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Sister Nivedita

Sister Nivedita (Bengali


pronunciation: [sister niːbediːt ̪aː]
 listen (help·info); born Margaret
Elizabeth Noble; 28 October 1867 – 13
October 1911)[1][2] was an Irish teacher,
author, social activist, school founder and
disciple of Swami Vivekananda.[3][4] She
spent her childhood and early youth in
Ireland. From her father, a college
professor, she learned the ideal of service
to mankind as the true service to God. She
worked as a school teacher and later also
opened a school. She was engaged to
marry a Welsh youth, but he died soon
after their engagement. Sister Nivedita
met Swami Vivekananda in 1895 in
London and travelled to Calcutta (present-
day Kolkata), India in 1898. Swami
Vivekananda gave her the name Nivedita
(meaning "Dedicated to God") when he
initiated her into the vow of Brahmacharya
on 25 March 1898. In November 1898, she
opened a girls' school in the Bagbazar
area of Calcutta. She wanted to educate
girls who were deprived of even basic
education. During the plague epidemic in
Calcutta in 1899, Nivedita nursed and took
care of the poor patients. Nivedita had
close associations with the newly
established Ramakrishna Mission.
Because of her active contribution in the
field of Indian Nationalism, she had to
publicly dissociate herself from the
activities of the Ramakrishna Mission
under the then president Swami
Brahmananda. She was very close to
Sarada Devi, the spiritual consort of
Ramakrishna and one of the major
influences behind Ramakrishna Mission,
and also with all brother disciples of
Swami Vivekananda. She died on 13
October 1911 in Darjeeling. Her epitaph
reads, "Here lies Sister Nivedita who gave
her all to India".[5]
Sister Nivedita

Sister Nivedita in India

Religion Hinduism

Founder of Ramkrishna Sarada


Mission Sister Nivedita
Girls' School

Philosophy Advaita Vedanta

Personal

Born Margaret Elizabeth


Noble
28 October 1867
County Tyrone, Ireland

Died 13 October 1911


(aged 43)
Darjeeling, Bengal, India

Guru Swami Vivekananda

Literary works Kali the Mother, The


Web of Indian Life,
Cradle Tales of
Hinduism, An Indian
Study of Love and Death,
The Master as I Saw
Him, Notes of some
wanderings with the
Swami Vivekananda,
Select essays of Sister
Nivedita, Studies from
an Eastern Home, Myths
of the Hindus &
Buddhists, Footfalls of
Indian History, Religion
and Dharma

Early life
Margaret Elizabeth Noble was born on 28
October 1867 in the town of Dungannon in
County Tyrone, Ireland to Mary Isabel and
Samuel Richmond Noble; she was named
for her paternal grandmother.[6]:91 The
Nobles were of Scottish descent, settled in
Ireland for about five centuries.[7] Her
father, who was a pastor, taught that
service to mankind is the true service to
God. The Nobles had six children of whom
only Margaret (the eldest), May, and
Richmond survived.

When Margaret was one year old Samuel


moved to Manchester, England; there he
enrolled as a theological student of the
Wesleyan Church. Young Margaret stayed
with her maternal grandfather, Hamilton, in
Northern Ireland.

When she was four years old she returned


to live with her parents at Great Torrington
in Devonshire.[1] Margaret was her father's
favourite child. When Samuel Noble
conducted services or visited the poor, she
accompanied him.
Margaret's father died in 1877 when she
was ten years old.[8]: Margaret with her
mother and two siblings returned to her
grandfather Hamilton's home in Ireland.
Margaret's mother, Mary took up a
kindergarten course in London and
became a teacher. Later, Mary helped her
father to run a guest-house near Belfast.
Hamilton was one of the first-ranking
leaders of the freedom movement of
Ireland.[9] Besides her father's religious
temperament, Margaret imbibed the spirit
of freedom and love for her country
through her grandfather Hamilton.[10]
Margaret was educated at Halifax College,
run by a member of the Congregationalist
Church. The headmistress of this college
taught her about personal sacrifice.[1] She
studied subjects, including physics, arts,
music, and literature.

At the age of seventeen in 1884, she first


started a career in teaching at a school in
Keswick. In 1886, she went to Rugby to
teach in an orphanage. A year later, she
took up a post at the coal-mining area
Wrexham in North Wales. Here, she
revived her spirit of service and love for
the poor which she had inherited from her
father. At Wrexham, Margaret became
engaged to be married to a Welsh youth
who died soon after the engagement. In
1889, Margaret moved to Chester. By this
time, her sister May and brother Richmond
were living in Liverpool. Soon, their mother
Mary joined them. Margaret was happy to
be reunited with her family. Occasionally,
she went to Liverpool to stay with them.[11]

Margaret resumed her studies in the field


of education.[12] She became acquainted
with the ideas of the Swiss education
reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and
with the German Friedrich Fröbel. Both
Pestalozzi and Froebel emphasized the
importance of preschool education. They
opined that education should begin by
gratifying and cultivating the normal
aptitude of the child for exercise, play,
observation, imitation, and construction. A
group of teachers in England was
attracted to this novel method of teaching
and they tried to put it into practice. Thus,
the 'New Education' was advocated and
Margaret, too, became a part of it. Soon,
she became a favourite writer and speaker
at the Sunday Club and the Liverpool
Science Club.[13]

