RAMABAI, ram'a-bai, SARASVATI: Hindu educator; b. in 1858 in the forests of Southern India, the daughter of a learned Brahmin, Ananta Shastri. Her father had educated her mother and then his two daughters and his son in Indian lore, and Ramabai, being remarkably gifted, so drank in this knowledge that, while still young, she became a pundit. Her father was once comparatively rich, but lost his property and also became blind. In poverty, oftentimes in dire need, the family led a wandering life and Ramabai saw her parents and her sister, who was older than she, die of starvation. She and her brother became lecturers upon the importance of female education, and their fortunes improved. But then he died and Ramabai was left alone. However, she had by that time acquired quite a reputation, and was received with honor in the highest circles. In 1880 she married in Calcutta Bipin Bihari Medhavi, a fellow of Calcutta University and a practising lawyer. In nineteen months she was a widow, with an infant daughter. She then resumed her lecturing on behalf of the education of Indian women and in Poona established the Areja Mahita Somaj, a society of ladies with this object and that of discouraging child-marriage. In 1883 she went to England. There she was converted and for three years taught Sanscrit in the Ladies' College at Cheltenham. In 1886 she visited America and raised much money by lecturing and through the associations which her friends formed, so that on her return to India in 1889 she was able to realize her ambition and to open in Bombay an unsectarian school for high-caste Hindu girls, especially child-widows. This school she removed to Poona in 1891. She carries it on without any religious tests, but, as was to be expected, many of her pupils have become Christians. Its influence has been most beneficent.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Pundita Ramabai Sarasvati, The HighCaste Hindu Woman, new ed., London, 1890; Helen S. Dyer, Pandita Ramabai: The Story of her Life, New York, 1900, 2d ed., 1910.
RAMADAN: The ninth month of the Mohammedan year, observed as a fast. According to Surah ii. of the Koran the method of observance is total abstinence from food during the day, but eating may be indulged during the night and until it is possible to distinguish a white thread from a black one by natural fight. It is customary for the leisure classes to make the daytime a period for sleep, the nights being seasons of feasting and revelry. The three days following the fast are days of feasting, and are called the Little Beiram. See MOHAMMED, MOHAMMEDANISM, IV., § 3.
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