags and hair and skin are full of insects and sores. Dirt and filth seem to have become a part of their lives, and their dreadful smells are unbearable. Some people have a few rags, but they are no protection to their bodies. As there is nothing to protect their bodies from cold or heat, hundreds die from cold in cold months. This famine began to be felt since the beginning of last July, but it was not officially admitted and few dared to say that there was any famine. When the poor people and cattle actually began to die of starvation, and their dead bodies to fall down everywhere, the existence of famine could not be denied any longer and the Government and others commenced to take active measures to help famine sufferers. We have heard true stories of many cruel people and their devilish acts in the days when Sati burning was allowed. If after inducing the poor unwilling widow to mount the funeral pyre of her husband, her relatives saw that her heart failed her and she began to flee from those destroying flames, they used to force her back into the fire and hold her down with long bamboo sticks until she was suffocated and her body fell into the fire and was burnt to ashes. How you and I have shuddered at these acts of cruelty and said that nothing but heathenism and uncivilized, unrefined minds would have done it. But what civilization and how much of humanity and refinement do you find in the acts of certain authorities who shut their eyes and ears and force the fleeing people back into their own villages and States to suffer the unspeakable agonies of starvation? They are 240

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held down there not with bamboo sticks but by bayonet points until they are burnt down by the flames of hunger and their lifeless bodies can no longer move away. When the famine set in by the beginning of last July, thousands of poor people from the native States of Rajputana, Guzerat [sic] and Kathiawar began to pour into British territory, in hopes of saving their lives from starvation. But an alarm was taken at it. Collectors, magistrates and their subordinates were ordered to drive the people back into their own States and the Princes were ordered to feed their own poor – to which they officially consented with their lips, and many of them did the best they could. But it must be remembered that the extravagant expenses incurred by the Rajas and Chiefs on grand occasions like marriages and deaths, as well as at times of visits from Governors and other ­Government officials, have had a good deal to do with the impoverishment of the States and their people. The inhabitants had to pay large taxes and the treasuries were emptied and the States burdened with debt. Most of the chiefs and their ministers have little strength and less desire to feed and care for the perishing poor. There are of course Poor Houses and relief works opened quite lately but for months the starving poor were allowed to die like rats and dogs. There is a Marathi proverb which says ‘The mother will not give food and the father will not allow to beg;’ what is the child to do then but to die without uttering a single word? This is exactly what happened to the poor people of many native States of Rajputana, Guzerat, and Kathiawar. The British Government would not allow them to come to beg in their territory and their Mother States did not give them food to eat. So they died of starvation quite unintentionally but cruelly forced upon them. Now that the Poor Houses and relief camps are opened everywhere it may be supposed that the lives of the remaining are saved. This is quite a mistake in many, many cases. First because though the hungry ones are flocking to the Poor Houses, most of these have been suffering from starvation for months, so much that even if they get food they will not live. They have very poor coarse food given them which their stomachs are not able to digest. No attention is paid to keep their bodies clean and covered to protect them from cold or from sores or other fearful diseases. In many cases it so happens that the poor are gathered and fed only when some British officer is present, and as soon as he turns to go away – quite satisfied that everything is being done to save their lives – they are turned out of the Poor Houses and camps, driven into jungles to die horrible deaths. The able bodied men and women who can work in relief camps, and are able to hold their own, will live through this 241

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famine, but the poor defenceless widows, deserted wives, orphans and old people are, alas! dead and dying by the thousands. Now that the Rajas and Chiefs know that these poor people of their States will have no room in British territories, they have found it easy to manage their affairs. They will not allow kind Christian people to rescue the starving widows and orphans – because their ministers and other grand people have brought their influence to bear on them for the defence of the Hindu religion. They are saying that the orphans taken by Christian Missionaries will be Christianised and so they will not be allowed to be taken out of the States. But many of us know that these poor children are not cared for. Many are actually dying of neglect. Young widows are being enticed away by wicked people and sold to sin, and the infirm people cannot do anything to save their own lives. It were a noble thing for the Hindu religion to have so many thousands of Martyrs, if only they were willing Martyrs, but these poor defenceless thousands are sacrificed on the unholy altar of caste prejudice by sheer force brought to bear upon them by both the British and Native States. The Government’s policy of noninterference with religious customs is an admirable and a noble one, but in such cases as these forced deaths of thousands, it is to say the least, inhuman. What difference is there between allowing people to burn their widows alive, or to sacrifice their children to Kali, and to force women and children and weak people back into the States where they will surely die or be sold to sin to die a dog’s death later on? My language may seem strong, perhaps unwise, but, dear friends, you must remember I am speaking for those thousands who are too feeble and powerless to left up their voices – and am speaking the truth. I do not blame individual officials, for they can only do what they are told; but the policy of non-interference misapplied in this case is blameworthy. I am deeply grateful to the individual officials who are not only helping the poor officially, but feeding and saving them with their own money when they find the Government money is not available. It is these righteous officials who are helping missionaries and others to save the lives of the perishing ones and I know God will bless them. Let us pray very earnestly that all of them – including the lawmakers and administrators – be filled with this Christ-like spirit and shew mercy to the poor. They will bring a rich blessing upon themselves and upon the Government. But woe to those who have never felt the pang of hunger, neither suffered from cold and from heat and coolly allow so many poor to die and the girl children and young women to be sold to the agents of the devil for hellish purposes. May God give them a repenting heart, or it will go very bad against them in the last day. I have visited 242

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Poor Houses and seen men, women and children dying of hunger on highways and byways. Their ghastly appearance, their dumb appeal – Oh, those pitiful eyes which speak volumes – haunt me day and night, and the appealing voices, the agonised cries and the hopeless expressions are all so burnt down into my heart that I cannot but speak a few words for them. The Word of God says, (Prov. 31:S.) ‘Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of such as are appointed for destruction.’ And woe to me if I do not obey the command, even at the cost of losing the favour of the high and mighty of this world. Many a careless official has allowed children to be taken away by people who will turn the boys and girls into slaves and concubines. The children who have been sheltered in Poor Houses are supposed to have lost their caste – and caste Hindus will never re-admit them into their community and to all their caste privileges! Men of education and means among the Hindus have found it next to impossible to get into their caste when they have once lost it by crossing the sea or by openly associating with Christians or by marrying widows. The poor children who have been sheltered in Poor Houses and eaten food from the hands of people of other caste will not be taken back into their caste, but will be in life-long slavery if they are ‘adopted’ by Hindus or Mohammedans. The Contagious Diseases Act which has again come into force under the name of Cantonments Act is a great force on the side of the devil and enables wicked people to carry on their wicked traffic in girls for the ‘benefit’ of the British Soldiers. Missionaries and ­others have found it much more difficult to get girls than boys from famine districts; men and women who are engaged in this traffic in flesh and blood were very busy for months gathering girls before any of the relief works and Poor Houses were started. Whenever they saw any of the Christian people coming to the rescue of the girls, they started such alarms and told such dreadful stories about Christians that in many cases the girls have refused to place themselves in charge of Christian schools and have gone to their destruction. It is hard work to gather and save girls and young women. Their minds have been filled with such a dread towards Christian people that they cannot appreciate the kindness shewn them. For instance many of the unconverted girls in my homes have a great fear in their mind. They think that some day after they are well fattened, they will be hung downward – and a great fire will be built underneath and oil will be extracted from them to be sold at a fabulously great price for medical purposes. Others think they will be put into oil mills and their bones ground. It is only lately that our girls gathered from the last famine have begun to lose these dreadful thoughts, but the minds 243

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of the new ones are filled with more dreadful ideas than these. They cannot understand that anyone would be kind to them without some selfish purpose. Bad men have succeeded in gathering large numbers of girls by enticing them away and sold them to a bad life. It is too shocking to the refined feelings of refined people, but facts are facts, and Christian mothers ought to know that they may be prompted to pray and to work hard for the Salvation of young girls – perhaps of the same age as their own daughters. Let the thought and love of our daughters move our mother-hearts to come forward and save as many of the perishing young girls as we can. I have found out to my great horror and sorrow that over 12 per cent of the girls rescued by my workers have been ruined for life and had to be separated from the other girls and placed in the Rescue Home. The bodies of some of these poor girls are so frightfully diseased that there is no hope for their recovery. Half a dozen of them have died already and some more will die soon. If you could only see them yourself you will understand what I say. It seems very necessary under these circumstances to save as many precious lives as we can get hold of. Orphanages and schools are filled to the overflowing with great numbers of children taken in. My own homes among others have had their share of girls. I have already received over 350 young widows, deserted wives and girls from the present famine, and shall not refuse to take a larger number if necessary. The number of girls in my three homes together has increased from 375 last year to 750 this year. The support and education of all these and many more girls to come will I know cost a great deal, and the responsibility of so many souls on hand is greater still. But I know also that the silver and gold of this world is the Lord’s and He cares for them all. Not one of them falls without the Father knowing it, and He will somehow or other supply all their needs, temporal and spiritual. My present duty seems to be to rescue and save as many young girls as I can and prevent them from falling into the hands of wicked people. The enemy is very busy in starting bad reports about this work among people around us, and they believe them with all their hearts. Hindus, Parsees and Mahomedans have heard that I deceive the girls, take them by force without permission of their parents and compel them to become Christians. They have also said I have deceived the Hindus, the English and the Americans and am filling up my purse with money. They sneer at my workers and myself, point the finger of scorn at us when we go about doing the Lord’s work and say, ‘here are these dreadful people.’ They laugh and talk 244

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about us, turn their faces, as if from some loathsome objects, and say, ‘Why does Ramabai take all these animals to her home; what is she going to do with them?’ Then they answer their own question and say, ‘Yes, we see she is taking them to make Christians of them, and make money and fill her purse!’ The poor women and girls rescued from the famine districts are so terribly dirty and have such bad smells about them that the passengers in trains and other clean people cannot bear the very sight of them. Houses cannot be hired to shelter them at the chief stations where my workers are working, because owners of bungalows and small houses object to have these dirty people staying in their houses. There are some very highly educated and over clean people who despise us and do not let us stand near them because we associate with such dirty, ghastly looking women and girls. But though thus despised and rejected by society we know that He who came to save the fallen and call sinners to repentance – the Man acquainted with sorrows and the Friend of the poor sinners – is with us. He has promised to be with us even unto the end of the world. We consider it a great privilege to be counted worthy to be despised by the world like our Master, and thank God for His goodness. I must say a few words about my fellow workers, sharers of all the hardships in the famine relief work. [. . .] They are doing a work from which many a mighty man would shrink. It is but a small thing to fight a great battle and win a victory with many titles, compared with the heroism of such women. They are true heroes and heroines who suffer with the poor and cast their lot with the despised ones. It takes great courage to stand by the rejected dirty and loathsome people. God bless these and other such workers whose works are not recorded in the reports here but for whom the Master has a crown of victory ready and will place it on their heads when they have finished the battle of this life. [. . .] It rejoices my heart to see some of the girls saved from the last famine going out into the famine districts with my workers to save the lives of their perishing sisters in the present famine. Before taking up famine relief work this year, the writer waited on God to know His mind about it. The treasury was quite empty, and when the quarterly balance-sheet was prepared in the middle of October last there was no balance left at all. Reports of the widespread famine and the wicked traffic in girls reached me from many sides. Still there was nothing to be done except to wait and pray. The Lord did not try my faith very long. The very next day a cheque for Rs.272–2–0 was sent for Mukti and another daily need was supplied in a wonderful manner. It was then made clear to me that I must 245

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step out in faith and receive as many girls as the Lord would have me reach. So the work was begun at once. Workers were stationed at different places to search for young girls. There was no money for buying material to build new sheds, so some old material was gathered and a shed was prepared to shelter the new comers. Our girls had to give up a good many comforts. Little children and older people had to go without milk and butter, only a few small babies who could not eat solid food and the very sick girls got milk, the rest had a little butter milk with a great deal of water mixed in it. The store room was almost empty and the saries [sic] of our girls and most of their blankets had turned into old rags – there was no money to buy new saries and blankets. But saries had been ordered from the cloth merchants with the understanding that they were to take all the saries back if by a certain date their bills were not paid; not one of them however was touched. Grains and other necessities of life were not ordered for the month. Many people could not understand why I had to make certain changes in food, etc. But the Lord knew all about it. He let the trials come at certain times and let the house and treasury be quite empty only to fill them again. He made me realize from time to time that His ‘hand is not shortened that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy that it cannot hear’ Is.59. [. . .] The work of rescuing girls went on and is still going on in spite of all difficulties and trials, for God makes it very plain to me from time to time by removing obstacles when they come that it is His will that this work should not be stopped until He Himself stops it. Augur’s prayer, Prov.30:8, 9, is being answered in our case. We are not allowed too much or too little of food and clothing and other comforts. Moreover the Lord is teaching our Christian girls to deny themselves a little for the sake of others that they may meet the expenses of their Christian instruction and other church expenses. He sent us a message one day to give up one of our meals on Sundays to save money to feed the hungry and poor and to help His work in other missions. Most of the girls very cheerfully came forward with the request to cut off their one meal on Sundays, which was of course granted and the money thus saved has been used to feed the Lord’s poor and to help on His work in other places. The question of self-support of the Native Christian Churches in India is becoming a very serious one. The Indian Christians are very poor, it is true, and will not be able to pay very high salaries and bear heavy expenses of fashionable churches. But it must be remembered that these Christians are mostly converts from Hinduism or children of converts. As Hindus they or their parents did not look to some other nation or to the high priests for the support of their 246

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temples, and their priesthood and the wandering religious beggars. As Christians there is no reason why they should not train ­themselves and their children to deny themselves and to systematic giving. The Lord showed me this was my opportunity to practise and teach what I believed, and I am very thankful to say that the experiment has proved to be a success and the Lord’s promise, Mal.3:10, has been literally filled. [. . .] If we give a twentieth or 50th part and call it a ‘tithe’, or give very little with great reluctance we are robbing God of His dues and robbing ourselves of great blessings which He is eager to give us if we only accept them by fulfilling the conditions. This, to me, seems to be the only true cause of the material poverty of the Native Christian Church in India. We must not expect that God will give us many spiritual and temporal blessings unless we cheerfully fulfil the conditions on which He has promised them to us. [. . .]1 I owe a great debt of gratitude to these [missionaries mentioned by name] and other Christian friends who have visited us from time to time and fed us with the heavenly Manna from the Word of God. . . . My special thanks are due to The American Ramabai Association, to the Proprietor of the New York Christian Herald, and of the London Christian, to the Editor of the Bombay Guardian, The Record of Christian Work, The Vanguard, The Missionary Review of the World, and to other Editors of papers and hundreds of other good friends who have helped us with their words, prayers and sent money to support the girls here. . . . The teachers and other helpers, especially all the noble Christian women who have laboured to rescue the girls from famine and death, have my gratitude and prayers. God gave me a special message from His Word a few days ago to give all the friends who are helping the Lord’s work at Mukti and other missions, which I pass on to you. It is this: ‘He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack.’ You have denied yourself in many ways for the sake of giving money for the poor women and children sheltered in our Homes, but you have this rich promise from the Lord as your reward. God bless you all. As for me, I have His sure word to depend upon. ‘He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?’ VII.32. Now, ‘Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made kings and priests unto God, and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen.’ Believe me, dear friends, Yours gratefully in the Lord’s Service, Ramabai. Mukti, April, 1900. 247

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Editor’s note Reproduced from a pamphlet in the Archives of the Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission.

Note 1 Here Ramabai mentions several missionaries who helped her during this time. M.K.

