Memorial where Sister Nivedita was laid to rest, in utter shambles in Darjeeling
While the world wide celebrations of 150th birth anniversary of Sister Nivedita commenced on Saturday, Darjeeling remembered the noble soul in her own quiet and humble way.
Devotees of the Ramakrishna Mission had gathered at Sister Nivedita's memorial at the Darjeeling crematorium where they offered floral tributes and Khadas (traditional scarves.)
The memorial erected in 1925 is in utter shambles with weeds and undergrowth having taken over. Along with Sister Nivedita's memorial, memorials of other greats including Maha Pundit Rahul Sankrityayan are in dire straits owing to lack of maintenance.
Neither the Government nor the Darjeeling Municipality, in charge of the crematorium, have taken any steps to preserve these historical structures.
"We have requested the Government and the Municipality for the upkeep and preservation of these memorials. It would be a matter of great shame if these memorials are destroyed with time owing to lack of upkeep. With these memorials a rich part of our heritage and history will also be lost forever" stated Swami Nityasatyananda, Centre-in-charge of the Ramakrishna Mission Nivedita Educational and Cultural Centre (RKMNECC.)
The day was also commemorated at the RKMNECC where children of the Gadadhar Abhyudaya Prakalpa staged cultural programmes. People from all walks of life paid tribute to the Sister at the Centre.
Margaret Elizabeth Noble was born on 28 October 1867 in the town of Dungannon, Ireland. In November 1895 she met Swami Vivekananda who was then visiting London. Inspired by Swami Vivekananda she arrived at Kolkata on 28 January 1898. On 25 March 1898, Swami Vivekananda formally initiated Margaret in the vow of Brahmacharya (lifelong celibacy) and gave her the name of "Nivedita" (the dedicated one) becoming the first Western woman to be received into an Indian monastic fold.
The Queen of the Hills had occupied an important part in Sister Nivedita's life. During her lifetime she had visited Darjeeling 7 times and even died in Darjeeling.
She had arrived in the first week of October in 1905 and was putting up at Auckland Cottage in Darjeeling. She was in Darjeeling for exactly a month during that visit.
October 16 that year was marked as a black day. Shunning the partition and declaring that Hindus and Muslims along with East and West Bengal are one and inseparable, Sister Nivedita, though ailing, had gone around Darjeeling, educating the masses against the evils of partition. She had also generated a public referendum against this "evil design."
Again in October 1911, an ailing Sister Nivedita accompanied by Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose and his wife Abala Bose had arrived at the Roy Villa on Lebong Cart Road, Darjeeling to spend the puja vacation. Many eminent personalities had visited her at the Villa at that time.
On October 7, on Nivedita's instruction her "Will" was drawn up from this house. On 13th October, 1911 Friday at 7 am, she had uttered the words- "The boat is sinking. But I shall see the sunrise." With these words she passed away in this house. The Roy Villa now houses the Ramakrishna Mission Nivedita Educational and Cultural Centre.
Sister Nivedita's last rites were performed in the Hindu crematorium in Darjeeling. Later a "Smriti Mandir" (memorial) was constructed by Swami Abhedananda at Darjeeling crematorium where she was cremated.
Swami Abhedananda, Founder of the Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, writes "I returned to India after having completed my task in the USA in 1925. On return I started an Ashrama in Darjeeling. At that time I felt that though it was in Darjeeling that Miss Noble had been cremated neither the Ramakrishna Mission nor the local residents had thought of erecting a memorial in her honour here. I was deeply saddened by the apathy towards one who had sacrificed herself for India. I then on behalf of Ramakrishna Vedanta Math erected a Smriti Mandir. In the epitaph I wrote "Here repose the ashes of Sister Nivedita, who gave her all to India" Isn't this her true identity?"