Some facts about Sister Nivedita
- Margaret Elizabeth Noble was born on October 28, 1867 to Scottish parents in the town of Dungannon, Ireland.
- In November 1895, she met Swami Vivekananda who was then visiting London.
- Inspired by Swami Vivekananda, she arrived in Kolkata on January 28, 1898.
- On March 11, 1898, Swami Vivekananda organised a public meeting at Star Theatre in Kolkata to introduce Margaret Noble, where she expressed her desire to serve India.
- On March 17, 1898, she met Sarada Devi, wife of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who greeted Margaret affectionately as ‘Khooki’.
- On March 25, 1898, Swami Vivekananda formally initiated Margaret in the vow of brahmacharya (lifelong celibacy) and gave her the name ‘Nivedita’ (meaning ‘the dedicated one’).
- She thus became the first Western woman to be received into an Indian monastic fold.
- Sister Nivedita started a school for under privileged girls in Kolkata in 1898.
- She was one of the frontline workers when plague broke out in the country in 1899.
- On Jagadish Chandra Bose’s request, Sister Nivedita translated Tagore’s Kabuliwalla into English; her endeavour was widely appreciated, and she got the title ‘Lokmata’ (‘mother of the people’) from Tagore.
- On October 13, 1911, she breathed her last at Roy Villa.
Roy Villa is a three-storied building situated on a hillock and surrounded by pine trees. An ambience somewhat resembling a nineteenth-century European castle hangs over this building on Lebong Cart Road. The building is almost 150 years old. It has beautiful Indo-European architecture with a touch of local influence.
A major restoration work has been completed. Roy Villa on Lebong Cart Road in Darjeeling has been fully restored. This is the place where Sister Nivedita, the great disciple of Swami Vivekananda, died on October 13, 1911. This multi-storied building was also the initial address of Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. In the year of her death centenary, that is, 2011, a Siliguri-based NGO, Association for Conservation and Tourism, that has been working to promote new destinations as well as heritage sites, had written to the state government to revamp the building.
Later the state government granted Rs 1 crore for the restoration of this important piece of heritage. That work is now complete and the revamped building has been inaugurated on January 22.
Roy Villa, as it looked before restoration
Roy Villa: A brief timeline
- The beautiful villa was originally owned by Dwarkanath Roy, after whom it was named Roy Villa.
- Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose, the world-renowned botanist, had rented the property from Dwarkanath Roy, who happened to be a relative, who stayed in Kolkata.
- When Sister Nivedita’s health started deteriorating, Bose and his wife, Abala Basu, invited her to stay at this place in 1903.
- Because of the fine weather, Nivedita started residing here permanently.
- It was here that she died on October 13, 2011.
- The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute started from this place in 1954-55 with 20 students.
- Later it was taken over by the GTA.
- GTA handed it over to the government of West Bengal, which in turn decided to hand it over to the Ramakrishna Mission for it to convert the place into a centre of excellence.
- It has been made the location of Nivedita Educational and Cultural Centre.
- On January 22, 2014, Roy Villa opened as a heritage building after restoration.
Sister Nivedita with Sarada Devi
Plans for Nivedita Educational and Cultural Centre
Nivedita Educational and Cultural Centre, to be run by the Ramakrishna Mission, would include…
- a free coaching centre for joint entrance examinees and civil service aspirants
- a free computer training centre
- a skill development centre for empowering women
- a science promotion centre named after Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose
- an exhibition on the life of Sister Nivedita
While the facilities will be looked after by the Ramakrishna Mission, the building and infrastructure will be under the state government’s Information and Cultural Affairs Department.
A memorial to Sister Nivedita is located below the railway station on the way to the Victoria Falls in Darjeeling, with these words inscribed on her epitaph –
Here reposes Sister Nivedita who gave her all to India
Swami Vivekananda wrote a beautiful poem, ‘A Benediction’ to Sister Nivedita.
The mother's heart, the hero's will
The sweetness of the southern breeze,
The sacred charm and strength that dwell
On Aryan altars, flaming, free;
All these be yours and many more
No ancient soul could dream before-
Be thou to India's future son
The mistress, servant, friend in one.
Sister Nivedita (extreme right) with Swami Vivekananda (2nd from right) in Kashmir