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Away from mainstream society, Ramabai lived her hectic life at Kedgaon, at times alone in the midst of a vast international ‘family’, although her aloneness perhaps subsided after her daughter’s return. Ramabai’s ‘transnationalism’ flourished. In 1902 she sent Manorama at short notice to Australia and New Zealand to study the Christian revivals there, along with Minnie Abrams. This seven-month-long visit was hosted by the WCTU network in Australia and New Zealand, and reported for its entire duration by Our Federation, its monthly official organ.1 The two women arrived in Adelaide in September 1902, went on to Melbourne, travelled to New Zealand in early 1903, and then to Hobart, Tasmania, before sailing home in early May. Manorama’s ‘dignified yet charming bearing, and her sweet and simple eloquence’ impressed all.2 During this visit Manorama published Pandita Ramabai: The Widows’ Friend which was the Australasian edition of The High-Caste Hindu Woman, with the addition of her own introduction and sequel describing Ramabai’s life and work – which included material from Ramabai’s annual reports and her ‘Famine Experiences’, as well as material from her biographies.3 Back in India Manorama started in 1903 The Mukti Prayer Bell, a quarterly bulletin of Mukti’s activities, featuring the Liberty Bell on the cover as a metaphor for social and political freedom. Over the years it became somewhat irregular, but was greatly appreciated by the region’s Christian community because it was ‘quite unlike most other mission reports in plan and style’, contained ‘no tables of statistics, no financial statements, no list of workers, no illustrations’ and did not advertise its activities: ‘Even a diligent search would result in a very imperfect catalogue of the many activities of this mission.’4 At the same time, it reflected ‘a spirit of deep, intense faith, finding expression in loving fellowship and service’.5 The bulletin has continued for more than a century and is now published as the AngloMarathi Mukti Kiran.6 In 1908 Manorama paid another visit to England, though the details are not known.7 249

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Plate 12  Ramabai and Manorama with co-workers

Some years later, in 1914, Manorama opened ‘Shanti Sadan’, a girls’ school in Gulberga in the princely state of Hyderabad, in today’s Andhra Pradesh. Managing this in addition to her duties at Kedgaon was stressful and was to ultimately take a heavy toll on her health. Manorama was able to complete her own much-neglected education after a gap of several years when her mother enrolled her in Deccan College at Pune – after requesting permission from the American Ramabai Association to use the Sadan’s funds, because she had spent all of Manorama’s salary for the Sadan’s expenses.8 She finally took her BA degree and her Teacher Training Certificate in 1917, at the age of 36.9 At Kedgaon Manorama’s assistance was invaluable. Generally known and loved as ‘Tai’ or older sister (while Ramabai was known as ‘Bai’), she was in charge of teaching in which she excelled, correspondence and accounts; and played a major role in the ‘great Revival’ at Mukti.10 *

The Holy Ghost Revival at Mukti in 1905 attracted wide attention among the Indian and European Christian community in India, and even abroad. During her return journey from the USA in 1898, Ramabai had attended the Keswick convention in England and appealed to the 4,000 Christians gathered there ‘to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on 250

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all Indian Christians’.11 This was also the reason for her sending Manorama and Abrams to Australia in 1902; she also formed prayer circles for Mukti women among her international Christian friends. The letter Ramabai sent with Manorama, which was published on the front page of Our Federation, was a succinct appeal for spiritual help from Australia, embedded within which was an account of her activities at Mukti.12 The letter opens with a salutation to ‘Dear Christian Friends in Australia’ and goes on to mention having ‘heard with the greatest joy that the Lord has been sending “showers of blessing” on your land, and that thousands in your country have sought and found Him’. She reveals that God had instructed her to go herself or send her daughter there in order to ‘bring a wave of spiritual blessing to this land from the shores of Australia’. In a wider context she appeals for prayers on behalf of the Bible women being trained at Mukti – the formerly oppressed child wives, child widows and deserted wives whom Ramabai had rescued and sheltered; and prayers to revive the Indian (Protestant) Christian Church ‘to carry the Good Tidings to all people in India’. On 30 June 1905, one of the Mukti girls ‘received the Holy Spirit’ and seemed to be on fire. Some girls tried to douse the fire by throwing water on her, only to discover that it was not a real fire. Then all the girls of that compound fell on their knees ‘weeping, praying, and confessing their sins’. Soon all the inmates of Mukti started doing so, and were consequently ‘transformed with heavenly light shining on their faces’.13 According to Helen Dyer, all the work at Mukti came to a standstill while waves of loud prayers and repentance followed by rejoicing washed over all the women. There are other descriptions and interpretations of the event. According to Wesley Duewel, revival days are ‘supernormal, supernatural’ and leave one with ‘a profound realization of God’s greatness and transcendence’ and one’s own ‘unworthiness and dependence on Him’ as well as ‘sinfulness’. The unusual manifestations of this feeling may be trembling, weeping, sinking helplessly to the ground, or a group congregating at a place where no service has been announced, and unrestrained sorrow over sin or exuberance at Christ’s forgiveness. He concludes that ‘Revival converts tend to be lasting converts.’14 Macnicol sees the Mukti event as a reaffirmation of Christian faith and discipline among the inmates, and akin to the common Indian phenomenon of possession by spirits. The physical manifestations of the revival were a burning sensation, a loud clamour of simultaneous prayer, and ‘speaking in tongues, or incoherent speech in unrecognizable languages which the speaker alone understood as meaningful.15 Although considered questionable by some of Ramabai’s friends, the revival seemed to others a consciously sought answer to her problems. Ramabai herself was relatively aloof from these outpourings, but Manorama participated fully in them. A pragmatic interpretation of the event comes from the Reverend 251

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Butcher (who observed such an outburst) that Ramabai ‘showed herself wonderfully wise in the way she fostered and guided the entire movement so that real spiritual results were conserved and spiritual disorder avoided’; moreover the permanent benefit was ‘the true conversion of hundreds of women’ and ‘the full consecration of large numbers, making them keen to witness and work for Christ’.16 Many of these women became willing ‘Bible women’ who went in bands to various places in Maharashtra, especially Hindu pilgrimage sites such as Pandharpur, to preach the message of Christ. Mukti became the centre of the revival as it spread to institutions associated with Ramabai, and has received special notice in most, if not all, international overviews of revivals.17 *

The move to Kedgaon made Ramabai spatially as well as socially peripheral to Pune, the cultural heartland of Maharashtra. It is only through impressed Christian visitors (both Western and Indian) that we learn of the self-reliant and flourishing community at Mukti. After spending a few days at the ‘village’, ‘Bhishaja’ wrote in early 1899 of her astonishment at the great improvement in the 300 widows Ramabai had settled there and who shared a sisterly attachment, aided by Ramabai’s own affectionate treatment of them.18 A few months later, ‘A friend and traveller’ wrote of 400 destitute widows brought from the famine areas who had totally overcome the effects of famine and were busy studying, cooking, doing farm work, and weaving cloth under supervision from Ramabai and her missionary friends.19 Other visitors also unfailingly admired the large number of women sustained by the institution, the vocational training which the girls received in addition to their schooling and Mukti’s church, farms and orchards. One of them saw a community of about 1,500 girls and women, and 100 boys managed smoothly. They were well-fed, strong and cheerful, and received medical care from a resident doctor and his wife who was a nurse. They also received schooling; in addition, the girls were taught weaving, sewing, dyeing, embroidery, farm work, cooking, and the boys were taught how to run the printing press – a skill taught to women when the boys’ section was later removed from Kedgaon (see Plate 13).20 By 1907 a visitor saw that Mukti Sadan, Kripa Sadan and Sharada Sadan had developed their distinct identities, and there was an impressive expansion of education – from kindergarten to matriculation; in fact some girls had already passed the matriculation and were now working as teachers at Mukti. Studies occupied half the time of the inmates while the other half was given to income-earning skills such as weaving saris, and running of the flour mill, oil-press, laundry and the printing press; this also enhanced 252

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Plate 13  Women typesetting Mukti publications

the community’s self-sufficiency. There were no physical signs of the much talked-about religious revival considered to be dubious by most Christians, but all girls and women prayed in their own way and at their own pace after a text from the Bible was read. The ‘true state of affairs’ at Mukti was that everybody seemed healthy, well-fed and cheerful. Most impressively, ‘all the tasks in this female kingdom, from top to bottom, are managed by women’, the only exceptions being the scavengers, night watchmen and some farmhands.21 This was the feminist revolution Ramabai had struggled to sculpt; but despite strong international links and support in terms of Western funds and volunteer workers, it was to remain marginal to the mainstream society of India. Among the last feminist interventions Ramabai made was the short but significant Introduction to Mrs Fuller’s The Wrongs of Indian Womanhood (1900), which argues for ‘naming’ women’s problems as the first step to their solution.22 The recurrent problem of social reformers in colonial India was how to reconcile the need to place social problems on the public agenda while simultaneously concealing them from the condescendingly critical colonial gaze. These contradictory demands of social progress and defensive 253

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nationalism created a considerable tension which came to be resolved in diverse ways. Some reformers like Telang denied the existence of allegedly pernicious customs – which the British officials named ‘household slavery’ – and argued for the priority of political reform which would naturally lead to social improvement.23 Some individuals like Anandibai Joshee resolved it by shielding their private liberal beliefs under a publicly avowed social conservatism, when confronted by American missionaries in the USA.24 A third option, chosen and defended by Ramabai in this succinct note, was the consistent and candid exposure of Indian women’s multiple problems, preventing their being obscured from the reform discourse. Ramabai begins her Introduction by stating that most Indian men, including the reformers, were ‘ignorant of the real condition of women’ and that women themselves were unaware of ‘the depths of ­degradation’ in which they lived. Further, the women who were conscious of and ­possibly articulate about their suffering lacked the opportunity to express themselves. Lastly they were reluctant to do so ‘for fear they may lower themselves and their nation in the eyes of other nations’. While Ramabai’s stance strengthened her position within the international Christian networks for raising the status of Indian women, it had significant negative repercussions at home. Such an alliance tended to elide the ­distinction between her insider’s empathy and the Western missionary’s Oriental rhetoric; it also fuelled her ideological opponents’ charges of betraying the national cause. *

Ramabai’s writings after 1900 were plotted on the Christian meridian; her occasional short pieces in Mukti Prayer Bell were stencilled after the standard Christian missionary critique of Hindus and Hinduism. In 1907 she wrote A Testimony of Our Inexhaustible Treasure (earlier also known as My Testimony, Selection 7) which is essentially a Christian reconstruction of her life. The text is located firmly within the classic Christian confessional tradition whose arguably most famous proponent was St Augustine of the 3rd and 4th centuries. He set the standard by making his book ‘emphatically not an autobiography’, but an outline of his life in sufficient detail to serve his design ‘to encourage penitence and stimulate praise’.25 Ramabai treads the same path by sketching her life as a backdrop to accentuate that her conversion in 1883 was ineffectual because it was based on intellectual conviction. At that time she still had reservations about some crucial doctrines of Christianity, such as the divinity of Christ, His virgin birth, and His bodily resurrection.26 In her letters to Geraldine during the years immediately following her conversion, she had strongly contested these points. It was only eight years later, as she admits in A Testimony (in 254

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the section ‘Finding Christ’), that she made an unconditional spiritual surrender, placed her faith in Christ and His atonement and had an epiphany. Embedded within the text was Ramabai’s last feminist articulation, emphasizing Hinduism’s doctrinal discrimination against women. As far as Christian confessional texts in Marathi are concerned, arguably the most celebrated is Baba Padmanji’s Arunodaya (Sunrise, 1884).27 The mandatory English registration page describes it as ‘the autobiography of Baba Padmanji containing a description of his former life as a Hindu, and the causes which led to his conversion’. In his Marathi Introduction he states his principal objective: ‘to describe the great compassion showered by God on a wretched sinner, to lead other sinners like him to read it and experience that compassion, and then sing its praises’. But his personal narrative is not a mere preliminary to convey his Christian message; it is a detailed biography based on meticulously collected source materials, such as personal reminiscences, sporadically kept diaries, letters and correspondence, newspaper clippings and reports. The text was translated into English in 1890 either by the author or by Dr J. Murray Mitchell, and a review (at the end of the Introduction) hailed it as a pioneering narrative of the genre written in an Indian language.28 Ramabai also published a number of Marathi pieces: Shastra Katha (Stories from the Bible in 1911, a tentative, simplified translation of the Gospel according to St. Mathew under the title, Amacha Prabhu ani Taranara Yeshu Khrista yacha Nava Karar (The New Testament of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour) in 1912, and a catechism, Shastra-sambandhi Prashnottaravali, published posthumously in 1928.29 About 1905 Ramabai embarked on her magnum opus, a Marathi translation of the Bible, which spanned the last 18 years of her life. This was not the first nor the last such translation, but it was certainly the most scholarly and faithful to the originals. Her rationale for a new translation can be read as part of her intensely personal narrative on various levels: her changed perception of the status of Sanskrit which she had earlier revered as an ancient and venerable Indian language but which she now repudiated as a vehicle of objectionable Hindu religious thought; her idea of the ‘common man’s Marathi’; and the need to convey the authentic core of Christianity to Marathi-speaking Indians. The translation was intended to be new, exact and scholarly, being based on the original Greek and Hebrew versions as well as the King James and the American Authorized versions. During the course of this massive project she studied Greek and Hebrew with scholars, and also wrote a Hebrew grammar in Marathi.30 The project was located within the long and rich tradition of Marathi Christian literature stretching back to 1616 when an English Jesuit priest of Goa, Father Stephens, wrote his Khrista-purana – a life of Christ composed in the style of a Hindu purana, in the then popular verse form known as 255

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Plate 14  Ramabai working on her Bible translation

ovi. This was followed by William Carey’s Marathi translations of portions of the Bible, made with the assistance of a Maharashtrian pandit, and published in Bengal from 1805 onward. The first standard Marathi Bible (Old and New Testament) was published by the American Marathi Mission in 1855, with revisions made throughout the nineteenth century. Christian theological and literary works continued to emerge during the next century as well, as for example the Reverend N. V. Tilak’s Khristaayan (1938) in verse, based on the Reverend Baba Padmanji’s prose life of Christ, Khrista Charitra (1895).31 Some years earlier, in a letter about the proposed Marathi translation of the Bible by the revising committee of the Bible Society, Dnyanodaya (9 256

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May 1889) had raised important issues in its English section. The desideratum of a grammatical, accurate, intelligible, and readable translation had been felt strongly. Their new committee had included English members versed in Greek and Hebrew, and local members careful to use idiomatic Marathi which would be ‘pleasing to the ear’. In this regard Dnyanodaya reminded its readers that what was then ‘held to be so excellent a standard of idiomatic English’ may have originally seemed unidiomatic. But ‘it being universally read and cherished as the Book of Books, in the course of time the peculiarities of its language, its Hebraisms and Grecisms [sic] became familiar to the ear, and became the idioms of the English tongue.’ This was the hoped-for outcome for the proposed Marathi translation. But it had not been achieved, prompting Ramabai’s fresh attempt. In her circular letters about the Bible translation project, Ramabai posed important questions about the intertwining of language and culture through the latent mediation of religion – questions addressed in this specific context for possibly the first time.32 Her insightful analysis of the need for a new translation intended for the average, little-educated Marathi-speaker identifies multiple difficulties: the inability of the newly converted reader, who was accustomed to the religious message being conveyed through mythological stories, to absorb the unembellished ethical and spiritual message of the Bible; the unfamiliar idiom of the Christian conceptual framework; and the use of ‘high Marathi’, with its profusion of Sanskrit words revealing a caste and class bias, in the existing translations. An explicit part of her agenda was to avoid all Sanskrit words because of their intrinsic Hindu connotations. For example, the commonly used word for ‘son’ is the Sanskrit ‘putra’ which literally means one who saves his father from a specific hell. This clearly rendered unacceptable the concept of the Son of God and made her opt for the simple word ‘mulaga’ instead. Similarly she replaced ‘parameshwar’, the Sanskrit word for God, with Yehovah. Citing these examples Devadatta Tilak argues that very few people are learned enough in Sanskrit or otherwise aware of these etymologies, and the common man certainly is not. By avoiding all known words, Ramabai made her translation difficult for her target readership and reduced its readability.33 Again, he points out some obvious contradictions: she retained the name ‘Mukti’ for her institution, although the word means salvation in the Hindu sense of merging with the Brahman, the all-pervading spirit, and is alien to the Christian doctrine. To this we can add the title of her translation as ‘Pavitra Shastra’ or the Holy Scripture. The Sanskrit word pavitra (holy) also means ‘purified by (Hindu) religious rites’; and the apparently neutral word ‘shastra’ (scripture) has implicit Hindu connotations in the public mind. It is doubtful whether Ramabai would have identified a Christian priest or scholar as a ‘shastri’; in fact she uses the word to denote a scribe (as in Matthew, 2:4).34 Another problem is the multivalence of certain words. For the English 257

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‘salvation’, Ramabai used not the common mukti but taaran – which has other meanings, the commonest being a surety or deposit against which money is borrowed. On the whole, the result seems ‘clumsy’ to Devadatta Tilak.35 Ramabai’s ambitious attempt to craft a new and appealing Christian Marathi idiom unfortunately failed. However, some Maharashtrian Christians have valorised the translation as authentic and scholarly but also simple and easily intelligible.36 For her massive project Ramabai had gathered at Mukti a group of scholars learned in Hebrew, Greek and Sanskrit. Also specially invited was the Reverend N. V. Tilak, known as ‘the Christian poet of Maharashtra’, for Marathi stylistic improvements. But being less orthodox and rigid than Ramabai and steeped in the Hindu Marathi devotional poetry with which Ramabai was unfamiliar, Tilak had adopted a divergent approach – more eclectic and sensitive to stylistic elegance – and even claimed to have reached Christ after crossing ‘the bridge built by Sant Tukaram’.37 Predictably their collaboration was short-lived. Thus ‘the two great individuals who had converted but fully retained their nationalism and culture, and exerted a strong influence on Maharashtra and its people’ were unfortunately unable to work together.38 One charge against vernacular translations of the Bible is their ‘failure’ to claim a place in the literatures of these languages. Sujit Mukherjee critiques their inability to enrich the respective languages or be naturalized in the same fashion that the King James Bible has done for English.39 Meenakshi Mukherji claims that the ‘magic’ of King James Bible and ‘the nuances and poetic possibilities of the language eluded’ the Indian translators.40 One obvious reason is that the King James Bible, though eminently lyrical, is not strictly faithful to the (available) originals. Besides, a literary translation was never attempted in Marathi, and all the earlier translations were made either by missionaries in their somewhat stilted vernacular or with the help of Hindu scholars. Ramabai sought to blaze a new trail by aiming at a simple, easily intelligible and meticulous Marathi while sacrificing literary elegance. But inevitably the alienness of Christian concepts, such as salvation, Saviour, and Holy Spirit, disallowed a conflation of lyricism and accuracy in Indian languages – and presumably by extension the languages of other non-Christian countries. Ramabai’s insistence on avoiding all Sanskrit words further aggravated the problem. One can only speculate about the emotional cost involved in her uprooting all traces of the language she had described three decades earlier as ‘the most beautiful, and the oldest language of my dear native land’.41 That the problematic of translating religious thought into a different language was faced by missionaries in other Asian countries which had their own highly evolved languages and religions is shown by the experience of Jesuits in China in the 16th and 17th centuries. The attempt to 258

