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Pandita Ramabai

"Where is the hope of revival

God’s Holy Spirit outpoured

Convicting of sin, and of judgment
and righteousness of the Lord?

The lost ones will yield to God’s Spirit
when Christians, cleansed, weep and pray;
God’s Living Water flows outward;
This is “Revival—God’s Way!”
 
Estelle Gifford Jackson

"I do not understand Christian people who are not thrilled by the whole idea of revival…If you want a perfect exposition of 1 Corinthians 1:25-31, read books on revival.”  David Martyn Lloyd-Jones

I was born to fight devils and factions. It is my business to remove obstructions, to cut down thorns, to fill up quagmires, and to open and make straight paths. But if I may have some failing let me rather speak the truth with too great severity than once to act the hypocrite and conceal the truth.”  Martin Luther

“Before Thine ever blazing Throne, We have no luster of our own.”  Oliver Wendell Homes

In 1989 the Government of India issued a commemorative stamp of Pandita Ramabai and later named her "Woman of the Millennium. " The following is taken from the official brochure of the stamp from the Department of Post, India:

"Pandita Ramadai, the youngest daughter of Anant Shastri, was a social reformer, a champion for the emancipation of women in India, a pioneer in education. Left totally alone by the time she was 23, Ramabai acquired a great reputation as a Sanskrit (Hindu) scholar before meeting the Lord Jesus Christ as her personal Savior and Lord."

We Americans usually think of India as a country that is over-populated, disease ridden, and poverty stricken. It is a country that has entirely too many cows. We American Christians look at India as a country that is totally pagan in its beliefs and controlled by the Hindu priests. Both views are far from the truth. India is one of the most prosperous up and coming nations in today's world. On the Spiritual side, we in our American go-to-church-once-a-week-and-pay-our-tithes-and-sing-in-the-choir - Christianity need to hear what a Christian leader in India has to say about us:

The indigenous churches in India have a great burden for America just now...and are praying that God will visit your country with revival...You feel sorry for us in India because of our poverty in material things. We who know the Lord in India feel sorry for you in America because of your spiritual poverty. We pray that God may give you gold tried in the fire which He has promised to those who know the power of His resurrection...In our churches we spend four or five or six hours in prayer and worship, and frequently our people wait on the Lord in prayer all night; but in America after you have been in church for one hour, you begin to look at your watches. We pray that God may open your eyes to the true meaning of worship... To attract people to meetings, you have great dependence on posters, on advertising, on promotion, and on the build-up of a human being. In India we have nothing more than the Lord Himself and we find that He is sufficient. Before a Christian meeting in India we never announce who the speaker will be. When the people come, they come to seek the Lord and not a human being. We have had as many as 12,000 people come together just to worship the Lord...We are praying that the people in America might also come to church with a hunger for God and not merely a hunger to see some form of amusement or hear choirs or the voice of a favorite man."  Bakht Singh

Born in Karnataka in 1858, Ramabai was destined to be a woman of change in a time when the "status quo" was all there was to be. She was a champion of women's rights, a poet, and a scholar. Born and raised a Hindu later becoming a Christian she would not tie herself to the restriction of the denominations but would carve her own spiritual path to a personal relationship with the one true God. In the process she would draw criticism from Hindus and Christians alike. Through it all she would be acclaimed as a "mother of modern India."

Her father, Anant Dongre, a wealthy Hindu Guru, scandalized his high caste friends by teaching his wife and later his daughters to read the Sanskrit classics (ancient Hindu scriptures). In 1880 Ramabai would write about the Hindu attitudes toward women that she faced as a young women, "women were considered to have no minds. They are lower than pigs." The status of women was not much above cattle. The practice among the Hindu higher castes was to betroth young girls to much older men. Ramabai's own father at the time of his marriage was over forty and her mother nine. Her father had been astonished to overhear an Indian princess recite verses in the Sanskrit language. He made up his mind that when he married, he would teach his wife to read the ancient Hindu scriptures. This was so against the normal treatment of women that he had to move his wife into the Gungamul forest of Southern India, away from the prying eyes of his friends and priests. Ramabai was born in that forest and when she was eight years old her mother began teaching her Sanskrit. She learned many of the languages of India: Marathi, Bengali, Hindustani, Kanarese, and English. By the time she was twenty, she could recite 18,000 verses of the Puranas, a Hindu holy book.

