Zitierweise / cite as:
Payer, Alois <1944 - >: Dharmashastra : Einführung und Überblick. -- 8. Manu IX: Sitte und Recht von Ehe und Familie. -- ANHANG B: Pandita Ramabai (1858 - 1922). -- Fassung vom 2004-01-06. -- URL: http://www.payer.de/dharmashastra/dharmash08b.htm -- [Stichwort].
Erstmals publiziert: 2004-01-06
Anlass: Lehrveranstaltung 2003/04
Unterrichtsmaterialien (gemäß § 46 (1) UrhG)
©opyright: Dieser Text steht der Allgemeinheit zur Verfügung. Eine Verwertung in Publikationen, die über übliche Zitate hinausgeht, bedarf der ausdrücklichen Genehmigung der Herausgeberin.
Dieser Teil ist ein Kapitel von:
Payer, Alois <1944 - >: Dharmashastra : Einführung und Übersicht. -- http://www.payer.de/dharmashastra/dharmash00.htm
Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung Sanskrit von Tüpfli's Global Village Library
Abb.: Pandita Ramabai
[Bildquelle: MacNicol, Nicol <1870 - 1952>: Pandita Ramabai : Die Mutter der Ausgestossenen. -- Stuttgart ; Basel : Evang. Missionsverlag, 1930. -- Originaltitel: Pandita Ramabai (1926). -- Vortitelblatt]
"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. "
Ramabai (1858 - 1922) zeigt, was in Indien trotz Manu für eine Frau auch möglich war: sie lernte Sanskrit, wurde Puranarezitatorin, erhielt die Titel Pandita (Gelehrte) und Sarasvati (Sprachgewaltige), beschrieb das Schicksal der indischen Frauen der hohen Kasten, besonders das Schicksal der Kinder- und Mädchenwitwen, nahm sich dieser Witwen an, und wurde schließlich eine evangelikale "Heilige".
Nach einer Kurzbiographie von Alexander Krolzik sind hier die ersten sieben Kapitel ihrer kurzen Autobiographie wiedergegeben. Die übrigen Kapitel sind rein erbaulichen Inhalts und enthalten kaum biographische Notizen, deshalb sind sie hier weggelassen (sie sind im Internet leicht zugänglich: .http://www.ccmbooks.org/onlinebooks/Pandita/pandita.html. -- Zugriff am 2003-12-20 ).
"RAMABAI SARASVATI (Dongre Medhavi), Pandita, Gründerin der Hilfswerke bzw. Missionsanstalten für Witwen und junge Mädchen Shâradâ Sadan und Mukti.
* April 1858 im Gangamula-Wald als jüngste Tochter von sechs Kindern des gelehrten Hindu Anant Shastri (Titel für Sanskritgelehrte) Dongre und seiner zweiten, 35 Jahre jüngeren, Frau Lakschmibai,
† am Morgen des 5. April 1922 in Mukti.
Anant Sastri Dongre lebte mit seiner Frau und ihren Kindern, von denen drei jung gestorben sind, bis ca. sechs Monate nach der Geburt Ramabais in der Einsamkeit des Gangamula-Waldes. Er hatte sich als Guru (Lehrmeister) einen Ruf erworben, der viele Schüler und Gäste anzog, die seine Gastfreundschaft genossen. So verbrauchte sich nach und nach sein gesamtes Vermögen, wodurch er gezwungen war, mit seiner Familie auf Wanderschaft durch Indien zu gehen, um den Lebensunterhalt für sich und seine Familie als Puranika (Purâna-Vorleser) zu verdienen. Diese jahrelange Wanderschaft von Heiligtum zu Heiligtum mit den Eltern, dem Bruder Shrinivasa und der Schwester prägte das spätere Leben Ramabais. Ramabaiss Mutter Lakschmibai hatte selbst regelmäßig am Sanskritunterricht ihres Mannes teilgenommen. Daher konnte sie Ramabai bereits als Kind, ca. vom 8. bis zum 15. Lebensjahr, in Sanskrit unterrichten. Bereits mit 12 Jahren kannte Ramabai ca. tausend Verse auswendig. Insgesamt beherrschte sie später wohl rund 18000 Verse des Bhagavata Purâna. Kurz nach dem Hunger- und Schwächetod des Vaters, zwischen Mitte 1874 und Anfang 1877, verstarb auch ihre Mutter und dann die Schwester. So zog Ramabai mit ihrem Bruder allein als Puranika arbeitend weiter. In