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translate Christian concepts like ‘God’, ‘heaven’, ‘soul’, and ‘sin’ was foiled because the prevalent Chinese language was imbued with Confucian and Buddhist concepts and words. Thus the Christian concepts to be conveyed were ‘locked in a discourse wholly incommensurable with the Chinese message’, leading to a conspicuous lack of success.42 Ultimately Ramabai’s massive project that Othered the religion, ethos and culture of her formative years and occupied all her remaining years yielded a translation which is hardly fluent or appealing. Even subsequent revisions failed to correct some glaring instances of clumsiness.43 It was first published posthumously as Pavitra Shastra (Old and New Testaments) at Kedgaon in 50,000 copies in 1924, by the specially trained Mukti girls on their printing press.44 Ramabai was able to only see and correct the proofs. Ramabai’s other efforts to indigenize Christianity were more successful. She wrote Marathi and Hindi psalms, and was ‘the first in India to engage an Indian Christian musician to set her translation of the psalms to Indian chant tunes’.45 *

With the establishment of Mukti Mission and overt proselytization, the indigenous Christian support also increased considerably. This interaction culminated in the first Conference of Maharashtra’s Indian Christians, held at Kedgaon in August 1920. This was the first time that Indian Christian leaders of different denominations in western India were brought together to discuss common problems of organization and evangelization. The purely indigenous nature of the gathering was underscored by the fact that no Western missionary was invited. The exposure of the delegates to the work carried on at Kedgaon was thought to be particularly inspiring: ‘the living presence of that gifted daughter of India, Pandita Ramabai, whose wonderful work’ for society’s neediest sections presented a challenge and inspiration to others to emulate her. Their conclusion was: ‘Kedgaon’s exaltation of the living Christ and the power of His Spirit is not the least aspect of Kedgaon’s message to the Indian Church.’46 Already an international icon of Indian Christianity, Ramabai was able to function as its strongest single pivot and a conduit for international aid to Indian women through funds and volunteer workers. During the last two decades of her life, she relied for support largely on these wide international networks. Her sustained work for women’s education brought her government recognition, and in December 1919 she was awarded the ‘Kaiser-eHind’ Gold Medal. The medal was received by Manorama on behalf of her mother who was too ill to travel to Mumbai.47 Ramabai’s activities now intersected repeatedly with British officialdom, and in her annual report of 259

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the Sharada for 1921, she voiced for the first time her institution’s loyalty to the British government.48 But Manorama’s own health collapsed shortly afterwards; her hectic activities had taken their toll. In the summer of 1919, she was sent in a state of exhaustion to a hill station in South India for rest. Here she was diagnosed with a serious heart ailment for which she was treated for a while at the Wanless missionary hospital in Miraj in south Maharashtra. On recovering, she threw herself into work as usual until she suffered a relapse and finally had to be carried into the train to go back to Miraj in early 1921. She died there after several days of agony on 24 July 1921 at the age of 40. This was a double blow to Ramabai. In addition to losing her daughter – her sole surviving family member – she had lost the future caretaker of Mukti. This led to Ramabai’s eventual illness caused by mental anguish and overwork, because Manorama had shouldered most of Mukti’s responsibility until the moment she left for Miraj. Having stoically survived this last personal loss for barely a year, Ramabai died at Kedgaon on 5 April 1922; in another 18 days she would have completed 64 years. The cataclysmic event was lamented by all the residents of Mukti and nearby villagers as they silently filed past her body lying in state in the Mukti Church. It was Mukti girls who carried by turn her body to her final resting place. This signified the passing of an age which had witnessed Ramabai’s creation and nurture of Mukti Mission almost single-handedly, albeit with help from willing and able associates. During her last illness Ramabai had named Lissa Hastie as her successor; she was in turn followed by a number of Western and Indian women as superintendents of the ‘orphaned’ Mukti Mission. The institution continued to flourish and attract funds and volunteers from Western countries. In 1963 it had about 800 women and children.49

Notes 1 A letter from Miss Abrams appeared in the issue of 15 September 1902; the two women arrived in Adelaide on 22 September and left in early May 1903. Notices of Manorama’s talks in various places appeared practically every month in Our Federation from 15 October 1902 to 15 July 1903. 2 Our Federation, 15 June 1903. 3 Pandita Ramabai: The Widows’ Friend, Melbourne: George Robertson & Co., 1902. 4 Dnyanodaya, 13 April 1916. 5 Idem. 6 Personal communication from Ms Lorraine Francis, Mukti’s current superintendent. Date?? 7 Dongre and Patterson, Pandita Ramabai, p. 34. 8 American Ramabai Association, Annual Report, 1914, pp. 14–15. 9 American Ramabai Association, Annual Report, 1918, pp. 21–2. 10 Gadre, Smriti-sumane, pp. 43–6. 11 Helen Dyer, Revival in India: A Report of the 1905–1906 Revival, Akola: Alliance Publications, 1987 (1st pub. 1907), p. 31.

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12 ‘Pandita Ramabai to the Women of Australia’, Our Federation, 15 October 1902. 13 Dyer, pp. 32–3. 14 Wesley L. Duewel, Revival Fire, Indian edn, Secunderabad: Om Books, 1999, pp. 11–3. 15 Nicol Macnicol, Pandita Ramabai, Calcutta: Association Press, 1926, pp. 111–21. 16 Cited in Ibid., p. 121. 17 See for example, Helen Dyer, Revival in India, pp. 29–49; Duewel, Revival Fire, pp. 215–21; Adhav, Pandita Ramabai, p. 21. 18 Dnyanodaya, 5 January 1899. 19 Dnyanodaya, 31 August 1899. 20 Dnyanodaya, 3 November 1899. 21 Dnyanodaya, 28 November 1907. 22 Pandita Ramabai, ‘Introduction’ in The Wrongs of Indian Womanhood by (Mrs) Marcus B. Fuller Edinburgh and London: Oliphant, Anderson, and Ferrier, 1900, pp. 11–12. 23 Kosambi, Crossing Thresholds, pp. 15–16. 24 Ibid., pp. 84–6. 25 Augustine, St, The Confessions of St Augustine translated by J.G. Pilkington, New York: Citadel Press, 1943, p. viii, original emphasis. 26 For the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, see Ted. A. Campbell, Christian Confessions: A Historical Introduction, Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996, p. 202. 27 Baba Padmanji, Arunodaya, Mumbai: Bombay Tract and Book Society, 1963 (1st pub. 1884). 28 Ibid., p. xiii. I have not been able to see the English translation. 29 G.N. Morje, Khristi Marathi Vangamaya, Ahmadnagar: Ahmadnagar College, 1984. 30 Pandita Ramabai, Ibari Bhasheche Vyakaran, Kedgaon: Mukti Mission, 1920. 31 Morje, Khristi Marathi Vangmaya. 32 These circular letters dated January 1909 and November 1909 are available in the Archives of the Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission. 33 Tilak, Maharashtrach Tejaswinii, pp. 414–28. 34 See Pandita Ramabai, Pavitra Shastra,———, p. 1142, note 7 in the margin. 35 Tilak, Maharashtrachi Tejaswini, p. 420. 36 For example, Ramteke, Agresar Stri-kaivari, pp. 67–8. Presumably the Reverend Ramteke used this Bible while preaching. 37 Cited in Tilak, Maharashtrachi Tejaswini, p. 424. 38 Ibid. 39 Sujit Mukherjee, Translation as Discovery and Other Essays on Indian Literature in English Translation, 2nd edn, Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 1994, p. 80. 40 Meenakshi Mukherjee, Realism and Reality, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1994 (1st pub. 1984), p. 20. 41 Letters, p. 28. 42 Theo Hermans, ‘Paradoxes and aporias in translation and translation studies’ in Translation Studies: Perspectives on an Emerging Discipline edited by Alessadra Riccardi, p. 19. 43 Ramabai’s Bible was first published in 1924; the second revised edition was published in 1965 and was reprinted in 1975 and 1983; the third revised edition (with a printrun of 10,000) was published in 1999, a reprint of 2,000 copies appeared in 2007 and another reprint of 3,000 copies in 2009. But the popularity and use of Ramabai’s Bible remains difficult to gauge.

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44 About 100 girls worked the printing press during Ramabai’s time; D. Tilak, Maharashtrachi Tejaswini, pp. 417–8, 428. 45 Dongre and Patterson, Pandita Ramabai, p. 28. 46 Dnyanodaya, 2 September 1920. 47 Dnyanodaya, 1 January 1920. 48 American Ramabai Association, Annual Report, 1921, p.—. 49 Dongre and Patterson, Pandita Ramabai, p. 3.

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Selection 7 A TESTIMONY OF OUR INEXHAUSTIBLE TREASURE, 1907 1

‘Jesus . . . saith . . . Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.’ Mark 5:19 ‘Come, and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.’ Psalm 66:16

An honourable heritage My father, though a very orthodox Hindu and strictly adhering to caste and other religious rules, was yet a reformer in his own way. He could not see why women and people of Shudra caste should not learn to read and write the Sanskrit language and learn sacred literature other than the Vedas. He thought it better to try the experiment at home instead of preaching to others. He found an apt pupil in my mother, who fell in line with his plan, and became an excellent Sanskrit scholar. She performed all her home duties, cooked, washed, and did all the household work, took care of her children, attended to guests, and did all that was required of a good religious wife and mother. She devoted many hours of her time in the night to the regular study of the sacred Puranic literature, and was able to store up a great deal of knowledge in her mind. The Brahman Pandits living in the Mangalore District round about my father’s native village tried to dissuade him from the heretical course he was following in teaching his wife the sacred language of the gods. He had fully prepared himself to meet their objections. His extensive studies in the Hindu sacred literature enabled him to quote chapter and verse of each sacred book, which gives authority to teach women and Shudras. His misdeeds were reported to the head priest of the sect to which he belonged, and the learned 263

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Brahmans induced the guru to call this heretic to appear before him and before the august assemblage of the Pandits, to give his reasons for taking this course, or be excommunicated. He was summoned to Krishnapura and Udipi, the chief seat of the Madhva Vaishnava sect. My father appeared before the guru, the head priest, and the assembly of Pandits and gave his reasons for teaching his wife. He quoted ancient authorities, and succeeded in convincing the guru and chief Pandits that it was not wrong for women and Shudras to learn Sanskrit Puranic literature. So they did not put him out of caste, nor was he molested by anyone after this. He became known as an orthodox reformer. My father was a native of Mangalore district, but he chose a place in a dense forest on the top of a peak of the Western Ghats, on the borders of Mysore State, where he built a home for himself. This was done in order that he might be away from the hubbub of the world, carry on his educational work and engage in devotion to the gods in a quiet place, where he would not be constantly worried by curious visitors. He used to get his support from the rice-fields and coconut plantations which he owned. The place he had selected for his home happened to be a sacred place of pilgrimage, where pilgrims came all the year round. He thought it was his duty to entertain them at his expense, as hospitality was a part of his religion. For 13 years he stayed there and did this work quietly, but lost his property because of the great expense he incurred in performing what he thought was his duty. So he was obliged to leave his home, and lead a pilgrim’s life. My mother told me that I was only about six months old when they left home. She placed me in a big box made of cane, and a man carried it on his head from the mountain top to the valley. Thus my pilgrim life began when I was a little baby. I was the youngest member of the family. Some people honoured him for what he was doing, and some despised him. He cared little for what people said, and did what he thought was right. He taught and educated my mother, brother, sister, and others. A unique education When I was about eight years old, my mother began to teach me and continued to do so until I was about 15 of age. During these years she succeeded in training my mind so that I might be able to 264

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carry on my own education with very little aid from others. I did not know of any schools for girls and women existing then, where higher education was to be obtained. Moreover, my parents did not like us children to come in contact with the outside world. They wanted us to be strictly religious and adhere to their old faith. Learning any other language except Sanskrit was out of the question. Secular education of any kind was looked upon as leading people to worldliness which would prevent them from getting into the way of Moksha, or liberation from everlasting trouble of reincarnation, in millions and millions of animal species, and undergoing the pains of suffering countless millions of diseases and deaths. To learn the English language and to come in contact with the Mlenchchas, as the Non-Hindus are called, was forbidden on pain of losing caste, and all hope of future happiness. So all that we could, or did learn was the Sanskrit grammar and dictionaries, with the Puranic and modern poetical literature in that language. Most of this, including the grammar and dictionaries, which are written in verse form, had to be committed to memory. Ever since I remember anything, my father and mother were always travelling from one sacred place to another, staying in each place for some months, bathing in the sacred river or tank, visiting temples, worshipping household gods and images of gods in the temples, and reading Puranas in temples or in some convenient places. The reading of the Puranas served a double purpose. The first and foremost was that of getting rid of sin, and of earning merit in order to obtain Moksha. The other purpose was to earn an honest living, without begging. The readers of Puranas – Puranikas [sic] as they are called – are the popular and public preachers of religion among the Hindus. They sit in some prominent place, in temple halls or under the trees, or on the banks of rivers and tanks, with their manuscript books in their hands, and read the Puranas in a loud voice with intonation, so that the passers-by or visitors of the temple might hear. The text, being in the Sanskrit language, is not understood by the hearers. The Puranikas are not obliged to explain it to them. They may or may not explain as they choose. And sometimes when it is translated and explained, the Puranika takes great pains to make his speech as popular as he can, by telling greatly exaggerated or untrue stories. This is not considered a sin, since it is done to attract common people’s attention, that they may hear the sacred sound, the names of the gods, and some of their deeds, and be purified by this means. When the Puranika reads Puranas, the hearers, who are sure to 265

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come and sit around him for a few moments at least, generally give him presents. The Puranika continues to read, paying no attention to what the hearers do or say. They come and go at their choice. When they come, the religious ones among them prostrate themselves before him and worship him and the book, offering flowers, fruits, sweetmeats, garments, money, and other things. It is supposed that this act brings a great deal of merit to the giver, and the person who receives does not incur any sin. If a hearer does not give presents to the Puranika, he loses all the merit which he may have earned by good acts. The presents need not be very expensive ones, a handful of rice, or other grains, a pice, or even a few cowries, which are used as an exchange of pice (64 cowrie shells are equal to one pice) are quite acceptable. A flower, or even a petal of a flower of a leaf of any good sacred tree, is acceptable to the gods. But the offerer knows well that his store of merit will be according to what he gives, and he tries to be as generous as he can. So the Puranika gets all that he needs by reading Puranas in public places. My parents followed this vocation. We all read Puranas in public places, but did not translate or explain them in the vernacular. The reading and hearing of the sacred literature is in itself believed to be productive of great merit – ‘Punya’, as it is called by the Hindus. We never had to beg, or work to earn our livelihood. We used to get all the money and food we needed, and more; what remained over after meeting all necessary expenses was spent in performing pilgrimages and giving alms to the Brahmans.

Famine, death and doubts This sort of life went on until my father became too feeble to stand the exertion, when he was no longer able to direct the reading of the Puranas by us. We were not fit to do any other work to earn our livelihood, as we had grown up in perfect ignorance of anything outside the sacred literature of the Hindus. We could not do menial work, nor could we beg to get the necessities of life. Our parents had some money in hand. If it had been used to advance our secular education we might have been able to earn our living in some way. But this was out of the question. Our parents had unbounded faith in what the sacred books said. They encouraged us to look to the gods to get our support. The sacred books declared that if people worshipped the gods in particular ways, gave alms to the Brahmans, repeated the names of certain gods, and also some hymns in their honour, with fasting and performance of penance, the gods and goddesses would appear and 266

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talk to the worshippers, and give them whatever they desired. We decided to take this course of meeting our temporal wants. For three years we did nothing but perform these religious acts. At last, all the money we had was spent but the gods did not help us. We suffered from famine which we had brought upon ourselves. The country too, that is, the Madras Presidency, where we lived at that particular time, had begun to feel the effects of famine. There was scarcity of food and water. People were starving all around, and we, like the rest of the poor people, wandered from place to place. We were too proud to beg or to do menial work, and ignorant of any practical way of earning an honest living. Nothing but starvation was before us. My father, mother and sister, all died of starvation within a few months of each other. I cannot describe all the sufferings of that terrible time. My brother and I survived and wandered about, still visiting sacred places, bathing in rivers and worshipping the gods and goddesses, in order to get our desire. We had fulfilled all the conditions laid down in the sacred books, and kept all the rules as far as our knowledge went, but the gods were not pleased with us, and did not appear to us. After years of fruitless service, we began to lose our faith in them and in the books which prescribed this course, and held out the hope of a great reward to the worshippers of the gods. We still continued to keep caste rules, worshipped gods and studied sacred literature as usual. But as our faith in our religion had grown cold, we were not quite so strict with regard to obtaining secular education and finding some means of earning an honest livelihood. We wandered from place to place, visiting many temples, bathing in many rivers, fasting and performing penances, worshipping gods, trees, animals, Brahmans and all that we knew for more than three years after the death of our parents and elder sister. We had walked more than 4,000 miles on foot without any sort of comfort; sometimes eating what kind people gave us, and sometimes going without food, with poor coarse clothing, and finding but little shelter except in Dharma Shalas, that is, free lodging places for the poor which are common to all pilgrims and travellers of all sorts except the low-caste people. We wandered from the south to the north as far as Kashmir, and then to the east and west to Calcutta in 1878.