In 1891, Margaret settled in Wimbledon


and helped a Mrs. de Leeuw, to start a new
school in London. The new experiment in
teaching gave her great joy. After a year, in
1892, Margaret started her own
independent school at Kingsleygate. At her
school, there were no restrictive set
methods and formal learning. Children
learned through play. At this time,
Margaret learned to be a critic of art from
one of her staff teachers, Ebenezer Cooke,
a well-known art master and reformer of
art education.[14]

As she gained mastery as an educator, she


also became a prolific writer in paper and
periodicals and a popular speaker. Soon
she became a name among the
intellectuals of London and became
acquainted with some of the most learned
and influential people of her time. Among
them were Lady Ripon and Lady Isabel
Margesson. They were the founders of a
literary coterie, which came to be known
as the Sesame Club. The Times of London
of 26 October 1911, wrote about Margaret,
"A trained teacher of exceptional gifts, she
was one of a group of educationists who
in the early nineties founded the Sesame
Club." Famous writers, such as Bernard
Shaw and Thomas Huxley, were some of
the regular speakers at the Sesame Club.
Discussions were held here on literature,
ethics, politics, and other similar
subjects.[15]
In 1892, when the Home Rule Bill for
Ireland was before the Parliament,
Margaret spoke fearlessly in favour of it.

Seeker of Truth
Coming from a religious background,
Margaret had learned Christian religious
doctrines from young. From childhood, she
had learned to venerate all religious
teachings. The Baby Jesus was her object
of adoration and worship. However, as she
bloomed into womanhood, doubt in the
Christian doctrines crept in. She found the
teachings were incompatible with Truth.
As these doubts became stronger, her
faith in Christianity was shaken. For seven
long years, Margaret was unable to settle
her mind and this led to unhappiness. She
tried to absorb herself in church service.
However, her troubled soul could not find
satisfaction and she longed for
Truth.[16][check quotation syntax]

Search for truth made Margaret take up


the study of natural science. Later, in a
lecture delivered at the Hindu Ladies'
Social Club in Bombay in 1902, she said:

During the seven years of


wavering it occurred to me that
in the study of natural science I
should surely find the Truth I
was seeking. So I began ardently
to study how this world was
created and all things in it and I
discovered that in the laws of
Nature at least there was
consistency, but it made the
doctrines of the Christian
religion seem all the more
inconsistent. Just then I
happened to get a life of Buddha
and in it I found that here also
was a child who lived ever so
many centuries before the Child
Christ, but whose sacrifices
were no less self-abnegating
than those of the other. This
dear child Gautama took a
strong hold on me and for the
next three years I plunged into
the study of the religion of
Buddha, and became more and
more convinced that the
salvation he preached was
decidedly more consistent with
the Truth than the preachings of
the Christian religion.[17]
Meeting with Swami
Vivekananda

Sister Nivedita

In November 1895, she met Swami


Vivekananda for the first time, who had
come from America to visit London and
stayed there for three months.[18] On a
cold afternoon, Swami Vivekananda was
explaining Vedanta philosophy in the
drawing room of an aristocratic family in
London. Lady Isabel Margesson, a friend
of Margaret, invited Ebenezer Cooke, who
was part of the teaching staff at
Margaret's 'Ruskin School', to this meeting.
Margaret went with him, with much
curiosity and interest. Margaret did not
know this evening would change her life
completely.[6] Margaret described her
experience of the occasion. "A majestic
personage, clad in a saffron gown and
wearing a red waistband, sat there on the
floor, cross-legged. As he spoke to the
company, he recited Sanskrit verses in his
deep, sonorous voice." Margaret had
already delved deeply into the teachings of
the East, and the novelty was not what she
heard on this occasion, but the personality
of Swamiji himself. She attended several
other lectures by Swami Vivekananda. She
asked a lot of questions, and his answers
dispelled her doubts and established her
faith and reverence for the speaker.

Nivedita wrote in 1904 to a friend about


her decision to follow Swami Vivekananda
as a result of her meeting him in England
in November 1895:

Suppose he had not come to


London that time! Life would
have been a headless dream, for
I always knew that I was
waiting for something. I always
said that a call would come. And
it did. But if I had known more
of life, I doubt whether, when
the time came, I should certainly
have recognized it.

Fortunately, I knew little and


was spared that torture ...
Always I had this burning voice
within, but nothing to utter.
How often and often I sat down,
pen in hand, to speak, and there
was no speech! And now there is
no end to it! As surely I am fitted
to my world, so surely is my
world in need of me, waiting –
ready. The arrow has found its
place in the bow. But if he had
not come! If he had meditated,
on the Himalayan peaks! ... I, for
one, had never been here.[19]

She started taking interest in the teachings


of Gautama Buddha, and her discussions
with Swami Vivekananda were an alternate
source of peace and benediction. She
wrote:

To not a few of us, the words of


Swami Vivekananda came as
living water to men perishing of
thirst. Many of us had been
conscious for years past of that
growing uncertainty and
despair with regard to Religion,
which has beset the intellectual
life of Europe for half a century.
Belief in the dogmas of
Christianity had become
impossible to us, and we had no
means, such as we now hold, by
which to separate the doctrinal
shell from the kernel of reality in
our faith. To these the Vedanta
has given intellectual
confirmation and philosophical
expression of their own
mistrusted intuitions.[20]

Vivekananda's principles and teachings


influenced her and this brought about a
visible change in her. Seeing the fire and
passion in her, Swami Vivekananda could
foresee her future role in India. 25 March
1898, was the holiest and most
unforgettable day of Nivedita's (Margaret)
life. That was the day on which her guru
dedicated her to God and to the service of
India.

