- Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission
Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission is a relief and development charity based in Kedgaon, Maharastra India. Mukti Mission India provides Christ-centred homes where destitute women and children irrespective of their background are accepted, cared for, transformed, and empowered to be salt and light in society. Mukti Mission has Councils in many countries which work to promote the work of Mukti and raise child sponsorship and donations for the work.
Mukti Mission was founded at Bombay in 1889 by Pandita Ramabai Sarasvathi, a sankrit scholar. This home was for child widows and drew caution and wariness from the community. Ramabai did not set out to convert the girls but only to educate them. Each morning she shared devotions with her daughter Manoramabai with an open door so that if they wanted the widows in her care were free to come and listen.
Ramabai later moved the School to Pune. She wished the home to be self supporting and with money gifted from America she purchased a farm at Kedgaon, outside Pune. She named this property Mukti Sadan, the House of Salvation. When news of the famine in Madya Pradesh reached Pandita Ramabai in 1896 she heard the call of God to go out and collect the suffering women and children. Temporary structures were erected at the farm to house the refugees. Permanent buildings were soon constructed at Mukti Sadan and a Church built. By 1900 hundreds had been rescued from the Gujarat Famine and the population at Mukti was almost 2000 women and children.
Plague hit Pune in 1902 and Authorities closed down all communal living including Sharada Sadan. So Pandita moved the Sadan from Pune to Kedgaon and incorporated it with the Mukti Sadan. School was held in the Church building. A training school for teachers and an Industrial School with gardens, fields, an oil press, dairy, laundry, sewing, embroidery and weaving were established. The work at Mukti continues today.
In India, boys were considered an asset to the family and girls were seen as a burden. Girls were the least likely to receive schooling, proper medical care and were sometimes abandoned.
The vision of Mukti Mission is “To provide a Christ centred home where destitute women and children irrespective of their background are accepted, cared for, transformed, and empowered to be salt and light in society.”
Mukti Mission is a place of refuge for the women and children who live there. The residents of Mukti are there for a variety of different reasons from malnutrition, or physical and mental disabilities to abuse or neglect. The women and children are loved, cared for and find purpose for their lives.
Pandita Ramabai was a social reformer who was passionate about Christ and passionate about women. Ramabai was born in 1858 to a high caste Brahmin sanskrit Scholar, Anant Shastri Dongre, at a village called Gangamoola, Mala village, Karkala Taluk, Karnataka State (then Madras Presidency). Her father, breaking tradition, taught his wife Laxmi bai and daughter, Ramabai the sacred language of Sanskrit. The family traveled, Ramabai's father teaching the Holy Sanskrit Scriptures for a living. Tragedy struck as her mother, father and sister all perished in the famine of 1877. Ramabai and her brother continued to travel and teach. Ramabai's knowledge was so impressive she was the first woman to be given the title Pandita and Saraswati at Kalkotta. After the death of her brother, Ramabai married a Bengali lawyer below her caste and had a daughter Manoramabai. Tragically her husband soon died of cholera at Dacca, leaving her with a baby daughter.
Ramabai's travels through India made her aware of the terrible plight of women in India. Many women were married as children to much older men and therefore were widowed and left without status or protection. Widows of some families are made destitutes, as nobody took care of them. Ramabai soon became a leading advocate for rights and welfare of women in India. Through her work she came into contact with Christian missionaries who paid for her to travel to England. There she was taken in by the sisters at St Mary's Home in Wantage. The sisters taught her about Christ. Ramabai undertook serious study of the Bible and decided to be baptized. She also went to America and gave lectures and travelled wideley. Ramabai Foundation was established in America.
On returning to India she continued to study the bible and accepted Christ as her personal saviour, a moment she described as being shut up in a dark room and suddenly released into bright daylight. In 1889 she established Sharada Sadan, a school in Bombay for child widows. She promised not to pressure the girls to become Christians but she had daily devotions which the girls could choose to attend. Many of the girls became Christians.
In 1890 she moved the home to Pune. She purchased a farm property in Kedgaon and in 1896. 300 girls were rescued from Madhya Pradesh famine. During a plague outbreak in 1902 she moved Sharada Sadan to the farm property in Kedgaon, outside Pune. During a severe famine Ramabai toured the villages of Maharastra with a caravan of bullock carts and rescued thousands of outcast children, child widows, orphans, and other destitute women and brought them to the shelter of Mukti and Sharada Sadan. By 1901 there were almost 2000 residents including those rescued from the Gujarat famine.
A learned woman knowing seven languages, she also translated the Bible into her mother tongue - Marathi - from the original Hebrew and Greek. She was the first native speaker to do so, not just the first woman. She died at Mukti in 1922 soon after completing the translation. She was awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind medal, the highest honour under the British Raj. The Indian government released a stamp in 1989 commemorating Pandita Ramabai's work.
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