Sarojini Naidu was an Indian independence activist, poet and politician. This biography traces her childhood, life, and achievements.
Born: 13 February, 1879
Place of Birth: Hyderabad
Parents: Aghore Nath Chattopadhyay (father) and Barada Sundari Devi (mother)
Spouse: Govindarajulu Naidu
Children: Jayasurya, Padmaja, Randheer, and Leilamani.
Education: University of Madras; King's College, London; Girton College, Cambridge
Associations: Indian National Congress
Movements: Indian Nationalist Movement, Indian Independence Movement
Political Ideology: Right-winged; Non-violence.
Religious Beliefs: Hinduism
Publications: The Golden Threshold (1905); The Bird of Time (1912); Muhammad Jinnah: An Ambassador of Unity. (1916); The Broken Wing (1917); The Sceptred Flute (1928); The Feather of the Dawn (1961)
Passed Away: 2 March, 1949
Memorial: Golden Threshold, Sarojini Naidu School of Arts & Communication, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, India
Image Credit: indiatoday.in
Sarojini Naidu was an Indian independence activist, poet and politician. A renowned orator and accomplished poet, she is often known by the moniker ‘The Nightingale of India’. As a prodigious child, Naidu wrote the play "Maher Muneer", which earned her a scholarship to study abroad. She became the second woman president of the Indian National Congress. She was the first woman Governor of an Indian state after independence. Her collection of poems earned her literary acclaim. In 1905, she published her first book, a collection of poems, under the title of "Golden Threshold". A contemporary poet, Bappaditya Bandopadhyay quoted "Sarojini Naidu inspired the Indian renaissance movement and had a mission to improve the life of Indian woman.”
Childhood and Early Life
Sarojini Naidu (née Chattopadhyay) was born on February 13, 1879 in Hyderabad. Her father, Dr. Aghore Nath Chattopadhyay was a scientist, philosopher, and educator. He founded the Nizam College of Hyderabad. Her mother, Varada Sundari Devi was a poetess in the Bengali language. Dr. Aghore Nath Chattopadhyay was the first member of the Indian National Congress in Hyderabad. For his socio-political activities, Aghore Nath was dismissed from his position of Principal. One of his brothers, Virendranath Chattopadhyay, played key role in establishing the Berlin Committee. As a political activist involved in India’s on-going struggle for self-rule, he was heavily influenced by Communism. Her second brother Harindranath Chattopadhyay was a renowned poet and a successful playwright. Her sister, Sunalini Devi was a dancer and actress
Since childhood, Sarojini was a very bright and intelligent child. She was proficient in multiple languages including English, Bengali, Urdu, Telugu and Persian. She topped her matriculation exams from Madras University. Her father wanted Sarojini to become a mathematician or scientist, but young Sarojini was attracted to poetry.
She applied her prodigious literary skills to write a 1300 lines long poem in English titled ‘The Lady of the Lake’. Impressed with Sarojini’s skills of expressing emotions with appropriate words, Dr. Chattopadhyaya encouraged her works. Few months later, Sarojini, with assistance from her father, wrote the play "Maher Muneer" in the Persian language.
Sarojini's father distributed some copies of the play among his friends and relatives. He also sent a copy to the Nizam of Hyderabad. Impressed with the works of the little child, the Nizam granted her a scholarship to study overseas. At the age of 16, she got admission in the King's College, England and later joined Girton College in Cambridge. There, she had the opportunity to meet prominent English authors like Arthur Simon and Edmond Gausse who inspired her to write on themes relevant to India. They advised Sarojini "To be a genuine Indian poet of Deccan, not a clever machine-made imitator of the English classics" which led her to seek inspiration from India’s natural beauty, religious pluralism and the essence of the country’s social milieu.
Sarojini met Muthyala Govindarajulu Naidu, a South Indian, and a non-Brahmin physician while she was studying in England and fell in love. After returning to India, she married him at the age of 19, with his family’s blessings. They were married by the Brahmo Marriage Act (1872), in Madras in 1898. The marriage took place at a time when inter-caste marriages were not allowed and tolerated in the Indian society. Her marriage was a very happy one. They had four children.
Image Credit: thefamouspeople.com
Role in the Indian National Movement
Sarojini was initiated into the Indian political arena by iconic stalwarts of the Indian freedom struggle, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Gandhi. She was deeply affected by the partition of Bengal in 1905 and decided to join the Indian freedom struggle. She met regularly with Gopal Krishna Gokhale, who in turn introduced her to the otherleaders of the Indian freedom movement. Gokhale urged her to devote her intellect and education for the cause. She took a respite from writing and devoted herself fully to the political cause. She met Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, C. P. Ramaswami Iyer and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Her relationship with Gandhi was that of mutual respect as well as of benign humour. She famously called Gandhi ‘Mickey Mouse’ and quipped "It costs a lot to keep Gandhi poor!”