Swami Vivekananda was deeply pained by


the wretchedness and misery of the
people of India under the British rule and
his opinion was that education was the
panacea for all evils plaguing the
contemporary Indian society,[21] especially
that of Indian women. Margaret was
chosen for the role of educating Indian
women. In his letter to Margaret,
Vivekananda wrote, "Let me tell you frankly
that I am now convinced that you have a
great future in the work for India. What
was wanted was not a man but a woman,
a real lioness, to work for the Indians,
women especially."[22]

Travel to India
Responding to Swami Vivekananda's call,
Margaret travelled to India, leaving behind
her friends and family, including her
mother. Mombasa, the ship bringing
Margaret to India, reached Calcutta on 28
January 1898.[6] On 22 February, Margaret
visited Dakshineshwar temple, the place
where Ramakrishna did his sadhana.[8]
Swami Vivekananda devoted the initial few
days in teaching her about India and its
people, and helping her develop the love
for the people; he was broadening her
character. He explained India’s history,
philosophy, literature, the life of the
common mass, social traditions, and also
the lives of great personalities, both
ancient and modern, to her. A few weeks
later, two of Swami Vivekananda's women
disciples in America, Sara C. Bull, wife of
famous Norwegian violinist and composer
Ole Bull and Josephine MacLeod arrived in
India. The three became lifelong friends.
On 11 March 1898, Swami Vivekananda
organized a public meeting at Star Theatre
to introduce Sister Nivedita to the people
of Calcutta. In his speech, Swami
Vivekananda said – "England has sent us
another gift in Miss Margaret Noble." In
this meeting, Margaret expressed her
desire to serve India and its people.[8] On
17 March she met Sarada Devi who
greeted Margaret affectionately as Khooki
(i.e. little girl).[8]

Brahmacharya

On 25 March 1898, at Nilambar Mukherjee


Garden,[23] Swami Vivekananda formally
initiated Margaret in the vow of
Brahmacharya (lifelong celibacy) and gave
her the name of "Nivedita", the dedicated
one.[24][25] Swami Vivekananda said to her
"Go thou and follow Him, Who was born
and gave His life for others five hundred
times before He attained the vision of the
Buddha."[8]

Though Sister Nivedita expressed her


desire to take the ultimate vow of
Sannyasa, Swami Vivekananda did not
approve of it. Later, after the demise of
Swami Vivekananda, on 28 July 1902,
Nivedita wrote to the Editor of the
Statesman the following letter:
... Mr own position towards this
religious treasure is that of the
humblest learner, merely a
Brahmacharini, or novice, not a
Sannyasini or fully professed
religious, without any
pretentions to Sanskrit learning,
and set free by the great
kindness of my superiors to
pursue my social, literary and
educational work and studies,
entirely outside their direction
and supervision.[26]
Swami Vivekananda was anxious to mold
Nivedita as a Hindu Brahmacharini. He
wanted her to be a Hindu in thoughts and
actions. He encouraged her to visit Hindu
ladies to observe their way of life.[27] He
told her:

You have to set yourself to


Hinduize your thoughts, your
needs, your conceptions and
your habits. Your life, internal
and external, has to become all
that an orthodox Brahmana
Brahmacharini's ought to be.
The method will come to you, if
only your desire it sufficiently.
But you have to forget your own
past and to cause it to be
forgotten. You have to lose even
its memory.[28]

Relationship with Sarada


Devi

Sarada Devi (left) and Sister Nivedita


Within a few days of her arrival in India, on
17 March 1898, Margaret met Sarada Devi,
wife and spiritual consort of Ramakrishna,
who, surpassing all language and cultural
barriers, embraced her as "khooki" or "little
girl" in Bengali.[8] It was St.Patrick's Day, a
very holy & special day in Margaret's life,
and Nivedita recounted it as her "day of
days."[29] Until her death in 1911, Nivedita
remained one of the closest associates of
Sarada Devi. On 13 November 1898, the
Holy Mother Sarada Devi came to open
Nivedita's newly founded school. After
worshiping Ramakrishna she consecrated
the school and blessed it, saying: ‘I pray
that the blessings of the Divine Mother
may be upon the school and the girls; and
the girls trained from the school may
become ideal girls.’ Nivedita was delighted
and recorded her feelings later as "I cannot
imagine a grander omen than her
blessings, spoken over the educated Hindu
womanhood of the future."[30] The first
photograph of Sarada Devi was taken at
Nivedita's house. Nivedita wrote in a letter
to her friend Nell Hammond about Sarada
Devi after her first few meetings with her,
"She really is, under the simplest, most
unassuming guise, one of the strongest
and greatest of women."[31] An excerpt is
provided here from the Gospel of Holy
Mother, where Sarada Devi's impressions
about Nivedita are captured vividly:

