Quote of the Day: Sister Nivedita on Nationalism & Service

“A single generation enamoured of foreign ways is almost enough in history to risk the whole continuity of civilization and learning.”

Sister Nivedita, Myths of the Hindus & Buddhists

Origin of the Quote

The quote is from the book Myths of the Hindus & Buddhists by Sister Nivedita and Ananda K Coomaraswamy. They included some myths and stories from ancient Hindu and Buddhist literature. It also included several illustrations which were created under the supervision of Abanindranath Tagore. Tagore himself drew some of the pictures in the book

The Person Behind the Words

Sister Nivedita was born Margaret Noble in 1867. Her chance meeting with Vivekananda on his visit to England in 1895 changed her life. Drawn to the universal principles of Vedanta and to Vivekananda’s humanistic teachings Margaret was altered. Accepting him as her guru (spiritual teacher) before he left England in 1896, she worked for the Vedanta movement in England till her visit to India in 1898.

Her level of devotion compelled Vivekananda to give her the name Nivedita (“Dedicated One”). She went to India primarily to help Vivekananda realize his plans to educate women.   She opened a small school at Calcutta (now Kolkata) in Bengal. Here she tried to blend Indian traditions with Western ideas. The school closed in 1899 reopened 1902. The following year she added courses to train young women in arts and crafts in addition to basic academic subjects. This was owing to the funds she had raised. On her travels, she had raised funds.

After the death of her mentor Vivekananda in 1902, Nivedita turned her attention more toward India’s political emancipation. She objected to the partition of Bengal in 1905. Furthermore, as a part of her deep involvement in the revival of Indian art, she supported the swadeshi movement. The boycotting of imported British goods in favour of domestically produced handmade goods was a priority. This is particularly reflected in the quote.

Sister Nivedita continued to give lectures in India and overseas, promoting Indian arts and the education of Indian women.

Some Final Thought

Nivedita’s tireless activity and austere lifestyle finally caught up with her. The disregard for her own welfare eventually caused her health to fail, and she died at the age of 44. During her close contact with the Indian people, they came to love their “sister” with devoted admiration bordering on veneration.


Check out our Quote of the Day archive where we bring you quotes hand picked by me, Divvya Nirula. Sharing the stories, people, moments behind the inspiration and thought provoking words.