Pandita Ramabai: Mother of India – Part Two of Two

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In 1898, Minnie Abrams, a Methodist Episcopal missionary, joined Pandita Ramabai’s expanded work in Khedgaon, Mukti Mission. Together, these women labored to offer daily religious teaching. A revival was arranged with Rev. W.W. Bruere. After three days of preaching, 67 were converted to Christianity; and at a subsequent baptismal service, 108 women and girls were immersed in the Bheema River.

After the turn of the century, Pandita Ramabai heard of great revival in Australia and Wales and became even more determined to have a genuine visitation of the Holy Ghost at Mukti Mission. A prayer band of 70 girls formed for daily prayer and Bible study and eventually expanded to 500.

Pandita Ramabai became very emphatic that the school needed a real spiritual baptism in order to effectively witness. They began to study the Book of Acts and seek God for an outpouring of the Spirit. At about this time, a young girl went to bed pleading for the Holy Ghost. At about 3 AM, her companions were awakened by the appearance of flames around the girl’s body. They ran for a pail of water but realized that she was, in fact, not on fire. Immediately, the girls began to repent and confess their sins before God. The next night, the “enflamed” girl gave a powerful exhortation to repentance in the evening service. Spontaneous worship and Godly sorrow overtook the service. The school was alight with revival. One service lasted over 24 hours, and worshipers became prone to their seats caught up in impassioned prayer.

Such revival continued for several months. And in 1905, after about two years of such powerful meetings, the Lord sent the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues upon the mission. Albert Norton, a Disciples of Christ missionary to India, visited Rumambai’s mission after hearing reports of the manifestations. He wrote:

“I went to the mission on invitation of Sister Abrams. She took me into a room where a score of girls were praying. After entering I knelt with closed eyes by a table a little removed from the company of seekers. I was startled to hear some of these girls praying to God in English. I was struck with astonishment, as I very well knew that there was no one in this mission who could speak English but Sister Abrams. When I opened my eyes I was surprised to see a woman whom I had baptized in 1899 and whom I had known as a devoted Christian worker. Her native tongue was Marathi, and she acould also speak a little Hindustani, but she neither spoke nor understood English—the English she was using. When I heard this woman speaking English, distinctly and fluently, well, I just felt as I would have felt had I seen one whom I knew to be dead raised back to life again.” (Ewart, 145-146)

The revival continued and the Mukti Mission stream of revival joined the mighty river of the Pentecostal faith. Pandita Rumabai was a powerful instrument of revival in India. When she died in 1922, she left behind a remarkable Pentecostal testimony and an incomparable legacy of educational and social reform in her nation. In 1919, she was awarded the Kaisar-i-Hind Medal by the British Monarchy. The Government of India issued a commemorative stamp in recognition of her contributions to the furtherance of Indian women on 26 October 1989. She is also recognized by the Episcopal Church with a feast day on 5 April. At a time when many Pentecostals were deemed to be poor and anti-intellectual, this well-educated, internationally-known activist committed her life to bringing the power of Pentecost to the multitudes. Surely, her children shall rise up and call this mother of India blessed!

Matthew Shaw is a librarian at Ball State University. He lives in Muncie, Indiana with his wife, Brandi, and his four sons. He attends River of Life Church.

Sources:

Dyer, Helen S. Pandita Ramabai: the Story of Her Life. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1900.

Ewart, Frank J. The Phenomenon of Pentecost: A History of “the Latter Rain”. Houston, Tex: Herald Pub. Co, 1947

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