She met Jawaharlal Nehru in 1916, worked with him for the disheartening conditions of the Indigo workers of Champaran in the western district of Bihar and fought vehemently with the British for their rights. Sarojini Naidu travelled all over India and delivered speeches on welfare of youth, dignity of labor, women's emancipation and nationalism. In 1917, she helped found the Women’s India Association with Annie Besant and other prominent leaders. She also presented to Congress the need to involve more women in the freedom struggle. She travelled extensively to the United States of America and many European countries as the flag-bearer of the Indian Nationalist struggle.
In March 1919, the British government passed the Rowlatt Act by which the possession of seditious documents was deemed illegal. Mahatma Gandhi organized the Non-Cooperation Movement to protest and Naidu was the first to join the movement. Sarojini Naidu religiously followed Gandhi’s example and actively supported his other campaigns like the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms, the Khilafat issue, the Sabarmati Pact, the Satyagraha Pledge and the Civil Disobedience Movement. When Gandhi was arrested after the Salt March to Dandi in 1930, she led the Dharasana Satyagraha with other leaders. She accompanied Gandhi to London to take part in the Round Table Talks with the British Government in 1931. Her political activities and role in the Freedom struggle led to several stints in prison – in 1930, 1932, and 1942. Her 1942 arrest led to imprisonment for 21 months.
She went to England in 1919 as a member of the All-India Home Rule Deputation. In January 1924, she was one of the two delegates of the Indian National Congress to attend the East African Indian Congress. As a result of her selfless contribution to the cause of freedom, she was elected as the President of the Indian National Congress Party in 1925.
Naidu played an immense role in presenting the nuances of the Indian non-violent struggle for freedom to the world. She travelled to Europe and even to the United states to disseminate Gandhian principles and was partly responsible for establishing him as this icon of peace.
After the independence of India, she became the first governor of the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh) and remained in the role till her death in 1949. Her birthday, March 2, is honoured as Women's Day in India.
Image Credit: http://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/images/sarojini-naidu-9.jpg
Besides her role and contribution to the Indian Nationalist Movement, Sarojini Naidu is also revered for her contribution in the field of Indian poetry. Many of her works were transformed into songs. She drew her inspiration from nature as well as surrounding daily life and her poetry echoed with the ethos of her patriotism. In 1905, her collection of poems was published under the title "Golden Threshold". Later, she also published two other collections called "The Bird of Time", and "The Broken Wings", both of which attracted huge readership in both India and England. Apart from poetry, she also penned articles and essays like ‘Words of Freedom’ on her political beliefs and social issues like women empowerment.
Death & Legacy
Sarojini Naidu was the first women Governor of Uttar Pradesh. On 2nd March 1949, Sarojini Naidu died at Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. She lived her glorious life by her own words, “As long as I have life, as long as blood flows through this arm of mine, I shall not leave the cause of freedom…I am only a woman, only a poet. But as a woman, I give to you the weapons of faith and courage and the shield of fortitude. And as a poet, I fling out the banner of song and sound, the bugle call to battle. How shall I kindle the flame which shall waken you men from slavery...” Her childhood residence at Nampally was bequeathed to the University of Hyderabad by her family and it was christened as ‘The Golden Threshold’ after Naidu’s 1905 publication. The University renamed its School of Fine Arts and Communication as ‘Sarojini Naidu School of Arts and Communication’ to honour the Nightingale of India.
|1st Governor of United Provinces|
15 August 1947 – 2 March 1949
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Hormasji Peroshaw Mody|
(1879-02-13)13 February 1879
Hyderabad, Hyderabad State, British India
(now in Telangana, India)
|Died||2 March 1949(1949-03-02) (aged 70)|
Lucknow, United Provinces, India
|Political party||Indian National Congress|
|Spouse(s)||Govindarajulu Naidu (1898–1949)|
|Children||5; including Padmaja|
|Relatives||Harindranath Chattopadhyay, Virendranath Chattopadhyay, Suhasini Chattopadhyay, Leela Naidu|
|Alma mater||University of Madras|
King's College London
Girton College, Cambridge
|Occupation||Political activist, poet-writer|
Sarojini Naidu; néeChattopadhyay, (13 February 1879 – 2 March 1949) was a freedom fighter and poet of modern India. She was born in a BengaliHindu family at Hyderabad and was educated in Chennai, London and Cambridge. She married Dr. Govindarajulu Naidu and settled down in Hyderabad. She took part in the National Movement, became a follower of Gandhiji (Mahatma Gandhi) and fought for the attainment of Swaraj. She became the President of Indian National Congress and later she was appointed the Governor of the United Provinces, now Uttar Pradesh. Known as the 'Nightingale of India', she was also a noted poet. Her poetry includes children's poems, nature poems, patriotic poems and poems of love and death.
Early life and family
Sarojini was born in a BengaliHindu family in Hyderabad to Aghorenath Chattopadhyay and Barada Sundari Devi Chattopadhyay on 13 February 1879. Her parental home was at Brahmangaon in Bikrampur (in present-day Bangladesh). Her father, Aghorenath Chattopadhyay, with a doctorate of Science from Edinburgh University, settled in Hyderabad, where administered Hyderabad college, which later became Nizam College in Hyderabad. Her mother, Barada Sundari Devi Chattopadhyay, was a poet and used to write poetry in Bengali.
