8. Travelling Through Interstitial Spaces: The Radical Spiritual Journeys of Pandita Mary Ramabai Saraswathi
Translocal Lives and Religion - Connections between Asia and Europe in the Late Modern World - Philippe Bornet
Parinitha Shetty [+]
University of Mangalore
An extraordinary woman of her times, Pandita Ramabai, lived in the latter half of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century. The exceptional circumstances of her life did not allow her to be rooted within any socio/religious space that existed in her world and denied her the certainties that come with such a sense of belonging. Her early life was nomadic as it was spent travelling across India and later to England and across America. This, in conjunction with the difficult circumstances of her life, forced her to inhabit radically disjunctive socio-cultural, experiential spaces, simultaneously. To be incessantly travelling is to be pushed into continually re-imagining and re-making the templates which naturalize and normalize the practices of embodied existence. It is to dwell in the interstices of the familiar and the yet-to-be-made familiar. It was from these liminal locations that Ramabai contoured a spiritual interiority centered on her personal emotional and spiritual needs, that would simultaneously shape and legitimize the radical material and institutional transformations she sought to bring about in her society. After the death of her husband she travelled to England where she converted to Christianity. Later she travelled across America. Existing at the cusp of histories, cultures and religions, not at ease within the institutionalized religions that she traversed, there emerged in her a radically alienated, critical seeing that shaped her attempts at creating an egalitarian and humane world for those she considered the most oppressed in her society. When she returned to India she established institutions and homes which broke denominational and caste mappings in an attempt to provide a livable community for those at the extreme margins of her society.