I regret so deeply that I was born in another country
- Nivedita (In a lecture at Bombay in 1902)
But today the world knows that she took rebirth the moment her feet first touched the soil of Calcutta on 28 January 1898. Since then she belonged to India alone with Calcutta becoming her dearest place on earth. Her thoughts and ideas are more and more recognized by thinkers and scholars around the globe for its universality, but its root shall ever remain linked with India. It is not for nothing that her first biography in French was named Nivedita, fille de l'Inde, meaning - Nivedita, Daughter of India.
And so Calcutta, the city where she lived, moved around, and poured her everything out to bring good to India and Her people, is now getting ready to celebrate her 150th Birth Anniversary.
The house on the left was where Nivedita lived from early November 1898 till before she journeyed to West with Swami Vivekananda on 20 June 1899. Here her Calcutta school was inaugurated by Sarada Devi in the presence of Swamis Vivekananda, Brahmananda and Saradananda on 13 November 1898 - the day next the School began with a few neighbourhood girls. On the first day Swamis Brahmananda, Virajananda and Sureswarananda visited the school. But despite long and untiring efforts by both the Ramakrishna Mission and the Sarada Math, this historic house could not be taken into possession to honour the glorious memory of Sister Nivedita. So none was happy.
The house at 16 Bose Para Lane before restoration
The picture on the right is of a historic moment when Smt Mamata Bannerjee, the Hon'ble Chief Minister of West Bengal, handed over the possession of this house to Pravrajika Amalprana, the General Secretary of the Ramakrishna-Sarada Math and Mission, in the presence of Swami Suhitananada, the then General Secretary of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, and Sri Sovan Chattopadhyay, the Respected Mayor of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, on 16 March 2013. Before this the CM had assured all during the Birthday Festival of Swami Vivekananda in early January 2012 that she would soon arrange to settle this long pending issue of the Sister's house and allow its possession to the rightful authority. In fact it had been within a week of her being sworn in as the Chief Minister that she came to visit this house on 29 May 2011 to initiate the process of acquiring it.
The Hon'ble Chief Minister of West Bengal handing over the possession of Nivedita's house to Pravrajika Amalprana, the General Secretary of the Sarada Math
The Heritage status
This house has been declared a heritage building (Grade - A) by the Kolkata (changed name of the city earlier known as Calcutta) Municipal Corporation in 2005. The present State Government had first acquired this 115 years old house (constructed between 1845 and 1848) from those who were residing in it for a very long time and handed it over to the Ramakrishna Sarada Mission on 16 March 2013. The work of restoration has been monitored by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to retain its original character, though additional floors will eventually be added with distinct features of their own. The Sarada Mission has plans to set up both a museum and an archive here in the memory of Sister Nivedita. Pravrajika
Jnadaprana, the Asstt.General Secretary of the Ramakrishna Sarada Mission had earlier declared : 'It will be a blend of our deep-rooted culture and modernity. We will plan the restoration in a way that will reflect the ideals of Swami Vivekananda and his disciple, Sister Nivedita. Both of them had dreamt of making India a modern nation, based on its deeply rooted religion and culture.' According to initial estimates, the restoration may cost about INR 12 Crore (One hundred and twenty million). Appeals have been made by Pravrajika Amalprana to all citizens to donate generously for the cause. Both the Central and the State Governments have assured financial supports before the work began.
On 21 June 2014 the Statesman of Kolkata wrote: 'The restoration work has begun in full swing. The plaster of the two-storied building which stands on five cottahs of land has been removed. Old bricks of special sizes have been brought from an area situated close to Bankura and Purulia. Interestingly no cement has been used to restore the building and instead only lime and powdered brick [Surki] are being used.
An Uncompromising Dedication
The unmistakable importance of Sister Nivedita in modern India is well exhibited in the image on the left which displays the discussion held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on 30 July 2015 between the Hon'ble President of India, Sri Pranab Mukherjee, and Pravrajika Pravaprana, the Secretary of the Ramakrishna Sarada Mission, New Delhi, over the ensuing Celebration of Sister Nivedita's 150-Year Birth Anniversary.
The Undying Link
Mrs Salenda Margot Giardin, grandniece of Sister Nivedita, visited RKSM Sister Nivedita Girls' School in Kolkata on 16 February 2015. Her son, Mr John, was with her. She came in the morning and spent 3 hours with the Sannyasini Matajis, teachers, members of staff and students. In her speech she gave a brief account of her family; Samual Richmond Noble, the brother of Sister Nivedita, had been her maternal grandfather. She was overwhelmed at coming to the School and expressed her delight and gratitude to every one of the School and the Ramakrishna Sarada Mission Headquarters. She played on the synthesizer some tunes of the songs composed by Samual Richmond Noble. The students of the School also conveyed their deep regards, love and gratitude to Mrs Giardin and her son. She later visited the house at 16 Bosepara Lane.