Introduction to Christianity We stayed in Calcutta for about a year and became acquainted with the learned Brahmans. Here my brother and I were once invited to 267

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attend a Christian gathering. We did not know what it was, for we had never come in social contact with either the Hindu Reformers, nor with Christians before that time. We were advised by our Brahman acquaintances to accept this invitation. So we went to the Christian people’s gathering for the first time in our life. We saw many people gathered there who received us very kindly. There were chairs and sofas, tables, lamps – all very new to us. Indian people curiously dressed like English men and women, some men like the Rev. K. M. Banerji and Kali Charan Banerji, whose names sounded like those of Brahmans but whose way of dressing showed that they had become ‘Sahibs’, were great curiosities. They ate bread and biscuits and drank tea with the English people and shocked us by asking us to partake of the refreshment. We thought the last age, Kali Yuga, that is, the age of quarrels, darkness, and irreligion, had fully established its reign in Calcutta since some of the Brahmans were so irreligious as to eat food with the English. We looked upon the proceedings of the assembly with curiosity, but did not understand what they were about. After a little while one of them opened a book and read something out of it and then they knelt down before their chairs and some said something with closed eyes. We were told that was the way they prayed to God. We did not see any image to which they paid their homage but it seemed as though they were paying homage to the chairs before which they knelt. Such was the crude idea of Christian worship which impressed itself on my mind. The kind Christians gave me a copy of the Holy Bible in Sanskrit, and some other nice things with it. Two of those people were the translators of the Bible. They were grand old men. I do not remember their names, but they must have prayed for my conversion through the reading of the Bible. I liked the outward appearance of the Book and tried to read it, but did not understand. The language was so different from the Sanskrit literature of the Hindus, the teaching so different that I thought it quite a waste of time to read that Book, but I have never parted with it since then.

Calcutta – deeper Hindu studies and scepticism While staying in Calcutta we became acquainted with many learned Pandits. Some of them requested me to lecture to the Pardah women on the duties of women according to the Shastras. I had to study the subject well before I could lecture on it; so I bought the books of the Hindu law published in Calcutta. Besides reading them I read other books which would help me in my work. While reading the 268

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Dharma Shastras, I came to know many things which I never knew before. There were contradictory statements about almost everything. What one book said was most righteous, the other book declared as being unrighteous. While reading the Mahabharata I found the following, ‘The Vedas differ from each other; Smritis, that is, books of sacred laws, do not agree with one another; the secret of religion is in some hidden place: the only way is that which is followed by great men.’ This I found true about everything, but there were two things on which all those books, the Dharma Shastras, the sacred epics, the Puranas and modern poets, the popular preachers of the present day and orthodox high-caste men, were agreed, that women of high and low caste, as a class were bad, very bad, worse than demons, unholy as untruth; and that they could not get Moksha as men [could]. The only hope of their getting this much-desired liberation from Karma and its results, that is, countless millions of births and deaths and untold suffering, was the worship of their husbands. The husband is said to be the woman’s god; there is no other god for her. This god may be the worst sinner and a great criminal; still HE IS HER GOD, and she must worship him. She can have no hope of getting admission into Svarga, the abode of the gods without his pleasure, and if she pleases him in all things, she will have the privilege of going to Svarga as his slave, there to serve him and be one of his wives among the thousands of the Svarga harlots who are presented to him by the gods in exchange for his wife’s merit. The woman is allowed to go into higher existence thus far but to attain Moksha or liberation, she must perform such great religious acts as will obtain for her the merit by which she will be reincarnated as a high caste man, in order to study Vedas and the Vedanta, and thereby get the knowledge of the true Brahma and be amalgamated in it. The extraordinary religious acts which help a woman to get into the way of getting Moksha are utter abandonment of her will to that of her husband. She is to worship him with whole-hearted devotion as the only god; to know and see no other pleasure in life except in the most degraded slavery to him. The woman has no right to study the Vedas and Vedanta, and without knowing them, no one can know the Brahma; without knowing Brahma no one can get liberation, and therefore no woman as a woman can get liberation, that is, Moksha. Q.E.D. The same rules are applicable to the Shudras. The Shudras must not study the Veda, and must not perform the same religious act which a Brahman has a right to perform. The Shudra hearing the Veda repeated must be punished by having his ears filled with 269

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liquefied lead. The Shudra who dares to learn a verse or verses of the Veda must be punished by having intensely hot liquor poured down his throat. This would no doubt be done to the Shudra violating the sacred law, if he were left to the tender mercies of the Brahman. His only hope of getting liberation is in serving the three high castes as their lifelong slave. Then he will earn merit enough to be reincarnated in some higher caste, and in the course of millions of years, he will be born as a Brahman, learn the Vedas and Vedantas, and get knowledge of the Brahma and be amalgamated in it. Such is the hope of final liberation held out by the Shastras to women and to the Shudras. As for the low-caste people, the poor things have no hope of any sort. They are looked upon as being very like the lower species of animals, such as pigs; their very shadow and the sound of their voices are defiling; they have no place in the abode of the gods, and no hope of getting liberation, except that they might perchance be born among the higher castes after having gone through millions of reincarnations. The things which are necessary to make it possible for them to be born in higher castes are that they should be contented to live in a very degraded condition serving the high caste people as their bondservants, eating the leavings of their food in dirty broken earthen vessels, wearing filthy rags and clothes thrown away from the dead bodies of the high-caste people. They may sometimes get the benefit of coming in contact with the shadow of a Brahman, and have a few drops of water from his hand or wet clothes thrown at them, and feel the air which has passed over the sacred persons of Brahmans. These things are beneficial to the low-caste people, but the Brahmans lose much of their own hard-earned merit by letting the low-caste people get these benefits! The low-caste people are never allowed to enter the temples where high-caste men worship gods. So the poor degraded people find shapeless stones, broken pots, and smear them with red paint, and set them up under trees and on road sides, or in small temples which they build themselves, where Brahmans do not go for fear of losing their caste, and worship, in order to satisfy the cravings of their spiritual nature. Poor, poor people! How very sad their condition is no one who has not seen can realize. Their quarters are found outside every village or town where the sacred feet of the pious Brahmans do not walk! These are the two things, upon which all Shastras and others are agreed. I had a vague idea of these doctrines of the Hindu religion from my childhood, but while studying the Dharma Shastras, they presented themselves to my mind with great force. My eyes were being gradually opened; I was waking up to my own hopeless condition as a woman, and it was becoming clearer and clearer to me 270

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that I had no place anywhere as far as religious consolation was concerned. I became quite dissatisfied with myself. I wanted something more than the Shastras could give me, but I did not know what it was I wanted. One day my brother and I were invited by Keshab Chandra Sen to his house. He received us very kindly, took me into the inner part of the house, and introduced me to his wife and daughters. One of them was just married to the Maharaja of Cuch Behar, and the Brahmos and others were criticising him for breaking the rule which was laid down for all Brahmos, that is, not to marry or give girls in marriage under fourteen years of age. He and his family showed great kindness to me, and when parting, he gave me a copy of one of the Vedas. He asked if I had studied the Vedas. I answered in the negative and said that women were not fit to read the Vedas and they were not allowed to do so. It would be breaking the rules of religion, if I were to study the Vedas. He could not but smile at my declaration of this Hindu doctrine. He said nothing in answer, but advised me to study the Vedas and Upanishads. New thoughts were awakening in my heart. I questioned myself, why I should not study Vedas and Vedanta. Soon I persuaded myself into the belief that it was not wrong for a woman to read the Vedas. So I began first to read the Upanishads, then the Vedanta, and the Veda. I became more dissatisfied with myself. In the meanwhile my brother died. As my father wanted me to be well versed in our religion he did not give me in marriage when a little child. He had married my older sister to a boy of her own age, but he did not want to study, or to lead a good religious life with my sister. Her life was made miserable by being unequally yoked, and my father did not want the same thing to happen to me. This was of course against the caste rules, so he had to suffer, being practically put out of Brahman society. But he stood the persecution with his characteristic manliness, and did what he thought was right, to give me a chance to study and be happy by leading a religious life. So I had remained unmarried till I was 22 years old. Having lost all faith in the religion of my ancestors, I married a Bengali gentleman of the Shudra caste. My husband died of cholera within two years of our marriage, and I was left alone to face the world with one baby in my arms.

Marriage and life in Bengal I stayed in Bengal and Assam for four years in all and studied the Bengali language. While living with my husband at Silchar, Assam, 271

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I found a little pamphlet in my library. I do not know how it came there but I picked it up and began to read with great interest. It was St. Luke’s Gospel in the Bengali language. There was a Baptist missionary, Mr. Allen, living at Silchar. He occasionally paid visits to me and preached the gospel. He explained the first chapter of the Book of Genesis to me. The story of the creation of the world was so very unlike all the stories which I read in the Puranas and Shastras that I became greatly interested in it. It struck me as being a true story, but I could not give any reason for thinking so or believing in it. Having lost all faith in my former religion, and with my heart hungering after something better, I eagerly learnt everything which I could about the Christian religion, and declared my intention to become a Christian, if I were perfectly satisfied with this new religion. My husband, who had studied in a Mission school, was pretty well acquainted with the Bible, but he did not like to be called a Christian. Much less did he like the idea of his wife being publicly baptised and joining the despised Christian community. He was very angry and said he would tell Mr. Allen not to come to our house any more. I do not know just what would have happened had he lived much longer. I was desperately in need of some religion. The Hindu religion held out no hope for me; the Brahmo religion was not a very definite one. For it is nothing but what a man makes for himself. He chooses and gathers whatever seems good to him from all religions known to him, and prepares a sort of religion for his own use. The Brahmo religion has no other foundations than man’s own natural light and the sense of right and wrong which he possesses in common with all mankind. It could not and did not satisfy me; still I liked and believed a good deal of it that was better than what the orthodox Hindu religion taught.

Widowhood – and Poona After my husband’s death, I left Silchar and came to Poona. Here I stayed for a year. The leaders of the reform party and the members of the Prarthana Samaj treated me with great kindness and gave me some help. Messrs. Ranade, Modak, Kelkar and Dr. Bhandarkar were among the people who showed great kindness to me. Miss Hurford, then a missionary working in connection with the High Church, used to come and teach me the New Testament in Marathi. I had at this time begun to study the English language, but did not know how to write or speak it. She used to teach me some lessons from 272

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the primary reading books, yet sometimes I was more interested in the study of the New Testament than in the reading books. The Rev. Father Goreh was another missionary who used to come and explain the difference between the Hindu and Christian religions. I profited much by their teaching.

England – being drawn to religion of Christ I went to England early in 1883 in order to study and fit myself for my lifework. When I first landed in England, I was met by the kinds Sisters of Wantage, to one of whom I had been introduced by Miss Hurford at St. Mary’s Home in Poona. The Sisters took me to their Home, and one of them, who became my spiritual mother, began to teach me both secular and religious subjects. I owe an everlasting debt of gratitude to her, and to Miss Beale, the late Principal of Cheltenham Ladies College. The instruction which I received from them was mostly spiritual. Their motherly kindness and deeply spiritual influence have greatly helped in building up my character. I praise and thank God for permitting me to be under the loving Christian care of these ladies. The Mother Superior once sent me for a change to one of the branches of the Sisters’ Home in London. The Sisters there took me to see the rescue work carried on by them. I met several of the women who had once been in their Rescue Home, but who had so completely changed, and were so filled with the love of Christ and compassion for suffering humanity, that they had given their life for the service of the sick and infirm. Here for the first time in my life, I came to know that something should be done to reclaim the so-called fallen women, and that Christians, whom Hindus considered outcastes and cruel, were kind to these unfortunate women, degraded in the eyes of society. I had never heard of seen anything of the kind done for this class of women by the Hindus of my own country. I had not heard anyone speaking kindly of them, nor seen any one making any effort to turn them from the evil path they had chosen in their folly. The Hindu Shastras do not deal kindly with these women. The law of Hindus commands that the king shall cause the fallen women to be eaten by dogs in the outskirts of the town. They are considered the greatest sinner, and not worthy of compassion. After my visit to the Homes at Fulham, where I saw the work of mercy carried on by the Sisters of the Cross, I began to think that there was a real difference between Hinduism and Christianity. I asked the Sisters who instructed me to tell me what it was that 273

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made the Christians care for, and reclaim the ‘fallen’ women. She read the story of Christ meeting the Samaritan women, and His wonderful discourse on the nature of true worship, and explained it to me. She spoke of the Infinite Love of Christ for sinners. He did not despise them but came to save them. I had never read or heard anything like this in the religious books of the Hindus; I realized, after reading the 4th Chapter of St. John’s Gospel, that Christ was truly the Divine Saviour He claimed to be, and no one but He could transform and uplift the downtrodden womanhood of India and of every land. Thus my heart was drawn to the religion of Christ. I was intellectually convinced of its truth on reading a book written by Father Goreh, and was baptized in the Church of England in the latter part of 1883, while living with the Sisters at Wantage. I was comparatively happy, and felt a great joy in finding a new religion, which was better than any other religion I had known before. I knew full well that it would displease my friends and my countrymen very much; but I have never regretted having taken the step. I was hungry for something better than what the Hindu Shastras gave. I found it in the Christians’ Bible and was satisfied. After my baptism and confirmation, I studied the Christian religion more thoroughly with the help of various books written on its doctrines. I was much confused by finding so many different teachings of different sects; each one giving the authority of the Bible for holding a special doctrine, and for differing from other sects. For five years after my baptism, I studied these different doctrines, and made close observations during my stay in England and in America. Besides meeting people of the most prominent sects, the High Church, Low Church, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Friends, Unitarian, Universalist, Roman Catholic, Jews, and others, I met with Spiritualists, Theosophists, Mormons, Christian Scientists, and followers of what they call occult religion. No one can have any idea of what my feelings were at finding such a Babel of religions in Christian countries, and at finding how very different the teaching of each sect was from that of the others. I recognized the Nastikas of India in the Theosophists, the Polygamous Hindus in the Mormons, the worshippers of ghosts and demons in the Spiritualists, and the Old-Vedantists in the Christian Scientists. Their teachings were not new to me. I had known them in their old eastern nature as they are in India; and when I met them in America I thought they had only changed their Indian dress and put on Western garbs, which were more suitable to the climate and conditions of the country. 274

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As for the differences of the orthodox and non-orthodox Christian sects, I could not account for them, except that I thought it must be in the human nature to have them. The differences did not seem of any more importance than those existing among the different sects of Brahmanical Hindu religion. They only showed that people were quarrelling with each other, and that there was no oneness of mind in them. Although I was quite contented with my newly-found religion, so far as I understood it, still I was labouring under great intellectual difficulties, and my heart longed for something better which I had not found. I came to know after eight years from the time of my baptism that I had found the Christian religion, which was good enough for me; but I had not found Christ, Who is the Life of the religion, and ‘the Light of every man that cometh into the world’.

Finding Christ It was nobody’s fault that I had not found Christ. He must have been preached to me from the beginning. My mind at that time had been too dull to grasp the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. The open Bible had been before me, but I had given much of my time to the study of other books about the Bible, and had not studied the Bible itself as I should have done. Hence my ignorance of many important doctrines taught in it. I gave up the study of other books about the Bible after my return home from America, and took to reading the Bible regularly. Following this course for about two years, I became very unhappy in my mind. I was dissatisfied with my spiritual condition. One day I went to the Bombay Guardian Mission Press on some business. There I picked up a book called From Death unto Life, written by Mr. Haslam, the Evangelist. I read his experiences in this book with great interest. He, being a clergyman of the Church of England, had charge of a good parish and was interested in all Christian activities connected with the Church. While he was holding conversation with a lady, a member of his Church, she told him that he was trying to build from the top. The lady meant to say, he was not converted, and had not experienced regeneration and salvation in Christ. I read his account of his conversion, and work for Christ. Then I began to consider where I stood, and what my actual need was. I took the Bible and read portions of it, meditating on the messages which God gave me. One thing I knew by this time, that I needed Christ, not merely his religion. 275

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There were some of the old ideas stamped on my brain; for instance, I thought that repentance of sin and the determination to give it up was what was needed for forgiveness of sin: that the rite of baptism was the means of regeneration; that my sins were truly washed away, when I was baptised in the name of Christ. These and such other ideas stuck to me. For some years after my baptism, I was comparatively happy to think that I had found a religion which gave its privileges equally to men and women; there was no distinction of caste, colour, or sex made in it. All this was very beautiful, no doubt. But I had failed to understand that we of ‘God in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption.’ 1 Cor. 1:30. I had failed to see the need of placing my implicit faith in Christ and His atonement in order to become a child of God by being born again of the Holy Spirit, and justified by faith in the Son of God. My thoughts were not very clear on this and other points. I was desperate. I realised that I was not prepared to meet God, that sin had dominion over me, and I was not altogether led by the Spirit of God, and had not therefore received the Spirit of adoption and had no witness of the Spirit that I was a child of God. ‘For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, “Abba, Father”. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.’ Romans 8:14–16. What was to be done? My thoughts could not, and did not help me. I had at last come to an end of myself, and unconditionally surrendered myself to the Saviour; and asked Him to be merciful to me, and to become my Righteousness and Redemption, and to take away all my sin. Only those who have been convicted of sin and have seen themselves as God sees them under similar circumstances can understand what one feels when a great and unbearable burden is rolled away from one’s heart. I shall not attempt to describe how and what I felt at the time when I made an unconditional surrender, and knew I was accepted to be a branch of the True Vine, a child of God by adoption in Christ Jesus my Saviour. Although it is impossible for me to tell all that God has done for me, I must yet praise Him and thank Him for his loving-kindness to me, the greatest of sinners. The Lord, first of all, showed me the sinfulness of sin and the awful danger I was in, of everlasting hell-fire and the great love of God with which He ‘So loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son’. And He gave this Son to be the propitiation for my sin: for does not the inspired Apostle say, ‘We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus 276

