Ananda Bai Joshi’s Reception
Theosophist, December, 1883
Article from the Philadelphia Press | Editor’s Note by H. P. B.
[Note: for background, see “[Mrs. Anandabai Joshi, F.T.S.]”]
Greeting to the Brahmin Lady who will become a Philadelphia Student
The parlors of Dr. Rachel L. Bodley, Dean of the Woman’s Medical College, at 1400 North Twenty-first Street, were crowded yesterday afternoon with ladies and gentlemen, assembled to meet Mrs. Ananda Bai Joshi, a Brahmin lady, of Serampore, Hindustan, who has come to this country to study medicine, in order that the women of her Native land may be attended by skilled and educated physicians of their own caste.
Mrs. Joshi, a plump little woman but eighteen years of age and of a decidedly brown complexion, stood in the centre of the drawing-room, and shook hands with the guests as they were presented. She was dressed in her full Native costume with the characteristic sari, or a silk scarf of Pompeian red, bordered with gold thread, forming the over-dress, covering the shoulders and bust, and if necessary, the head. This garment is about ten yards long, and has no fastening. The lady takes one turn about her waist, and then lets pleat after pleat drop to her feet, tucking it in each time at her waist, the mass of folds thus forming a skirt. The end is brought around the shoulders, leaving the left arm bare, and in her native land is carried over the head, and covers the face. Underneath the sari and visible on the left shoulder was a black silk waist with a V-shaped corsage. The sari was fastened at the breast by a beautiful brooch set with large pearls. In her ears were ornaments of gold filligree, set with pearls, and at her throat were necklaces of gold filigree and pearls. Her bracelets were of jade, a sacred green stone, carved into rings. A wreath of jessamine was woven in with her hair, which was jet black and parted a little on one side. Her hands were encased in kid gloves, so that she could touch the hands of a stranger without being contaminated. Between her eyes was a peculiar mark in purple and red paint which denoted the caste of this lady to be a Brahmin.
Mrs. Joshi’s husband is a prominent member of the Brahmo Samaj or Progressive Hindu Society, of which Ram Mohun Roy was the founder, and Keshub Chunder Sen is the present leader. This society has about 1,500,000 members, and is striving to lift the Hindu race from its present religious condition. The idea of 3,000 gods is one of the many things that the society is trying to overthrow. In consequence of belonging to the Brahmo Samaj, Mrs. Joshi is enabled to do many things that she would otherwise be unable to do, but she must still, even in this country, respect certain customs, in order not to lose her caste. She must live in a room by herself, and must prepare her own food until a Hindu woman comes to serve her. The little woman is quite intellectual, being able to speak seven languages—Hindustani, Sanskrit, Bengali, Mahratti, Canarese, Gujarati, and English. She talks English with ease, and expressed herself as being greatly touched at the kindness shown by her new friends.
Among those present were Miss Mary Jean, Mrs. Mumford, Rev. G.D. Boardman, D.D., Judge W. S. Peirce, Dr. Atkinson, Rev. R. M. Luther, Secretary of the American Baptist Missionary Union, Mrs. J. F. Lean, W. W. Kean, M.D., and many graduates of and instructors in the Woman’s Medical College.
Editor’s Note. [H.P.B.]—It affords us sincere pleasure to find honours so deservedly showered on that excellent young lady, Mrs. Ananda Bai Joshi, an ornament of the Calcutta “Ladies Theosophical Society.” At the same time, with an eye to the dismal fate that befell poor Pandita Rama Bai, in England, we cannot help shuddering when we find the long string of Reverends among the citizens who greeted our little friend in the Quaker city. What a rush of candidates there will be to save a “heathen soul” from eternal perdition! What sweet persuasions and eloquent oratory are in store for the poor unwary victim! In the meanwhile we may as well note a few glaring—inaccuracies that have crept into the above extracted report. We are not told whether it is Mrs. Joshi who informed the reporter that she belonged to the Brahmo Samaj; whose “leader is Keshub Chunder Sen.” We have reasons to doubt it, for we never knew her addicted to false statements and we find several such in the latter report. In the first place and so far as we knew, neither Mrs. Joshi nor her husband ever belonged to the Brahmo Samaj, certainly not to the New Dispensation of Keshub Babu. Secondly, the prophet of the Lily Cottage is wrongly styled the leader of the Brahmos who all decline the honour with the exception of a handful of enthusiasts. Thirdly, he has not 1,500,000 followers, since all the three divisions of the Brahmo Samaj put together, i.e., the Adi, the Sadharan and the New Dispensation Samajes cannot show on their muster rolls even a hundredth part of the number given above. We were told in Calcutta by a near relative of the Babu—that the direct followers, or the apostles of Babu Keshub could be counted on the ten fingers—they do not exceed fifty men. We wonder which of the Reverends present gave the information. Mr. Joshi is a staunch Theosophist, and so is Mrs. Joshi we hope.