Source: “Sister Nivedita: A Sketch of Her Life and Her Services to India”, Indian Biography: Vol. I, (Madras: G.A Natesan & Co.)
Widely credited with contributing greatly to the nationality movement through her work, Sister Nivedita was born on 28th October 1867 to Irish parents. The daughter of a congregational minister, she had been widely known in London as an eminent educationist who worked fervently to spread the principles of Pestallozzi and Froebell. She further played a key role in the establishment of the Sesame Club.
In 1895, she came under the influence of Swami Vivekananda at Wimbledon, London. Though initially hesitant, she eventually left for India in 1898 to serve the cause of Indian womanhood. However, it was not until much later into her stay in India that she entered the order of Ramakrishna, taking up the name of Sister Nivedita.
Yet, to begin about her task of serving the people, she had to first win a place in the orthodox community. Though the women living in her community were initially suspicious of her, she won them over with her tenacity and kindness. Her efforts culminated in the establishment of “The House of the Sisters” in her home.
A prolific writer, she published several books and contributed numerous articles to various magazines. The beginnings of her literary career are rooted in the 1900 publication of her first literary achievement Koli the Mother. This was followed by the publication of her greatest work The Web of Indian Life in 1904, touted to be “the revelation of the soul of a people”. Nivedita wrote passionately about the role of the Indian woman in society. She firmly believed that labour had a place alongside motherhood and prayer as the main opportunity of woman and the Indian woman’s intrinsic contribution to national righteousness.
Though Nivedita felt that orthodox women had received certain forms of education, she was convinced of the need for a new education for them that focussed on disseminating the ideas of nationhood along with the individual’s responsibility to race and country, as opposed to a mere focus on the technicalities of reading and writing. In addressing the place of the study of Western science in India, she urged for such a study to be undertaken for its own sake and not for any ulterior motive.
Nivedita further thought that India would give the world its new religion. She cited the “organic” unity of India in the present along with its historical and geographical unity as indicators of its ability to do so. To achieve the creation of a national righteousness, she called for Indians to be actively involved in the Indianising of India rather than passively accept programmes made by others on their behalf. Among some of her exhortations were the writing of a comprehensive Indian history, the active quest for knowledge, the creation of great literatures in the vernacular and the import of European science and thought to Indians through the vernacular. Yet, she also emphatically cautioned against the blind imitation of foreign institutions, advocating for a recovery of the Indian spirit while giving it “modern expression”.
However, the strain of her work soon caught up to her and she succumbed to hill dysentery on 13th October 1911.
Source: “Sister Nivedita: A Sketch of Her Life and Her Services to India”, Indian Biography: Vol. I (Madras: G.A Natesan & Co.), 1-42
An Indian Study of Love and Death (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1908)
The Master as I Saw Him: Being Pages from the Life of the Swami Vivekananda (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1910)
Select Essays of Sister Nivedita, 3rd ed (Madras: Ganesh & Co., 1911)
Myths of the Hindus and Buddhists (London: George G. Harrap & Company, 1913)
Notes of Some Wanderings with the Swami Vivekananda (Calcutta: Udbodhan Office, 1913)
Studies from an Eastern Home (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1913)
Footfalls of Indian History (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1915)
Religion and Dharma (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1915)
Cradle Tales of Hinduism (Bombay; Calcutta; Madras; London and New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1917)
The Web of Indian Life (Bombay; Calcutta; Madras; London and New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1918)
The Complete Works of Sister Nivedita: Volume I, 1st ed (Calcutta: Sister Nivedita Girls’ School, 1967)
The Complete Works of Sister Nivedita: Volume II, 1st ed (Calcutta: Sister Nivedita Girls’ School, 1955)
The Complete Works of Sister Nivedita: Volume III, 1st ed (Calcutta: Sister Nivedita Girls’ School, 1955)
The Complete Works of Sister Nivedita: Volume IV, 1st ed (Calcutta: Sister Nivedita Girls’ School, 1955)
Sister Nivedita’s Lectures and Writings: Volume V, 1st ed (Calcutta: Sister Nivedita Girls’ School, 1955)