Ramabai's father although regarded as wise and holy had an emptiness in him that he could not understand. A hunger that could not be filled with the Hindu scriptures, left him very unhappy with his spiritual life. Not understanding the urging of the Holy Spirit and trying to seek peace, he led his family on futile pilgrimages seeking, what he called the "unknown God." Later, Ramabai would write about those days:

"We had no common sense and foolishly spent all the money we had in hand in giving alms...to please the gods...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 upon us. We prostrated ourselves before the stone and metal images of the gods and prayed before them day and night...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."

During this time a severe famine spread through India and with all their money gone to the priests, Ramadai's family went days without food. In her own words, Ramadai elaborates on the day her father dying of starvation called her to his side:

"though his blind eyes could see me no longer, he held me tightly in his arms, and stroking my head and cheeks, he told me, in a few words broken by emotion, to remember how he loved me, how he had taught me to do right and never depart from the way of righteousness. His last loving command to me was to lead an honorable life...and to serve God all my life. He did not know the one and only true God, but served the ...to him the unknown God with all his heart and strength; and was desirous that his children should serve Him to the last. ‘Remember, my child' he said, ‘ You are my youngest and most beloved child. I have given you into the hand of our God; you are His, and to Him alone you must belong, and serve Him all your life."'

Her father soon died and so did her mother and sister. With just her brother, Ramadai started a quest to find that spiritual truth her father was telling her about. They traveled 4000 miles throughout India suffering cold, hunger and thirst, even, at times burying themselves in sand to keep warm. All for nothing. Finally giving up they settled in Calcutta where the Hindu scholars, impressed by her immense knowledge called her "PANDITA" which means "learned." It was in Calcutta that Ramabai first heard about Christ. Being raised under the Hindu teachings that rewards are earned by pilgrimages and payments to the priests, she discovered that true salvation, through the blood of Jesus Christ, is a free gift from God. The gospel of Christ was the purest expression of her own spiritual intuitions, especially her growing belief that to serve women and the poor was a religious and not just a social work. Robert Ellsberg write about Ramabai:

"Her travels in India...sensitized her to the bleak plight of widows and orphans...Ramabai set out to do something about this social problem, establishing centers for widows and orphans in Poona and later Bombay...soon Ramabai had become the leading advocate for the rights and welfare of women in India...In 1883 she accepted an invitation by a congregation of Anglican nuns to visit England...she undertook a serious study of the Bible and asked to be baptized."

Ramabai traveled to the United States where she spoke to assemblies about India's needs and treatment of women, saying, "It is very well to be called ‘Pandita,' but such honors need to be turned to good purposes." The people were shocked to hear how low Indian women, especially widows were treated. Some burned alive on their husbands' funeral pyres. Many were forced to become slaves or sent to temples as prostitutes to make money for the priests. Ramabai wrote a book entitled, "The High Caste Hindu Women." An excerpt from the book follows:

"There are thousands of priests and men learned in sacred lore...they neglect and oppress the widows, and devour widows' houses...hire them out to wicked men so long as they can get money; and when the poor, miserable slaves are no longer pleasing to their cruel masters, they turn them out in the street to beg their livelihood, to suffer the horrible consequences of sin, to carry the burden of shame, and finally to die the death worse than that of a starved street dog. The so-called sacred places...those veritable hells on earth...have become the graveyards of countless widows and orphans."

She married at the age of twenty-two, but her husband died of cholera after only sixteen months. She was left with a daughter, whom she named Manorama, "Hearts Joy."

While in America, interested organizations formed that would support her in opening schools for women and girls. After several days of prayer, Ramabai opened a refuge for women called "Mukti" which means "salvation" in many Indian languages. The Hindu priests' complained that she was betraying her own culture and convinced the women that to go to that place would be sure death. Ramabai elaborates more on this:

"...many widows refused to come to Mukti. Their minds were filled with dread of Christians...they think that some day after they are well fattened they will be hung head downward, and a great fire will be built underneath, and oil will be extracted from them to be sold at a fabulously large price for medical purposes. Others think they will be put into mills and their bones ground...they cannot understand that anyone would be kind to them without some selfish purpose."

She, therefore, promised not to pressure the Hindu girls into becoming Christians. But she did offer the Bible to them, should they desire to learn about it. Many, through reading the Bible and observing Ramabai'S godly life, converted to Christianity. Women came from all over the country. "Many were girl brides so abused they were terrified of a touch and even older women, snarling like animals from years of cruelty." It wasn't long before Ramabai declared the school completely Christian.

