A gift of friendship from the people of India to Dungannon, commemorating one of the town’s most famous women, has been unveiled by holymen and politicians from the subcontinent.
The terracotta statue, honouring Sister Nivedita - born Margaret Noble in Dungannon in 1867 - was unveiled on August 15 to celebrate Indian Independence Day at the Ranfurly House Arts & Visitor Centre.
Sister Nivedita has been credited with helping to shape the modern Indian nation.
A pioneering humanitarian, Noble was born in the town in 1867 and became Sister Nivedita, one of the most revered women in Indian history. Numerous educational establishments, including six universities, have been named after her in Calcutta.
Fine art sculptor Marty Cullen, who is forging cultural links with Calcutta, said the statue was a great honour for the people of Dungannon.
“Margaret Noble was one of our forgotten heroines, but in India she is revered at the highest level, and was credited as influencing Ghandi”, he said.
“She played a pivotal role in developing India’s culture and educational system, and Dungannon should be proud of her achievements.”
Welcoming the Indian visitors to Dungannon, Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Trevor Wilson said, “The unveiling of this sculpture forms a formal link between Sister Nivedita’s birthplace here in Dungannon and her workplace in Kolkata, India. To this day, she remains a well-respected figure through her long lasting work in education and establishing numerous schools, colleges and academies. She had a particular passion for art, so it is fitting that this celebration takes place in our Arts & Visitor Centre in Dungannon.
“The day is significant as it begins the start of celebrations of Sister Nivedita’s 150th birth anniversary and opens a new chapter of Indo-Irish friendship and collaborations for the future.”
A number of dignitaries from India attended the celebration including Swami Sarvalokananda, Principal Monk of Khar Ramakrishna Mission, India and Swami Purnanandaji, spiritual director of Eire Vedanta Society. Also in attendance was Mr. Mrinal Chowdhury, former Mayor of Harrow, London.
The terracotta sculpture was donated by Halo Heritage, an Indian Art and Heritage research organisation to Sister Nivedita’s grand-niece, Mrs Selenda Girardine during her visit to India in 2015. Mrs Girardine, decided to donate the statue to Dungannon, Sister Nivedita’s birth place.
The unveiling ceremony was followed by speeches from dignitaries on Sister Nivedita’s contributions to the Indian freedom movement and her relevance to younger generations.
Indian dance performances and group songs were presented during the ceremony.