How Social Activist Sister Nivedita Influenced Indian Nationalist Movement

Sister Nivedita left an everlasting influence on the education system, art and culture of India.

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Sister Nivedita was a social activist and educator who worked to uplift the women of India during the freedom struggle. She is one of the most iconic women in Indian History who played a major role in the nationalist movement. Here are some interesting facts about Sister Nivedita:

  • Her real name is Margaret Elizabeth Noble. She was born in 1867 to an Irish Family. She got her religious leanings from her father, who taught her that service to mankind is the true service to God.
  • Margaret was educated in Halifax college where her Headmistress taught her about personal sacrifice. At the age of 17, she started teaching at a school in Keswick. She later went on to teach children at an Orphanage in Rugby.
  • She was inspired by the ideas of Swiss education reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and with the German Friedrich Fröbel. Both of them emphasized the importance of preschool education.

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  • In 1892, she opened her own school at Kingsley Gate, where she used methods to teach kids that were considered unconventional in that era.

Sister Nivedita was inspired by the ideas of Swiss education reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and with the German Friedrich Fröbel.

  • Her meeting with Swami Vivekananda in the winter of 1895 changed her life completely. Vivekananda’s principles and beliefs influenced her deeply.
  • She travelled to India in a ship called Mombasa. In Calcutta, Swami Vivekananda taught her about the history, culture, and traditions of India. She vowed to lead her life as a Brahmacharini on 25 March 1898 and was given the name Nivedita by Swami Vivekananda, which means "the dedicated one".
  • Sister Nivedita was dedicated to the cause of educating girls and caring for poor patients.

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  • Nivedita met Sarada Devi, wife and spiritual companion of Sri Ramakrishna, which resulted in a friendship that lasted till the former's demise. Sarada Devi used to call Nivedita "khooki" or "little girl" in Bengali. 
  • She opened Ramakrishna Mission Sister Nivedita Girls' School after a voyage to the West, in order to collect funds for the same.

During the plague epidemic in Calcutta, she cared for patients, cleaned up the area, and encouraged the youth to partake in community service. 

  • She later devoted her life to the Nationalist Movement in India. She started working on her own and maintained a direct relationship with many of the young revolutionaries of Bengal.
  • In a lecture dating 1902, Sister Nivedita said, "If India had no unity herself, no unity could be given to her. The unity which undoubtedly belonged to India was self-born and had its own destiny, its own functions and its own vast powers; but it was the gift of no one."
  • She inspired the youth to fight for the cause of India's freedom through her lectures. It is also said that she provided financial support and even leveraged her contacts to get information from government agencies, to forewarn freedom fighters.
  • Along with Indian artists like Abanindranath Tagore, Ananda Coomaraswamy and E.B. Havell, Nivedita is known to have shaped the Bengal School of Art.
  • In 1905 she designed a flag for India, which had two crossed thunderbolts on a red background.
  • She introduced the song Vande Mataram in her school as a prayer. 
  • Nivedita provided support to Annie Besant and was close to Sri Aurobindo, one of the main contributors of the early nationalist movement. 
  • Nivedita died on 13 October 1911, aged 44, in Darjeeling. Inscribed on her tombstone are the words– "Here reposes Sister Nivedita who gave her all to India."
  • Sister Nivedita's book Kali, the Mother motivated Abanindranath Tagore who painted Bharat Mata. In her memory, many schools and colleges have been named after her and the government of India issued a postage stamp in 1968 to commemorate her work.

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Saumya is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author's own.

#Educationist Social Activist Sister Nivedita Indian freedom struggle Margaret Elizabeth Noble