Home » April 5 — Pandita Ramabai

April 5 — Pandita Ramabai

Pandita Ramabai Sarasvati 1858-1922 front-page-portrait.jpg

Today’s Bible reading

Shout for joy, you heavens;
    rejoice, you earth;
    burst into song, you mountains!
For the Lord comforts his people
    and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
    the Lord has forgotten me.”

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you! — Isaiah 49:13-15

Ramabai on an Indian post stamp

More thoughts for meditation about Pandita Ramabai

The Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice name Pandita Ramabai (1858-1922) as one of their favorite saints of all time. She was an Indian activist, evangelist and one of the first modern Pentecostals. Over a hundred years before Malala Yousafzai, she campaigned for women’s right to education, and she was extremely active in helping the poor and those oppressed under the Hindu caste system.

Born in a Brahman (highest caste) family in south India, in what is now the state of Karnataka, she started to study at an early age and learned Sanskrit along with sacred Hindu texts, astronomy, physiology and more. This was controversial for a woman to do, but her father encouraged her as he saw her learning more and more about society, religion and activism. She came to be called by the honorific title “pandita” which denotes an Indian scholar.

In 1883 she went to England and taught Sanskrit at an Anglican monastery in Wantage. She met Jesus there. “I realized,” she later wrote, “after reading the fourth 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 women of India.”

As she returned to her home country, she bought a piece of land outside Pune and started a Christian social community for young widows called Mukti, Sanskrit for liberation. She also helped people who were orphaned, disabled or homeless, and when a famine hit India in 1896, Ramabai rescued over a thousand people and brought many of them to the Mukti mission.

In 1905, Mukti was transformed by an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Hundreds were saved at the community, and they prayed, worshiped and studied the Word of God in ecstasy. Miracles started to happen as the Holy Spirit gave gifts to the girls at Mukti. This happened at the same time as the mighty Azusa Street revival was going on in Los Angeles, and by the Lord’s providence the groups got in touch with each other. In the January 1908 edition of Azusa Street’s paper The Apostolic Faith, this report from Ramabai was provided:

“One Sunday, as I was coming out of the church, after the morning service, I saw some girls standing near the door of a worker’s room. They seemed greatly excited and wondering. I soon found out the cause. A girl was praying aloud, and praising God in the English language. She did not know the language.”

Many Pentecostal leaders, went to Mukti and witnessed the amazing outpouring among the poor and marginalized. The Mukti community became the cornerstone of Indian Pentecostal mission, like L.A. was in the United States or Oslo in Europe, and thousands were blessed through what God was doing there. Ramabai continued to preach the Gospel, save the poor and campaign for women’s rights in the power of the Holy Spirit until she died on this day in 1922.

Want more?

  • For a more detailed biography of Ramabai’s amazing life, check out Christianity Today’s article about her.
  • Here is a nice promotional video from Mukti today:
  • Here is another video with nice pics but probably not in your language. [video]

Suggestions for action

Pray: Lord, help me become as passionate about You and the poor as Pandita Ramabai was, and let her example be an inspiration to many.

Pray for the needy in India and around the world. Thank God for the people who must beg the wealthy for money to care for the poor.

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