Sarojini Naidu was an Indian political activist and poet. She was a defender of civil rights, women’s liberation, and anti-imperialistic ideas.
Sarojini Naidu worked as a poet and earned the title of ‘Bharat Kokila’ or ‘Nightingale of India‘.
Personal Life of Sarojini Naidu
Sarojini Naidu was born on 13 February 1879 in Hyderabad. Her father Aghorenath Chattopadhyay was a Bengali Brahmin who was the principal of the Nizam’s College in Hyderabad. He had a doctorate of Science from Edinburgh University, settled in Hyderabad. Her mother Barada Sundari Devi Chattopadhyay was a poet and used to write poetry in Bengali.
Sarojini Naidu was the eldest of eight siblings. Her brother Virendranath Chattopadhyay was a revolutionary, and another brother Harindranath Chattopadhyay was a poet, a dramatist, and an actor.
Education of Sarojini Naidu
Sarojini Naidu passed her examination from the University of Madras when she was twelve. She then took a four-year break from her studies.
In 1895, H.E.H. the Nizam’s Charitable Trust founded by the 6th Nizam, Mahbub Ali Khan gave her a chance to study in England, first at King’s College, London and later at Girton College, Cambridge.
At the age of 19, Sarojini met Paidipati Govindarajulu Naidu, a physician. After finishing her studies, she married him.
Inter-caste marriage, at that time, were not as common as today. But both their families approved their marriage. It was also an inter-regional marriage of East and South India, as Sarojini was from Bengal and Paidipati was from Andhra Pradesh.
Political Career of Sarojini Naidu
In the wake of the Partition of Bengal in 1905, Naidu joined the Indian Independence Movement. She met other leaders Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi. She was inspired to work towards attaining freedom from the colonial regime and social reform.
From 1915 to 1918, she traveled to different regions in India delivering lectures on social welfare, the emancipation of women, and nationalism. In 1917, she played an important role in the establishment of the Women’s Indian Association.
Struggle outside India
Later in 1917, Sarojini Naidu accompanied Annie Besant, the president of the Home Rule League and Women’s Indian Association, to present the advocate universal suffrage in front of the Joint Select Committee in London, United Kingdom.
In 1919, she went to London as a part of the All India Home Rule League, to advocate for freedom from British Rule. In 1920, she joined Gandhi’s Satyagraha Movement.
Naidu also presided over East African and Indian Congress’ 1929 session in South Africa.
Struggle after 1930
In 1930, Sarojini Naidu and other Congress leaders including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawahar Lal Nehru, and Madan Mohan Malaviya for participating in Dandi March.
The Indian National Congress decided to stay away from the First Round Table Conference, London, resulting in an arrest.
In 1931, Sarojini Naidu and other leaders of the Congress Party participated in the Second Round Table Conference headed by Viceroy Lord Irwin in the wake of the Gandhi-Irwin pact.
She played a significant role in the Civil Disobedience Movement and in the Quit India Movement. British authorities repeatedly arrested her during this period.
Governor of United Provinces
After India’s Independence in 1947, Sarojini Naidu was appointed as the governor of the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh), making her India’s first woman governor. She remained in office until her death in March 1949(Aged 70).
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Writing Career of Sarojini Naidu
Sarojini began writing at the age of 12. Her play, Maher Muneer, written in Persian, impressed the Nizam of the Kingdom of Hyderabad.
In 1905, her first collection of poems, named The Golden Threshold was published. The volume owned an introduction by Arthur Symons. Her poems were praised by famous Indian politicians like Gopal Krishna Gokhale. One of her poems was set to music by American composer Helen Searles Westbrook.
Naidu’s poem “In the Bazaars of Hyderabad” was published as a part of The Bird of Time with her other poems in 1912. “In the Bazaars of Hyderabad” was well supported by critics, who variously noted Naidu’s emotional use of rich sensory images in her writing.
In 1961, her daughter Padmaja Naidu edited and published The Feather of The Dawn posthumously which included poems written in 1927 by Naidu. Moreover her poem The Gift of India is also noteworthy for its patriotism and the actual environment of 1915 India.
Death and Legacy
Sarojini Naidu died of cardiac arrest at 3:30 p.m. on 2 March 1949 at the Government House, Lucknow. On 15 February, upon her return from New Delhi on 15 February, she was told to rest by her doctors, and all official engagements were removed.
Her health declined considerably and bloodletting was performed on the night of 1 March after she complained of severe headache. She died after falling following a fit 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. She subsequently died, and her last rites were performed at the Gomati River.
The Golden Threshold is an off-campus annex of the 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 very first collection of poetry. Golden Threshold now houses Sarojini Naidu School of Arts & Communication at the University of Hyderabad.
During the Chattopadhyay family’s residence, it was the center of many reformist ideas in Hyderabad, in areas ranging from marriage, education, women’s empowerment, literature, and nationalism.
Specifically, the reformist ideas included more power for women in a time where politics in India, especially regional politics, was dominated by men. It also included ideas for involvement for women in the arts field.
There were also many limitations on marriage during this time period that continue to this day, such as inter-regional and inter-caste marriages. These ideas were progressive for the era but brought a change in India in slow ways over time.
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