Saturday 7 July 2018

Breakfast with the Sisters: A Meeting of Great Minds - 5

यतो धर्म: ततो जय:

Another aspect of her interest in Indian nationalism was in the field of Indian art. Here she had wonderful allies in E B Havell, Ananda Coomaraswamy, as also Abanindranath Tagore and his students, such as Nandalal Bose and Asit Haldar. E B Havell had been superintendent of the Madras School of Art and also Keeper of the Government Art Gallery in Calcutta from 1896 to 1906, but Nivedita met him later when she was in England. Ananda Coomaraswamy, however, was now and then a visitor at The House of the Sisters, including at least once for breakfast (2.1140). According to Barbara Foxe, 'Havell, Nivedita and Coomaraswamy attacked, in print, constantly and often under much criticism, the theory which Vivekananda also had attacked; the view that Indian art was derivative, having its roots in Greek art.'

In a letter dated 7 April 10 to Mr Havell, Nivedita wrote: 'We were all delighted with your splendid fight—especially when the manifesto sent to the "Times" finally arrived. You are doing wonders for Indian Art—and I now see how even your resignation of the work here [in India], can be made to serve the great cause.

Regarding Tagore: 'Abanindranath Tagore, the vice-principal of the Calcutta Art School, was still enthusiastic about European ideas, until he met Nivedita. But she changed his views, and before long he introduced a new school of art, known as the Calcutta school.' Some of Tagore's students, such as Nandalal Bose and Asit Haldar, were very devoted to Nivedita.

Once, without even informing or asking them beforehand, she bought train tickets and sent both of these young men to Ajanta to study and copy the paintings there. And they did not mind.

According to a letter of Nivedita to the Ratcliffes, dated 23 February 1910, the young men's visit to Ajanta drew suspicion from the police, as any unusual movements by Indian young men did in those days. As she wrote: 'Nanda Lal Bose and another artist, returning with her [Mrs Herringham] from Ajanta have been forcibly detained, and only allowed to proceed home on telegrams from Woodroffe and Blount. No reasons given—but easy enough to imagine!' The irony is that Sir John Woodroffe was one of those who vehemently opposed the ideas of Nivedita, Coomaraswamy, and Nandalal's teacher, Tagore.

Pravrajika Shuddhatmaprana :  Pravrajika Shuddhatmaprana is a senior Sanyasini of the Sri Sarada Math and Ramakrishna Sarada Mission.

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