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Christ the Righteous: and He is the Propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’. 1 John 2:1–2. The Bible says that God does not wait for me to merit His love, but heaps it upon me without my deserving it. It says also that there is neither male nor female in Christ. [. . .] I do not know if any of my readers have ever had the experience of being shut up in a room where there was nothing but thick darkness and then groping in it to find something of which he or she was in dire need. I can think of no one but the blind man, whose story is given in St. John chapter nine. He was born blind and remained so for 40 years of his life; and then suddenly he found the Mighty One, Who could give him eye sight. Who could have described his joy; at seeing the daylight, when there had not been a particle of hope of his ever seeing it? Even the inspired evangelist has not attempted to do it. I can give only a faint ideal of what I felt when my mental eyes were opened, and when I, who was ‘sitting in darkness saw Great Light’, and when I felt sure that to me, who but a few moments ago ‘sat in the region and shadow of death, Light had sprung up’. I was very like the man who was told, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk . . . And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking and leaping and praising God’. I looked to the blessed Son of God who was lifted up on the cross and there suffered death, even the death of the cross, in my stead, that I might be made free from the bondage of sin, and from the fear of death, and I received life. O the love, the unspeakable love of the Father for me, a lost sinner, which gave His only Son to die for me! I had not merited this love, but that was the very reason why He showed it to me. How very different the truth of God was from the false ideal that I had entertained from my earliest childhood. That was that I must have merit to earn present or future happiness, the pleasure of Svarga, or face the utterly inconceivable loss of Moksha or liberation. This I could never hope for, since a woman, as a woman, has not hope of Moksha according to Hindu religion. The Brahman priests have tried to deceive the women and the Shudras and other low-caste people into the belief that they have some hope. But when we study for ourselves the books of the religious law and enquire from the higher authorities we find that here is nothing, no nothing whatever for us. They say that women and Shudras and other low-caste people can gain Svarga by serving the husband and the Brahman. But the happiness of Svarga does not last long. The final blessed state to 277

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which the Brahman is entitled is not for women and low caste people. But here this blessed Book, the Christians’ Bible says: When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one dare to die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us . . . For . . . when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son. Romans 5:6–10. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. I John 4:9, 10. How good, how indescribably good! What good news for me a woman, a woman born in India among Brahmans who hold out no hope for the likes of me! The Bible declares that Christ did not reserve this great salvation for a particular caste or sex. ‘But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’ John 1:12, 13. ‘For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.’ Titus 2:11. ‘The kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.’ Titus 3:4. No caste, no sex, no work, and no man was to be depended upon to get salvation, this everlasting life, but God gave it freely to anyone and everyone who believed on His Son Whom He sent to the ‘propitiation for our sins’. And there was not a particle of doubt left as to whether this salvation was a present one or not. I had not to wait till after undergoing births and deaths for countless millions of times, when I should become a Brahman man, in order to get to know Brahma. And then, was there any joy and happiness to be hoped for? No, there is nothing but to be amalgamated into Nothingness – Shunya, Brahma. The Son of God says, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation but is passed from death unto life’. John 5:24. [. . .] The Holy Spirit made it clear to me from the Word of God, that the Salvation which God gives through Christ is present and not something future. I believed it, I received it and I was filled with joy. 278

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Telling others Sixteen years ago, a new leaf was turned in my life. Since then I have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour, and have the joy of sweet communion with Him. My life is full of joy, ‘For the Lord JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation’. I can scarcely contain the joy and keep it to myself. I feel like the Samaritan woman who ‘left her water pot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a MAN, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?’ I feel I must tell my fellow-creatures what great things the Lord Jesus has done for me, and I feel sure, as it was possible for Him to save such a great sinner as I am, He is quite able to save others. The only thing that must be done by me is to tell people of Him and of His love for sinners and His great power to save them. My readers will not therefore find fault with me for making this subject so very personal. The heart-experiences of an individual are too sacred to be exposed to the public gaze. Why then should I give them to the public in this way? Because a ‘necessity is laid upon me; yea woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!’ 1 Corinthians 9:16. I am bound to tell as many men and women as possible, that Christ Jesus came to save sinners like me. He has saved me, praise the Lord! I know ‘He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for him’. Hebrews 7:25. God has given me a practical turn of mind. I want to find out the truth of everything including religion by experiment. I experimented on the religion in which I was born. I did not leave a stone unturned, as it were, as far as I knew; not only in the way of studying books, but of doing myself what the books prescribed. I have seen many others also doing the same thing. I saw them doing everything that was commanded them. The sad end was that I found that they were not saved by it, nor was I. It was a dire spiritual necessity that drove me to seek help from other sources. I had to give up all pride of our ancestral religion being old and superior, which is preventing many of my country-people from finding Christ although they know well that they have not got the joy of salvation. They can never have it except in Christ. There are I know many hungry souls, and may be, some of them might be helped by reading this account. I would urge upon such brothers and sisters to make haste and come forward, and accept the great love of God expressed in Christ Jesus and not to neglect ‘so great salvation’, which God gives freely. Hebrews 2:1–3. 279

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‘Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.’ Acts 4:12 Do not therefore lose time through pride or because of any other difficulty. The caste may put you out, your near and dear ones will perhaps reject and persecute you, you may very likely lose your temporal greatness, and riches: but never mind, the great salvation which you will get in Christ by believing on Him, and confessing Him before men, is worth all the great sacrifices you can possibly make. Yes, and more than that, for all the riches and all the gain, and all the joys of the world, do not begin to compare with the JOY OF SALVATION. On the other hand, of what use are all the riches and greatness of the world, if you are condemned to the second death, and are to live in the lake of fire for ever and ever suffering indescribable agonies from which there is no relief? ‘For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’ Mark 8:36–37. I would urge on you, dear brother and sister, to make haste and get reconciled with God through Christ. For the great day of judgment is fast coming on us, so make haste and flee from the wrath of God, which you and I have justly merited. God is Love, and He is waiting patiently for you to accept His great salvation, so despise not ‘the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering’, and know ‘that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance’. Romans 2:4. It would make the story too long if I were to tell all that happened to me after I found Christ. I was greatly helped in my spiritual life by attending several Mission services conducted by Dr Pentecost, Mr Haslam, Mr Wilder, Mr Reeve and other missionaries. I received another spiritual uplift by attending religious services conducted by [the] Reverend Gelson in 1895 at Lonavala Camp meeting. I found it a great blessing to realize the personal presence of the Holy Spirit in me, and to be guided and taught by Him. I have experienced the sweet pleasure promised by the Lord in Psalm 32:8, ‘I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye’. The Holy Spirit taught me how to appropriate every promise of God in the right way, and obey His voice. I am sorry to say that I have failed to obey Him many a time, but He tenderly rebukes and shows me my faults. Many a time He finds it most necessary to punish me in various ways, His promise is: ‘I will correct thee in 280

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measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished’. Jeremiah 30:11. I have many failures and am corrected as the Lord sees fit. It is always helpful to be shown that His hand is in everything that happens. Then no room is left for murmuring. Whenever I heed and obey the Lord’s voice with all my heart I am very happy and everything goes right. Even the tests of faith, and difficulties, and afflictions become great blessings. Since the year 1891 I have tried to witness for Christ in my weakness, and I have always found that it is the greatest joy of the Christian life to tell people of Christ and of His great love for sinners. About 12 years ago, I read the inspiring books, ‘The Story of the China Inland Mission’, ‘The Lord’s Dealings with George Muller’, and the ‘Life of John G. Paton’, founder of the New Hebrides Mission. I was greatly impressed with the experiences of these three great men, Mr Hudson Taylor, Mr Muller and Mr Paton, all of whom have gone to be with the Lord within a few years of each other. I wondered after reading their lives, if it were not possible to trust the Lord in India as in other countries. I wished very much that there were some missions founded in this country which would be a testimony to the Lord’s faithfulness to His people, and the truthfulness of what the Bible says, in a practical way. I questioned in my mind over and over again, why some missionaries did not come forward to found faith-missions in this country. Then the Lord said to me, ‘Why don’t you begin to do this yourself, instead of wishing for others to do it? How easy it is for someone to wish that someone else would do a difficult thing, instead of doing it himself’. I was greatly rebuked by the ‘Still Small Voice’ which spoke to me. I did not know then that here were some faith-missions in India. Since then I have come to know that there are a few faith-missions working in this country, and I thank God for setting them up here and there, as great beacon lights. At the end of 1896 when the great famine came on this country, I was led by the Lord to step forward and start new work, trusting Him for both temporal and spiritual blessings. I can testify with all my heart that I have always found the Lord faithful. ‘Faithful is He that calleth you’. 1 Thessalonians 5:24. This golden text has been written with the life-blood of Christ on my heart. The Lord has done countless great things for me. I do not deserve His loving-kindness. I can testify to the truth of Psalm 103:10, ‘He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities’. [. . .] In short, the Lord has been teaching me His Word by His Spirit, and unfolding the wonders of His works, day by day. I have come to 281

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believe the Word of God implicitly, and I have found out by experience, that IT IS TRUE. I praise God and thank Him for His mercies to me and mine. Hallelujah! [. . .] I am spared all trouble and care, casting my burden upon the Lord. There are over 1,500 people living here. We are not rich, nor great, but we are happy, getting our daily bread directly from the loving hands of our Heavenly Father, having not a pice over and above our daily necessities, having no banking account anywhere, no endowment or income from any earthly source, but depending altogether on our Father God; we have nothing to fear from anybody, nothing to low, and nothing to regret. The Lord is our Inexhaustible Treasure. [. . .]

Bombay – founding of Mukti Mission – home of salvation Nineteen years ago in this month of July, I started from the city of Philadelphia, and went to San Francisco, in response to the kind invitation sent by some good friends, who took a deep interest in the well-being of the women of India. I lived in the latter city for more than four months; and sailed from the Golden Gate for Bombay via Japan and China. God in His great goodness gave me faithful and true friends in America, who promised to help me in my work. My work in the beginning was a purely educational one, and religious liberty was to be given to the inmates of my school, and all plans were made to start the Home for Widows as soon as I should land in Bombay. The day for sailing from San Francisco arrived. I felt as if I were going to a strange country and to a strange people. Everything seemed quite dark before me. I fell on my knees, and committed myself to the care of our loving Heavenly Father, and sailed. My religious belief was so vague at the time that I was not certain whether I would go to heaven or hell after my death. I was not prepared to meet my God then. How can I describe my feelings when I heard of the disaster at San Francisco by the terrible earthquake, and of the great destruction of human life in the harbour of Hong Kong not long ago. How I thanked God for letting me live all these years, and not sending the terrible earthquake and the dreadful storms, when I was not prepared to meet Him. I deeply sympathise with the people living in both these places in their afflictions, and pray to God that He may save each and all of the surviving inhabitants of San Francisco and Hong Kong. 282

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When starting from San Francisco, and on landing in Bombay, I had resolved in my mind, that although no direct religious instruction was to be given to the inmates of my home, yet I would daily read the Bible aloud and pray to the only True God in the name of Christ; that my countrywomen, seeing and hearing what was going on, might be led to enquire about the true religion, and the way of salvation. There were only two day-pupils in my school, when it started a little more than 18 years ago. No one was urged to become a Christian, nor was any one compelled to study the Bible. But the Bible was placed in the library along with other religious books. The daily testimony to the goodness of the True God awakened new thoughts in many a heart. After the first 10 years of our existence as a school, our constitution was changed slightly. Since then, every pupil admitted in the school has been receiving religious instruction, retaining perfect liberty of conscience. Many hundreds of the girls and young women who have come to my Home ever since its doors were opened for them have found Christ as I have. They are capable of thinking for themselves. They have had their eyes opened by reading the Word of God, and many of them have been truly converted and saved, to the praise and glory of God. I thank God for letting me see several hundred of my sisters, the children of my love and prayer, ­gloriously saved. All this was done by God in answer to the prayers of faith of ­thousands of His faithful servants in all lands, who are constantly praying for us all. I was led by the Lord to start a special prayer-circle at the beginning of 1905. There were about 70 of us who met together each morning, and prayed for the true conversion of all the Indian Christians including ourselves, and for a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all Christians of every land. In six months from the time we began to pray in this manner the Lord graciously sent a glorious Holy Ghost revival among us, and also in many schools and Churches in this country. The results of this have been most satisfactory. Many hundreds of our girls and some of our boys have been gloriously saved, and many of them are serving God, and witnessing for Christ at home, and in other places. [. . .]

Glorious new hope . . . I praise the Lord Who has done great things for us. Hallelujah, Amen. 283

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The most precious truth which I have learnt since my conversion is the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. I firmly believe, as taught in the Bible, that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming soon. He will most certainly come, and will not tarry. The signs of the times in the last decade have taught me to be waiting for Him. I was totally ignorant of this particular subject. It is not generally taught in this country. The missionaries connected with some denominations do not believe in it at all. They believe that Christ will come to judge the quick and the dead at the time of the last judgement but they do not think He will come for His servants before the time of the resurrection of the dead, and before the final judgement. I do not remember just how I came to know about it at first. But shortly after my conversion I began to read many books on the subject. The works of Mr Middleton, Mr Newberry, Dr Grattan Guinness, and others, have greatly helped in fixing this subject in my mind. I have studied and continue to study the Book of Revelation, with greatest interest and spiritual profit. There is nothing like the Word of God, which teaches everything clearly. Other good books written by godly men and women are quite helpful in that they help to make this subject of special interest, and increase the desire for its study. But there is nothing so very helpful as to study the Bible itself, aided by a good concordance and the ‘Treasury of Scripture Knowledge’. The hope of the appearing of the Saviour to take His redeemed ones to be with Him has been a great help to me in my Christian life. I praise the Lord for the great promise of His coming, and His counsel to watch and pray. [. . .]

Unexpected visit from the governor One day, during this month, as I was getting ready for my afternoon work, one of my fellow-workers came to the door of the office, followed by the Collector of Poona. Both told me that His Excellency the Governor of Bombay had come to visit Mukti. I was taken by surprise, for I never thought that the Governor would ever come to such an out-of-the-way place, and visit an unpretentious institution, which had not earned popularity by great achievements, and by courting the favour of the great men of the country. In a few moments my surprise vanished, giving way to perfect pleasure, at finding the Governor so simple and natural in his manner, though he was very dignified and grand. It was delightful to see the greatest man of this presidency taking kindly notice of every one who happened to come in his way, enquiring with interest of every little detail concerning the work. He 284

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seemed to be well acquainted with what was going on here. After inspecting all parts of the Mission, he bade us goodbye, and went away. It was a very pleasant surprise, and we shall never forget his visit and kindness to us all. As we did not know about his visit, we had not made any preparations to receive him; so he saw us as we were; some walking about, some idly sitting where they were, some doing their work properly, some sweeping the ground and doing other housework, some dressed well and tidily, others in rags with unkempt hair, some giving themselves to their lessons and industry with diligence, and some just looking into the air and doing nothing and thinking about nothing in particular. It does one good to be taken by surprise in this way. The one great thought that filled my heart while the Governor was here, and after he went away, leaving a very pleasant impression on our mind, was that our Lord Jesus Christ is coming someday just in this manner, and those of us who are prepared to meet Him will have the joy of being caught up in the air to be with Him. How blessed it will be, not to have anything to be afraid of, or anything that belongs to the enemy. How nice to be able to say with our Blessed Saviour, ‘The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me’. [. . .]

A loving invitation [. . .] If I were to write all that the Lord has done for me, even as much as it lies in my power to do so, the book would be too large for a person to read; so I have made the account of my spiritual experience as short as possible. I am very glad and very thankful to the Lord for making it possible for me to give this testimony of the Lord’s goodness to me. My readers scarcely realise the great spiritual needs of all my country women and of my countrymen too. The people of this land are steeped in sin, and are sitting in a terrible darkness. May the Father of Light send them light and life by His chosen ones. We need witnesses for Christ and His great salvation freely offered to all men. Dear brother and sister, whoever may happen to read this testimony, may you realise your responsibility to give the gospel of Jesus Christ to my people in this land, and pray for them, that they may each and all be cleansed from their filthiness, and from all their idols, that they may find the true way of salvation. My prayer for those readers who have not yet been saved is that they may seek and find Christ Jesus, our Blessed Redeemer, for the salvation of their souls. 285

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‘Our citizenship is in heaven, from whence also we wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Philippians 3:20. ‘Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.’ Revelation 1:5–6. Ramabai March, 1907

Note 1 This is a slightly abridged version of Rmadita Ramabai, A Testimony of Our Inexhaustible Treasure, 11th edn, Kedgaon: Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission, 1992.

