Sarala (Ghoshal Devi Chowdhurani, 1872-1945)
Niece of Rabindranath Tagore, daughter of Swarna Kumari Devi and Janakinath Ghoshal. Ranked first among the women graduates from Bethune College, Calcutta, awarded the Padmavati medal. Distinguished herself as the editor of the Bharati (1302-4, 130614, 1331-33). Chances of her joining forces with Swamiji in his work upon his return from America (1897) did not materialize despite the efforts of Sister Nivedita. In her autobiography Jibaner Jharapata (Calcutta, 1958) refers to her association with Swamiji, which he too mentions in his letters, and his influence on her. Though she did not accept Swamiji’s programme, a revolutionary vehemence marked her subsequent activities.
In 1902 she introduced the “Virashtami Vrata” for Bengali youths, followed by “Pratapaditya Utsav” and “Udayaditya Utsav”. Having married the Arya Samaj Pandit Rambhuj Datta Chowdhury of Punjab (1905), she adopted Punjab as the field of her work. The “Bharat Stri Mahamandal” organized under her leadership (1912) instituted a movement advocating the introduction of women’s education throughout the country that had far-reaching consequence. Rambhuj was sentenced to deportation (1918) as an activist in the movement protesting the imposition of military rule in Punjab and died in prison. Sarala Devi, who had been in sole charge of editing some Bengali, Urdu and English journals prior to the Pandit’s demise, moved to Calcutta and was elected President of the Bharatiya Samvadpatrasebi Sangha (Journalists’ Association, 1926).
Composed some patriotic songs. Acknowledging the subtle influence of Vivekananda at the root of all her activities, she wrote in her autobiography, “… a dynamic personality—Swami Vivekananda. He is dynamic who possesses the attributes of gunpowder, that forceful energy, that tremendous power to build or destroy. A spark from that fire ignited me, was demolishing and remoulding me. My spiritual quest was leading me far from the familiar track of the Brahmo faith of my childhood” (p. 166).
Accepting Srimat Vijaykrishna Dev Sharma of Howrah as her guru, devoted the last ten years of her life to spiritual reflections under his guidance.