Referring to Nivedita, she


[Sarada Devi] said, "What
sincere devotion Nivedita had!
She never considered anything
too much that she might do for
me. She would often come to see
me at night. Once seeing that
light struck my eyes, she put a
shade of paper on the lamp. She
would prostrate herself before
me and, with great tenderness,
take the dust off my feet with
her handkerchief. I felt that she
not even hesitated to touch my
feet." The thought of Nivedita
opened the floodgate of her
mind and she suddenly became
grave... The Mother now and
then expressed her feelings
towards the Sister. She said at
last, "The inner soul feels for a
sincere devotee."[32]

Travels
Nivedita travelled to many places in India,
including Kashmir, with Swami
Vivekananda, Josephine Mcleod, and Sara
Bull. This helped her in connecting to the
Indian masses, Indian culture, and its
history. She also went to the United States
to raise awareness and get help for her
cause. On 11 May 1898, she went with
Swami Vivekananda, Sara Bull, Josephine
MacLeod, and Swami Turiyananda, on a
journey to the Himalayas. From Nainital,
they travelled to Almora. On 5 June 1898,
she wrote a letter to her friend Nell
Hammond exclaiming, "Oh Nell, Nell, India
is indeed the Holy Land."[33] In Almora, she
first learned the art of meditation. She
wrote about this experience, "A mind must
be brought to change its centre of gravity...
again the open and disinterested state of
mind welcomes truth."[34] She also started
learning Bengali from Swami
Swarupananda. From Almora, they went to
Kashmir valley where they stayed in
houseboats. In the summer of 1898,
Nivedita travelled to Amarnath with Swami
Vivekananda.[35] Later in 1899 she
travelled to the United States with Swami
Vivekananda[36] and stayed in Ridgely
Manor in Virginia.

She later recorded some of her tour and


experiences with her master (guru) in the
book The Master as I Saw Him and Notes
on Some Wanderings with Swami
Vivekananda.

She often used to refer to Swami


Vivekananda as "The King" and considered
herself as his spiritual daughter
(Manaskanya in Bengali).[37]

Swami Vivekananda's death


Sister Nivedita saw Swami Vivekananda
for the last time on 2 July 1902 at Belur
Math.[38] Vivekananda was observing the
Ekadashi fasting on that day. However,
when his disciples took their meal, he
himself served them joyfully. After the
meal, Vivekananda poured water over
Nivedita's hands, and dried them with a
towel. Nivedita recorded it in The Master
As I Saw Him in the following words:

"It is I who should do these


things for you, Swamiji! Not
you, for me!" was the protest
naturally offered. But his
answer was startling in its
solemnity -- "Jesus washed the
feet of His disciples!"

Something checked the answer


"But that was the last time!" as
it rose to the lips, and the words
remained unuttered. This was
well. For here also, the last time
had come.[39]

Swami Vivekananda died at 9:10 p.m. on 4


July 1902. On that night, Nivedita dreamed
Sri Ramakrishna was leaving his body a
second time.[40] On the next morning,
Swami Saradananda from Belur Math sent
a monk with a letter to Sister Nivedita and
conveying the message of Vivekananda's
death. Instantly everything around
Nivedita's eyes became blank. She
immediately rushed to the Math and
reached the place around 7 a.m and
entered the room of Vivekananda. There
she found Swamiji's body was laid on the
floor. She sat near Vivekananda's head and
fanned his body with a hand fan until his
body was taken down at 2 p.m. to the
porch leading to the courtyard.[40][8]:34 In
the afternoon of 5 July, Swami
Vivekananda's body was taken for
cremation. Vivekananda's body was
wrapped in a saffron cloth. Nivedita
wished to take a small portion of that cloth
so that she could send it as a memento to
Josephine MacLeod. Understanding the
mind of Nivedita Swami Saradananda
asked her to cut a small portion of the
Swami's cloth. But, Nivedita was unsure
whether the act would be proper or not
and decided not to take it. When
Vivekananda's body was being cremated
she sat all the while looking at the burning
pyre. Around six o'clock in the evening, the
burning flame was about to go out.
Suddenly Nivedita felt somebody had
pulled her sleeve. She turned around and
found a small piece of saffron cloth which
had somehow come out of the pyre during
cremation. Nivedita lifted and took the
cloth considering it as a message from the
Swami. In her letter to Josephine MacLeod
on 14 September 1902, Nivedita wrote:
...But your real message came at
the burning pyre itself... At 6
o'clock... as if I were twitched by
the sleeve, I looked down, and
there, safe out of all that
burning and blackness, there
blew to my feet the very two or
three inches I had desired out of
the border of the cloth. I took it
as a Letter from Him to you,
from beyond the grave.[41]

Works of Sister Nivedita


Sister Nivedita, reading a book

Girls' school in Bagbazar

Nivedita was planning to open a school for


girls who were deprived of even basic
education.[42] She toured England and
America on a lecture tour designed to
raise monies to establish a girls school.[43]

The main reason why Swamiji invited


Nivedita to India was to spread education
to the women of the country. This is why,
when Nivedita informed Vivekananda
about her planning, he felt very excited. He
organized a meeting at Balaram Bose’s
house on this issue. Many lay devotees of
Sri Ramakrishna, including Mahendranath
Gupta ( popularly known as Sri M., the
chronicler of The Gospel of Sri
Ramakrishna), Suresh Dutta, Haramohan
etc. attended this meeting. In this meeting,
Nivedita explained her plan of the
proposed school and requested everyone
to send their girls to the school to study.
During her speech, Vivekananda entered
the room and took a seat behind everyone.
Nivedita did not notice it. But, when
Nivedita appealed to collect girl students
for the school, she suddenly discovered
Vivekananda in the room pushing others
and prompting – "Ye, get up, get up! It’s not
good enough to just become girls’ fathers.
All of you must cooperate in the matter of
their education as per national ideals.
Stand up and commit. Reply to her appeal.
Say, 'We all agree. We shall send our girls
to you.'" But no one stood up to support
Nivedita's proposal. Finally, Vivekananda
forced Haramohan to agree to the
proposal and behalf of Haramohan
Vivekananda promised to send her girls to
the school.[8]:21–22
A memorial plaque in the house of Bagbazar where
Sister Nivedita started her school

