Bhagini Nivedita


Sister Nivedita remains one of the most influential female figures of India. Her book Kali, the Mother influenced Abanindranath Tagore who painted Bharat Mata. She was one of the important influential force on Jagadish Chandr editing his manuscripts, she made Bose. She supported him by organizing the financial support and sure that Bose was able to continue with and share his work. Nievedita has authored many books out of which The Web of Indian Life soug t to rectify many myths in the Western world about Indian culture and customs; Notes of Some Wanderings with the Swami Vivekananda is about her travels from Nainital, Almora and other places wit Swamiji and The Cradle Tales of Hindusim contains stories from Puranas, Ramayana and Mahabharata.

In 2010, the office of the board of West Bengal Board of Secondary Education in Salt Lake, Kolkata was named after Sister Nivedita. The Sister Nivedita Academy, an institution dedicated to her memory has been established in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Several schools and colleges have been named after her. In 1968, the Indian Government issued a postal stamp in her memory. The ‘Nivedita Bridge’ near Dakhineswer, Kolkata is named in her honor. In 2015, a new Government Degree College at Hastings House, Alipur, Kolkata was named after Sister Nivedita.

Born: Margaret Elizabeth Noble, 28 October 1867,

Died: County-Tyrone, Ireland, 13 October 1911 (aged 43) Darjeeling, Bengal, India

Guru: Swami Vivekananda

Philosophy : Advaita Vedanta

Founder: Ramkrishna Sharada Mission Sister Nivedita Girls’ School

Literary works:

Kali the Mother, Swan Sonnenschein & Co.1900; The Web of Indian Life, W. Heinemann 1904; Cradle Tales of Hinduism, Longmans 1907; An Indian Study of Love and Death, Longmans, Green & Co.; The Master as I Saw Him, 1910; Select essays of Sister Nivedita, 1911 Ganesh & Co.; Studies from an Eastern Home, Longmans, Green & Co., 1913; Myths of the Hindus & Buddhists, London : George G. Harrap & Co., 1913; Notes of some wanderings with the Swami Vivekananda, 19 3; Footfalls of Indian History, Longmans, Green & Co., 1915; Religion and Dharma, Longmans, Green, and Co., 1915; Civil Ideal and Indian Nationality (Civic & national ideals) Udbodhan Office. 1 29; Hints on National Education in India; Glimpses of Famine and Flood in East Bengal—1906;

Besides, a newly annotated edition of The Ancient Abbey of Ajanta, that was serialised in The Modern Review during 1910 and 1911, was published in 2009 by Lalmati, Kolkata, with annotations, additions and photographs by Prasenjit Dasgupta and Soumen aul.

Another collection of essay’s relating to Buddhism has been published by New Age Publishers of Kolkata titled Studies in Buddhism, that has been compiled and annotated by Prasenjit Dasgupta and Soumen Paul.

Compilations of the Complete Works of Sister Nivedita:

Volume 1: The Master as I Saw Him; Notes of Some Wanderings; Kedar Nath and Bhadri Narayan; Kali the Mother. ISBN 978-81-8040-458-0

Volume 2: The Web of Indian Life; An Indian Study of Love and Death; Studies from an Eastern Home; Lectures and Articles. ASIN B003XGBYH

Volume 3: Indian Art; Cradle Tales of Hinduism; Religion and Dharma; Aggressive Hinduism. ISBN 978-1-177-78247-0

Volume 4: Footfalls of Indian History; Civic Ideal and Indian Nationality; Hints on National Education in India; Lambs Among Wolves. ASIN B0010HSR48

Volume 5: On Education; On Hindu Life, Thought and Religion; On Political, Economic and Social Problems; Biographical Sketches and Reviews. ASIN B0000D5LXI

Why Is Bhagini Nivedita Held In High Esteem In India

Bhagini Nivedita 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. Her childhood name was ‘Margaret Elizabeth Noble.’ She was committed to marry a Welsh youth who died soon after their engagement.

Sister Nivedita met  Swami  Vivekananda  in  1895  in  London  and  travelled  to  Calcutta  (present-  day Kolkata), India in 1898. Swami Vivekananda gave her the name ‘Nivedita’ (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 Bag bazār area of Kolkata to educate the girls deprived of basic education. During the plague epidemic 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 all brother disciples of Swami Vivekananda and with Sharada Devi, the spiritual consort   of Ramakrishna. She died on 13 October 1911 in Darjeeling. Her epitaph reads, “Here reposes Sister Nivedita who gave her all to India”.

Meeting Swami Vivekananda

In November 1895 Swami Vivekananda had come from America to visit London and stayed there for three months. On a cold afternoon, on an invitation, he was explaining Vedanta philosophy in the drawing room of an aristocratic family in London. With much curiosity and interest, Margaret accompanied Mr. Ebenedger Cook, a teacher in her ‘Ruskin School’,  who  was invited to this meeting  by one of her friends. She saw a majestic personage, clad in a saffron gown and wearing a red waist- band, sat there on the floor,  cross-legged.  As  he spoke to the company, he  recited Sanskrit verses in  his deep, sonorous voice. Margaret being already delved deep into the teachings of the East, found nothing quite new in what she heard on this occasion. What was new to her was the personality of the Swamiji himself. She attended several other lectures of Swami Vivekananda and raised a lot of questions, whose answers dispelled her doubts and established faith and reverence for the speaker.

