Sister Nivedita

Sister Nivedita, the Irish educationist and Vivekananda disciple became one of colonial India's towering personalities. Born Margaret Elizabeth Noble, 150 years ago in Northern Ireland, the teacher, social worker and thinker came to be known throughout India as Sister Nivedita and loved and served the country in a manner few have. Noble came of a family in Wesleyan ministers on October 28,1867. At 17, she began working as a teacher to take care of her mother and younger siblings. By 25, she had started her own school in Wimbledon. She acquired a reputation as an experimental educationist, influenced by ideas popular in continental Europe at the time. At one gathering, Swami Vivekananda’s words seemed to speak directly to Noble’s own beliefs about the best in human nature. His words were a call to action: to serve suffering humanity, to sacrifice one’s life for the good of others, this was what the Earth’s best and bravest were born for. Vivekananda recognized that Noble could be of huge assistance in his efforts to uplift Indian women. Noble arrived in India in January 1898. For nine months, she received intensive training from Vivekananda, who opened the magical maze of India to her. In March that year, Noble received diksha (initiation) into a life of spirituality and service. She was given the name Nivedita—“the offered one". She started a school at her home 16, Bosepara Lane, for girls from orthodox families, where child marriage was widespread and girls were hardly educated. She believed that education for Indian girls should combine traditional Indian values—epitomized by the “family ideal"—and the development of a world view only through study, forming the core of the “citizen ideal".

Nivedita spent her whole life as an attestation, as it were, of the trust Vivekananda had reposed in her. This multifaceted, divine persona died in Darjeeling on 13 October 1911, a fortnight before she would have completed 44 years.

Nivedita made a series of diverse contributions to the national project: women’s education and empowerment, helping foster a sense of Indian nationalism, reviving some art forms, promoting science, propagating civic virtues and working on humanitarian relief during epidemics and famines. She was a true champion of India, its finest minds, its achievements and its culture.