On 13 November 1898, on the day of Kali


Puja, at 16 Bosepara Lane in the Bagbazar
area of Calcutta, she started the school.[44]
The school was inaugurated by Sarada
Devi, in the presence of Swami
Vivekananda and some of the other
disciples of Ramakrishna.[45] Sarada Devi
blessed and prayed for the school saying
– "I pray that the blessings of the Divine
Mother may be upon the school and the
girls; and the girls trained from the school
may become ideal girls."[8]:22 Nivedita went
from home to home in educating girls,
many of whom were in pitiable condition
owing to the socio-economic condition of
early 20th century India. In many cases,
she encountered refusal from the male
members of the girl's family. Nivedita had
widows and adult women among her
students. She taught sewing, elementary
rules of hygiene, nursing, etc., apart from
regular courses.

Collecting money for the school was not


an easy task. She had to earn money from
her writings and giving lectures and later
she spent all to meet the expenses of the
school.[8]:14

She took part in altruistic activities. She


worked to improve the lives of Indian
women of all castes.

Work during plague epidemic

During the outbreak of a plague epidemic


in Calcutta in 1899, Nivedita nursed and
took care of the patients,[1][5] cleaned
rubbish from the area, and inspired and
motivated many youths to render voluntary
service. She inserted appeals for help in
the English newspapers and requested for
financial support for her plague relief
activities.[43] She also organized the day-
to-day activities, inspected the work and
personally handed over the written
instructions for the preventive measures
by moving around. She was a friend to
many intellectuals and artists in the
Bengali community, including
Rabindranath Tagore, Jagadish Chandra
Bose, Abala Bose, and Abanindranath
Tagore. Later she took up the cause of
Indian independence. Sri Aurobindo was
one of her friends as well.[42]

Cultivation of Indian culture


She took an active interest in promoting
Indian history, culture, and science. She
actively encouraged Dr. Jagadish Chandra
Bose, the Indian scientist and philosopher
to pursue original scientific research and
helped him financially as well in getting
due recognition when he was faced with
an indifferent attitude of the British
Government. Bose, whom she called
"khoka" or the "little one" in Bengali, and
his wife Abala Bose, were in very close
terms with her. Keeping in view Nivedita’s
contribution to the scientific research work
of Jagadish Chandra, Rabindranath Tagore
said: "In the day of his success, Jagadish
gained an invaluable energizer and helper
in Sister Nivedita, and in any record of his
life’s work her name must be given a place
of honour."[46] Her identity as both a
westerner by birth and a disciple of Swami
Vivekananda enabled her to do several
things that might have been difficult for
Indians. For example, she promoted pan-
Indian nationalism.[47][48]

Contribution towards Indian


nationalism

Nivedita was a prolific writer and


extensively toured India to deliver lectures,
especially on India's culture and religion.
She appealed to the Indian youth to work
selflessly for the cause of the motherland
along the ideals of Swami Vivekananda.
Initially, Nivedita, like contemporary
intellectuals from Europe, was optimistic
about British rule in India and believed that
it was possible for India and England to
love each other. However, in the course of
her stay, she came to witness the brutal
side of the British rule, the repression and
oppression and the division between the
ruling elite and the ruled; she concluded
that it was necessary for India to gain
independence to prosper. Therefore, she
devoted herself wholeheartedly to the
cause of opposing the British rule. In
February 1902, Mahatma Gandhi, or
Mr.M.K.Gandhi as he was known then,
visited Nivedita in Calcutta.[49]

After Vivekananda's death, being acutely


aware of the inconvenience of the newly
formed Ramakrishna Mission on account
of her political activities, she publicly
dissociated herself from it. However, until
her last days, she had a very cordial
relationship with the brother disciples of
Swami Vivekananda like Swami
Brahmananda, Baburam Maharaj (Swami
Premananda) and Swami Saradananda,
who helped her in her charitable and
educational activities in every possible
way; she was very close to the holy
mother, Sarada Devi.

Nivedita had initially worked with Okakura


of Japan and Sarala Ghoshal who was
related to the Tagore family.

She later started working on her own and


maintained a direct relationship with many
of the young revolutionaries of Bengal,
including those of Anushilan Samity, a
secret organization. She inspired many
youths in taking up the cause of freeing
India through her lectures. She also
exposed Lord Curzon after his speech at
the University of Calcutta in 1905 where he
mentioned that truth was given a higher
place in the moral codes of the West, than
in East. She undertook her own research
and made it public that in the book
Problems of The Far East by Curzon she
had proudly described how he had given
false statements about his age and
marriage to the president of the Korean
Foreign Office to win his favour. This
statement when published in newspapers
like Amrita Bazar Patrika and The
Statesman caused a furore and forced
Curzon to apologize.

