Sister Nivedita; born Margaret Elizabeth Noble; (28 October 1867 - 13 October 1911) was a Scots-Irish social worker, author, teacher and a disciple of Swami Vivekananda. She spent her childhood and early days of her youth in Ireland. From her father, from her college professor etc. she learned many valuable lessons like - service to mankind is the true service to God. She worked as school teacher and later also opened a school. She was committed to marry a Welsh youth who died soon after engagement.
Sister Nivedita met Swami Vivekananda in 1895 in London and travelled to Calcutta, India (present-day Kolkata) 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 Bagbazar area of Calcutta. She wanted to educate those 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. However, 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 intimate with 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 reposes Sister Nivedita who gave her all to India".
Sister Nivedita, was the centre of veneration of both Swami Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore. She was instrumental in inspiring all of India's scientists (e.g, Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, Basiswar Sen), artists (like Abanindra Nath Tagore, Nandalal Bose), educationist (like Brajendra Nath Sil, Ramananda Chattopadhyay, Kumud Bandhu Sen), and above all freedom fighters (like Mahatma Gandhi, Rasbihari Ghosh, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Arabinda Ghosh, Barin Chandra Ghosh, Bipin Chandra Pal). She also came into contact with young revolutionaries like Taraknath Das. She was admired for her work by distinguished persons like Lady Minto and Ramsay Macdonald.
Herself an educationist from her very early age, in India she was the pioneer in women education. She stared a school in North Calcutta for women. The school still exist and remains a vigorous source of good education for the girls. The name of the school is 'Sister Nivedita Girls' High School.
When the plague struck Kolkatta in March 1898, she joined plague relief works of the Ramakrishna Mission and formed 'The Ramakrishna Guild of Help' in America. During the devastating floods in East Bengal resulting in famine, she organized relief funds for the affected villages.
Dr. Jagadish Chandra Bose and his wife Abala Bose were among her closest friends. Dr. Bose was invited to the International Congress of Physics that was organized at the Paris Exhibition where he read his famous paper, "Response of Inorganic and Living Matter." Swami Vivekananda and Nivedita attended the Congress and were full of appreciation for the first scientist of India. In protest against a section of British scientists who rose against the great scientist, Sister Nivedita had written.
"Oh, India, India! who shall undo this awful doing of my nation to you? Who shall atone for the million bitter insults showered daily on the bravest and keenest nerved and best of all your sons"?
Sir J.C. Bose founded his famous Institute for research. There, in Nivedita's memory, he got installed the image of a woman stepping forward, lamp in hand.
Sahitya Academy award winner Shankariprasad Basu as also Prabrajika Muktiprana, the then head of the Ramakrishna - Sarada Mission from India as also Lizel Rem from France wrote her biography separately.
Sister Nivedita wrote profusely on many facets of Indian culture, philosophy, art and history in journals like the Review of Reviews, the Prabuddha Bharata, the Modern Review, etc. under the byline `Nivedita of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda'. She promoted pan-Indian nationalist views both in her writings and in public meetings. From 1902 onwards, she spoke and wrote against the British policy in India. She attacked Lord Curzon for the Universities Act of 1904, for his insulting the Indians by calling them untruthful in his Convocation Address in 1905, and for the Partition of Bengal in 1905. Her literary works include: Kali the Mother, The Web of Indian Life, Cradle Tales of Hinduism, An Indian study of love and death, Select Essays of Sister Nivedita, Studies from an Eastern Home, Myths of Hindus and Buddhists, Footfalls of Indian history, Religion and Dharma, Civic & National ideals and Complete Works of Sister Nivedita.
Rabindranath Tagore too had great regard for this versatile genius. Sister Nivedita was held in high regard by Rabindranath Tagore, who felt Nivedita to be an exceptional soul. Though they had met quite a number of times, they never worked together and thus Tagore had written,
"I had felt her great power, but with all that I understood that her path was not for me. She was a versatile genius, and there was another thing in her nature; that was her militancy. She had power and she exerted that power with full force on the lives of others. When it was not possible to agree with her, it was impossible to work with her."
Her extraordinary appearance with impeccably described by Mr. A.J. F. Blair,
"A tall, robust woman in the very prime of life. Her face in repose was almost plain. The cheekbones were high and the jaws were supreme. The face at the first glance expressed energy and determination, but you would hardly have looked at it again but for the forehead and the eyes. The eyes were a calm, deep blue, and literally lit up the whole countenance."
Mr. Nevinson had paid tribute in following wonderful lines,
"It is as vain to describe Sister Nivedita in two pages as to reduce fire to a formula and call it knowledge. There was, indeed, something flame-like about her, and not only her language but her whole vital personality often reminded me of fire. Like fire, and like Shiva, Kali, and other Indian powers of the spirit, she was once destructive and creative, terrible and beneficent."
She was indeed a combination of keen intellect and noble heart. No wonder the most celebrated Indian artist, Abanindranath Tagore visualized her as an ideal of beauty and considered her as meditating Uma.