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Irishwoman Margaret Noble Celebrated in New Documentary about her Life

20 July 2017 - A recent event held at the Trinity Long Room Hub celebrated the 150th anniversary of the birth of Dungannon native Margaret Noble, who remains virtually unknown in Ireland but is celebrated in India as an inspirational figure who was involved in women’s education, in the scientific and cultural life of India, and as an active voice in India’s struggle for independence. In a recent visit to Ireland, India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, referenced Margaret Noble as a strong link between the two countries.

Margaret Noble Celebration

The anniversary event was attended by the Ambassador of India to Ireland, Mrs Vijay Thakur Singh, who spoke of the shared spiritual traditions between Ireland and India.

A new documentary on Margaret Noble’s life, with contributions from several Trinity academics and produced by Prof. Siddhartha Sen and Malay Bose, was screened at the event. The documentary explored Noble’s work as a teacher, an author, a political activist, and a disciple of Swami Vivekananda.

Having moved from Dungannon to England in her early life, Noble qualified as a teacher at Halifax College, and in 1885 established a school in Wimbledon based on the then revolutionary educational philosophies of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and Friedrich Froebel. Noble travelled to India in 1898 to join the newly formed Ramakrishna Math and Mission (RKM); she was given the name Sister Nivedita. Her goal was to further women’s education in India in a way which foregrounded and respected her students’ own culture. Noble admired Ramakrishna’s emphasis on inclusivity, asserting that “his doctrine that ‘different creeds are but different paths to reach God,’ was not new in India. But taught as this man taught it, with his strong contention that it was the actual duty of men to follow their own faith, for the world gained by having many centers […] it was unique in the world’s history.”

The celebration of Noble’s anniversary at Trinity also provided an opportunity to welcome Swami Suhitananda to Ireland. Swami Suhitananda, Vice-President of Ramakrishna Math and Mission, spoke on Vedanta. Vedanta philosophy is based on the Upanishads, the final parts of the Vedas. There is a long history of interest in the philosophy of Vedanta in Ireland and W.B. Yeats is known to have translated ten of the principle works on Vedanta from Sanskrit to English with the help of Shree Purohit Swami in 1937.

Margaret Noble died in Darjeeling in 1911 at the age of forty three but her legacy lives on, not only in the school she founded but beyond it: The government of India celebrated her with a commemorative stamp in 1967; in 2007, the Nivedita Setu bridge in Kolkata was named for her; and plans are underway for the conversion of the house where she lived into a museum. Scholarly works on Noble are also emergent, including the recent publication of a four volume biography in Bengali.

 

 


Contact: Aoife King, Communications Officer | Trinity Long Room Hub | aoife.king@tcd.ie | 01 896 3895

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