In 1905 the British Government under


Curzon initiated the partition of Bengal
which was a major turning point in the
Indian independence movement. Nivedita
played a pioneering role in organizing the
movement.[50] She provided financial and
logistical support and leveraged her
contacts to get information from
government agencies and forewarn the
revolutionaries. She met Indian artists like
Abanindranath Tagore, Ananda
Coomaraswamy and Havell and inspired
them to develop pure Indian school of art.
She always inspired and guided the
talented students of the Calcutta Art
School to move along the forgotten tracks
of ancient Indian art like Nandalal Bose,
Asit Kumar Haldar and Surendranath
Gangopadhyay. She exerted great
influence on famous Tamil poet,
Subrahmanya Bharati, who met her only
briefly in 1906. She influenced Bharathi to
work for the freedom of women in the
country, which he did all through his life
Nivedita designed the national flag of India
with the thunderbolt as the emblem
against a red background. Nivedita tried
her utmost to inculcate the nationalist
spirit in the minds of her students through
all their daily activities. She introduced
singing of the song Vande Màtaram in her
school as a prayer. Nivedita provided
guarded support to Annie Besant and was
very close to Aurobindo Ghosh (later Sri
Aurobindo), one of the major contributors
towards the early nationalist movement.
She edited Karma Yogin, the nationalist
newspaper of Aurobindo. The following
piece is from an editorial in Karma Yogin,
written by Nivedita, which depicts her
intense respect for India:

The whole history of the world


shows that the Indian intellect is
second to none. This must be
proved by the performance of a
task beyond the power of others,
the seizing of the first place in
the intellectual advance of the
world. Is there any inherent
weakness that would make it
impossible for us to do this? Are
the countrymen of
Bhaskaracharya and
Shankaracharya inferior to the
countrymen of Newton and
Darwin? We trust not. It is for
us, by the power of our thought,
to break down the iron walls of
opposition that confront us, and
to seize and enjoy the
intellectual sovereignty of the
world.[51]
Death

Manuscript of "Blessings to Nivedita" a poem written


by Swami Vivekananda in his own handwriting[52]

Nivedita died on 13 October 1911, aged


43, in Roy Villa, Darjeeling.[53] Today, her
memorial is located below the Railway
station on the way to the Victoria Falls (of
Darjeeling)[54] with these words inscribed
in her epitaph – "Here lies Sister Nivedita
who gave her all to India".[5][53] Swami
Vivekananda wrote a poem to Sister
Nivedita, A benediction to Sister Nivedita. In
this poem, Vivekananda condensed all his
hopes, aspirations, and good wishes for
his disciple,[55] Nivedita as The mistress,
servant, friend in one to India's future
son–[56]

The mother's heart, the hero's


will
The sweetness of the southern
breeze,
The sacred charm and strength
that dwell
On Aryan altars, flaming, free;
All these be yours and many more
No ancient soul could dream
before-
Be thou to India's future son
The mistress, servant, friend in
one.

Influence
Sister Nivedita remains one of the most
influential female figures of India. Her
book Kali, the Mother influenced
Abanindranath Tagore who painted Bharat
Mata.[57] In 2010, the office of the board of
West Bengal Board of Secondary
Education in Salt Lake City, Kolkata was
named after Sister Nivedita.[58] The Sister
Nivedita Academy, an institution dedicated
to her memory has been established in
Chennai, Tamil Nadu.[59] Several schools
and colleges have been named after her. In
1968, the Indian Government issued a
postal stamp in her memory. The Nivedita
bridge near Dakhineswer, Kolkata is
named in her honour.[60] In 2015, a new
Government Degree College at Hastings
House, Alipur, Kolkata was named after
Sister Nivedita.[61]
Sister Nivedita was one of the important
influential force on Jagadish Chandra
Bose. She supported him by organizing the
financial support and editing his
manuscripts, she made sure that Bose
was able to continue with and share his
work.[62]

Books

Title page of Sister's 1913 book Cradle Tales of


Hi d i
Hinduism

Her works included The Web of Indian Life,


which sought to rectify many myths in the
Western world about Indian culture and
customs, Kali the Mother, The Master as I
Saw Him on Swami Vivekananda, Notes of
Some Wanderings with the Swami
Vivekananda on her travels from Nainital,
Almora and other places with Swamiji,[63]
The Cradle Tales of Hinduism on the stories
from Puranas, Ramayana and
Mahabharata, Studies from an Eastern
Home, Civil Ideal and Indian Nationality,
Hints on National Education in India,
Glimpses of Famine and Flood in East
Bengal—1906.

Kali the Mother, Swan Sonnenschein &


Co.,. 1900.
The Web of Indian Life, W. Heinemann
1904
Cradle Tales of Hinduism, Longmans
1907
An Indian Study of Love and Death,
Longmans, Green & Co.,
The Master as I Saw Him, 1910
Select essays of Sister Nivedita, 1911
Ganesh & Co.,
Studies from an Eastern Home,
Longmans, Green & Co., 1913
Myths of the Hindus & Buddhists,
London : George G. Harrap & Co., 1913
Notes of some wanderings with the
Swami Vivekananda, 1913
Footfalls of Indian History, Longmans,
Green & Co., 1915
Religion and Dharma, Longmans, Green,
and Co., 1915
Civic & national ideals. Udbodhan Office.
1929.

