It was not in Nivedita's nature
to go on brooding, lamenting and despairing. The message instilled in her by the Master
was not one of feebleness and fear, but of confidence and courage. As a lioness springs
into action, shakes her mane and marches majestically on with her thunderous roar, so did
she rouse herself, shake off her grief and anguish, and, assuming the mantle of
leadership, gave to India and the world her ringing message.
Onerous was the burden laid on her by the Master. She must be true to
him and fulfil her trust. It was in this spirit that she resumed her life of strenuous
toil. Mother India became an object of adoration for her, and the liberation of India her
She had once believed that Britain and India could remain friends. But
she came to realize that it was a delusion. For she could plainly see that Britain was not
only draining the very lifeblood of India but, in her imperialistic insolence, choose to
hurl insults upon India's noblest sons.
Two incidents gave her a rude shock. Jagadish Chandra Bose, the world
renowned Indian scientist, was an intimate friend on Nivedita. She had witnessed with
joyful pride how in France the highest honors were conferred upon him. But in Britain he
had not been accorded the honour that was due to him. Again, when Bipin Chandra Pal, the
great Indian nationalist, rose to address an American gathering, someone among the
audience leapt to his feet to hurl insulting words at him. "Mr. Pal, let your country
attain freedom first. You can come and lecture later."
The very recollection of these incidents were enough to make Nivedita's
blood boil. The conviction grew upon her that, until India gained political independence,
Indians could never hope to be treated like men. So this women, who was the whitest among
the whites, vowed to fight, in thought, word and deed, for the liberation of a country
which she had adopted as her own mother land. The power of her tongue and the power of her
pen she dedicated to the sacred cause of India's struggle for freedom.
All over Bengal Nivedita's name became a household word. Addressing
mammoth meetings in several meetings in several important places like Patna, Lucknow,
Varanasi, Bombay, Nagpur and Madras, she sounded the clarion call of freedom. The British
grew furious, but could not venture to silence her. On the contrary, several distinguished
persons of Britain like Ramsay Macdonald, who was to become Britain's Prime Minister, and
Lady Minto, whose husband later became the Viceroy of India, visited her small school and
commended its excellent work in extending education to India's womanhood.
Nivedita made her school the very centre of nationalism. Bankim Babu's
famous national anthem, Vande Mataram, became the prayer song in her school. She changed
over to Khadi. With her it became a daily practice to spin on the charaka; following her
noble example, her pupils, too, practised spinning every day.
It was Nivedita again who brought about a revolution in Bengali art.
Instead of being true to Indian culture or to their own inspiration, India culture or to
their own inspiration, Indian painters of the day had become just imitative; they copied
western models. Nivedita admonished them for this mentality and kept on goading them to
retain their Indianness. She encouraged gifted artists like Abanindranath Tagore, Nandalal
Bose and Asita Haldar by even providing them with funds; this enabled them to make a
pilgrimage to Ajanta, Ellora and other centres of art in order to seek inspiration from
the great Indian artists of the past. Under Nivedita's powerful influence there was a
remarkable flowering of Bengali art.
Everything Indian became for Nivedita an object of adoration. She wrote
books in order to interpret for Indians their own national heritage. She upheld, by
reasoned argument, ancient institutions like idol worship, religious and national
festivals and other holy days; she revealed the greatness of our sublime epics and the
sacred Puranas; and, above all, she pointed out the uniqueness of our scriptures. She thus
made Indians learn to be proud of those priceless things of which they had come to be
Nivedita's life had now become one continuous round of political
consultations and campaigns, public meetings and addresses, writing books and carrying on
hectic correspondence. These not only took up all her time but sapped all her vitality.
Her circle of friends, followers, and admirers also went on growing. To the Holy Mother
she became the darling daughter. To the Paramahamsa's direct disciples she was an object
of great affection and regard. To Rabindranatha Tagore she was an unfailing source of
inspiration. To eminent political leaders like Surendranath Bannerjea, Gopalakrishna
Gokhale, Rams Chandra Dutt, Bipin Chandra Pal and Aurobin Ghosh, she was a philosopher and
friend. And to the youth of the nation she was a veritable idol.
The greatest of the nation's leaders, Balagangadhar a Tilak and Mahatma
Gandhi, came to her and paid their respects.
Nivedita's life was thus a real saga of service and sacrifice, of
achievement and fulfillment.