Tuesday 20 March 2018

Sister Nivedita: The Dedicated - Who gave her all to India – 40

यतो धर्म: ततो जय:

Nivedita as an Educationalist - 3

Sri Rabindranath Tagore had asked Nivedita to take charge of his younger daughter's education to teach English. Rabindranath felt that being a well-educated English lady, Nivedita was eminently suited to teach his daughter through the English medium, following the existing standards. But Nivedita said to him, 'What is the good in imposing foreign ideals and standards? I think the proper education is to draw out that which lies latent as one's individual potentiality, as also the national skill.' So she did not agree, because she had not come to this land to teach Indian women the English language and culture. Her field of activity was completely different.

Nivedita tried to imprint nationalist ideas in the minds of her girl students through all their activities and behavior including language, dress, education, music, and everything. She introduced everyday singing of the song Vande Mataram in her school in those days when singing of Vande Mataram was frowned upon by British rulers or in some cases was a straight road to jail. Any national object, no matter how insignificant it might be, was dear to her like a worshipped deity. She tried to infuse this reverence into her students also so that they could view any national object in such depth.

When the British Government set some freedom fighters free from the Andaman jails, Nivedita declared a school holiday to commemorate the event and decorated her school premises, placing mangal ghats (earthen pitchers with swastika inscribed on their bodies, symbolic of beneficence) supported by plantain saplings at the entrance. How emotional the scene must have been. It was an opportunity to make students internalize the sufferings of those freedom fighters and also the joy of having them back in the society.

Even in those days when taking girls for outdoor activities were not allowed, she would strive to give them the exposure of the national happenings. In order to hear the lectures of Surendra Nath Banerjee, she used to take the senior girl students in a carriage to the Brahmo School. Surendra Nath gave lectures on nationalist issues in a park and the students heard him standing on the verandah of the Brahmo School situated adjacent to it.
The visit of notable persons also was an occasion to celebrate. One day Amala Bose, wife of Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose, came to her school. Nivedita became very happy and made her students sing the song 'Banga Amar Janani Amar' (My Bengal, My Mother). When the girls were singing, her delight knew no bounds, tears of joy rolled down her cheeks.

To be continued...

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