These noble women were sick of the material west and found in India and in its civilization, solace for their cramped souls.
First of all we will take up those who were influenced by the great men of India like Swami Vivekananda, Aurobindo Ghosh, Mahatma Gandhi, and came to this country to serve it.
‘Here reposes Sister Nivedita who gave her all to India’
- Epitaph on her Samadhi.
Sister Nivedita was one among the host of foreign women who were attracted towards Swami Vivekananda and Hindu philosophy. Born in Ireland on 28 October 1867, she arrived in India in January, 1898, in search of truth. She was impressed by the ideals of Womanhood in India. She once remarked that India was the land of great women. She, however, felt that Indian women needed, to cultivate among themselves a wider and broader concept of the nation, so that they could participate along with men in building a free and strong nation.
On the death of her spiritual Master, Swami Vivekananda, she freed herself from the obligations of the Monastic Order, spoke and wrote against the British policy in India. She attacked Lord Curzon for the Universities Act of 1904 and partition of Bengal in 1905. She held the British responsible for disastrous state of Indian economy; she attended the Benares Congress in 1905 and supported the Swadeshi Movement. She helped Nationalist groups like the Dawn Society and the Anusilan Samiti. She was a member of the Central Council of Action formed by Aurobindo Ghosh and took up the editorship of the Karmayogin when he left for Pondicherry.
She propagated for the cause of India throughout America and Europe. Swami Vivekananda described her as a real Lioness. Rabindranath Tagore regarded her as Lok-Mata and Aurobindo Ghosh as Agni-sikha.
Mira Alphonse, the Mother, was born in Paris in 1978. She had shown depth of vision and fragrance of expression even in her early childhood. She came to India in 1914 and met Shri Aurobindo. She was associated with the work of Shri Aurobindo when he started a philosophical monthly named Arya on August 15, 1914, to express his vision of man and his divine destiny.
She took charge of Ashram in Pondicherry in 1926. She was the inspirer of Auroville, the international town near Pondicherry. It was to serve as a meeting place for the followers of Shri Aurobindo.
Paying her tribute to the Mother at a women’s gathering in Kanpur the late Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi said: “The Mother was a dynamic lady, who came from France and adopted the Indian culture. She played an important role in motivating women like Mrs. Annie Besant and Mrs. Nellie Sen Gupta, The Mother had also contributed to enrich India’s age-old heritage and culture”.
Mira Behn, or Mira as she was most often called was the western world’s acknowledgement of guilt and the will to atone for it. This was not at all in her won consciousness, but in that which put her forth. Gandhi did not evoke her. The most he did was to tell her she could come if she wished. She came as a daughter not only of the western mind but, specifically, of that class which had made and governed the British empire in India. Her father had been the naval commander-in-chief there.
This is how Madeleine Slade brought up in affluent environment of a proud aristocracy came to serve the cause of India’s freedom by identifying herself completely with the life and work of Gandhi, who promised to Romain Rolland that he would leave no stone unturned, to assist her to become a bridge between the East and the West.
Daughter of a British Admiral Madeleine Slade renounced the life of luxury and worked in the service of India. She accompanied Gandhi to England in 1931 and undertook a tour of America and Britain in 1934 to enlist sympathy for the Indian cause. She suffered imprisonment in 1932-33 and 1942-44 for the cause of India’s Independence.
Dr. Annie Besant
Dr. Annie Besant, along with Charles Braudlaugh, it is said, did more than anyone had done in a hundred years to break down the barriers of bigotry and prejudice, who won the greatest victories of their times for the freedom of speech and liberty of the press which Britain enjoys today.
A strong votary of truth, she came to India in 1893 at the age of 46, impressed as she was by its great religion and philosophy. On arrival, she found that the state of things in India were bad, and that the Indians had almost lost their moorings. Through her lectures, she tried to awaken them to their lost heritage by dedicating herself to the cause of religion, society and education of India. In doing so, she was watchful that Indian revival must be through Indian traditions and customs and not through any of the European concepts. As early as 1898 and later in 1902 she urged Indians to were native dress, use and develop Indian manufacturers and also develop a national language.
Dr. Annie Besant entered active politics in 1914. She demanded Home Rule for India and suffered internment for it from June to September 1917. By then she had tried and achieved unification of the Congress and Hindus and Muslims in 1916. She had done ample work to formulate favourable opinion about the Indian question in outside world. The August declaration of 1917 is attributed to her efforts.
She fittingly became the president of Indian National Congress in 1917. Tilak declared that if we were nearer our goals, it was due to Dr. Annie Besant’s sincere efforts. Gokhale considered her a true daughter of Mother India. Subash considered her a doughty fighter for Indian freedom. Jawaharlal Nehru said that in India, her memory would endure, especially for the part she played in our freedom struggle in the dark days of the Great War and afterwards. Sarojini Naidu, had this to say.
“Had it not been for her and her enthusiasm, one could not have seen Mr. Gandhi leading the cause of Indian freedom today. It was Mrs. Besant who laid the foundation of modern India – Dr. Besant was a combination of Parvati, Lakshmi and Saraswati.”