She started taking interest in the teachings of Gautama Buddha, Swami Vivekananda as an alternate source of peace and benediction. Vivekananda’s principles and teachings influenced her and  this  brought about a visible change in her. Seeing the fire and passion in her, Swami Vivekananda could foresee her future role in India. On 25th of March  1898 it was the  holiest and most unforgettable day  for Margaret of her life. That was the day on which her guru dedicated her to god and to the service of India.

Swami Vivekananda felt extreme pain by the wretchedness and misery of the people of India under the British rule and his opinion was that education was the panacea for  all  evils  plaguing  the  contemporary Indian society, especially that of Indian women. Margaret was chosen for the role of educating Indian women.

Travel to India

Responding to the call of Swami Vivekananda, Margaret decided to travel to India leaving behind her family  and  friends,  including  her  mother.  She  reached  Calcutta  on   28   January   1898.   She visited Dakshineshwar temple on 22 February, the place where Ramakrishna did his sadhana.

Swami Vivekananda devoted the initial few days in building her character and developing her love for India and its people. He explained to her India’s history, philosophy, literature, life of the common mass, social traditions, and also the lives of great personalities, both ancient and modern. A few weeks later,  two  of  Swami  Vivekananda’     women  disciples  in  America,  Sara  C.  Bull,  wife  of famous Norwegian violinist and composer Ole Bull and Josephine MacLeod arrived in India. The three became lifelong friends.

On  11  March  1898,  Swami  Vivek  nanda  organised  a  public  meeting  at Star  Theatre to introduce Margaret to the people of Calcutta. In his speech Swami Vivekananda said, “England has sent us another gift in Miss Margaret Noble.” In this meeting she expressed her desire to Serve India and its people.


On    25    March    1898,    Swami of Brahmacharya (lifelong celibacy) Vivekananda     formally    initiated    Margaret    in    the    vow and gave her the name of ‘Niveditā,’ the dedicated one. She became the first Western woman to be received into an Indian monastic order. Swami Vivekananda “Go  though and  follow  Him,  Who was born and  gave  His  life for  others five hundred times before He attained the vision of the Buddha”.

Bhagini Nivedita later recorded some of her experiences with her master in the book The Master as I  Saw Him. She often used to refer to Swami Vivekananda as ‘The King’ and considered herself as the spiritual daughter (Mānaskanyā in Bengali) of Swami.

Relationship with Sharada Devi

Within  a  few  days  of  arrival  in  India,  on  17  Marc  1898,   Margaret   met Shara a Devi, wife and spiritual consort of R  makrishna,  who,  surpassing all language and cultural barriers, embrace her as ‘khooki’ (Bengali- little girl, my daughter). Till her death in 1911, Nivedita remained one of h r closest associates. On 13 November 1898 Sharada  Devi inaugurated the school started by Nivedita. Her impressions about Nivedita are captured vividly in an excerpt taken from the ‘Gospel of Holy Mother’. Referring to Nivedita, she said, “What sincere devotion Nivedita had! She never considered anything too much that she might do for me…”


Nivedita travelled to a lot of places in India, including Kashmir, with Swami Vivekananda, Josephine Mcleod  and  Sara  Bull  and  this  helped  her  in  connecting  to  Indian  masses,  Indian  culture  and its history.  On  11  May  1898  they  along  with Swami  Turiyananda  set  foot  for  the  Himalayas.  From Nainital they travelled to Almora. On 5 June 1898, she wrote a letter to her friend Nell Hammond exclaiming, Oh Nell, Nell, India is indeed  the  Holy  Land. In  Almora   she  first  learned  the  art  of meditation. She wrote about this experience, “A mind must be brought to change its centre of gravity…again open and disinterested state of mind welcomes truth.”

From Almora they went to Kashmir valley where they stayed in houseboats. In summer of  1898 Nivedita travelled to Amarnath with Swami Vivekananda. Later in 1899 she travelled to America with Swami Vivekananda and stayed in Ridgely to raise awareness and get help for h r cause.  She also  started learning Bengali from Swami Swarupananda.

Swami Vivekananda leaves his mortal frame

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 Sharadananda from Belur Math sent a monk with a letter to Sister Ni  edita and conveying the message of Vivekananda’s death. Instantly everything around Nivedita’s eyes became blank. She immediately rushed to the Math and reached place around 7 a.m and entered the room of Vivekananda. There she found Swamiji’s body was laid on the floor. She sat near Vivekananda’s head and started to fan his (dead) body with a hand-fan. Till 1 p.m. she sat like that and continued fanning Swami Vivekananda’s body. 