Anbetracht des Leidens und der Armut ihres Volkes und der Unterdrückung der Frauen, insbesondere der jungen Witwen, denen Ramabai während ihrer Wanderschaft begegnete, zweifelte sie zunehmend an der Richtigkeit ihrer Religion. Während dieser Zeit wurde ihr als unverheirateter Frau, die Sanskrit beherrschte, viel Widerstand entgegengebracht. Das in dieser Zeit in Indien vorherrschenden Rollenverständnis und die Religion machten es unmöglich, dass eine indische Frau eine solch hohe Bildung besaß. So wurde Ramabai hinsichtlich ihres Wissens immer wieder und besonders hart auf die Probe gestellt. Die kritischen Gelehrten mussten jedoch feststellen, dass Ramabai eine begabte Frau mit beträchtlichem Wissen war, was ihr viel Anerkennung von den Gelehrten, Professoren und der Presse im ganzen Land einbrachte. 1878 kam Ramabai mit ihrem Bruder nach Kalkutta. Dort unterrichtete sie erstmals in Sanskrit. Während ihres zweijährigen Aufenthaltes in Kalkutta wurde ihr von den Sanskritgelehrten der Titel Sarasvati (= göttliche Verkörperung der Sprache, des dichterischen Ausdrucks und der Gelehrsamkeit) verliehen. Seitdem war sie bekannt als Pandita Ramabai. Im Mai 1880 starb auch ihr Bruder. Nun, auf sich allein gestellt, heiratete sie im Oktober den bengalischen Rechtsanwalt Babu (Bipin Bihare Medhavi). Da beide zu dieser Zeit weder überzeugte Hindus noch Christen waren, schlossen sie nur eine Zivilehe. Schon 19 Monate später verstarb Ramabais Mann an Cholera. In dieser Zeit gebar sie ihre einziges Kind, ihre Tochter Manorama (Herzensfreude).
Obwohl sie bereits früher eine in Sanskrit übersetzte Bibel und noch zu Lebzeiten ihres Mannes an ihren Wohnort Silchar ein Flugblatt mit dem Evangelium des Lukas erhalten hatte, fand Ramabai noch keinen rechten Zugang zum Christentum. Erst die gelegentlichen Besuche des Baptistenmissionars Mr. Allen, der ihr das erste Kapitel der Genesis erläuterte, weckten ihr Interesse für das Christentum auf ihrer Suche nach einer echten Religion. Nach dem Tod ihres Mannes zog Ramabai dann mit ihrer kleinen Tochter 1882 nach Puna [Poona]. Ramabai beherrschte bereits vier Sprachen und lernte hier Englisch als weitere Sprache, um in England das Neue Testament vertiefend zu studieren und sich mehr Wissen für ihr Ziel, die Bildung der Frauen, anzueignen. Das nötige Geld für die Reise verdiente sie sich durch die Veröffentlichung ihres Buches über die »Sittlichkeitsgrundsätze (Moral) für Frauen«.
[Ramabai Sarasvati <Pandita> <1858-1922>: Strî-dharmanîti. -- 1882. -- [in Marathi]]
Anfang 1883 kam Ramabai mit ihrer Tochter in England an, wo sie sich am 29. September 1883 mit ihrer Tochter taufen ließ. Dort lehrte und lernte sie zugleich an einer Frauenschule. Im Februar 1886 brach sie nach Amerika auf, wo sie 1887 ihr wichtigstes Buch, The High-Caste Hindu Woman, veröffentlichte.
[Ramabai Sarasvati <Pandita> <1858-1922>: The high-caste Hindu woman / by Pundita Ramabai Sarasvati. With introduction by Rachel L. Bodley. -- Philadelphia: [Press of the J. B. Rodgers printing co.] 1887. -- 3 p. l., xxiv p., 1 l., 119 p. ]
In Boston wurde am 13. Dezember 1887 die American Ramabai Association, mit dem Ziel gegründet, Ramabai finanziell dabei zu unterstützen, dass junge indische Witwen höherer Kasten Unterricht und Erziehung erhalten könnten.
Abb.: Frauen und Witwen im Sharada Sadan
[Bildquelle: MacNicol, Nicol <1870 - 1952>: Pandita Ramabai : Die Mutter der Ausgestossenen. -- Stuttgart ; Basel : Evang. Missionsverlag, 1930. -- Originaltitel: Pandita Ramabai (1926). -- Vor S. 17.]
