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Nivedita by Sharmila Basu Dutta

Was Sister Nivedita true to Swami Vivekananda to the end? It’s time to ponder over this question while we are approaching the 150th birth anniversary of Sister Nivedita (October 28, 1867 – October 13, 1911), an Irish social worker and a devoted Indian activist. She could have spent her life working for the freedom of Ireland if she had not met Vivekananda in 1895. He wanted her to be “to India’s future son, the mistress, servant, friend in one”. When we read of her activities in India, we feel, she was exactly what her Guru wanted her to be. She plunged herself in nursing the Plague victims in Kolkata. She took care of Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose when he fell ill in England. She wrote his papers when the scientist ran out of time. She did everything possible for promoting women’s education in India. Still she had to renounce all connections with the Ramakrishna Mission through a press release shortly after Vivekananda’s demise.

Nivedita could not surrender her “complete personal freedom”. The Mission did not approve of her association the Japanese artist Okakura and with other revolutionaries of Bengal. The Mission could not risk its position in British India and so the breach was inevitable. Sister Nivedita never deviated from the path set by her “old beloved Guru”, although she could not restrict herself to missionary activities. Nivedita, literally meant to be dedicated to god, dedicated her life to the people of India.

Our Braille press has brought out a one-volume biography of Nivedita by Sharmila Basu Dutta in which many details have been presented by the author without the slightest hint at a controversy. It was first published by Papyrus of Kolkata in 2001. You should read this book and judge for yourself the life and situation of this great lady. The book will cost INR 67.

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