Wednesday 20 June 2018

Sister Nivedita’s Battle for Indian Ideals in America - 1

यतो धर्म: ततो जय:

We got there at 8 [o'clock].' Nivedita wrote, 'Time and place were alike delightful. Overhead the stars, and around—the rolling Ganges; and on one side stood the dimly lighted building; with its background of palms and loft y shade-trees.'2 Nivedita, arriving by boat, waited at the landing. She wrote: 'Th e King [Swami Vivekananda] had been sitting beside the fi re under the tree ... and he came to me there, as I felt that it was a little late for a lady to visit monks.'3 Sister Nivedita had gone to the Belur Math to interview Swamiji for Prabuddha Bharata. During the interview, she brought up the subject of her girls' school: 'and it's really to be a monastic order and not a series of concessions to the feeble-hearted,' he said (ibid.). She had made a brief attempt to open her school in Calcutta but could not continue it for lack of funds. Now she was determined to make an attempt to earn money to reopen it by lecturing in the West.

Nivedita later explained to someone who interviewed her: 'My object is to educate the Hindu girl as the English and American girl is being educated, without any impertinent interference with her religious beliefs or social customs. We make a serious mistake in such interference. The Hindoos are far in advance of us in social problems. As a people they are on a much higher level intellectually and spiritually.'

Margaret Noble, to whom Swamiji fittingly gave the name Nivedita, the dedicated, in her efforts to raise funds for her educational project, was to fight a hard battle for the reputation of India in the West. Nivedita's heroic deeds in India are known: a project for the national education of the future of a whole race of women, instilling hands on help to Indian geniuses in every field, in politics, in science, literature, and in art. But what is equally amazing is the zeal with which she counterattacked the fallen image of India in the West made there by Christian Missionaries and Pandita Ramabai a generation earlier.

Nivedita lectured in America for eight months from November 1899 to June 1900. Soon Nivedita found she had a message for the West, just as Swamiji found when he arrived in the West, with a similar purpose of raising funds for his projects in India. But in trying to follow his footsteps, Nivedita found at first, that some people resented her. She found her own message only after a bitter struggle. In India her lectures had been successful. Indians were eager to hear from an eloquent English disciple of Swamiji, re-inforcing their appreciation of their own culture. In America, however, although she began to lecture where Swamiji did, and staying among his friends, thinking the audiences would have been prepared for her, she often found antagonism. It was one thing to hear defences 'of India from an Indian, but what authority did this foreign lady have?

To be continued...........

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