Im Februar 1889 traf Ramabai wieder in Kalkutta ein und gründete am 1. März 1889 in Bombay das Frauen- und Witwenheim Shâradâ Sadan (Stätte der Weisheit), in dem sie auch selbst unterrichtete. Von den Reformern in Indien erhielt sie Unterstützung. Den konservativen Gruppen waren ihre Tätigkeiten und die Tatsache, dass sie Christin war, ein Dorn im Auge. Dieser Kritik begegnete sie mit dem Versprechen, die Erziehung der jungen Frauen ohne religiösen Druck, d. h. neutral, vorzunehmen. Im November 1890 wurde der Sitz der Shâradâ Sadan aus Platzgründen nach Puna verlegt. 1895 im November bekannten sich 12 junge Mädchen der Shâradâ Sadan zu Christus und wurden getauft. 1896 lebten mindestens 49 Witwen ständig in Shâradâ Sadan, unterrichtet wurden jedoch wesentlich mehr. Die schwere Hungersnot, die zu dieser Zeit besonders in den Mittelprovinzen Indiens wütete, ließ Ramabai nicht ruhen. Sie reiste in die Mittelprovinzen, um sich ein Bild von dem Ausmaß der Not zu machen. 600 junge Mädchen brachte sie aus den Katastrophengebieten mit, von denen 300 auf dem Gelände der Shâradâ Sadan bleiben konnten, während die anderen auf umliegende Missionen verteilt wurden. Ramabai widmete sich nun zunehmend der Rettung (Mukti) hilfloser, verstoßener und hungernder Frauen und Witwen, so dass die Kapazität von Shâradâ Sadan schon bald erschöpft war. Daher gründete sie um 1897 etwa 30 Meilen vor den Toren Punas das Missionswerk bzw. Rettungshaus Mukti (Sadan). Die Shâradâ Sadan wurde nach Mukti verlegt. Im Jahr 1900 lebten in Mukti mehr als 1900 Menschen. Mukti umfasste unter anderem einen Kindergarten, eine »Normalschule« für jedes Mädchen, eine »Hochschule« für Begabte und eine »Gewerbeschule« für die anderen Mädchen. Außerdem befand sich in Mukti eine eigene Druckerei. Ramabais Tochter Manoramabai hatte während der letzten Jahre in England und Amerika studiert und kehrte 1900 auf Wunsch Ramabaiss zu deren Unterstützung nach Indien zurück. Dort übernahm Manoramabai Lehraufgaben in der Abteilung Shâradâ Sadan. Um die ihrer Meinung nach schlecht übersetzte Bibel frei von hinduistischem Gedankengut und auch für einfache Menschen verständlich neu zu übersetzen, lernte Ramabai Griechisch und Hebräisch. Sie arbeitete über viele Jahre jede »freie« Stunde an dieser Bibelübersetzung, die von den Frauen in Mukti gedruckt und gebunden wurde. Für diese Arbeit und für ihr wohltätiges Werk verlieh ihr der König von England im Jahre 1919 die goldene Kaisar-i-Hind-Medaille als Zeichen der Anerkennung. Am 24. Juli 1921 starb Ramabais Tochter Manoramabai. Sie selbst starb am 5. April 1922 in ihrem Haus in Mukti Sadan.
Pandita Ramabai war eine wichtige Wegbereiterin für Reformen in Indien, indem sie sich im Gegensatz zu ihrer Kaste gegen die Unterdrückung von Witwen und Frauen wandte. Indem sie konvertierte, setzte sie sich zum Christentum im eigenen Land unzähliger heftiger Angriffe aus. Mit ihrem Glauben, ihrem Wissen und ihrer Ausstrahlung konnte sie sich jedoch gegen die konservativen Gruppen als Christin behaupten. Sie hat durch die Werke Shâradâ Sadan und Mukti tausende junger Frauen gerettet, sie unterrichtet und ihnen den Weg zum Christentum gezeigt.
Alexander Krolzik "
[Quelle: Biographisch-bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon. -- Online: http://www.bautz.de/bbkl/r/Ramabai.shtml. -- Zugriff am 2003-12-20]
Abb.: Gedenkbriefmarke, 1989
Online: http://www.ccmbooks.org/onlinebooks/Pandita/pandita.html. -- Zugriff am 2003-12-20
He thought it better to try the experiment at home instead of preaching to others. He found an apt pupil in my mother, who fell in line with his plan, and became an excellent Sanskrit scholar. She performed all her home duties, cooked, washed, and did all household work, took care of her children, attended to guests, and did all that was required of a good religious wife and mother. She devoted many hours of her time in the night to the regular study of the sacred Puranic literature and was able to store up a great deal of knowledge in her mind.
The Brahman Pandits living in the Mangalore District, round about my father's native village, tried to dissuade him from the heretical course he was following in teaching his wife the sacred language of the gods. He had fully prepared himself to meet their objections. His extensive studies in the Hindu sacred literature enabled him to quote chapter and verse of each sacred book, which gives authority to teach women and Shudras. His misdeeds were reported to the head priest of the sect to which he belonged, and the learned Brahmans induced the guru to call this heretic to appear before him and before the august assemblage of the Pandits, to give his reasons for taking this course or be excommunicated. He was summoned to Krishnapura and Udipi, the chief seat of the Madhva Vaishnava sect.