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Pandita Ramabai’s death was a tragic loss in more ways than has been realized in terms of her achievements. She was a unique and extraordinary person, and ‘Maharashtrian society, having yet to produce an individual of her stature engaged in gender-related reform on such a vast and variegated scale, still remains unwilling to remember her and unable to forget’.1 Her position within the region was ambivalent mainly because of its inherent and conflated contradictions – contradictions ‘between Brahmanical Hindu cultural moorings and Christian belief, an insider’s sympathy and an outsider’s critique, attempts to reform a society but only by recasting its religious base, the urge to contest and the need to be accepted which inhabited Ramabai’s personality with an increasing degree of unease’.2 Ramabai’s life was a narrative of parallel but discursively distinct contestations: that of a woman against male hegemony in Hindu society, that of an Indian female convert against the racial-cultural and patriarchal dominance of the Anglican Church, that of an Indian Christian missionary (in both the covert and overt phases of evangelization) against the colonial oppression of Indians.3 Against these were balanced her various alliances within and outside India. All these were translated into her obituaries and long-term assessments, which mostly reflect the binary lenses through which she was viewed during the last years of her life and beyond. Ensconced within the Christian community, Ramabai evoked animosity in mainstream Maharashtra that survived a near-total rupture with her. Even after her death which occurred two years after B. G. Tilak’s own, Kesari (11 April 1922) did not abandon its hostility in its obituary: Anybody would regret the fact that the capability of such an intelligent, resolute, and highly industrious lady benefited not the Hindu society but foreign Christian missionary organisations. The chief reason why this benefit accrued to foreigners rather than her own people was unarguably the lady’s personal ambition. . . . It must be said that the lady succumbed prematurely to temptation 287

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Plate 15  Ramabai’s Grave at Kedgaon

by missionary organisations because of her impatience, before properly ascertaining whether or not her capability had any scope within the Hindu society. Tasks for the uplift of Hindu women, such as female education, can be undertaken while remaining within the Hindu fold, as has been demonstrated by Professor 288

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Karve’s institutions and the Seva Sadan managed under the leadership of Mrs Ramabai-saheb Ranade. . . . Undoubtedly, had Pandita Ramabai taken it seriously, she too could have demonstrated her organisational capacity while remaining a Hindu. But, unfortunately, this was not to be! Kesari’s obituary still remains the last word on Ramabai in mainstream Maharashtra. But the paper’s assessment conveniently elides its own strong opposition to Ramabai’s activities for women’s education and mobilization in 1882, well before she went to England and converted to Christianity. Also, the paper obscures the fact that the laudable initiatives by Karve and Ramabai Ranade were prompted directly by Ramabai’s own, and that their success depended on their patriarchal underpinnings. D. K. Karve’s Home for Widows was inspired by Ramabai’s seemingly flawed and failed initiative, and was indeed advertised and promoted in 1896 as a Hindu alternative to the discredited Sharada Sadan. His principal objective was education for widows, and later for unmarried girls; and although he used inducements for parents to delay their daughters’ marriages by offering the girls free education as long they remained unmarried, he never mooted the idea of women’s self-sufficiency. His agenda was to make women better wives, mothers and citizens; gender-equality was not an issue. Again, when faced with painful choices, he chose the conventional alternative. A glaring case in point is his deliberate distancing of his wife Anandibai (a child widow whom he had bravely married in the face of social opposition in 1893) from his Home for Widows, lest it signalled to the parents of his students his intention to encourage widowremarriage.4 He may have accepted Ramabai’s agenda for widows’ education but women’s empowerment – Ramabai’s chief objective – was never his aim. This is precisely why, in addition to the fact that he was a man and thus unchallenged, Kesari supported him. Ramabai Ranade’s case was similar. When she accepted the task of running the Pune branch of P. M. Malabari’s Seva Sadan in Mumbai in 1908, her status as the widow of a highly regarded social-political leader was very high; she enjoyed not only social acceptability and respect, but also a wide support structure. Mrs Ranade never sought to be a leader of women; she always maintained a self-deprecating attitude and publicly insisted that whatever worth she possessed was derived entirely from her husband.5 The sterling service that Seva Sadan offered included self-reliance in the form of education and income-earning skills, but (as in Karve’s case) was not accompanied by ideas of women’s equality or empowerment. Other and supportive voices lauding Pandita Ramabai were not absent, but certainly less powerful. Her uniqueness was acknowledged by many. S. P. Kelkar once said, ‘There is not another Ramabai in all India!’6 Professor 289

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Max Mueller admitted that among the many great men and women he had known outside India: ‘I know no greater hero than Keshub Chunder Sen, no heroine greater then Ramabai; and I am proud to have been allowed to count both among my best friends’.7 The Maharashtrian psyche still grapples with the dilemma of understanding – and slotting – Pandita Ramabai. The most widely prevalent view of her today is the conservative verdict of her contemporaries (shaped by Kesari) – an outright condemnation for her ‘betrayal’ of Maharashtra’s social reform and reformers, as well as of the nation, through ‘collaboration’ with the colonial masters by accepting their religion. Half a century later the middle-of-the-road, liberal verdicts also bemoaned her religious conversion as unnecessary. The feeling of ‘if only’ in connection with the Pandita’s conversion was voiced, albeit sympathetically, by V. D. Ghate. He suggests that if she had followed the Prarthana Samaj longer, its strong emphasis on the bhakti tradition would have offered her the emotional and spiritual solace lacking in Brahmanical Hinduism, without having to turn to Christianity.8 But the central issue for Ramabai was not only spiritual comfort but a gender-egalitarian certainty of salvation and the message of a compassionate rehabilitation of victimized women – all of which formed the very core of her activism. This she had admitted to having found only in Christianity. Others have charitably justified her conversion by stressing that it was inevitable and mandatory in the pre-secular age with its symbiotic relationship between religious belief and conformity.9 At the other end of the religious spectrum, the Christian community’s immediate sense of loss at Ramabai passing away was voiced by Dnyanodaya’s English obituary, ‘The Indian Church’s bereavement’ (13 April 1922): Never was there as Easter when the Indian Church so greatly needed the comfort to be derived from the truth of the Resurrection, for in Pandita Ramabai’s passing not merely the Indian Church but the Universal Church of Christ has lost one of its most remarkable women. The paper’s Marathi section wrote in the same issue: It is not possible to describe in brief this lady’s achievements, her courage, and her self-sacrifice. There can be no difference of opinion that Pandita Ramabai would be given a pride of place if the history of western India is ever written. . . . She has demonstrated through her own life that Woman is not an animal, her status is in no way inferior to that of Man, and that the souls of both would be saved in the same way and both have to serve in the same manner. 290

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Soon the paper (20 April 1922) spoke of Ramabai as one ‘who consecrated her whole life and remarkable talents to the selfless service of her people and the uplift of her countrywomen, and who by her life of faith and purity as a true follower of Christ, set an inspiring example calculated to lead many to dedicate their lives to the service of the country’. The Times of India (7 April 1922), in one of its long obituaries, described Ramabai’ courage and spirituality: ‘The name of Pandita Ramabai ought to have a high place among the makers of modern India.’ Earlier she had represented ‘the awakening of Indian womanhood’, but her religious conversion caused a breach even with broad-minded reformers. Thus she ceased to be ‘a symbol of the revolt of the higher classes [read ‘castes’] against the tyranny of the past’ and devoted herself to a nobler cause – that of service to the lowly, forsaken and despised. ‘She proved herself not only a great woman but a great saint.’ If not always in life, certainly in death Ramabai was enfolded in the wider Indian Christian fellowship. A large condolence meeting was held in Mumbai under the auspices of the Indian Christian Association ‘to place on record the great loss sustained by the country in general and by the Christian community in particular by the death of Pandita Ramabai’.10 In her tribute at this meeting, Sarojini Naidu described Ramabai as ‘a great woman – a great saint – ancient in type and modern in the manifestation of that type’.11 Ramabai’s biographers concur: Rajas Dongre calls her ‘the greatest woman [India] has known’.12 But this sole focus on Ramabai’s Christianity is misleading, because, I submit, it was her feminism that elicited her initial Othering in Maharashtra, through a patriarchal backlash, as I have already demonstrated. All the above assessments of her contribution alike have left untouched the obvious and vexed question: Did Ramabai, as a Brahmin widow from a relatively obscure family, have the same social acceptance, legitimacy and manoeuvrability – in other words, the same agency – to which a Brahmin man like Karve, or the widow of a nationally revered figure like Ranade, could lay claim? Would the reformers have given her the freedom and support to exercise initiative in opening homes for ‘rescued’ or sexually victimized women, famine victims, the blind and the aged? Most of all, would her basically patriarchal male supporters have validated and supported her vision of self-reliant women? And if the Christianity that provided the only moral, financial and practical support in her struggle also alienated her totally from the society she sought to reform, can one adequately gauge the terrible mutual loss? South Asian feminists have in recent years sought to reclaim Ramabai as a role model who has inspired generations of Indian feminists. Thus Kumari Jayawardena sees Ramabai’s foundational protest, articulated as early as the 1880s ‘having been kept alive by succeeding generations of Indian women for whom her attacks on the “jugular” of Hindu patriarchy made her a 291

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true hero and a pioneer feminist’.13 Similarly Gauri Viswanathan claims that as a Christian convert and social reformer, Ramabai ‘lived a life that was a prototype of feminist aspiration to succeeding generations of Indian women, but to her own generation her career appeared confusing, inconsistent, and even contradictory’.14 But the unfortunate fact remains that Indians in general, including Indian feminists, have been unaware of Ramabai’s contribution for generations. In Maharashtra today people frequently confuse Pandita Ramabai with Ramabai Ranade.15 In 1887, at the conclusion of The High-Caste Hindu Woman, Ramabai insisted that an education, alternative accommodation and economic self-reliance were essential for the emancipation of oppressed women. Recent feminist activists have consistently called for education, income-generating skills and shelters as a remedial measure especially for vulnerable groups such as battered wives. This reinventing of the wheel more than a century later would have been unnecessary had Ramabai’s message been heeded. *

Ramabai’s elision from Maharashtra’s social historical narrative by its gatekeepers, however, did not erase her transnational footprints on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her greatest impact was unquestionably on the United States which continued to support Mukti Mission long after her death through the conduit of the American Ramabai Association. Canada also sent help, mainly in the form of volunteers. England was not forthcoming in this matter, to Ramabai’s disappointment, although she had friends there. Other countries of Europe showed a surprising degree of interest, as for example, the then socially and culturally insular Sweden, the reason being one or more Swedish volunteer workers at Mukti. A Testimony and Religious Consciousness of the Hindus (as its supplement), as well as her English-language biographies, such as the one by Helen Dyer, were published in Swedish translation.16 The case of Australia has already been mentioned. Manorama’s tour of Australia and New Zealand initiated a small flow of volunteers and missionaries to Kedgaon.17 As far as Asian countries were concerned, Ramabai’s only close contact had been with Japan: her personal visit and lectures, alongside newspaper reports, articles and essays in Japanese and English had ignited a great deal of interest. Japan’s modernization project of the post-restoration Meiji government included the creation of the ‘new Japanese woman’. As in India, elsewhere in the East and also in the West, this was a fraught issue because the traditional role of the ‘good wife and mother’ constructed for all Japanese women 292

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was threatened by the subversive potential of the notions of freedom and progress that modern education could imbue them with. This dilemma and moral anxiety were played out earlier in the USA as well, as described by Ramabai in her American travelogue-journal, and later they framed the life and career of Umeko Tsuda (1864–1929).18 An almost exact contemporary of Ramabai, she was located at the intersection of the Japanese and American cultures of the time. The government had sent the seven-year old Umeko with four older girls to the USA for school education and a study of the reconstituted women’s sphere there. She was befriended by a childless couple, Mr and Mrs Lanman, whom she regarded as her American parents. But unfortunately, by the time of her return to Japan 11 years later, the group of girls had been forgotten by the government. After waiting patiently, she was offered a teacher’s post in the newly created Peeresses’ School in 1885. In 1889 she visited the USA to study at Bryn Mawr College and then continued to teach at the elite ladies’ school back home. Ramabai’s influence percolated into Umeko’s mind and actions during the former’s two-week visit to Japan and her lectures in Tokyo and Yokohama. Her father Sen Tsuda had interacted closely with Ramabai and even published an interview with her, but Umeko herself had only heard some of the lectures which she enjoyed. She rued having postponed meeting her, expecting Ramabai’s visit to last longer. She wrote to Mrs Lanman on 5 January 1889 about Ramabai’s plan to open a school for the child widows of India: ‘She spoke English clearly and pronounced well, and was entirely self-possessed. I imagine her [to be] a very smart, intellectual woman’.19 In the same letter Umeko speaks admiringly of her as very earnest and successful in having attracted help and encouragement from the Americans, but predicted that she was destined to disappointment as regards similar aid from Japan which was a poor country and had the same problematic social conditions as India. In 1891 she co-authored with her older American friend Alice Bacon, the influential book Japanese Girls and Women which, however, did not bear her name as a co-author. Clearly Ramabai’s The High-Caste Hindu Woman served as an unacknowledged template for the book – which has chapters on Childhood, Education, Marriage and Divorce, Wife and Mother, Old Age, etc.20 In 1900 Umeko established her own residential school to train women to be English teachers, with an ambitious aim, like Ramabai’s, of making women independent and self-reliant. Like Ramabai, she also garnered material and emotional support from American friends. But the parallels were accompanied by significant divergences. Like Ramabai Umeko also had a dual point of view: Asian and American. The difference was that Ramabai had spent only three years in the USA and as an adult; this enabled her to incorporate new ideas into her existing, overall scheme for Indian women’s emancipation. Umeko had been distanced 293

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from her moorings in the Japanese customs and even language during her many and impressionable years in America. How far Ramabai’s impact percolated through Umeko or lasted in Japan is unclear; but that she gained great fame in that country for some years is certain. In the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, Ramabai had unsurprisingly no direct communication with key women in other Asian countries; sometimes a degree of communication was routed through a European colonial power. This happened vis-à-vis Indonesia where Ramabai’s influence was less direct, but survives indirectly to date. A cherished icon of feminism there was Kartini, a Muslim Javanese Princess, that is, an aristocratic woman with the title ‘Raden Adjeng’. Her pioneering work is still remembered with such fond respect as to name an Asian feminist network the ‘Kartini Asia Network’, aiming to deal with the themes of fundamentalism, conflicts and neo-liberalism.21 The sadly short-lived Kartini (1880–1904) shared the inbuilt dilemma confronting many colonized women of Asia, including Ramabai: their nationalist contestation of the colonial state for its racist inferiorization of ‘Brown natives’ was offset by their admiration for certain traits of the colonial culture, such as general progressiveness and freedom for women.22 As a result, Kartini’s ‘individual crisis of identity both responded to and . . . contributed to a crisis in Javanese cultural identity’.23 Her copious correspondence with various Dutch friends, including a pen friend in Holland, lays bare her innermost feelings, aspirations and her evolving ideology. As a young aristocratic girl in a largely peasant society, Kartini enjoyed many privileges, like schooling. But on coming of age she was at once removed from school and cloistered within her large home, as custom dictated. Though not veiled, she was effectively secluded; and her only window on the outside world was exposure to some enlightened Dutch officials and especially their wives. What exacerbated her suffocation was the conventional mindset of most of her family members. She had resolved to remain single, obtain an education and open a school for girls. But ultimately in 1903 she had to comply with the wishes of her relatively liberal but custombound father and marry the groom he had chosen for her – a polygamous aristocrat 20 years her senior. The following year she died in childbirth at 24. What helped her aspiration to be fulfilled posthumously was the initiative of an older and influential Dutch official who set up the Kartini Foundation through voluntary Dutch subscription, and built an expanding network of girls’ schools in Java from 1916 onward. Thus opened up girls’ educational and occupational opportunities. Kartini’s social ideology had evolved since 1900 and was perpetuated by Indonesian nationalist students after her death. The impact of Pandita Ramabai on Kartini was indirect; the two had never met. But in a letter of 21 July 1902, Kartini expressed to a Dutch 294

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woman friend her intense interest in Ramabai, asking her whether there was a Dutch translation of her life and writings.24 As a school girl of 10 or so, Kartini had read of Ramabai, the ‘courageous Indian woman’, for the first time, ‘glowing with enthusiasm’. Her spontaneous response was: I trembled with excitement; not alone for a white woman is it possible to attain an independent position, the brown Indian too can make herself free. For days I thought of her, and I’ve never been able to forget her. See what one good brave example can do! It spreads its influence so far.25 Unfortunately the colonization of Asian countries by European powers meant that even short spatial distances were aggravated so that Asians heard about the activities of other Asians through their respective mother countries. But no information is available about Ramabai’s influence on other Asian women. At the same time Britain’s imperial network was instrumental in spreading her fame in other colonies. Even in the seemingly remote – not geographically but culturally remote – region of South Africa, Ramabai had been inspirational in certain diasporic Indian Christian communities at the turn of the twentieth century. Devarakshanam (Betty) Govinden traces the influence of Ramabai as a role model for her grandmother and mother, their adulation for and identification with her.26 The other, and better known, Indian woman of importance in South Africa was Sarojini Naidu; and these two renowned women enabled the diasporic Indian women to maintain an umbilical cord with their original homeland with pride. Ramabai was perceived as a great fighter against British imperialism and against a patriarchal society; her image enlivened and enriched the lives of these older women who claimed her as part of their Indian heritage. Govinden concludes that Ramabai became a symbol and icon for an ‘alien’ group in its initial process of constructing a ‘home’ and a ‘coherent self’ in the midst of dislocation and fragmentation. *

Notes 1 Kosambi, Pandita Ramabai, p. 30. 2 Ibid. 3 M. Kosambi, ‘Multiple Contestations: Pandita Ramabai’s educational and missionary activities in late-nineteenth century India and abroad’, Women’s History Review (UK), Vol. 7. No. 2, 1998 (Special Issue: ‘Between Rationality and Revelation’), pp. 193–208 (ref. p. 204). 4 Karve, Atma-vritta; Karve, Maze Puran. 5 Umakant, Kai. Shri. Ramaai Ranade, Bombay, 1925, pp. 97–8. 6 Cited in Ramabai Association, Annual Report, 1890, p. 24.