Ramabai, through all this, felt that something in her spiritual walk was missing. She had heard of a newness and a closeness in walking with God she did not possess, a baptism in the Holy Spirit that still was not a reality to her yet. In December 1904, she heard about the Holy Ghost revival in Wales. News of the Welsh Revival was sweeping across the world. The revival fire was now burning in India. Ramabai longed to see revival among the helpless women in India. So she started prayer circles of "about ten girls each, urging them to pray for the salvation of all nominal Christians in India and across the world." She relates later:

"I was brought to the conviction that mine was only an intellectual belief...a belief in which there was no life. It looked for salvation in the future after death; and consequently my soul had not ‘passed from death unto life.' God showed me how very dangerous my position was, and what a wretched and lost sinner I was, and how necessary it was to obtain salvation in the present, and not in some future time. I repented long; I became very restless and almost ill and passed many sleepless nights. The Holy Spirit got hold of me that I could not rest until I found salvation then and there. So I prayed earnestly to pardon my sins for the sake of Jesus Christ and let me realize that I had really got salvation through Him. I believed God's promise and took Him at His word, and when I had done this, my burden rolled away, and I realized that I was forgiven and freed from the power of sin."

At first there were seventy women in her prayer circles with more and more women being added on daily. Each circle was given the names of ten unsaved girls and women to pray for. Within six months there were "550 at Mukti who met twice a day to pray for revival." The Holy Spirit was about to move with extraordinary power among that group of once neglected and helpless widows. A date that is remembered by Christians in India is June 29, 1905, a day of awe. God opened the heavens and came down. It started out slowly and then built to a loud cadence, the sound of large groups of women travailing in the Lord. Weeping and groaning the women confessed their sins and prayed for on empowerment of God. The next day, Ramabai was preaching from John 8 when suddenly with the sound of a loud rushing wind the Holy Spirit fell upon them. David Smithers writes:

"All the women and girls began to weep and confess their sins. Many were stricken down under conviction of sin while out attending to their daily studies and household duties. Lessons were suspended and the women gave themselves to continual prayer. During these days of heart-searching repentance many girls had visions of the ‘body of sin' within themselves. They testified that the Holy Spirit came into them with a holy burning, which they called a baptism of fire, that was almost unbearable."

Of this revival, one reporter stated:

"The girls in India so wonderfully wrought upon and baptized with the Holy Spirit...were under a pungent conviction of their need. Great light was given them. When delivered they jumped up and down for joy for hours without fatigue. They cried out with the burning that came into and upon them, while the fire of God burned the members of the body of sin, pride, anger, love of the world, selfishness, uncleanness, etc. They neither ate nor slept until the victory was won. Then the joy was so great that for two or three days after receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit they did not care for food."

After spending some time at Mukti observing the revival, G.H. Lang wrote:

"Little girls were lost for hours in the transport of loving Jesus and praising Him. Young Christians were counting it a rare privilege to spend many successive hours in intercessory prayer for strangers never seen or known...In one meeting we were seventeen hours together; the following day more than fifteen hours passed before the meeting broke up with great joy."

In the biography of Pandita Ramabai, Dr. Nicol MacNicol wrote that, "those who seemed to have such emotional blessings at the time of the revival were still living steadfast, godly lives twenty years later."

Letters and diaries of the women are filled with the testimonies of the Holy Ghost fire that fell upon them. A fire that was almost unbearable as it purged out of them all that was not of Him. God took a woman with an all embracing heart...a woman called the "mother of modern India"...a woman given the honorific title of "Pandita," mistress of wisdom...a woman who even though she had all the worldly acclaim knew she lacked this one thing... a woman who in later years prayed, not for the conversion of Hindus but for the conversion of Indian Christians...and armed her with a vision that set her to praying like never before that the power of God would change the course of a nation and a people. It worked, He did!

"People must not only hear about the kingdom of God, but most see it in actual operation, on a small scale perhaps and in imperfect form, but a real demonstration nevertheless."  Pandita Ramabai
Ramabai died on April 5, 1922, at the age of sixty-four.

Vishal Mangalwadi, an international renowned scholar and author comments:

"There are good reasons to nominate Mrs. Indira Gandhi as the Indian Woman of the 20th Century. However, had she been born a century earlier, she would have been married off to a Hindu Brahmin as an illiterate girl before she was 12 years old. And had she refused to be burnt alive on her husbands' funeral pyre, she would have to spend her widowhood in seclusion as an inauspicious woman. The woman who began reforming India's attitude towards women was Pandita Ramabai...a builder of modern India. Pandita Ramabai is the Indian woman of the Millennium."

2 Chronicles 7:14..."If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

JJ (Dark) Di Pietro
Cane Creek Church
http://www.canecreekchurch.org