A Brief Biography of Bhagini Nivedita

Sister Nivedita

(1867 – 1911)

Sister Nivedita (Margaret Elizabeth Noble) was born on October 28, 1867 in Northern Ireland. She got her early education in London and attended Halifax College where she studied subjects like physics, arts, music and literature. She embraced teaching at the age of seventeen and established a school in Wimbledon where she followed her own unique methods of teaching. She was a prolific writer and wrote for newspapers and periodicals and as a result, became a known name among the intellectuals of London.

She attended the lectures of Swami Vivekananda in November 1895 in London and was inspired by his teachings. She responded to his call for playing a role in educating Indian women and arrived in Kolkata on January 28, 1898. Swami Vivekananda familiarised her with India’s history, philosophy, literature, social traditions and the life of the common masses. On March 25, 1898, Swami Vivekananda gave her the name "Nivedita", the dedicated one.

 

She toured England and America, gave lectures on India and raised funds to establish a girl’s school. On November 13, 1898, on the day of Kali Puja, she started the school in the Bagbazar area of Calcutta. The school was inaugurated by Sarada Devi. She also went from home to home to educate girls, in spite of the resistance from the male members of the family and the pitiable socio-economic condition of women. She taught history, geography, natural sciences and a little bit of English. She would also teach them sewing, drawing and handicrafts. She also encouraged them to take up physical exercises. She also gave special instructions to a few educated ladies in order to make them good teachers.

 

During the outbreak of plague epidemic in Kolkata in 1899, Sister Nivedita nursed and took care of the patients, cleaned rubbish from the area, and inspired and motivated many youths to render voluntary service. She also organised day-to-day activities, inspected the work being done and personally handed over written instructions about the preventive measures to be undertaken.

 

Sister Nivedita died on October 13, 1911, at the age of 43, in Darjeeling. Her memorial is located below the railway station on the way to the Victoria Falls of Darjeeling. In 1968, the Indian Government issued a postal stamp in her memory.