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7 Ibid., p. 30. 8 V.D. Ghate, ‘Dharmantare’ in Vichara-vilasite, Mumbai: Mauj Prakashan, 1973, pp. –- -. 9 M.P. Rege, ‘Prabodhananche Swarup’, Bharatiya Prabodhan, Pune: Samaj Prabodhan Sanstha, 1973, p. 25. 10 The Times of India, 13 April 1922. 11 Idem. 12 Dongre and Patterson, Pandita Ramabai, p. 2. 13 Jayavardena, ‘Going for the Jugular’, p. 203. 14 Viswanathan, ‘Silencing Heresy’, p. 118. 15 This has been my constant experience over the last 25 years. 16 Personal knowledge based of the holdings of the Royal Library (Kunkliga Biblioteket) in Stockholm and the Regenstein Library of the University of Chicago. The first-named work has the Swedish title that translates literally as The Story of My Life and the Religious Perspective of the Hindus. 17 Personal communication from Ms Ross Gooden of Melbourne in –- -. This lady’s aunt was among those inspired enough by Manorama’s speeches in Australia to travel to Mukti Mission as a volunteer. 18 This description is based on Barbara Rose, Tsuda Umeko and Women’s Education in Japan, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992. (Japanese surnames preceded the personal name; Umeko was also known as Ume.) 19 [Umeko Tsuda,] The Attic Letters: Ume Tsuda’s Correspondence to her American Mother edited by Yoshiko Furuki et al, New York and Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1991, p. 325. 20 Alice Michel Bacon, Japanese Girls and Women, EBook # 32449, release date 20 May 2010; consulted on 30 April 2014 (book 1st pub. 1891). [Umeko Tsuda,] The Attic Letters; Asmita S. Hulyalkar, National Subjects, International Selves: Feminist Self-fashioning in Meiji Japan and Nineteenth Century Colonial India, Ph.D. dissertation submitted to Cornell University, 2007. 21 Kamla Bhasin, ‘Feminist Reflections on Neo-Liberalism, Fundamentalism and Survival’ in The Future of Asian Feminisms: Confronting Fundamentalisms, Conflicts and Neo-Liberalism ed by N. Katjasungkana and S.E. Wieringa, Newcastle upon Tyne (UK): Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012, pp. 1–8. 22 As shown earlier, Ramabai resolved the dilemma by bifurcating the two sides: she attributed progressiveness to the USA, while targeting England for all the negativity associated with imperialism. For the resolutions of her contemporary women, see Kosambi, Crossing Thresholds, pp. 204–33. 23 [Kartini, Raden Adjeng,] Letters of a Javanese Princess translated from the Dutch by Agnes L. Summers, edited with an Introduction by Hildred Peertz, Lanham (UK): University Press of America, 1985, p. 8. This subsection is based mainly on this work. 24 [Kartini], Letters of a Javanese Princess, pp. 177–8. 25 Ibid. 26 Devarakshanam (Betty) Govinden, ‘ “Spelling out the fragments of a broken geography”: Claiming Pandita Ramabai in an Indian diasporic location in the early twentieth century’, paper delivered at the conference on Pandita Ramabai, held at Union Theological Seminary, Pune, India, 17–21 January 2005.

296

BIBLIOGRAPHY

I Works by Pandita Ramabai English Ramabai, Pandita, ‘An Autobiographical Account’ in The Letters and Correspondence of Pandita Ramabai, also reproduced in Kosambi, ed and tr, Pandita Ramabai Through Her Own Words, 2000, pp. 115–8. ———, The High-Caste Hindu Woman, reprint, Bombay: Maharashtra State Board of Literature and Culture, 1981 (1st pub. 1887). ———, ‘Indian Religion’, Cheltenham Ladies’ College Magazine, No. XIII, Spring 1886, reproduced in Kosambi, ed and tr, Pandita Ramabai Through Her Own Words, pp. 119–25. ———, ‘Introduction’ in The Wrongs of Indian Womanhood by (Mrs) Marcus B. Fuller, Edinburgh and London: Oliphant, Anderson, and Ferrier, 1900, pp. 11–2. ———, The Letters and Correspondence of Pandita Ramabai, compiled by Sr Geraldine and edited by A. B. Shah, Bombay: Maharashtra State Board for Literature and Culture, 1977. ———, ‘My Education as a Hindu’, Mukti Prayer Bell, March 1904. ———, Pandita Ramabai: The Widows’ Friend, An Australasian edition of The HighCaste Hindu Woman by Pandita Ramabai with a Sequel by her daughter Manoramabai, 2nd edn, Melbourne, etc.: George Robertson & Co., 1903. ———, ‘Religious Consciousness of the Hindus’, Mukti Prayer Bell, September 1907 (also printed as a supplement to A Testimony). ———, A Testimony of Our Inexhaustible Treasure, Kedgaon: Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission. ———, ‘The Word-Seed’, reproduced in Kosambi, ed, Pandita Ramabai Through Her Own Words, pp. 325–7.

Marathi ———, Englandcha Pravas (Voyage to England), reprint, Mumbai: Maharashtra Rajya Sahitya ani Sanskriti Mandal, 1988, Part 1 (1st pub. 1883). ———, Ibari Bhasheche Vyakaran (A Hebrew Grammar), Kedgaon: Mukti Mission, 1920.

297

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———, Stri Dharma Niti, 3rd edn, Kedgaon: Ramabai Mukti Mission (1st pub. 1882). ———, United Stateschi Lokasthiti ani Pravasvritta, reprint, Mumbai: Maharashtra Rajya Sahitya ani Sanskriti Mandal (1st pub. 1889).

II Works on Pandita Ramabai English Adhav, S. M., Pandita Ramabai, Madras: The Christian Literature Society, 1979. Bapat, Ram, ‘Pandita Ramabai: Faith and Reason in the Shadow of the East and West’ in Representing Hinduism: The Construction of Religious Traditions and National Identity edited by Vasudha Dalmia and Heinrich von Stietencron, New Delhi, Thousand Oaks, London: Sage Publications, 1995, pp. 224–52. Bodley, Rachel, ‘Introduction’ in Pandita Ramabai, The High-caste Hindu Woman, reprint, Bombay: Maharashtra State Board for Literature and Culture, 1977 (1st pub. 1987). Burton, Antoinette, ‘Restless Desire’ in At the Heart of the Empire: Indians and the Colonial Encounter in Late-Victorian Britain, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998, pp. 72–109. Chappell, Jennie, Pandita Ramabai: A Great Life in Indian Missions, London: Pickering & Englis Ltd., n.d. Dongre, Rajas K. and Patterson, Josephine F., Pandita Ramabai: A Life of Faith and Prayer, Madras: The Christian Literature Society, 1963. Dyer, Helen S., Pandita Ramabai: The Story of Her Life, London: Morgan and Scott, 1900. ———, comp., Revival in India: A Report of the 1905–1906 Revival, Akola (Maharashtra, India): Alliance Publications, 1987 (1st pub. 1907). Glover, Susan, ‘Of Water and of the Holy Spirit’, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Sydney, 1995. Grewal, Inderpal, ‘Pandita Ramabai and Parvati Athavale’ in Home and Harem: Nation, Gender, Empire, and the Cultures of Travel, Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 1996, pp. 179–229. Hastie, Lissa M., Manoramabai: A Daughter of the East, Kedgaon: Mukti Mission, 1922. ‘Letters of Manorama Mary Medhavi’. Hulyalkar, Asmita S., National Subjects, International Selves: Feminist Self-fashioning in Meiji Japan and Nineteenth Century Colonial India, Ph.D. dissertation submitted to Cornell University, 2007. Jayawardena, Kumari, ‘Going for the Jugular of Hindu Patriarchy: American Women Fund-Raisers for Ramabai’ in Unequal Sisters: A Mutlicultural Reader in U.S. Women’s History, edited by Vicki L. Ruiz and Ellen Carol DuBoi, 3rd edn, New York and London: Routledge, 2000, 197–204. Kosambi, Meera, ‘An Indian Response to Christianity, Church and Colonialism: The Case of Pandita Ramabai’, Economic and Political Weekly. October 1992 (Review of Women Studies), pp. WS 61–71. ———, ‘Motherhood in the East-West Encounter: Pandita Ramabai’s Negotiation of “Daughterhood” and Motherhood’ in Feminist Review (Special Issue on

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‘Reconstructing Femininities’ edited by Jane Haggis and Meera Kosambi), no. 65, Summer 2000, pp. 49–67. A slightly revised version is published as ‘Motherhood in the East-West Encounter: Pandita Ramabai’s Negotiations’ in Crossing Thresholds: Feminist Essays in Social History, Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2007, pp. 311–35. ———, ‘Multiple Contestations: Pandita Ramabai’s Educational and Missionary Activities in Late-Nineteenth Century India and Abroad’, Women’s History Review, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1998, pp. 193–208. ———, ‘Tracing the Voice: Pandita Ramabai’s Life through Her Landmark Texts’, Australian Feminist Studies, Vol. 19, No. 43, March 2004, pp. 19–27. ———, ‘Women, Emancipation, and Equality: Pandita Ramabai’s Contribution to the Women’s Cause’, Economic and Political Weekly, 29 October 1988 (Review of Women Studies), pp. WS 38–49. Also reproduced in Ideals, Images and Real Lives: Women in Literature and History, edited by Alice Thorner and Maithreyi Krishnaraj, Mumbai: Orient Longman, 2000, pp. 104–44. ———, ed and tr, Pandita Ramabai through Her Own Words: Selected Works, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000. ———, ed and tr, Returning the American Gaze: Pandita Ramabai’s ‘The Peoples of the United States’ (1889), Delhi: Permanent Black, 2003; also published as Pandita Ramabai’s American Encounter: ‘The Peoples of the United States’ (1889), Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2003. Macnicol, Nicol, Pandita Ramabai, Calcutta: Association Press, 1926. [Medhavi, Manorama,] Pandita Ramabai: The Widows’ Friend (with a Sequel by Her Daughter, Manoramabai,) Melbourne, etc.: George Robertson & Co., 1902. Mueller, F. Max, Auld Lang Syne, Second Series: My Indian Friends, London and Bombay: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1899. Sengupta, Padmini, Pandita Ramabai Saraswati: Her Life and Work, Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1970. Viswanathan, Gauri, ‘Silencing Heresy’ in G. Viswanathan, Outside the Fold: Conversion, Modernity, and Belief, Delhi: OUP, 1998, pp. 118–52.

Marathi Gadre, Krishnabai, Smriti-sumane (Memory Flowers), Kedgaon: Mukti Mission, 1939. Ramteke, S. D., Agresar Stri-kaivari Pandita Ramabai (Pandita Ramabai, a Pioneering Champion of Women), edited by R. N. Harshe, Kedgaon: Ramabai Mukti Mission, 1957. Sathe, Tarabai, Aparajita Rama (Rama, the Unvanquished), Pune: D.P. Nagarakra, 1975. Thackeray, K. S. (‘Prabodhankar’), Pandita Ramabai, Mumbai: Ramkrishna Book Depot, 1950. Tilak, Devdatta, Maharashtrachi Tejaswini Pandita Ramabai (The Illustrious Lady of Maharashtra), Nashik: Nagarik Prakashan, 1960. Vaidya, D. G., Pandita Ramabai Yancha Englandcha Pravas, Mumbai: Maharashtra Rajya Sahitya ani Sanskriti Mandal, 1988, Parts 2 & 3.

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General references English Abbott, Justin E., tr., Bahinabai: A Translation of Her Autobiography and Verses, reprint, Delhi: Motilal Banarasidass, (1st pub. 1929). The American Ramabai Association, Report of the First Annual Meeting held March 24, 1899, Boston, 1899. ———, Report of the First Annual Meeting held March 28, 1900, Boston, 1900. ———, Report of the Second Annual Meeting held March 18, 1901, Boston, 1901. ———, Report of the Third Annual Meeting held March 18, 1902, Boston, 1902. ———, Report of the Fourth Annual Meeting held March 23, 1903, Boston, 1903. ———, Report of the Fifth Annual Meeting held May 24, 1904, Boston, 1904. ———, Report of the Sixth Annual Meeting held March 24, 1899, Boston, 1905. ———, Report of the Seventh Annual Meeting held March 24, 1899, Boston, 1906. ———, Report of the Eighth Annual Meeting held March 24, 1899, Boston, 1907. ———, Report of the Ninth Annual Meeting held March 24, 1899, Boston, 1908. ———, Report of the Tenth Annual Meeting held March 24, 1899, Boston, 1909. ———, Report of the Eleventh Annual Meeting held March 24, 1899, Boston, 1910. ———, Report of the Twelfth Annual Meeting held March 24, 1899, Boston, 1911. ———, Report of the Thirteenth Annual Meeting held March 24, 1899, Boston, 1912. ———, Report of the Fourteenth Annual Meeting held March 24, 1899, Boston, 1913. ———, Report of the Fifteenth Annual Meeting held March 24, 1899, Boston, 1914. ———, Report of the Sixteenth Annual Meeting held March 24, 1899, Boston, 1915. ———, Report of the Seventeenth Annual Meeting held March 24, 1899, Boston, 1916. ———, Report of the Eighteenth Annual Meeting held March 24, 1899, Boston, 1917. ———, Report of the Nineteenth Annual Meeting held March 24, 1899, Boston, 1918. ———, Report of the Twentieth Annual Meeting held March 24, 1899, Boston, 1919. ———, Report of the Twentyfirst Annual Meeting held March 24, 1899, Boston, 1920. ———, Report of the Twentysecond Annual Meeting held March 24, 1899, Boston, 1921. ———, Report of the Twentyfourth Annual Meeting held March 24, 1899, Boston, 1922. ———, Report of the Twentyfifth Annual Meeting held March 24, 1899, Boston, 1923. Athavale, Parvatibai, My Story: the Autobiography of a Hindu Window, translated by J. E. Abbott, New York, London: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1930. Augustine, St, The Confessions of St Augustine, translated by J. G. Pilkington, New York: Citadel Press, 1943. Bacon, Alice Michel, Japanese Girls and Women, EBook # 32449, release date 20 May 2010; consulted on 30 April 2014 (1st pub. 1891). Bhasin, Kamla, ‘Feminist Reflections on Neo-Liberalism, Fundamentalism and Survival’ in The Future of Asian Feminisms: Confronting Fundamentalisms, Conflicts and Neo-Liberalism, edited by N. Katjasungkana and S. E. Wieringa, Newcastle upon Tyne (UK): Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012, pp. 1–8. Burton, Antoinette, ‘The White Woman’s Burden: British Feminists and “The Indian Woman”, 1865–1915’, in Western Women and Imperialism: Complicity and

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Resistance, edited by Nupur Chaudhuri and Margaret Stroebel, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1992, pp. 137–57. ———, At the Heart of the Empire: Indians and the Colonial Encounter in Late-Victorian Britain, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1998. Campbell, Ted. A., Christian Confessions: A Historical Introduction, Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996. Chowdhury, Indira, The Frail Hero and Virile History: Gender and the Politics of Culture in Colonial Bengal, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998. Dall, Caroline Healey, The Life of Dr. Anandabai [sic] Joshee: The Kinwoman of the Pundita Ramabai, Boston: Robert Brothers, 1888. Dyer, Helen, Revival in India: A Report of the 1905–1906 Revival, 1st Indian ed., Akola: Alliance Publications, 1987 (1907). Forbes, Geraldine H., ‘In search of the “Pure Heathen”: Missionary Women in Nineteenth Century India’, Economic and Political Weekly, 26 April 1986 (Review of Women Studies), pp. WS 2–8. ———, Women in Modern India, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999, (The New Cambridge History of India), pp. 28–30. The Gazetteer of Bombay City and Island, Vol. III. S. M. Edwards. Hastie, Lissa M., Manoramabai: A Daughter of the East, Kedgaon: Mukti Mission, 1922. Hermans, Theo, ‘Paradoxes and Aporias in Translation and Translation Studies’ in Translation Studies: Perspectives on an Emerging Discipline, edited by Alessadra Riccardi, pp. 10–24. Hewat, Elizabeth G. K., Christ and Western India: A Study of the Growth of the Indian Church in Bombay City from 1813, 2nd edn, Bombay: Wilson College, 1953. [Kartini, Raden Adjeng,] Letters of a Javanese Princess, translated from the Duch by Agnes L. Summers, edited with an Introduction by Hildred Peertz, Lanham (UK): University Press of America, 1985. Keune, Jon, ‘The Inter- and Inter-Religious Conversions of Nehemiah Nilkantha Goreh’, Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies, Vol. 17, pp. 45–54. Kosambi, Meera, Crossing Thresholds: Feminist Essays in Social History, Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2007. ———, tr and ed, Feminist Visions or ‘Treason against Men’?: Kashibai Kanitkar and the Engendering of Marathi Literature, Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2008. Masselos, Jim, ‘The Outside Inside: Incursions into the Marathi Household at the End of the Nineteenth Century’ in Home, Family and Kinship in Maharashtra, edited by Irina Glushkova and Rajendra Vora, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999. Mayo, Katherine, Selections from Mother India, edited by Mrinalini Sinha, New Delhi: Kali for Women, 1998. [Medhavi, Manorama,] ‘Letters of Manorama Mary Medhavi’, compiled by Sister Geraldine, typed manuscript in the archives of the Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission. Morantz-Sanchez, Regina Markell, Sympathy and Science: Women Physicians in American Medicine, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985. Mukherjee, Meenakshi, Realism and Reality: The Novel and Society in India, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1996 (1st pub. 1984).