She was the eldest of the eight siblings. Her brother Virendranath Chattopadhyaya was a revolutionary and her other brother, Harindranath was a poet, a dramatist, and an actor.
Sarojini Naidu, having passed her matriculation examination from the University of Madras, took a four-year break from her studies. In 1895, the Nizam Scholarship Trust founded by the 6th Nizam, Mir Mahbub Ali Khan, gave her the chance to study in England, first at King's College London and later at Girton College, Cambridge.
Sarojini met Paidipati Govindarajulu Naidu, a physician, and at the age of 19, after finishing her studies, she married him. At that time, Inter-caste marriages were not as common as they are today, but both their families approved their marriage. The couple had five children. Their daughter Paidipati Padmaja also joined the independence movement, and was part of the Quit India Movement. She was appointed the Governor of the State of West Bengal soon after Indian independence.
Naidu joined the Indian national movements in the wake of partition of Bengal in 1905. She came in contact with Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Rabindranath Tagore, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Annie Besant, C. P. Ramaswami Iyer, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.
In 1915–18, she travelled to different regions in India delivering lectures on social welfare, women's empowerment and nationalism. She also helped to establish the Women's Indian Association (WIA) in 1917. She was sent to London along with Annie Besant, President of home rule league and Women's Indian Association, to present the case for the women's vote to the Joint Select Committee.
In April 1947 she was present at the Asian Relations Conference in Delhi where the Tibetan Government Representative, Sampho Theiji, said, "In a similar way we are very glad to meet representatives from all the Asian countries in this Conference and we wish to express our sincere gratitude to the great Indian leaders, Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, and to all the distinguished representatives who have gathered in this Conference."
In 1925, Naidu presided over the annual session of Indian National Congress at Cawnpore (now Kanpur).
In 1929, she presided over East African Indian Congress in South Africa. She was awarded the Kaisar-i-Hind Medal by the British government for her work during the plague epidemic in India.
In 1931, she participated in the round-table conference with Gandhi and Madan Mohan Malaviya.
She played a leading role in the Civil Disobedience Movement and was jailed along with Gandhi and other leaders. In 1942, she was arrested during period of the "Quit India"
Sarojini Naidu began writing at the age of twelve. Her Persian play, Maher Muneer, impressed the [Nawab of Hyderabad].
In 1905, her first collection of poems, named The Golden Threshold was published. The volume bore an introduction by Arthur Symons. Her poems were admired by prominent Indian politicians like Gopal Krishna Gokhale.
The Feather of The Dawn which contained poems written in 1927 by Naidu was edited and published posthumously in 1961 by her daughter Padmaja Naidu.
Death and legacy
Naidu died of cardiac arrest at 3:30 a.m. (IST) on 2 March 1949 at the Government House in Lucknow. Upon her return from New Delhi on 15 February, she was advised rest by her doctors, and all official engagements were cancelled. Her health deteriorated substantially and bloodletting was performed on the night of 1 March after she complained of severe headache. She died after collapsing following a fir of cough. Naidu was said to have asked the nurse attending to her to sing to her at about 10:40 p.m. (IST) which put her to sleep. The last rites were performed at the Gomati River.
Naidu is commemorated in the names of several institutions, including the Sarojini Naidu College for Women, Sarojini Naidu Medical College, Sarojini Devi Eye Hospital and Sarojini Naidu School of Arts and Communication, University of Hyderabad.
Aldous Huxley wrote "It has been our good fortune, while in Bombay, to meet Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, the newly elected President of the All-India Congress and a woman who combines in the most remarkable way great intellectual power with charm, sweetness with courageous energy, a wide culture with originality, and earnestness with humour. If all Indian politicians are like Mrs. Naidu, then the country is fortunate indeed."
Her 135th birth anniversary (2014) was marked by a Google Doodle on Google India's homepage.
Main article: Golden Threshold
The Golden Threshold is an off-campus annexe of University of Hyderabad. The building was the residence of Naidu's father Aghornath Chattopadhyay, the first Principal of Hyderabad College. It was named after Naidu's collection of poetry. Golden Threshold now houses Sarojini Naidu School of Arts & Communication of University of Hyderabad.
During the Chattopadhyay family's residence, it was the centre of many reformist ideas in Hyderabad, in areas ranging from marriage, education, women's empowerment, literature and nationalism.
Each year links to its corresponding "year in poetry" article:
- 1905: The Golden Threshold, published in the United Kingdom (text available online)
- 1912: The Bird of Time: Songs of Life, Death & the Spring, published in London
- 1917: The Broken Wing: Songs of Love, Death and the Spring, including "The Gift of India" (first read in public in 1915)
- 1916: Muhammad Jinnah: An Ambassador of Unity
- 1943: The Sceptred Flute: Songs of India, Allahabad: Kitabistan, posthumously published
- 1961: The Feather of the Dawn, posthumously published, edited by her daughter, Padmaja Naidu
- 1971:The Indian Weavers
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- ^ abcVinayak Krishna Gokak, The Golden Treasury Of Indo-Anglian Poetry (1828–1965), p 313, New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi (1970, first edition; 2006 reprint), ISBN 81-260-1196-3, retrieved August 6, 2010
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