Her School In Kolkata
It is here that her noble soul thrives forever. What did Nivedita really do to earn such glorious immortality, such worldwide awareness of what she could achieve within mere thirteen years in a far off land, utterly unknown till before she reached there; and which she soon adopted as her new Motherland? For answers we must look into what her Guru, Swami Vivekananda, wrote to her on 7 June 1896:
'The earth's bravest and best will have to sacrifice themselves for the good of many, for the welfare of all. ... What the world wants is character. The world is in need of those whose life is one burning love, selfless. ... I am sure; you have the making in you of a world-mover, and others will also come. Bold words and bolder deeds are what we want. Awake, awake great ones! The world is burning with misery. Can you sleep? Let us call and call till the sleeping gods awake, till the god within answers to the call. What more is in life? What greater work?'
And She was almost instant in her response:
'I addressed him as 'Master'. I had recognized the heroic fibre of the man and desired to make myself the servant of his love for his own people. But it was his character to which I had thus done obeisance.'
The Times of India
Writes on 16 October 2017
Kolkata: The facade of the heritage building has been restored without making any changes, as is mandatory for buildings of such importance. ... The famous courtyard where Sarada Devi would hold informal talks with Sister Nivedita has been restored with a marble flooring keeping the old-age charm intact. The famous Baithakkhana or the visitor's room located on the left to the entrance has now more space for the modern day visitors but the room has retained its originality in terms of its simple decor. The narrow and rickety wooden staircase that leads to the first floor has been replaced by steel staircase. Sister Nivedita would use this staircase since it led her directly to her room. Two rooms on the first floor have also been re vamped keeping the feel of original decor intact. A small prayer room on this floor has also been given a makeover. ... This was the building at Bagbazar where Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Jagadish Chandra Bose ... met Sister Nivedita.
Now Her Home Has Again Become Hers
A Glorious Day For Kolkata
Smt Mamata Banerjee, the Hon'ble Chief Minister of West Bengal, fulfills her noble wish. A little before 6 PM on 23 October 2017 she unveiled the restored house of Sister Nivedita at 16 Bose Para Lane, Baghbazar, Kolkata, and opened it as a pilgrimage to people.
A Nice Distant Note
idea about the Irish roots of the woman it commemorates or know that her name once was Margaret Noble. A year or two ago I was in Calcutta where Lord Curzon's Victoria Memorial was one of the sights to see in the former Imperial property. In the museum there is a display case devoted to the life and works of the great intellectual, poet and Nobel prize winner Rabindranath Tagore, and in the case I was amazed to see a photograph of a western woman who had embraced India and her people, and who helped that nation on their path to independence. The woman in that photograph was Sister Nivedita who we honour here today. Calcutta was central to her life in India and her work for the education of girls. Darjeeling is her resting place but Dungannon cradles her beginning. In this the centenary year of her death it is very appropriate to have the re-dedication for the blue plaque and the Ulster History Circle is glad to help facilitate this and thanks Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council for their help.
On the eve of the imminent worldwide celebration of Sister Nivedita's 150-year Birth Anniversary, what Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle, said on the Blue Plaque re-dedication ceremony at Dungannon on 27 May 1911 still echoes in our ears: 'Thousands of miles from here a memorial on the road to the Victoria Falls in Darjeeling marks the burial place of the ashes of Sister Nivedita. Most people walking past that place will have no
Her Long-Left Home
A Great Remembrance And Honour
The Plaque is seen between the first floor windows. Standing in the front is Revered Swami Suhitananda with other monks of the Order
This is where on the first floor at 21 High Street, Wimbledon, Margaret Noble lived with her family. The Blue Plaque in her honour was unveiled by Smt. Mamata Banerjee, the Hon'ble Chief Minister of West Bengal, on 12 November 2017. Among other distinguished guests were Revered Swami Suhitananda, the Vice-President of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, other Monks of the Order, and many more distinguished guests and citizens of London. According
English Heritage : 'London’s famous blue plaques link the people of the past with the buildings of the present. Now run by English Heritage, the London blue plaques scheme was started in 1866 and is thought to be the oldest of its kind in the world.' Referring to the occasion of awarding a plaque for Sister Nivedita, Anna Eavis of English Heritage adds: 'This is an inspiring occasion celebrating an extraordinary Woman.'
A close-up view
Smt Mamata Banerjee and Swami Suhitananda releasing a commemorative volume on Sister Nivedita during the occasion
In referring to the erection of this Plaque, the English Heritage writes: 'Sister Nivedita is one of the most influential figures in Indian history. In addition to campaigning for Indian independence, she worked tirelessly in education reform and joined Swami Vivekananda in promoting the Hindu Philosophical movement Vedanta in London. Nivedita is commemorated with a blue plaque at 21 A High Street in Wimbledon, where she and Vivekananda stayed with her mother and sister in 1899.'