Final touches to restore Sister Nivedita’s house

Sister Nivedita’s house at 16, Bosepara Lane, in Kolkata. — Photo: Ashoke Chakrabarty

Sister Nivedita’s house at 16, Bosepara Lane, in Kolkata. — Photo: Ashoke Chakrabarty  

On November 13, 1898, a modest house in north Kolkata at 16, Bosepara Lane, witnessed the opening of a school for women by Margaret Elizabeth Noble. The school was to provide education according to Indian thought. Among those present on the occasion were Sarada Maa and Swami Vivekananda.

To the local residents the school was known as Nivedita’s School as Margaret Elizabeth Noble would be later referred as Sister Nivedita, one of the prominent disciples of Swami Vivekananda. The house on a five-cottah plot (one cottah is about 720 sq. ft) would see a number of historical events in the coming years.

“The very next year in January 1899 a gathering over tea was organised at this house on the suggestion of Swami Vivekananda and among those present was Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. This incident has been referred in a letter written by Sister Nivedita to Josephine Macleod, an American devotee of Swami Vivekananda,” Pravrajika Asheshprana, spokesperson of Sri Sarada Math and Ramakrishna Sarada Mission told The Hindu.

This year on October 28, on the 150th birth anniversary of Sister Nivedita, visitors can take a tour of the house. The street on which it stands has been named Maa Sarada Moni Sarani. Restoration of the house, which was built somewhere between 1845 and 1848, started in 2013. A bulk of the restoration is complete.

The house was in a dilapidated condition, with the roof and walls in a very bad condition, said Mihir Kanti Sarkar, Deputy Superintending Archaeological Engineer of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

No concrete was used to restore the heritage building; instead lime and surki were used. Funds of about Rs. 1.35 crore has been allocated by the Ministry of Culture, government of India, for the project.

In 2013, the West Bengal government under Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced that the Grade A heritage building in Kolkata’s Baghbazar area would be acquired at any cost from the owners.

After the restoration process is complete, there are plans to set up a museum and an archive to preserve Sister Nivedita’s belongings and historic documents, particularly her letters.

Research centre

The mission is also working on setting up a research Centre to study Sister Nivedita’s contribution to Indian art, science, literature and education.

Pravrajika Asheshprana recalled how Sister Nivedita would personally ensure that any young woman who dropped out of education always came back.

Born in 1867 in Ireland, Sister Nivedita met Swami Vivekananda in 1895 in England and became his disciple. She made significant contributions to India’s freedom movement.

Sister Nivedita passed away on October 13, 1911, at a house in Darjeeling at the age of 44. The Darjeeling house has been handed over to the Ramakrishna Mission by the State government.

“When we consider Sister Nivedita’s role in the Nationalist movement in India what is commonly forgotten is her major contribution to it in the cultural and intellectual domain,” historian Sabyasachi Bhattacharya told The Hindu. He said that Sister Nivedita discovered the “significance of the Bengal School of painters, she recognised the nation building role of paintings by Abanindranath Tagore — including the famous portrait of Bharat Mata.”

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 6:52:16 PM |

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