My father appeared before the guru, the head priest, and the assembly of Pandits and gave his reasons for teaching his wife. He quoted ancient authorities, and succeeded in convincing the guru and chief Pandits that it was not wrong for women and Shudras to learn Sanskrit Puranic literature. So they did not put him out of caste, nor was he molested by anyone after this. He became known as an orthodox reformer. My father was a native of Mangalore district, but he chose a place in a dense forest on the top of a peak of the Western Ghats, on the borders of Mysore State, where he built a home for himself. This was done in order that he might be away from the hubbub of the world, carry on his educational work and engage in devotion to the gods in a quiet place, where he would not be constantly worried by curious visitors.
He used to get his support from the rice-fields and coconut plantations which he owned. The place he had selected for his home happened to be a sacred place of pilgrimage, where pilgrims came all the year round. He thought it was his duty to entertain them at his expense, as hospitality was a part of his religion. For thirteen years he stayed there and did his work quietly, but lost all his property because of the great expense he incurred in performing what he thought was his duty.
So he was obliged to leave his home and lead a pilgrim's life. My mother told me that I was only about six months old when they left their home. She placed me in a big box made of cane, and a man carried it on his head from the mountain top to the valley. Thus my pilgrim life began when I was a little baby. I was the youngest member of the family. Some people honoured him for what he was doing, and some despised him. He cared little for what people said and did what he thought was right. He taught and educated my mother, brother, sister, and others.
Abb.: Ramabais Eltern mit der siebenjährigen Ramabai und ihrem Bruder
[Bildquelle: MacNicol, Nicol <1870 - 1952>: Pandita Ramabai : Die Mutter der Ausgestossenen. -- Stuttgart ; Basel : Evang. Missionsverlag, 1930. -- Originaltitel: Pandita Ramabai (1926). -- Nach S. 16]
When I was about eight years old, my mother began to teach me and continued to do so until I was about fifteen years of age. During these years she succeeded in training my mind so that I might be able to carry on my own education with very little aid from others. I did not know of any schools for girls and women existing then, where higher education was to be obtained.
Moreover, my parents did not like us children to come in contact with the outside world. They wanted us to be strictly religious and adhere to their old faith. Learning any other language except Sanskrit was out of the question. Secular education of any kind was looked upon as leading people to worldliness which would prevent them from getting into the way of Moksha, or liberation from everlasting trouble of reincarnation in millions and millions of animal species, and undergoing the pains of suffering countless millions of diseases and deaths. To learn the English language and to come in contact with the Mlenchchas, as the Non-Hindus are called, was forbidden on pain of losing caste and all hope of future happiness. So all that we could or did learn was the Sanskrit grammar and dictionaries, with the Puranic and modern poetical literature in that language. Most of this, including the grammar and dictionaries, which are written in verse form, had to be committed to memory.
Ever since I remember anything, my father and mother were always travelling from one sacred place to another, staying in each place for some months, bathing in the sacred river or tank, visiting temples, worshipping household gods and the images of gods in the temples, and reading Puranas in temples or in some convenient places.
The reading of the Puranas served a double purpose. The first and the foremost was that of getting rid of sin, and of earning merit in order to obtain Moksha. The other purpose was to earn an honest living, without begging.
The readers of Puranas - Puranikas as they are called - are the popular and public preachers of religion among the Hindus. They sit in some prominent place, in temple halls or under the trees, or on the banks of rivers and tanks, with their manuscript books in their hands, and read the Puranas in a loud voice with intonation, so that the passers-by, or visitors of the temple might hear. The text, being in the Sanskrit language, is not understood by the hearers. The Puranikas are not obliged to explain it to them. They may or may not explain it as they choose. And sometimes when it is translated and explained, the Puranika takes great pains to make his speech as popular as he can by telling greatly exaggerated or untrue stories. This is not considered sin, since it is done to attract common people's attention, that they may hear the sacred sound, the names of the gods, and some of their deeds, and be purified by this means. When the Puranika reads Puranas, the hearers, who are sure to come and sit around him for a few moments at least, generally give him presents. The Puranika continues to read, paying no attention to what the hearers do or say. They come and go at their choice.