A newly annotated edition of The Ancient


Abbey of Ajanta, that was serialized in The
Modern Review during 1910 and 1911, was
published in 2009 by Lalmati, Kolkata, with
annotations, additions, and photographs
by Prasenjit Dasgupta and Soumen Paul.
Another collection of essays relating to
Buddhism has been published by New Age
Publishers of Kolkata titled Studies in
Buddhism, that has been compiled and
annotated by Prasenjit Dasgupta and
Soumen Paul.

The Complete Works of Sister


Nivedita

Volume 1: The Master as I Saw Him;


Notes of Some Wanderings; Kedar Nath
and Bhadri Narayan; Kali the Mother.
ISBN 978-81-8040-458-0
Volume 2: The Web of Indian Life; An
Indian Study of Love and Death; Studies
from an Eastern Home; Lectures and
Articles. ASIN B003XGBYHG
Volume 3: Indian Art; Cradle Tales of
Hinduism; Religion and Dharma;
Aggressive Hinduism. ISBN 978-1-177-
78247-0
Volume 4: Footfalls of Indian History;
Civic Ideal and Indian Nationality; Hints
on National Education in India; Lambs
Among Wolves. ASIN B0010HSR48
Volume 5: On Education; On Hindu Life,
Thought and Religion; On Political,
Economic and Social Problems;
Biographical Sketches and Reviews.
ASIN B0000D5LXI

Biographies

In 1952, Ramakrishna Mission Sister


Nivedita Girls' School during its Golden
Jubilee Celebration, decided to bring out a
biography of Sister Nivedita in English and
Bengali. Though there were some
biographies in English and Bengali before
this, they lack in historical facts. The
historical account of Sister Nivedita's life
in Bengali was written by Pravrajika
Muktiprana of Sri Sarada Math and was
published in 1959. The materials for the
biographies were sourced from Sister
Nivedita's own works, letters and diaries,
references made to her by some of her
contemporaries, and interviews with those
who had worked with her and her own
students. Later, in 1961, the English
version of the book written by Pravrajika
Atmaprana was published as Sister
Nivedita of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda.
Since then, the books had seen several
revisions.

Letters of Sister Nivedita was first


published in two volumes in 1982 by
Sankari Prasad Basu. There were more
than 800 letters, half of which were written
to Miss Josephine MacLeod. These letters
vibrant with her thoughts and feelings cast
a lot of light on the versatile genius of
Nivedita.[64]

In 1975, Barbara Fox published in London


a biography of Sister Nivedita titled Long
Journey Home. This work attempt to
gauge Nivedita's work from an English
woman's point of view.

Nivedita Lokmata in Bengali was published


in three volumes by Sankari Prasad Basu
in 1968, 1987, and 1988 respectively.
See also
Bhagini Nivedita

