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 plebeians; 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. After Swami’s death, she, being acutely aware of the inconvenience of the newly formed Ramakrishna Mission on account of her political activities, publicly dissociated herself from it. However, till her last days she had very cordial relationship with the brother disciples of Swami Vivekananda like Swami Brahmananda, Baburam Maharaj (Swami Premananda) and Swami Sharadananda, who helped her in her charitable and education activities in every possible way; she was very close to the holy mother, Sharada 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 direct relationship with many of the young revolutionaries of Bengal, including those of Anushilan Samity, a secret organisation. She inspired many youths in taking up the cause of freeing India through her lectures. She also exposed Lord Curzon after his speech in 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 Patrikaand The Statesman caused a furore and forced Curzon to apologise.
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 organising the movement. 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 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.