When they come, the religious ones among them prostrate themselves before him and worship him and the book, offering flowers, fruits, sweetmeats, garments, money, and other things. It is supposed that this act brings a great deal of merit to the giver, and the person who receives does not incur any sin. If a hearer does not give presents to the Puranika, he loses all the merit which he may have earned by good acts. The presents need not be very expensive ones, a handful of rice or other grains, a pice, or even a few cowries, which are used as an exchange of pice (64 cowrie shells are equal to one pice) are quite acceptable. A flower, or even a petal of a flower or a leaf of any good sacred tree, is acceptable to the gods. But the offerer knows well that his store of merit will be according to what he gives, and he tries to be as generous as he can. So the Puranika gets all that he needs by reading Puranas in public places.
My parents followed this vocation. We all read Puranas in public places but did not translate or explain them in the vernacular. The reading and hearing of the sacred literature is in itself believed to be productive of great merit - "Punya," as it is called by the Hindus. We never had to beg or work to earn our livelihood. We used to get all the money and food we needed, and more; what remained over after meeting all necessary expenses was spent in performing pilgrimages and giving alms to the Brahmans.
This sort of life went on until my father became too feeble to stand the exertion, when he was no longer able to direct the reading of the Puranas by us. We were not fit to do any other work to earn our livelihood, as we had grown up in perfect ignorance of anything outside the sacred literature of the Hindus.
We could not do menial work, nor could we beg to get the necessities of life. Our parents had some money in hand. If it had been used to advance our secular education we might have been able to earn our living in some way. But this was out of the question. Our parents had unbounded faith in what the sacred books said. They encouraged us to look to the gods to get our support. The sacred books declared that if people worshipped the gods in particular ways, gave alms to the Brahmans, repeated the names of certain gods, and also some hymns in their honour, with fasting and performance of penance, the gods and goddesses would appear and talk to the worshippers and give them whatever they desired. We decided to take this course of meeting our temporal wants. For three years we did nothing but perform these religious acts. At last, all the money which we had was spent but the gods did not help us.
We suffered from famine which we had brought upon ourselves. The country too, that is, the Madras Presidency, where we lived at that particular time, had begun to feel the effects of famine. There was scarcity of food and water. People were starving all around, and we, like the rest of the poor people, wandered from place to place. We were too proud to beg or to do menial work and were ignorant of any practical way of earning an honest living. Nothing but starvation was before us. My father, mother and sister all died of starvation within a few months of each other.
I cannot describe all the sufferings of that terrible time. My brother and I survived and wandered about, still visiting sacred places, bathing in rivers, and worshipping the gods and goddesses in order to get our desire. We had fulfilled all the conditions laid down in the sacred books, and kept all the rules as far as our knowledge went, but the gods were not pleased with us and did not appear to us. After years of fruitless service, we began to lose our faith in them and in the books which prescribed this course and held out the hope of a great reward to the worshippers of the gods. However we still continued to keep caste rules, worshipped gods and studied sacred literature as usual.
But as our faith in our religion had grown cold, we were not quite so strict with regard to obtaining secular education and finding some means of earning an honest livelihood. We wandered from place to place, visiting many temples, bathing in many rivers, fasting and performing penances, worshipping gods, trees, animals, Brahmans, and all that we knew for more than three years after the death of our parents and elder sister. We had walked more than four thousand miles on foot without any sort of comfort_sometimes eating what kind people gave us, and sometimes going without food, with poor coarse clothing, and finding but little shelter except in Dharma Shalas, that is, free lodging places for the poor which are common to all pilgrims and travellers of all sorts except the low-caste people. We wandered from the south to the north as far as Kashmir, and then to the east and west to Calcutta in 1878.
We stayed in Calcutta for about a year and became acquainted with the learned Brahmans. Here my brother and I were once invited to attend a Christian gathering. We did not know what it was, for we had never come in social contact with either the Hindu Reformers, nor with Christians before that time.
We were advised by our Brahman acquaintances to accept this invitation. So we went to the Christian people's gathering for the first time in our lives. We saw many people gathered there who received us very kindly. There were chairs and sofas, tables, lamps - all very new to us. Indian people curiously dressed like English men and women; some men like the Rev. K.M. Banerji and Kali Charan Banerji, whose names sounded like those of Brahmans but whose way of dressing showed that they had become "Sahibs", were great curiosities. They ate bread and biscuits and drank tea with the English people and shocked us by asking us to partake of the refreshment. We thought the last age, Kali Yuga, that is, the age of quarrels, darkness, and irreligion, had fully established its reign in Calcutta since some of the Brahmans were so irreligious as to eat food with the English.
We looked upon the proceedings of the assembly with curiosity but did not understand what they were about. After a little while one of them opened a book and read something out of it and then they knelt down before their chairs and some said something with closed eyes. We were told that was the way they prayed to God. We did not see any image to which they paid their homage but it seemed as though they were paying homage to the chairs before which they knelt. Such was the crude idea of Christian worship that impressed itself on my mind.
