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‘The offered one..’ well, this is an offering made not to God, but to the upliftment of a society under British India. That’s what an Irish woman had done almost a century ago, right here, in Kolkata. Yes, you have got it right. We are speaking of Margaret E. Noble, born in Ireland, but who dedicated her whole life working in India, primarily Bengal. One of the closest disciples of Swami Vivekananda, Margaret was rechristened as ‘Sister Nivedita.’ To introduce her to the locals, in his speech Swamiji had once said: “England has sent us another gift in Miss Margaret Noble.” Undoubtedly, she had brought a silent revolution in the upliftment of a society where women had no rights and no education.

 

Apart from educating women, Nivedita wrote valuable treatises on Hindu thoughts and Indian culture, inspiring nationalist sentiment and unity. She earned over leading national figures of the day with her fierce intellect, and even influenced the ending of Rabindranath Tagore’s novel Gora. Known to be ‘drunk with India,’ she provided immense professional support to the brilliant scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose, dialogued with great leaders such as Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Aurobindo Ghosh and even inspired Abanindranath Tagore to create a painting that eventually became the iconic ‘Bharat Mata.’

 

To commemorate Sister Nivedita’s 150th birth anniversary, Creative Wave, an organization of city artists, had put up an exhibition recently at the Museum and Art Gallery Exhibition Hall of Golpark Ramakrishna Mission. Not just paintings, there were sculptures and graphics, highlighting different facets of this great woman and also the power of womanhood, that Sister Nivedita struggled to establish in the Indian society all her life, from opening schools for girls to opposing the inhuman torture that widows faced in those days. Her portraits have found different expressions on the canvases of different artists from Subrata Gangopadhyay, Nirmalendu Mondal, Gita Bhattacharya to Rekha Acharya. While, the various phases of her life, from childhood to her dedicated work in a plague torn city and finally her refuge in the hills have been brought to life through pencil sketches of Amal Nath Chakladar. A glass fibre statue of Sister Nivedita by Anit Ghosh, ex-teacher of Government Art College and the bronze bust of ‘Holy Mother’ Maa Sarada by Sandip Kumar Chakraborty of Rabindra Bharati University, worth mention.

 

A walk down the quiet gallery, following various artistic expressions of the strength of a woman, opened up a new dimension. Thus, Sister Nivedita --- The Offered One, was truly a remarkable tribute to a woman who played a pivotal role in the upliftment of the Indian society.