House where Sister Nivedita started girls’ school to reopen on her 150th birth anniversary
Hectic work is on to complete restoration of the building at 16 A, Bosepara Lane in North Kolkata, where Sister Nivedita stayed before her hundred-and-fiftieth birth anniversary, which falls next year.
It was Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who took the initiative to acquire the house which was later handed over to Sri Sarada Math. She also acquired Roy Villa in Darjeeling, where Nivedita died on October 13, 1911, and handed it over to the Ramakrishna Mission. The Kolkata Municipal Corporation put up decorative trident lamps and declared the building a heritage building.
Sri Sarada Math has proposed to set up a museum at the house where she stayed. Restoration architects and experts were consulted before the renovation work began. The walls, roof, room where she stayed and the terrace have been restored. Work is now in full swing to complete the flooring. As the building had not been maintained for many years, old plaster had to be removed.
The house played an important role in women’s movement in India. Nivedita, a trained teacher, had earlier opened a school at Wimbledon and came to Kolkata at the request of Swami Vivekananda to spread education among girls. She had met Swamiji in England in 1895.
Margaret Elizabeth Noble – who came to be known as Sister Nivedita – was born on October 28, 1867 at Dungannon in Tyrone County, Ireland. She came to Kolkata in early 1898.
Before coming to Kolkata, Margaret Noble was well-known in the intellectual circle and was the secretary of reputed club where scholars, writers used to come to deliver lectures. Nivedita started living in the Kolkata house from November 1, 1898.
It was in this rented building where Nivedita started her school for girls from middle-class families on November 13, 1898, the day of Kali Puja. Mother Sri Sarada Devi was present at the puja and blessed Nivedita.
The school started with five students. There was stiff resistance from sections of the society as not many were ready to send their daughters to a school run by a foreigner. Nivedita was accepted by the intellectuals of Kolkata after her addresses at Albert Hall and later at Kalighat temple.
It was she who first translated Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Kabuliwala’ into English. Many great personalities of India, including Tagore, Jagadish Chandra Bose and his wife Abala, Aurobindo Ghoh, Gopal Krishna Gokhle, Bipin Chandra Pal, Dinesh Chandra Sen were her friends. British philosophers Patrick Geddes and Samuel Kerkham Ratcliffe were among her friends too.
After the death of Swamiji in 1902 and Jamshedji Tata in 1904, she was the key person in setting up of the Tata Institute in Bangalore, which is now known as the Indian Institute of Science.