The kind Christians gave me a copy of the Holy Bible in Sanskrit and some other nice things with it. Two of those people were the translators of the Bible. They were grand old men. I do not remember their names, but they must have prayed for my conversion through the reading of the Bible. I liked the outward appearance of the Book and tried to read it but did not understand. The language was so different from the Sanskrit literature of the Hindus, the teaching so different, that I thought it quite a waste of time to read that Book, but I have never parted with it since then.
While staying in Calcutta we became acquainted with many learned Pandits. Some of them requested me to lecture to the Pardah women on the duties of women according to the Shastras. I had to study the subject well before I could lecture on it, so I bought the books of the Hindu law published in Calcutta. Besides reading them I read other books which would help me in my work. While reading the Dharma Shastras I came to know many things which I never knew before. There were contradictory statements about almost everything. What one book said was most righteous, the other book declared as being unrighteous. While reading the Mahabharata I found the following: "The Vedas differ from each other; Smrities, that is, books of sacred laws, do not agree with one another; the secret of religion is in some hidden place. The only way is that which is followed by great men."
This I found true of about everything, but there were two things on which all those books, the Dharma Shastras, the sacred epics, the Puranas and modern poets, the popular preachers of the present day and orthodox high-caste men were agreed: women of high and low caste, as a class, were bad, very bad, worse than demons, and that they could not get Moksha as men. The only hope of their getting this much-desired liberation from Karma and its results, that is, countless millions of births and deaths and untold suffering, was the worship of their husbands. The husband is said to be the woman's god; there is no other god for her. This god may be the worst sinner and a great criminal; still HE IS HER GOD, and she must worship him. She can have no hope of getting admission into Svarga, the abode of the gods, without his pleasure; and if she pleases him in all things, she will have the privilege of going to Svarga as his slave, there to serve him and be one of his wives among the thousands of the Svarga harlots who are presented to him by the gods in exchange for his wife's merit.
The woman is allowed to go into higher existence thus far but to attain Moksha or liberation, she must perform such great religious acts as will obtain for her the merit by which she will be reincarnated as a high caste man, in order to study Vedas and the Vedanta, and thereby get the knowledge of the true Brahma and be amalgamated in it. The extraordinary religious acts which help a woman to get into the way of getting Moksha are utter abandonment of her will to that of her husband. She is to worship him with whole-hearted devotion as the only god, to know and see no other pleasure in life except in the most degraded slavery to him. The woman has no right to study the Vedas and Vedanta, and without knowing them, no one can know the Brahma. Without knowing Brahma, no one can get liberation; therefore no woman as a woman can get liberation, that is, Moksha. Q.E.D.
The same rules are applicable to the Shudras. The Shudras must not study the Veda and must not perform the same religious act which a Brahman has a right to perform. The Shudra who hears the Veda repeated must be punished by having his ears filled with liquefied lead. The Shudra who dares to learn a verse or verses of the Veda must be punished by having intensely hot liquor poured down his throat. This would no doubt be done to the Shudra who violates the sacred law, if he were left to the tender mercies of the Brahman. His only hope of getting liberation is in serving the three high castes as their lifelong slave. Then he will earn merit enough to be reincarnated in some higher caste, and in the course of millions of years, he will be born as a Brahman, learn the Vedas and Vedantas, and get knowledge of the Brahma and be amalgamated in it. Such is the hope of final liberation held out by the Shastras to women and to the Shudras.
As for the low-caste people, the poor things have no hope of any sort. They are looked upon as being very like the lower species of animals, such as pigs; their very shadow and the sound of their voices are defiling; they have no place in the abode of the gods, and no hope of getting liberation, except that they might perchance be born among the higher castes after having gone through millions of reincarnations.
The things which are necessary to make it possible for them to be born in higher castes are that they should be contented to live in a very degraded condition, serving the high caste people as their bondservants, eating the leavings of their food in dirty broken earthen vessels, wearing filthy rags and clothes thrown away from the dead bodies of the high-caste people. They may sometimes get the benefit of coming in contact with the shadow of a Brahman and have a few drops of water from his hand or wet clothes thrown at them and feel the air which has passed over the sacred persons of Brahmans. These things are beneficial to the low-caste people, but the Brahmans lose much of their own hard-earned merit by letting the low-caste people get these benefits!
