The real name of Sister Nivedita was Margaret Noble. She was born on 28 October 1867 in the town of Dungannon in County Tyrone, Ireland to Mary Isabel and Samuel Richmond Noble were highly knowledgeable and religious people. Her father taught her, “Service to mankind is true service to God”. From her very childhood, she had a great curiosity about understand religion and spirituality. She seemed unlike other children who at their young age focussed more or less on playing games, making fun, doing regular studies but there was something special about this girl. There seemed to be a desire in her to understand the unknown realities of nature. She had questions in her mind that were waiting to be answered, she had thoughts in her, but they were waiting to be molded by somebody.
The present year i.e 2017 is the 150th birth anniversary of the great woman.
Meeting with Swami Vivekananda.
In November 1895 she met Swami Vivekananda who had come from America to visit London and stayed there for three months. On a cold afternoon, Swami Vivekananda, on an invitation, was explaining Vedanta philosophy in the drawing-room of an aristocratic family in London. Impressed though she was by it, she felt they were more or less not too much different from what she had heard various times. However, what impressed her most was the charismatic personality of Swami Vivekananda, his presence, his speech, his knowledge. She expressed her desire to be a student of Swami Vivekananda and come to India. Vivekananda with his gift of understanding people’s minds realized that she had all the qualities that are required for a student, a disciple, a dedicated social worker. He agreed to accept her as his disciple and brought her to India.
Dedication to Indian Women
Swami Vivekananda knew that the position of Indian women at that time was very bad. Alas, there was discrimination towards women, when a daughter was born the faces of families seemed to pale, women were deprived of education, there were very bad customs prevalent at that time like Sati(once husband dies, the wife was forced to die.) Women were not allowed to come outside their houses. Swami Vivekananda assigned the gigantic work of upliftment of women of India to Ms. Noble. She took the challenge and dedicated her life to it. Swamiji gave her the name, Nivedita, which means they dedicated one.
She opened a school for women in Calcutta. However, the road was not that easy for her. She faced a lot of challenges for that. People were reluctant to send their daughters to school. She put a lot of effort to convince them to send their daughters to school. No sooner did she find some students for school, she ran out of funds. For that, she went all the way to UK and arranged for funds. She came back like a champion and started her work again. She only imparted education to girls but also initiated a lot of activities for women like sewing, etc to enrich their life.
Welfare for the people.
During the outbreak of the 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 financial support for her plague relief activities. She also organized the day-to-day activities, inspected the work, and personally handed over the written instructions for the preventive measures by moving around.
She had an iron will no doubt about that. If we see right now, most of the people in developing countries like India, go to US or UK to earn material wealth and to live a lavish life. Cars, luxurious houses, Air Conditioners, servants, this is what draws people from developing countries to developed countries. It is unimaginable that a young lady living in a beautiful country in Ireland would come to a small city in India which was already under the custody of British rulers. Britishers at that time made a lot of effort to create divisions in Bengal. It was called a Bang-Bang movement. But she stood strong and guided people and made a genuine effort to guide them and be fearless against them.
Contribution to Science
One of the unknown aspects of her life which will surprise all of us is that she had a great interest in Science. She spent time with the great scientist Jagdish Chandra Bose and did a lot of research with him.
Meeting with Aurobindo Ghosh
If that was not enough, one of her aspects was that she had a good understanding of politics as well. She planned a visit to Baroda(a city in Gujarat, India), to meet Sayajirao Gaekwad, a highly influential person. The person who accompanied her to meet Gaekwad was Sri Aurobindo Ghosh. Aurobindo Ghosh was a highly knowledgeable person and later on went to become a Maharshi himself.
Sister Nivedita was also a wonderful writer. Her popular books where “The Web of Indian Life” in which she explains the beautiful culture of India and her national heritage. She wrote a classic “The Master, As I saw Him”, in which she describes all her experiences with the Swami Vivekananda and brings to light lot of unknown facts about the national hero.
Sister Nivedita was a jewel for the whole mankind, she was a synthesis of all the qualities like highest level of spirituality, love and self-sacrifice for people, quality of renunciation, unselfishness, knowledge of science, understanding of politics, inspirational skills, indomitable faith in the Guru(teacher), understanding of politics, power of writing, etc.