Sister Nivedita

Sister Nivedita (1867 – 1911) disciple of Swami Vivekananda, Champion of Indian Freedom and emancipation of Indian Women.

Margaret Noble was of Irish birth but left to take up a comfortable job in London. It was here in London she became attracted to the remarkable personality of Swami Vivekananda. Vivekananda had risen to fame through his performance at the World Parliament of Religions 1895. Vivekananda a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna had travelled to the West to become one of the first Indian Gurus to travel to the West and spread the ancient teachings of Vedanta. 

Sister Nivedita became so inspired with the teachings and vision of Vivekananda that she forsook her career in England and travelled to India. In India, Sister Nivedita threw herself Indian culture, serving the Indian people and living the Hindu religion. She won over the hearts of Indian people with her self giving and devotion to the plight of Indian people. After the passing of Vivekananda, Sister Nivedita became increasingly committed to the plight of Indian independence. This meant she had to formally leave the Ramakrishna order, because the order was pledged to avoid political action. However there remained a strong bond between Nivedita and the Ramakrishna order. Sister Nivedita frequently risked arrest to work for the cause of Indian independence. Her house became a meeting place for writers and politicians. She came into contact with some of the influential figures in the independence movement such as Sri Aurobindo, Mahatma Gandhi e.t.c.

As well as working for Indian independence, Sister Nivedita also worked tirelessly for the amelioration of the plight of Indian Women. She sought to improve women’s education, especially for Hindu widows who were often condemned to a life of poverty. She spent many years working in her small school for Women in the poorest suburbs of Calcutta. When the plague struck Calcutta Sister Nivedita worked fearlessly and with little regard for her own health. She sought to bring famine relief to the most needy, in particular she tried to organise work parties to improve the dreadful sanitary conditions that was a breeding ground for the plague.

For her whole hearted acceptance of the Indian cause Sister Nivedita was widely admired by the Indian population The British ruling elite were perplexed that an Eurasian would live amongst the poorest and most disadvantaged section of Indian society. Sister Nivedita was held in high regard by Rabindranath Tagore, who felt Nivedita to be an exceptional soul.

Sister Nivedita is widely admired in India today. The life of Sister Nivedita was celebrated throughout India on the centenary of her birth in 1967.

by: Richard Pettinger 10/01/06