Bengaluru: In his address to the nation on the day of Vijayadashami, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the citizens to work for the empowerment of women. He said, “In the last nine days we worshipped Ma (goddess Durga). Taking that spirit ahead, let us always work towards furthering empowerment, as well as the dignity of women.” 

While the PM’s exhortation is laudable, let’s take a bird’s eye view of the life of Sister Nivedita, a foremost lady disciple of Swami Vivekananda. 

It might be recalled that in his younger days, Narendra was inspired and influenced by another Narendra, who later grew up to be Swami Vivekananda. 

Sister Nivedita, born in Ireland as Margaret Elizabeth Noble in 1867, met Swami Vivekananda for the first time in 1895 as he returned from the United States. As she met him, the Swami was delivering a speech on Vedanta philosophy. She was so impressed with the Swami’s personality and his deep knowledge that later, she decided to become his disciple. 

In the year 1898, Swami Vivekananda initiated her and gave her the name Nivedita. 

Sister Nivedita’s contribution to Indian society 

Nivedita started a girls’ school in Bagbazar in West Bengal.  It is notable that she went from home to home, educating girls, many of whom were in pitiable condition owing to the socio-economic condition at that time. 

She also taught the women (adult women, widows were also her students) sewing, importance of hygiene and nursing, in addition to regular courses. 

A terrible plague hit Calcutta in the year 1899. At that time, it was Nivedita who rendered yeoman service. She used to clean up the area in which she stayed. She boldly made appeals for financial help and oversaw day-to-day activities and educated the masses on the importance of preventive measures. 

In addition to all these, she used to give lectures and write for publications in order to raise money for the school she had started. 

The lady also had phenomenal respect for Indian culture nad Indian geniuses. In one of her write-ups she had written, “Are the countrymen of Bhaskaracharya and Shankaracharya inferior to the countrymen of Newton and Darwin? We trust not.” 

This article only intends to sketch her life briefly. If it has kindled the reader to know more about her, a very many books are available.