Nivedita, alias Margaret Elizabeth Noble, was
born at Dunganon, County Tyrone, Ireland, on 28
October 1867. She was the eldest daughter of Samuel
Richmond and Mary Isabel. The Nobles were of Scottish
descent and had been settled in Ireland for about
five centuries. Grandfather John Noble was a Minster
of the Wesleyan Church in North Ireland. He and
her maternal grandfather, Richard Hamilton, participated
in Ireland's Home Rule Movement.
Samuel Richmond, a student of theology of the
Wesleyan Church, worked in Great Torrinton in
Devonshire and died at the age of thirty-four.
Mary returned to Ireland with Margaret, May
Margaret was educated at the Halifax College
run by the Chapter of the Congregationalist
Church. She took up teaching work in 1884 at
Keswick, in 1886 at Wrexham and in 1889 at Chester.
Greatly influenced by the `New Education' method
of Pestalozzi and Froebel, she started in 1892
a school of her own called `Ruskin School' in
Wunbkedib, Her remarkable intellectual gifts
made her well-known in the high society of London
which met at the Sesame Club.
Since childhood Christian religious doctrines
were instilled into her. But search for 'Truth'
led her in 1895-96 to Swami Vivekananda's teachings
of the Vedanta (`Complete Works of Sister Nivedita',
II 471). Later in India she adored and worshipped
Sri Ramakrishna, and also Kali and Shiva of
the Hindu Pantheon.
She came to Calcutta on 28 January 1898, was
initiated into Brahmacharya and was given the
name `Nivedita' by Vivekananda on 25 March.
She opened a kindergarten school for Hindu girls
in November 1989; joined plague relief works
of the Ramakrishna Mission from March 1899;
left for the West in July to collect funds for
her school; formed "The Ramakrishna Guild
of Help' in America; went to Paris In July 1900,
where Vivekananda attended the Congress of the
History of Religions; left for England alone
in September 1900; and returned to India in
Nivedita's interest in the Indian political
struggle for Independence led her to resign
from the purely spiritual Ramakrishna Order
after Vivekananda's death in July 1902, though
all along she maintained close relations with
the Order and Sri Sarada Devi, the Holy Mother.
She went on lecture tours throughout India from
September 1902 to 1904 to rouse the national
consciousness of the people. In 1905-06 she
was actively associated with all public affairs
in Bengal. The strain of relief work in the
flood and famine-stricken areas of East Bengal
in 1906 broke her health.
In August 1907 she left for Europe and America,
and returned to India in July 1909. She went
to America again in October 1910, and returned
in April 1911. In October 1911 she went to Darjeeling
for a change, had a serious attack of dysentery
there and died on 13 October.
Nivedita wrote under the nom-de-plume Nealas
and W. Neilus several articles before coming
to India. In India she signed as `Nivedita of
Ramakrishna-Vivekananda'. Her innumerable articles
were published in journals like the Review of
Reviews, the Prabuddha Bharata, the Modern Review,
etc. Her first publication was `Kali the Mother'
(1900). Of her principal works the `Web of Indian
Life' (1904) gives a rosy picture of India to
the critical West, and the `Master As I Saw
Him' (1910) is an interpretation of Vivekananda's
life and teachings.
The supreme goal towards which Nivedita worked
was to see India emerge as a strong and powerful
nation. In 1898 she desired to see
England and India love each other (`Sister
Nivedita' by Atmaprana, 1967, p. 59). But later
she was embittered and disillusioned. Prince
Kropotkin's ideas influenced her political views
(ibid. p. 126). From 1902 onwards she spoke
and wrote against the British policy in India.
She attacked Lord Curzon for the Universities
Act of 1904, for his insulting the Indians by
calling them untruthful in his Convocation Address
in 1905, and for the Partition of Bengal in
1905. She had the knowledge of the disastrous
condition of Indian economy and made British
Imperialism responsible for it (`Complete Works
of Sister Nivedita', IV, pp. 473-505).
Her politics was of an aggressive type and
she had no patience with moderate politics of
the petitioners type. Yet she was friendly with
leaders of all schools of political thought
like G. K. Gokhale and Bepin Chandra Pal, and
young revolutionaries like Taraknath Das. She
attended the Benares Congress in 1905 and whole-heartedly
supported the Swadeshi Movement both in principle
and in practice. She helped nationalist groups
like the `Dawn Society' and the `Anusilan Samity';
was a member of the Central Council of Action
formed by Aurobindo Ghose and took up the editorship
of the Karmayogin when he left British India.
She wanted the whole nation to be educated
on national lines (`Complete Works of Sister
Navidita', IV, pp. 329-53). She encouraged the
study of science, and helped Jagdish Chandra
Bose in bringing to light his theories and discoveries.
She believed that a rebirth of Indian Art was
essential for the regeneration of India. She
disproved the fiction of the Hellenic influence
in Indian Art, inspired Abanindranath Tagore
and others to revive its ideals, and defined
the scope and function of Indian Schools of
Nivedita was one of the foremost in the galaxy
of the twentieth century nationalists. A good
number of leading personalities in India like
Rabindranath Tagore and even foreigners were
her friends and were greatly influenced by her.
She was admired for her work by eminent persons
like Lady Minto and Ramsay Macdonald.
Tall and fair, with deep blue eyes and brown
hair, Nivedita was an image of purity and austerity
in her simple white gown and with a rosary of
rudraksha round her neck.
But the chief achievement of Nivedita's life
lay in her life itself rather than in any of
its achievements. A person of intense spirituality,
force of character, strength of mind, intellectual
power and wide range of studies, she could have
achieved distinction in any sphere of life.
Yet with unique self-effacement she lived a
simple and austere life dedicated to the cause
of India and Hinduism, on which the western
world had systematically poured contempt.
She was described as `a real lioness' by Vivekananda,
`Lokmata' (the mother of the people) by Rabindranath
Tagore, and `Agnisikha' (the flame of fire)
by Aurobindo Ghose. In England she was known
as `The Champion for India', but who above all
was a 'Sister' to the Indian people whom she
Her contribution to the promotion of national
consciousness is immeasurable. "My task
is to awaken the nation," she said once.
It was her dream to see in India the great re-establishment
of Dharma, that is, national righteousness.
The Indian people have immortalised her memory
by putting on her Samadhi the epitaph-"Here
repose the ashes of Sister Nivedita (Margaret
E. Noble) of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda who
gave her all to India."