Nivedita gave the clarion call, “If the whole India could agree to give say ten minutes every evening, at the oncoming darkness, to thinking a single thought – We are one. We are one. Nothing can prevail against us to make us think we are divided. For we are one and all, the antagonisms amongst us are illusions – The power that would be generated can hardly be measured.”
Margaret Elizabeth Noble (1867-1911) was English by birth but became a true Indian in heart and her love for India was incomparable. Margaret was renamed as Sister Nivedita (“dedicated) “by her guru in 1898. Which she justified by her deeds.
A versatile genius, andthe most regarded disciple of Swami Vivekananda, Sister Nivedita, was writer, social worker, revolutionary, lover of all arts, modern science, philosophy and she above all stood for emancipation of Indian Women and their empowerment.
In her short stay of 14 years in India, Nivedita made a lasting contribution in the field of education, politics, nationalism and industry. Nivedita’s active participation in the national struggle of India, be it supporting Indian revolutionaries, be it scientific research by Jagadish Chandra Bose is incomparable. Nivedita, was one who simply said, “My life is given to India. In it I shall live and die”. It is hard to portray Nivedita in a few pages but may only quote Mr. Nevinson in the 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”
For such a tall personality with powers of the spirit like fire, originated from her family which later got nurtured by Swami Vivekananda with a positive vision. From grandfather Margaret inherited measureless courage and boundless patriotism, while from her father she inherited tremendous compassion for the poor and learned and believed service to mankind is the true service to God. From her mother she inherited not only her great beauty but her tenderness and empathy. Margaret with such background was transformed through Swamijee’s teaching as a complete dedicated soul.
The turning point of her life came when listening the discourses of Swami Vivekananada in London in November, 1895. Vivekananda met Margaret Noble in a small group of curious listeners.., Swamiji by that time had become world famous through his extraordinary performance at the World Parliament of Religions by preaching world secularism, respect for all religions, paths of wisdom, devotion, and respect for woman.
With childlike simplicity and calmness, Swamiji was radiating spiritual aura. Swamiji while elaborating the ancient wisdom of the Upanishads and the Vedanta. Margaret got impressed. ....During his second visit to London in 1896 Swamijee exhorted ―
“Try not to accept the report of senses, for both mind and senses are but incomplete expressions of the transcendental third, the Self. …….Self is religion. Karma, Bhakti, and Jnana are but three paths to this end. And common to all the three is renunciation. Renounce the desires, even of going to heaven” .
Margaret listened to every word, every idea, and every concept that was unique and new to her. She became so inspired with the teachings and vision of Vivekananda that she sacrificed her career in England and decided to travel to India. Nivedita wrote in 1904 to a friend about her decision to follow Swami Vivekananada 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 like 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.”
After she arrived in India, got initiated into a vow of celibacy by Swamiji and was named Nivedita. Finally she became Swamiji’s earnest disciple and India possessed a woman of dignity, poise, virtue, outstanding teaching
calibre, a visionary.
Later that year, she started a girls’ school in Calcutta and began educating girls, a cause she remained committed to for the rest of her life. Swamiji pointed out that nothing was basically wrong with India except that she had to regain self-confidence, so that she might apply herself with vigour and determination to the solution of the problems of food, health, and education. He had been able to rouse the country to a great height of enthusiasm; but he was anxious that this enthusiasm should not dissipate. Swamiji was glad that Nivedita had then volunteered her services for that purpose. .
In a dark age, when women were exploited and had no access to education, married while still in innocent childhood, with indomitable courage and integrity she tried to uplift not with western views but with an Indian outlook. For Sister Nivedita, the goddess Kali became both a symbol of Indian nationalism and women’s empowerment. She truly believed in the ideals of Swamiji who once said, “Educate your women first and leave them to themselves; then they will tell you what reforms are necessary for them”.
For an all-round development of the Indian woman, who could effectively take on the challenges of the twentieth century, she envisages the need for ‘a form of education’ that might attain this end of developing the faculties of soul and mind in harmony with one .According to her
“India is, above all others, the land of great women…….” In this context she referred the glorious character of, “Padmini, Chand Bibi, Jhansi Rani, Meera Bai, Rani Bhowani, Ahalya Bai., She also said, “What of Sati, of Savitri, of the ever glorious Sita? and Uma……..” Vivekananda regarded Nivedita as The mistress, servant, and friend in one. Which she followed in letter and spirit “The mother’s heart, the hero’s will…….”
Her empathy and compassion for the distressed is notable. A wonderful and touching picture of Nivedita’s service to fight the plague was recorded by Dr R. G. Kar, one of the eminent physicians of those days....
Nivedita was sitting with the child in her lap in the damp and weather-beaten hut in that unhealthy locality. The child’s mother had already died. Nivedita temporarily left her home and moved to this hut to take care of the child. Day after day, night after night, Nivedita remained engaged in nursing the child ignoring its possible danger……. After two days, the child died in the lap of Nivedita. Before breathing its last, the child called her ‘Ma Ma’ taking her for its own mother.
The most celebrated Indian artist, Abanindranath Tagore visualized her as an ideal of beauty and regarded her as meditating Uma. Swami Vivekananda died at ten minutes past nine p.m. on 4 July 1902. On that night Nivedita dreamed Ramakrishna leaving his body a second time. 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 was alone under the sky.. Gradually she composed herself and followed the path of her guru as polestar whose sprits and thoughts helped her to sail through the turbulent period of British ruled India as a lone warrior. In building up the structure of the Indian awakening Nivedita played the role of an architectin the Indian Renaissance. She was deeply steeped in the idea of Hindu nationalism, but in an all-inclusive sense unlike what is practiced today. Her take on Hinduism was full of humanity and universalism.
“I believe that India is one, indissoluble, indivisible” and that National unity is built on the common home, the common interest and common love” and that the “strength which spoke in the Vedas and Upanishads, in the making of religion and empires, in the learning of scholars, and the meditation of the saints, is born once more amongst, and its name today is nationality.” Nivedita believed that “the present of India is deep-rooted in her past, and that before her shines a glorious future.
The end came of this great lady the Lokmata who worked relentlessly for India. On October 13, 1911, at about 7 am., the sun unusually shone, in spite of the cloudy days in Darjeeling. Nivedita said: “The frail boat is sinking, but i shall yet see the sun rise”. She started chanting the Rudra Prayer of the Upanishad “Asatoma sad gamaya, Tamaso maa jyotir gamaya, mrityor maa amritam gamaya” –The dedicated Daughter of
Mother India went to sleep for ever in her lap in Himalaya. In distant Darjeeling, there stands a memorial where on a marble tablet, are inscribed– “Here Reposes Sister Nivedita Who Gave Her All to India”.