References
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7564-5.
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13 to mark Sister Nivedita's 100th death
anniversary" . Hindustan Times
(Highbeam). Retrieved 9 June 2012.
3. Margaret Elizabeth Noble. Studies From
An Eastern Home. Forgotten Books. p. 1.
ISBN 1-60506-665-6.
4. Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy; Whitall
N. (INT) Perry (2011). The Wisdom of
Ananda Coomaraswamy: Reflections on
Indian Art, Life, and Religion . World
Wisdom, Inc. pp. 129–. ISBN 978-1-935493-
95-2.
5. Compiled (2008). Awakening Indians to
India (Paperback) . Chinmaya Mission.
pp. 370–. ISBN 978-81-7597-434-0.
6. Dedicated : a biography of Nivedita .
[S.l.]: Arcana Pub. 1999. ISBN 0910261164.
7. Pravrajika Atmaprana (1992), Sister
Nivedita of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda, page
1, 4th ed. published by Sister Nivedita Girls'
School, 5 Nivedita Lane, Calcutta 3 (first
published in 1961).
8. Nivedita of India (PDF) (1st ed.). Kolkata:
Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture.
2002. ISBN 81-87332-20-4.
9. Nivedita of India, by Ramakrishna
Mission Institute of Culture
10. p.2
11. Sister Nivedita of Ramakrishna-
Vivekananda, 3
12. "As a Teacher". Freeindia.org. Retrieved
12 June 2012.
13. Ibid, 3-4
14. Ibid, 3-4
15. Ibid, 3-4
16. The Complete Works of Sister Nivedita
published by the Ramakrishna Sarada
Mission Sister Nivedita Girls' School,
Calcutta, 1967, as C.W.,II, 470
17. C.W.,II, 470
18. The Master As I Saw Him
19. "The Swami and the people he knew,"
Sister Nivedita
20. Ibid., II, 399
21. Aruna Goel; S. L. Goel (2005). Human
Values and Education . Deep & Deep
Publications. p. 243. ISBN 978-81-7629-
629-8.
22. Sister Nivedita of Ramakrishna-
Vivekananda, Pravrajika Atmaprana, 5th Ed.
1999 Sister Nivedita Girls' School
23. Dr.Hironmoy N.Mukherjee, Swami
Vivekananda's Spiritual Daughter: Sister
Nivedita, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore,
2015, p.19
24. M. G. Chitkara (2001). Women & Social
Transformation . APH Publishing. pp. 416–.
ISBN 978-81-7648-251-6.
25. Rolland, Romain. The Life of
Vivekananda and the Universal Gospel.
Advaita Ashrama. p. 77. ISBN 81-85301-01-
8.
26. Letter of SN, I., 530
27. Dr.Hironmoy N.Mukherjee, Swami
Vivekananda's Spiritual Daughter: Sister
Nivedita, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore,
2015, p.11
28. His Eastern and Western Disciples, The
Life of Swami Vivekananda, 7th edition,
Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata, 2011, Vol.II,
p.323
29. Adhyatmasadhika Nivedita, by
Pravrajika Gyanadaprana
30. Nivedita of India, published by
Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture
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Parlato Jr" . Vivekananda.net. 19 August
1999. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
32. Gospel of Holy Mother, page 10
http://saradadevi.info/GHM_book/p-
10.html
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34. Complete Works of Sister Nivedita,
volume 1, edited by Sankari Prasad Basu,
Nababharat publication, Kolkata, 1992
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Retrieved 21 June 2012.
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Philosophy Of Swami Vivekananda .
Atlantic Publishers & Dist. pp. 39–.
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Sankari Prasad Basu
38. Linda Prugh, Josephine MacLeod and
Vivekananda's Mission, Sri Ramakrishna
Math, Chennai, 1999, p.290
39. Sister Nivedita,The Master As I Saw
Him, p.331
40. Sister Nivedita of Ramakrishna-
Vivekananda, p.139
41. Letters of SN I, #207, pp.504-06
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Women and Imperialism: Complicity and
Resistance . Indiana University Press.
pp. 125–. ISBN 978-0-253-20705-0.
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of Women Social Reformers . ABC-CLIO.
pp. 651–. ISBN 978-1-57607-101-4.
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house faces hurdle" . Times of India. 24
July 2011. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
45. "The School's Ideals" . RKSM Sister
Nivedita Girls School. Retrieved 9 October
2012.
46. Ramananda Chatterjee (1938). The
Modern review . Prabasi Press Private, Ltd.
pp. 78–79.
47. Economic and political weekly .
Sameeksha Trust. 1990.
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Motherhood in India: Glorification Without
Empowerment? . CRC Press. pp. 240–.
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49. Life of Swami Vivekananda, Vol.II, p.615
50. Bonnie G. Smith (23 January 2008). The
Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World
History . Oxford University Press. pp. 3–.
ISBN 978-0-19-514890-9.
51. The Spiritual Daughter Of Swami
Vivekananda
52. Chakrabarti, Mohit (1998). Swami
Vivekananda, poetic visionary. New Delhi:
M.D. Publications. p. 80. ISBN 81-7533-075-
9.
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plea for Sister Nivedita's last abode" .
Telegraph, Calcutta. Calcutta, India.
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55. Sister Nivedita, 118
56. Mohit Chakrabarti (1 January 1998).
Swami Vivekananda, Poetic Visionary . M.D.
Publications Pvt. Ltd. pp. 80–. ISBN 978-81-
7533-075-7.
57. Chakrabarti, Arindam (23 October
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59. "Sister Nivedita Academy" . Retrieved
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61. "Mamata Banerjee lays foundation for
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62. "The Scientist and the Nun: How Sister
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Up" – via thewire.in.
63. Adwaita P. Ganguly (1 December 2001).
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02-2.
64. Pravrajika Atmaprana, Sister Nivedita of
Ramakrishna-Vivekananda, Preface to the
Fourth Edition

Further reading
Bakshi, S. R. (2000). Sister Nivedita:
Pioneer in Missionaries Work. Faridabad,
India: Om Publications. p. 286.
ISBN 978-81-86867-38-9
Basu, Sankari Prasad, ed. (1982). Letters
of Sister Nivedita. Calcutta, India:
Nababharat Publishers.
OCLC 12553314
Bhattacharya, Alak (2010). Nivedita:
Synthesis of East and West. New Delhi:
Northern Book Centre. p. 135. ISBN 978-
81-7211-286-8
Chakravarty, Basudha (1975). "Sister
Nivedita". New Delhi: National Book
Trust of India: 84. OCLC 2345534
Ghosh, Biplab Ranjan (2001). Sister
Nivedita and the Indian Renaissance.
Kolkata (Calcutta, India ): Progressive.
p. 120. ISBN 978-81-86383-48-3
Gupta, Indra (2003). India's 50 Most
Illustrious Women. New Delhi: Icon
Publications. ISBN 978-81-88086-03-0
Chapter 23 "Sister Nivedita"
Pruthi, Raj; Devi, Rameshwari; Pruthi,
Romila, eds. (2003). Sister Nivedita:
Social Revolutionary. Jaipur, India:
Pointer. p. 262. OCLC 55122190
Ramakrishna Mission Institute of
Culture (2002). Nivedita of India. Kolkata
(Calcutta, India ): Ramakrishna Mission
Institute of Culture. p. 98. ISBN 978-81-
87332-20-6
Reymond, Lizelle (1953). "The
Dedicated, A Biography of Nivedita".
New York: John Day Company.
OCLC 1513282
Roy, Sohinee (2007). Sister Nivedita: A
Passion for India. New Delhi: Rupa & Co.
p. 61. ISBN 978-81-291-1200-2
Som, Reba (2017). Margot: Sister
Nivedita of Swami Vivekananda. Penguin
Random House India Private Limited.
p. 336. ISBN 9386651572

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