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This is Why He Came

Stories of Salvation and Transformation from Around the World

Meeting Christ in the Gospel of Luke: The Story of Pandita Ramabai

by Emmalie Ellis, DBU Student

We are just under ten days away from Christmas Day. Less than ten days until we remember the birth of our Savior who was born in a stable, destined to one day take on the sins of the world, thus securing eternal life for all who believe.

When was the last time you basked in the profound nature of the Lord’s inclusivity? What we so commonly take for granted is the very thing that placed one of the most influential women in India on the path to Christ. The gospel message does not discriminate against gender, race, upbringing, or status - Pandita Ramabai saw this and pursued the Lord with all she had.

Pandita Ramabai Sarasvati was born on April 23, 1858, into a devout Hindu family and was raised within the harsh caste system. Her father, contrary to many Hindus, taught Ramabai the holy language of Sanskrit, despite her being a female. Because of this, Ramabai’s father was never fully accepted within the Hindu community, causing Ramabai and her family to wander India with no home for twenty years. Over this time period, Ramabai committed over 18,000 verses of the Bhagavata Purana to memory.

During the great famine from 1874-1876, Ramabai lost her father, mother, and sister, leaving her and her brother to fend for themselves. Upon arriving in Calcutta in 1878, her extensive knowledge of the Hindu texts impressed scholars greatly and they bestowed upon her the title of “Pandita” because of her wisdom. This title gave Pandita Ramabai a platform on which she began speaking her mind and standing up for what she believed.

Pandita Ramabai became incredibly frustrated and angered by the Hindu texts that prevented women from obtaining “mukti” or ultimate salvation. She developed a hatred for the Hindu caste system that had limited her throughout her whole life. Pandita Ramabai married Bapu Bipin Behari Das Medhavi, a man below her caste with whom she had a daughter, Manorama. Soon after she got married, Ramabai began reading through a copy of the Gospel of Luke that a Baptist missionary had given her husband. 

Let’s pause here- it would be remiss of us to glaze over the power of the Word of God. One single book of the Bible transformed Ramabai’s life. After reading Luke, she said “Having lost all faith in my former religion, and with my heart hungering after something better, I eagerly learnt everything I could about the Christian religion, and declared my intention to become a Christian.”

From then on, it was with fierce intentionality that Pandita Ramabai pursued both the Lord and equality for Hindu women. In 1883, Ramabai was offered to stay at the Community of the Sisters of St. Mary the Virgin in England, which she accepted. It was here that Ramabai improved her English and first read through the story of the Samaritan woman- “I realized 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.”

The Lord used Pandita Ramabai to change the world. Ramabai was the first woman to speak before the 2000 delegates of the National Social Congress in Bombay in 1889, where she famously said “It is not strange, my countrymen, that my voice is small, for you have never given a woman the chance to make her voice strong!” She wrote a number of books, her most well-known being “The High Caste Hindu Woman.” She traveled across America, writing curriculum for six different grades. At the top of her long list of accomplishments, though, sit two crowning achievements:

1.) Pandita Ramabai opened a residential community in India which she named “Mukti,” where she and countless other Indian women and orphans found everything they needed in Jesus Christ, finally obtaining the ultimate Salvation Ramabai spent her whole life searching for. The doors of the “Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission” remain open to this day.

2.) Over the span of twelve years, Pandita Ramabai translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Marathi- the language her family spoke, for which there was no copy of the Word. Pandita Ramabai died on April 5, 1922, only hours after completing her final draft of the Marathi Bible. 

The Word of the Lord is powerful - it changed a devout Hindu girl into a catalyst for Christian reformation. During these last ten days before Christmas, immerse yourself in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Just as it did for Pandita Ramabai, allow for the kindness and love laced throughout Jesus’s story to take root in your heart and truly transform you this Advent Season.

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