Sri Sarada Math

& Ramakrishna Sarada Mission

Sister Nivedita (Miss Margaret E. Noble) [1868-1911]

Sister Nivedita Nivedita: the Dedicated One

Margaret Noble was of Irish parentage and was born at Tyrone, Ireland, on October 28, 1867. Her father Samuel was a priest of an Irish Church, and her mother Mary was a kindhearted young lady. Her grandfather John Noble was also a priest with deep love for God and his motherland. From her grandfather Margaret inherited undaunted courage and vigorous patriotism, while from her father she inherited boundless compassion for the poor. Margaret often went with her grandfather and her father to the homes of the poor and rendered service to them. After finishing her education at the Halifax College, she started working as a teacher in various girls' schools.

In 1892, at the age of 25, she opened a school of her own in Wimbledon. Margaret was endowed with a sharp intellect, an enquiring mind, and a deep insight of love. Along with these she possessed a breadth of heart to a remarkable degree.

As a result there was growing dissatisfaction in her with the ways of the then existing orthodox religion and was tormented by doubt and a feeling of uncertainty.It was at this time, that Swami Vivekananda reached London with his message of Vedanta. And his words came as "living water to men perishing of thirst", to quote Margaret's own words.

In March 1899 a plague epidemic broke out in Kolkata. Inspired and guided by Vivekananda, Nivedita plunged into action to save the city. She formed a committee of dedicated workers from among the inspired youth who helped her fight this menace. They cleaned the streets and lanes and nursed the victims. Nivedita worked round the clock, often foregoing food and rest. She often gave up drinking milk to save the money to help others. Her health was seriously impaired as she ran from home to home, hoping against hope to overtake and defeat death. At times, Nivedita stayed on with the bereaved for hours together, offering them her consolation and sympathy. Nivedita and her team incessantly carried on their formidable effort for a full month before they succeeded in controlling the disease.

Desk of Sister NiveditaNivedita started her school at No.16, Bosepara Lane in Bagh Bazar, Kolkata on November 13,1898 with the blessings of Holy Mother. Parents in the Orthodox Indian society at that time hesitated to send their daughters to school and more so to a school run by a woman of an alien culture. Nevertheless Nivedita succeeded in beginning with a few girls of varying ages. It was extremely difficult to meet the expenses of the school and have enough left sustain herself

In June 1899, Nivedita went to Europe and America to get financial help for her school in India. She returned in February 1902 and that very year, Swami Viveknanda attained Mahasamadhi. To fulfill his trust she sprang in to action shaking off her grief. Her conviction grew that a nation under foreign domination could not dream of regeneration be it social, political or cultural. She vowed to work for the liberation of the country she had adopted. Nivedita made her school a centre of nationalistic activity where Bankim Chandra’s national anthem, Vande Mataram was the school prayer. She preached that nationalistic sentiment and faith on the ideals of Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda would usher in a new dawn of hope. Nivedita's life had become one continuous round of political campaigns, public addresses and writing books.

Her writings and speeches inspired young men to lead nobler and purposeful lives. She was an unfailing source of inspiration to Rabindranatha Tagore and to eminent political leaders like Surendranath Bannerjea, Gopalakrishna Gokhale, Ramesh Chandra Dutta, Bipin Chandra Pal and Aurobindo Ghosh. The political leaders Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi paid their respects to her.

Nivedita wrote books on Indian cultural heritage. She encouraged gifted artists like Abanindranath Tagore,Nandalal Bose and funded their study of the works of art of Ajanta, Ellora and other great Indian artists of the past. From 1902 to 1904 she went on extensive lecture tours, urging people to strive to make India free: addressing meetings in Patna, Lucknow, Varanasi, Bombay, Nagpur and Madras. The colonial British rulers grew furious, but could not silence her. On the contrary, several distinguished Englishmen like Ramsay Macdonald, who was to become Britain's Prime Minister, and Lady Minto, whose husband became the Viceroy of India, visited her school and commended its work.

When the British Government partitioned Bengal which resulted in a great agitation, Nivedita jumped into the fray. Soon after, there was a devastating flood in East Bengal. This was followed by famine. Nivedita waded through the water for miles to see the plight of the flood victims and report it in newspapers and journals, pointing out the gross negligence and failure of the British-Indian government to undertake relief measures. She harnessed the youth of Bengal into relief work. Incessant work and lack of rest took its toll on Nivedita’s health. But she would not rest and at last, she made a legal Will in which the property, the little money she had and the copyright of her writings she left to the Belur Math to be used for the national education of Indian women. She breathed her last on the 13th October, 1911 at Darjeeling, leaving behind her name as the deathless symbol of sacrifice and service.

If you want peace of mind, do not find fault with others. Rather learn to see your own faults. Make the whole world your own. No one is a stranger, my child; this is your own.

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