The low-caste people are never allowed to enter the temples where high-caste men worship gods. So the poor degraded people find shapeless stones and broken pots, smear them with red paint, set them up under trees and on road sides, or in small temples which they build themselves, where Brahmans do not go for fear of losing their caste, and worship, in order to satisfy the cravings of their spiritual nature. Poor, poor people! How very sad their condition is no one who has not seen can realize. Their quarters are found outside every village or town where the sacred feet of the pious Brahmans do not walk!
These are the two things, upon which all Shastras and others are agreed. I had a vague idea of these doctrines of the Hindu religion from my childhood, but while studying the Dharma Shastras, they presented themselves to my mind with great force. My eyes were being gradually opened; I was waking up to my own hopeless condition as a woman, and it was becoming clearer and clearer to me that I had no place anywhere as far as religious consolation was concerned. I became quite dissatisfied with myself. I wanted something more than the Shastras could give me, but I did not know what it was that I wanted.
One day my brother and I were invited by Keshab Chandra Sen to his house. He received us very kindly, took me into the inner part of the house, and introduced me to his wife and daughters. One of them was just married to the Maharaja of Cuch Behar, and the Brahmos and others were criticising him for breaking the rule which was laid down for all Brahmos, that is, not to marry or give girls in marriage under fourteen years of age. He and his family showed great kindness to me, and when parting, he gave me a copy of one of the Vedas. He asked if I had studied the Vedas. I answered in the negative, and said that women were not fit to read the Vedas and they were not allowed to do so. It would be breaking the rules of religion, if I were to study the Vedas. He could not but smile at my declaration of this Hindu doctrine. He said nothing in answer, but advised me to study the Vedas, and Upanishads.
New thoughts were awakening in my heart. I questioned myself as to why I should not study Vedas and Vedanta. Soon I persuaded myself into the belief that it was not wrong for a woman to read the Vedas. So I began first to read the Upanishads, then the Vedanta, and the Veda. I became more dissatisfied with myself.
In the meanwhile my brother died. As my father wanted me to be well versed in our religion, he did not give me in marriage when a little child. He had married my older sister to a boy of her own age, but he did not want to study, or to lead a good religious life with my sister. Her life was made miserable by being unequally yoked, and my father did not want the same thing to happen to me. This was of course against the caste rules, so he had to suffer, being practically put out of Brahman society. But he stood the persecution with his characteristic manliness, and did what he thought was right, to give me a chance to study and be happy by leading a religious life. So I had remained unmarried till I was 22 years old.
Having lost all faith in the religion of my ancestors, I married a Bengali gentleman of the Shudra caste. My husband died of cholera within two years of our marriage, and I was left alone to face the world with one baby in my arms.
I stayed in Bengal and Assam for four years in all and studied the Bengali language. While living with my husband at Silchar, Assam, I had found a little pamphlet in my library. I do not know how it came there but I picked it up and began to read it with great interest. It was St. Luke's Gospel in the Bengali language.
There was a Baptist missionary, Mr. Allen, living at Silchar. He occasionally paid visits to me and preached the gospel. He explained the first chapter of the Book of Genesis to me. The story of the creation of the world was so very unlike all the stories which I read in the Puranas and Shastras that I became greatly interested in it. It struck me as being a true story, but I could not give any reason for thinking so or believing in it.
Having lost all faith in my former religion, and with my heart hungering after something better, I eagerly learnt everything which I could about the Christian religion and declared my intention to become a Christian if I were perfectly satisfied with this new religion. My husband, who had studied in a Mission school, was pretty well acquainted with the Bible but did not like to be called a Christian. Much less did he like the idea of his wife being publicly baptized and joining the despised Christian community. He was very angry and said he would tell Mr. Allen not to come to our house any more. I do not know just what would have happened had he lived much longer.
I was desperately in need of some religion. The Hindu religion held out no hope for me; the Brahmo religion was not a very definite one. For it is nothing but what a man makes for himself. He chooses and gathers whatever seems good to him from all religions known to him and prepares a sort of religion for his own use. The Brahmo religion has no other foundation than man's own natural light and the sense of right and wrong which he possesses in common with all mankind. It could not and did not satisfy me; still I liked and believed a good deal of it that was better than what the orthodox Hindu religion taught.
After my husband's death, I left Silchar and came to Poona. Here I stayed for a year. The leaders of the reform party, and the members of the Prarthana Samaj treated me with great kindness and gave me some help. Messrs. Ranade, Modak, Kelkar and Dr. Bhandarkar were among the people who showed great kindness to me. Miss Hurford, then a missionary working in connection with the High Church, used to come and teach me the New Testament in Marathi. I had at this time begun to study the English language but did not know how to write or speak it. She used to teach me some lessons from the primary reading books, yet sometimes I was more interested in the study of the New Testament than in the reading books. The Rev. Father Goreh was another missionary who used to come and explain the difference between the Hindu and Christian religions. I profited much by their teaching.
