This book looks at the life of Pandita Ramabai, one of the major social reformers of 19th-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 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 19th-century 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.
Table of Contents
Introduction 1. Early Life 2. Entry into Maharashtra 3. England and Conversion to Christianity 4. American Sojourn 5. Return to Maharashtra: Sharada Sadan 6. Kedgaon and Mukti Mission 7. Kedgaon: Religious Preoccupations 8. Epitaphs and Legacies References. Index
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).
"This study of the remarkable life of Pandita Ramabai (1858–1922) was penned by sociologist Kosambi (d. 2015; SNDT Women's Univ., Mumbai). Ramabai was born in Karnataka, India. With her brother, Shrinavas, with whom she was educated on an equal basis, she continued the work of their father, Anant Dongre (c. 1796–1874), who had founded a residential ashram that educated Brahmin boys in Sanskrit studies. The siblings traveled around India giving lectures, and in Calcutta, she received the title Pandita (learned master) for her Sanskrit learning. Her brother died in 1880, but she continued the work, establishing an international reputation as a social reformer, feminist, and Sanskrit scholar; her studies had begun when she was nine. She married a Bengali in 1880 in a controversial intercaste marriage, but he died two years later, leaving her with a daughter, Manorama. Her international fame came about with her travels to England and the US, her conversion to Christianity, and the publication of her warmly received feminist tract, The High-Caste Hindu Woman (1887). An excellent analysis and record of Ramabai with a selection of seven of her writings." Summing Up: Essential. -- R. D. Long, Eastern Michigan University, in CHOICE