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Mukherjee, Sujit, Translation as Discovery and Other Essays on Indian Literature in English Translation, 2nd edn, Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 1994 (1st pub. 1981 by Allied Publishers.) Raikes, Elizabeth, Dorothea Beale of Cheltenham, London: Archibald Constable and Co., 1908. The Ramabai Association, Report of Annual Meeting Held March 11, 1890, Boston: 1890. ———, Report of the Annual Meeting Held March 11, 1892, Boston, 1892. ———, Report of the Annual Meeting Held March 11, 1893, Boston, 1893. ———, Report of the Annual Meeting Held March 12, 1894, Boston, 1894. ———, Report of the Annual Meeting Held March 11, 1895, Boston, 1895. ———, Report of the Annual Meeting Held March 18, 1896, Boston, 1896. ———, Report of the Annual Meeting Held March 17, 1897, Boston, 1897. ———, Report of the Annual Meeting Held March 16, 1898, Boston, 1898. Ramusack, Barbara, ‘Cultural Missionaries, Maternal Imperialists, Feminist Allies: British Women Activists in India, 1865–1945’ in Western Women and Imperialism: Complicity and Resistance, edited by Nupur Chaudhuri and Margaret Stroebel, pp. 119–36, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1992, pp. 119–36. Rose, Barbara, Tsuda Umeko and Women’s Education in Japan, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992. Sarkar, Sumit, ‘The Women’s Question in Nineteenth Century Bengal’ in Women and Culture, edited by Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid, reprint, Mumbai: Research Centre for Women’s Studies, SNDT Women’s University, 1994 (1st pub. 1985). Sorabji, Richard, Opening Doors: The Untold Story of Cornelia Sorabji, Delhi: Penguin Books India, 2010. [Tsuda, Umeko,] The Attic Letters: Ume Tsuda’s Correspondence to Her American Mother, edited by Yoshiko Furuki et al, New York and Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1991. Tyrell, Ian, Women’s World, Women’s Empire: The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in International Perspective, 1880–1980, Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1991. Welter, Barbara, ‘The Feminization of American Religion: 1800–1860’ in Clio’s Consciousness Raised: New Perspectives on the History of Women, edited by Mary S. Hartman and Lois Banner, New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1974. Willard, Frances, Glimpses of Fifty Years; The Autobiography of an American Woman, Chicago: Woman’s Temperance Publication Association, 1889. Winslow, J. C., Narayan Vaman Tilak: The Christian Poet of Maharashtra, Calcutta: Association Press, 1923.

Marathi Agarkar, G. G., Agarkar-Vangmaya, edited by M. G. Natu and D. Y. Deshpande, Khanda 1, Mumbai: Maharashtra Rajya Sahitya ani Sanskriti Mandal, 1984. Apte, Hari Narayan, Pan Lakshyat Kon Gheto! (But Who Pays Heed!), 5th edn, Pune: A.V. Patwardhan, 1929 (1st pub. 1893). Ghate, V. D., ‘Dharmantare’ (Religious Conversions) in Vichara-vilasate, Mumbai: Mauj Prakashan, 1973.

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Kanitkar, Kashibai, Kai. Sau. Dr. Anandibai Josehee Yanche Charitra (The Life of the late Dr. Mrs. Anandibai Joshee), Pune: Kulkrniani Mandali, 1889. Karve, Anandibai, Maze Puran (My Saga), edited by Kaveri Karve, 2nd edn, Mumbai: K.B. Dhavale, 1951 (1st pub. 1944). Karve, D. K., Atmavritta, 2nd edn, Hingane: Anath-balikashram, 1928 (1914). Kelkar, N. C., Lokamanya Tilak Yanche Charitra, Khanda 1, reprint, Pune: Varada, 1988 (1st pub. 1923). Morje, G. N., Khristi Marathi Vangamaya (Christian Marathi Literature), Ahmadnagar: Ahmadnagar College, 1984. Padmanji, Baba, Arunodaya: Baba Padmanji Hyanche Swalikhit Charitra (Sunrise: The Autobiography of Baba Padmanji), 3rd edn, reprint, Mumbai: Bombay Book and Tract Society, 1963 (1st pub. 1883). ———, Yamuna-Paryatan (The Wanderings of Yamuna Bai), 5th edn, Pune: Snehavardhan Prakashan, 1994, (1st pub. 1857). Phule, Jotirao, Mahatma Phule Samagra Vangmaya (The Complete Works of Mahatma Phule), edited by Dhananjaya Keer and S.G. Malshe, Mumbai: Maharashtra Rajya Sahitya ani Sanskriti mandal, 1969.. Ranade, Ramabai, Amachya Ayushyatil Kahi Athavani (Reminiscences of Our Live), 7th edn, Pune: K.G. Sharangpani, 1953 (1st pub. 1910). Rege, ‘M.P., Prabodhananche Swarup’ (The Nature of the Awakening), Bharatiya Prabodhan (The Indian Renaissance), Pune: Samaj Prabodhan Sanstha, 1973. Tilak, Lakshmibai, Sampurna Smriti-chitre (The Complete Memory Sketches), Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, 1989 (1st pub. separately 1934–36). Umakant, Kai. Shri. Ramabai Ranade (Hind Mahila Pustakmala, Book 1), Bombay, 1925. Vaidya, Sarojini, Shrimati Kashibai Kanitkar: Atmacharitra ani Charitra (1861–1948) (The Autobiography and Biography of Mrs Kashibai Kanitkar), 2nd edn, Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, 1991 (1st pub. 1980).

Periodicals (select issues) Dnyanodaya (Anglo-Marathi weekly, Bombay). The Hong Kong Daily Press. Indu-Prakash (Anglo-Marathi weekly, Bombay). The Japan Weekly Mail (Yokohama). Kesari (Marathi weekly, Pune). The Mahratta (English weekly, Pune). Native Opinion (Anglo-Marathi, Bombay). The New York Times. Our Federation (Monthly official organ of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of Australiasia). Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. The San Francisco Chronicle. Sudharak (Anglo-Marathi weekly, Pune). The Times (London). The Times of India (Bombay).

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INDEX

Abbott, Justin 83, 92 adversity 70–1, 96, 201 Agarkar, G. G. 21, 177 American missionary women 121, 206 American Ramabai Association 192, 200, 241, 244, 286 American sojourn 116–33 American women 119–21, 127, 129, 177, 193 American women’s movement 119, 129 Andrews, Judith 121, 173–4, 188, 193, 200–1 Anglican Church 81–3, 85–7, 193, 281 Anglo-Marathi 21, 118 Arunodaya (Padmanji) 249 Arya Mahila Samaj 22–3, 26, 28, 77, 98, 100, 177 ashram 1, 4, 189 authoritarianism, church’s 86–7 Bacon, Alice 287 baptism 78, 80, 84, 88, 178, 268–70 Beale, Dorothea 81 Bhandarkar, R. G. 20 Bhat, C. N. 183 Bible 11, 83, 178–9, 185, 203, 205, 247, 249–52, 262, 266, 268–9, 271–2, 275, 277–8 Bible women 209, 229–30, 245–6 Bodley, Rachel 28, 116 Bombay Guardian 199 Brahman brethren 207 Brahmans 137, 141, 144, 157, 213, 215, 251, 258, 260–2, 264, 272

brides, conduct for 49–57 British women 89–90, 193 Burton, Antoinette 90 Butler, Canon 78 Chandavarkar, N. G. 173 The Cheltenham Ladies 122 childhood 3, 5, 17, 40–1, 49–50, 63, 66–71, 139–41, 146–9, 151, 162–4, 217–21, 230, 236–8, 240–1 child marriage 20, 22, 24, 123, 127, 172 The Christian Conquest of India (Thoburn) 93 Christian religion 100, 266, 268–9 Christians xi–xii, 48, 78, 80, 87, 97–8, 100, 121–2, 173–4, 179–80, 201–3, 237–41, 250–1, 266–7, 277 church 30, 83, 85–7, 100, 111, 120, 184, 240, 268–9, 277 Community of St Mary the Virgin (CSMV) 30, 78, 81, 85–6, 89, 116, 192 compassion 51 Conference of Maharashtra’s Indian Christians 253 Dall, Caroline Healy 116 ‘Dear Old Ajeebai’ (Ramabai) 89 Deshmukh, G. H. 20, 28 ‘The Destiny of the White Race’ 118 Devi, Svarnakumari 179 divine language 3 Dnyanodaya 118, 177–80, 186, 250–1 domestic duties 58–63

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Kanitkar, Kashibai 19, 22, 123, 129, 170 Kartini 288–9 Karve, D. K. 188, 189 Kedgaon 190, 192–3, 197–209, 243–4, 246, 253–4, 286; religious preoccupations 243–54 Kedgaum 225, 230, 232 Kesari 124, 171, 181 Keswick convention 244 Kharsedji, Sorab 91 ‘Khristadas’ 179 Kripa Sadan 201–2, 206–7, 228

domestic life 37, 44, 49, 52, 55 Donald, E. W. 201, 202 Dongre, Anantshastri 1–3, 6 Dyer, Helen 118, 125, 245 education 39–44, 164–5 famine 7, 191, 197, 201–3, 211, 220, 223, 232–4, 236, 239, 241, 260–1; relief work 228, 239 ‘Famine Experiences’ 197, 211–24 farm work 246 foundation, of womankind 33–9 Frere, Bartle 76–7 From Life unto Death (Haslam) 185

‘Lamentation of the Divine Language’ (Ramabai) 11

Gangamul forest 4 global sisterhood 121 Glover, Susanne 81 Gordon, George 173 Goreh, Nehemiah 79 Hale, E. E. 125 Hamlin, Sarah 121, 174, 181 happiness: house of 39; value of 72, 96 The High-Caste Hindu Woman ix, 4, 6, 77, 121, 136–68, 201, 243, 286, 287 Hindu law 150–3, 162, 262 Hindu religion 84, 100, 117, 124, 136, 191, 236, 264, 266, 271 Hindu women 25, 122–3, 125, 191, 207, 282; high-caste 163, 180 The Hong Kong Daily Press 132–3 householder 58 imperialism 82–3, 85–6, 89–90, 193 Indian Christian 117, 178–9, 205, 253, 281 Indian church 253, 284 Indian culture 87–8, 205 ‘Indian Religion’ (Ramabai) 89, 122 Indian women’s emancipation 129, 287 Indian zenanas 121, 124, 168 Indu-Prakash 21, 129, 177 jala-samadhi 7 Japanese Girls and Women (Bacon, Alice) 287 Jayawardena, Kumari 121 Jesus Christ 168, 270, 273, 278–80 Joshee, Anandibai 14, 130, 175

Madras 14, 27, 99, 102 Maharashtra x, 1, 3, 8–9, 14, 17, 20–2, 80, 82, 92–3, 170, 189–90, 246, 252, 284–6 The Mahratta (English) newspaper 21 Malabari, B. M. 189 Mandlik, V. N. 21 Manning 89 marriage 11, 14, 17, 19, 21, 49–52, 92, 123, 140–1, 143–7, 151–2, 154, 176–8, 265, 283; daughters in 138, 141, 143, 145 Medhavi, Babu Bipin Behari Das 11 Medhavi, Manorama 30, 75, 78, 128, 170–1, 175, 192, 201–2, 204–5, 243–5, 253–4 medical education 27–8 menial work 7, 260–1 misfortune 36, 50, 52, 71, 83, 107, 171 missionary women 206, 208 Mitchell, J. Murray 249 modesty 44–7 ‘Morals for Women’ (Ramabai) 23–4 motherhood 8, 17 Mueller, Max 78, 89 Mukherjee, Sujit 252 Mukherji, Meenakshi 252 Mukti Mission 197–209, 228–41, 253–4, 276 The Mukti Prayer Bell 243, 248 Mukti School 197, 201, 228 Native Opinion 21, 23, 25, 27 Native Women Teachers 163, 165

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religious neutrality 175, 181–2, 188 religious persons 48, 71 religious preoccupations 243–54 remarriage 4, 19, 21, 154, 175–6, 190 Ryder, Emma Brainard 121, 131

New Testament 249–50, 253, 266–7 The New York Times 118 Nulkar, Rao Bahadur 181 offspring 51, 63, 67, 69, 154–5 Padmanji, Baba 179, 249 Pandita Ramabai: The Widows’ Friend (Medhavi, Manorama) 243 patriarchal authoritarianism 83 Pavitra Shastra 253 Peshwa 3 Philadelphia 27, 116, 119–20, 125–6, 130, 133, 276 Philadelphia Evening Bulletin 118, 119 Phule, Jotirao 20 pilgrimage 3, 5, 145, 216, 258 plague 197, 199–201, 203, 232 plague epidemic, government provisions 225–7 prepubertal marriage 17 priesthood 138, 154–5, 241 progeny 50, 64–5, 124 puranas 6, 9, 47, 106, 179–80, 259–60, 266 Rakhmabai 123, 152–3, 172 Ramabai: agenda of 121–2, 283; conversion to Christianity 74–93; death of 281–2; early life of 1–14; in England 74–93; family’s financial condition 5; influence 287–9; letters of 81, 176; in Maharashtra 17–30; return to Maharashtra 170–94; Sharada Sadan 170–94; testimony of 27–8 Ramabai Association 120–1, 125, 130–1, 133, 173, 176, 180–1, 183, 187–8, 192 Ramusack, Barbara 90 Ranade, M. G. 20 reform movement 20 relief camps 218–22, 233, 235 religion 43–4, 47–9, 52, 55–6, 61–4, 80–1, 83–4, 86–8, 118–19, 136–8, 141–2, 251–3, 258–9, 265–6, 268– 70; true 47–8, 179, 277 ‘Religious Consciousness of the Hindus’ (Ramabai) 15n8, 286 religious conversion x, 80, 88, 90, 171, 284–5

307

sacred law 139, 155, 263–4 sacred literature 257, 260 sacred places 213, 258–9, 261 Sadan 120, 170, 172–6, 181–8, 190–1, 201–2 saintly women 39, 46, 51, 53, 55–6 salvation 64, 80, 139, 144, 150, 156, 214, 251–2, 269, 272–4, 277, 280, 284 Sarkar, Sumit 24 schools: primary 164; residential x, 1, 120, 124–5, 170, 172, 287 self-reliance 163 Seva Sadan 189, 283 Sharada Sadan 122, 170–94, 199, 201–2, 204–6, 228, 246 shastras 26, 44, 63–4, 215, 251, 262, 264–6 Sheshadri, Narayan 91, 92 social reformers 11, 14, 17, 19, 21, 24, 92, 124, 170, 172, 176, 188–9, 207, 247, 286 Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) 128 Sorabji, Francina 184 Special Plague Committee 199 starvation 7, 141, 211, 213, 215–16, 219, 221, 228–9, 234–5, 261 Stri Dharma Niti (Ramabai) 22, 23–4, 32–73 Subodha Patrika 21, 76, 183, 204 Sudharak 21 Svarga 263, 271 A Testimony of Our Inexhaustible Treasure (Ramabai) 248, 257–80 Tilak, B. G. 21, 23, 199 Tilak, N. V. 82, 92 The Times of India 123, 172, 285 transnationalism 243 true religion 47–8 Vedanta 213, 263–5 Vedas 4, 9, 137, 139, 154, 156–7, 257, 263–5

INDEX

Viswanathan, Gauri 81 Voyage to England 96–114 Wantage 74, 76, 82, 88, 90, 96, 120, 204–5, 267–8 Wedderburn, William 89 Welter, Barbara 119 widowhood 17–18, 28, 136, 139, 154, 266; enforced 20, 123 widows x, 17–19, 125, 154–61, 164, 166, 170, 172–6, 180, 182, 184–6, 188–9, 191, 203, 283; high-caste 120, 161, 166, 189; marriage of 160; young 154, 159–60, 166, 172, 186, 191, 207, 220, 222, 236, 238 Willard, Frances 120, 125 Wilson, John 91 Winslow, J. C. 82 Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) 120, 122, 127, 130 women 7–11, 22–30, 34, 36–9, 46–7, 49–59, 61–70, 120–2, 124–33,

146–59, 161–8, 205–7, 245–9, 262–5, 270–3; aged 205, 208; children and 63–73, 121, 139–43, 191, 219, 236–7, 254; condition of, society 161–5; conservative 22, 26; contemporary 25; destitute 77, 206; domestic duties 58–63; education of xi, 3–4, 8, 10–11, 21, 26, 28, 39–44, 82–3, 130, 164–5, 179, 253, 283; fallen 76, 206, 267–8; helpless 152–3; high-caste x, 163–4, 192; homebound 22; illiterate 26, 180; impaired 205; marital rights 151–4; married life 143–8; modesty 44–7; poor 25, 239, 241; proverbs 150–1; in religion and society 148–50; seclusion 26; self-reliance 163; teachers 165; unfortunate 152, 267; victimized 76, 206, 284–5; victims 206; widowhood 154–61 ‘The Word-Seed’ (Ramabai) 78, 93n11 The Wrongs of Indian Womanhood (Fuller) 247

308