I went to England early in 1883 in order to study and fit myself for my lifework. When I first landed in England, I was met by the kind Sisters of Wantage, one of whom I had been introduced by Miss Hurford at St. Mary's Home in Poona. The Sisters took me to their Home, and one of them, who became my spiritual mother, began to teach me both secular and religious subjects. I owe an everlasting debt of gratitude to her, and to Miss Beale, the late Lady Principal of Cheltenham Ladies' College. Both of these ladies took great pains with me and taught me the subjects which would help me in my life work. The instruction which I received from them was mostly spiritual. Their motherly kindness and deeply spiritual influence have greatly helped in building up my character. I praise and thank God for permitting me to be under the loving Christian care of these ladies.
The Mother Superior once sent me for a change to one of the branches of the Sisters' Home in London. The Sisters there took me to see the rescue work carried on by them. I met several of the women who had once been in their Rescue Home, but who had so completely changed, and were so filled with the love of Christ and compassion for suffering humanity, that they had given their life for the service of the sick and infirm. Here for the first time in my life I came to know that something should be done to reclaim the so-called fallen women, and that Christians, whom Hindus considered outcastes and cruel, were kind to these unfortunate women, degraded in the eyes of society.
I had never heard or seen anything of the kind done for this class of women by the Hindus in my own country. I had not heard anyone speaking kindly of them, nor seen any one making any effort to turn them from the evil path they had chosen in their folly. The Hindu Shastras do not deal kindly with these women. The law of the Hindu commands that the king shall cause the fallen women to be eaten by dogs in the outskirts of the town. They are considered the greatest sinners, and not worthy of compassion.
After my visit to the Homes at Fulham, where I saw the work of mercy carried on by the Sisters of the Cross, I began to think that there was a real difference between Hinduism and Christianity. I asked the Sisters who instructed me to tell me what it was that made the Christians care for and reclaim the "fallen" women. She read the story of Christ meeting the Samaritan woman, and His wonderful discourse on the nature of true worship, and explained it to me. She spoke of the Infinite Love of Christ for sinners. He did not despise them but came to save them. I had never read or heard anything like this in the religious books of the Hindus; I realized, after reading the 4th 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 womanhood of India and of every land.
Thus my heart was drawn to the religion of Christ. I was intellectually convinced of its truth on reading a book written by Father Goreh and was baptized in the Church of England in the latter part of 1883, while living with the Sisters at Wantage. I was comparatively happy and felt a great joy in finding a new religion which was better than any other religion I had known before. I knew full well that it would displease my friends and my countrymen very much, but I have never regretted having taken the step. I was hungry for something better than what the Hindu Shastras gave. I found it in the Christian's Bible and was satisfied.
After my baptism and confirmation, I studied the Christian religion more thoroughly with the help of various books written on its doctrines. I was much confused by finding so many different teachings of different sects; each one giving the authority of the Bible for holding a special doctrine, and for differing from other sects.
For five years after my baptism I studied these different doctrines and made close observations during my stay in England and in America. Besides meeting people of the most prominent sects, the High Church, Low Church, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Friends, Unitarian, Universalist, Roman Catholic, Jews, and others, I met with Spiritualists, Theosophists, Mormons, Christian Scientists, and followers of what they call the occult religion.
No one can have any idea of what my feelings were at finding such a Babel of religions in Christian countries, and at finding how very different the teaching of each sect was from that of the others. I recognized the Nastikas of India in the Theosophists, the Polygamous Hindu in the Mormons, the worshippers of ghosts and demons in the Spiritualists, and the Old-Vedantists in the Christian Scientists. Their teachings were not new to me. I had known them in their old eastern nature as they are in India; and, when I met them in America, I thought they had only changed their Indian dress and put on Western garbs, which were more suitable to the climate and conditions of the country.
As for the differences of the orthodox and non-orthodox Christian sects, I could not account for them, except that I thought it must be in the human nature to have them. The differences did not seem of any more importance than those existing among the different sects of Brahmanical Hindu religion. They only showed that people were quarrelling with each other, and there was no oneness of mind in them. Although I was quite contented with my newly-found religion, so far as I understood it, still I was labouring under great intellectual difficulties, and my heart longed for something better which I had not found. I came to know after eight years from the time of my baptism that I had found the Christian religion, which was good enough for me; but I had not found Christ, Who is the Life of the religion, and "the Light of every man that cometh into the world."
Zu Kapitel 8. ANHANG C: G. Morris Carstairs: Beziehungen innerhalb der Familie in Rajasthan (1951)