In  the  afternoon  of  5  July,  Swami  Vivekanand’a  body  was  taken for cremation. Vivekananda’s body was wrapped with a saffron cloth. Nivedita wished to take a small portion of that cloth so that she could send it as a memento to Josephine MacLeod. Understanding the mind of Nivedita Swami Sharadananda asked her to cut a small portion of the Swami’s cloth. But, Nivedita was unsure whether the act would be proper or not and decided not to take it. When Vivekananda’s body was being cremated she sat all the while looking at the burning pyre. Around six o’clock in the evening the burning flame was about to go out. Suddenly Nivedita felt somebody had pulled her sleeve. She turned around and found a small piece of saffron cloth which had somehow come out of the pyre during cremation. Nivedita lifted it and took it considering it to be a blessing of the Swami.


 Ramkrishna Sharada  Mission Sister Nivedita Girls’  School

Nivedita was planning to open a school for girls who were deprived of even basic education. She toured England and America, gave lectures and raised funds to establish a girls school. The main reason why Swamiji invited Nivedita to India was to spread education to the women of the country. That’s why when Nivedita informed Vivekananda about her planning, he felt excited. He organized a meeting at Balaram Bose’s house on this issue. Many lay devotees of Sri Ramakrishna, including Master (Sri M., the chronicler of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna), Suresh Dutta, Haramohan etc. attended this meeting. In this meeting Nivedita explained her plan   f the proposed school and requested everyone to send their girls to the school to study. During her speech Vivekananda entered the room and took seat behind everyone. Nivedita did not notice it. But, when Nivedita appealed to collect girl students for the school, she suddenly discovered Vivekananda in the room pushing others and prompting: “Ye, get up, get up! It’s not good enough to just become girls’ fathers. All of you must cooperate in the matter of their education as per national ideals. Stand up and commit. Reply to her appeal. Say ‘We all agree. We shall send our girls to you’. But no one stood up to support Nivedita’s proposal. Finally Vivekananda forced Haramohan to agree to the proposal and behalf of Haramohan Vivekananda promised to send her girls to the school.

On 13 November 1898, on the day of Kali Puja, at 16 Bosepara Lane in the Bagbazar area of Calcutta, she started the school. The school was inaugurated by Sharada Devi, in the presence of Swami Vivekananda and some of the other disciples of Ramakrishna. Sharada Devi blessed and prayed for the school saying – “I pray that the blessings of the Divine Mother may be upon the school and the girls; and the girls trained from the school may become ideal girls.”

Nivedita went from home to home in educate girls, many of whom were in pitiable condition owing to the socio-economic condition of early 20th century India. In many cases she encountered refusal from the male members of the girl’s family. Nivedita had widows and adult women among her students. She taught sewing, elementary rules of hygiene, nursing, etc., apart from regular courses.

Collecting money for the school was not an easy task. She had to earn money from her writings and giving lectures and later she spent all to meet the expenses of the school.

She took part in altruistic activities. She worked to improve the lives of Indian women of all castes.

Work during plague epidemic

During the outbreak of plague epidemic in Calcutta in 1899 Nivedita nursed and took care of the patients, cleaned rubbish from the area, and inspired and motivated many youths to render voluntary service. She inserted appeals for help in the English newspapers and requested for financial support for her plague relief activities.[25] She also organised the day-to-day activities, inspected the work and personally handed over the written instructions for the preventive measures by moving around.

She was friend to many intellectuals and artists in the Bengali community, including Rabindranath TagoreJagadish Chandra BoseAbala Bose, and Abanindranath Tagore. Later she took up the cause of Indian independenceSri Aurobindo was one of her friends as well.

Cultivation of Indian culture

She took active interest in promoting Indian history, culture and science. She actively encouraged Dr. Jagadish Chandra Bose, the epoch-making Indian scientist and seminal philosopher of science who is credited to have discovered the wireless radio, to pursue original scientific research and helped him financially as well in getting due recognition when he was faced by an indifferent attitude of the British Government. Bose, who was called by her as “khoka” or the “little one” in Bengali, and his wife lady Abala Bose, were in very close terms with her. Keeping in view Nivedita’s contribution to the scientific research work of Jagadish Chandra, Rabindranath Tagore said: “In the day of his success, Jagadish gained an invaluable energiser and helper in Sister Nivedita, and in any record of his life’s work her name must be given a place of honour.”[28]

Her identity as both a westerner by birth and a disciple of Swami Vivekananda enabled her to do several things that might have been difficult for Indians. She promoted pan-Indian nationalism.

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 BrahmanandaBaburam 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.[31] 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 TagoreAnanda 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.


Nivedita died at the dawn of 13 October 1911, age 43, in Roy Villa, Darjeeling.[34] Today, her memorial is located below the Railway station on the way to the Victoria Falls (of Darjeeling)[35] with these words inscribed in her epitaph – “Here reposes Sister Nivedita who gave her all to India”.[5][34]

Swami Vivekananda wrote a poem to Sister Nivedita, A benediction to Sister Nivedita. In this poem Vivekananda regarded Nivedita as The mistress, servant, friend in one:

The mother’s heart, the hero’s will
The sweetness of the southern breeze,
The sacred charm and strength that dwell
On Aryan altars, flaming, free;
All these be yours and many more
No ancient soul could dream before-
Be thou to India’s future son
The mistress, servant, friend in one.

[Source Excerpts taken from an article published in the Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike  License edited on 5 November 2017, at 15:12.]

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