Sarojini Naidu (13 February 1879 – 2 March 1949) was an Indian political activist and poet. A proponent of civil rights, women's emancipation, and anti-imperialistic ideas, she was an important figure in India's struggle for independence from colonial rule. Naidu's work as a poet earned her the sobriquet 'Nightingale of India' by Mahatma Gandhi. She was called 'Bharat Kokila' by Rabindranath Tagore.
Naidu on a 1964 stamp of India
|1st Governor of United Provinces|
15 August 1947 – 2 March 1949
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Hormasji Peroshaw Mody|
|President of the Indian National Congress|
|Preceded by||Mahatma Gandhi|
|Succeeded by||S. Srinivasa Iyengar|
13 February 1879
Hyderabad, Hyderabad State, British India (now in Telangana, India)
|Died||2 March 1949 (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|
|Notable works||Golden Threshold; In the Bazaars of Hyderabad|
Born in a Bengali family in Hyderabad, Naidu was educated in Chennai, London and Cambridge. Following her time in England, where she worked as a suffragist, she was drawn to Indian National Congress' movement for India's independence from British rule. She became a part of the Indian nationalist movement and became a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and his idea of swaraj. She was appointed the President of the Indian National Congress in 1925 and later became the Governor of the United Provinces in 1947, becoming the first woman to hold the office of Governor in the Dominion of India.
Naidu's poetry includes both children's poems and others written on more serious themes including patriotism, romance, and tragedy. Published in 1912, "In the Bazaars of Hyderabad" remains one of her most popular poems. She was married to Govindarajulu Naidu, a general physician, and had five children with him. She died of a cardiac arrest on 2 March 1949.
Sarojini Naidu was born in Hyderabad to Aghorenath Chattopadhyay, a Bengali Brahmin who was the principal of the Nizam's College in Hyderabad. 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 he 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 Chattopadhyay was a revolutionary, and another brother Harindranath was a poet, a dramatist, and an actor. Their family was well-regarded in Hyderabad, not only for leading the Nizam College of Hyderabad but also as Hyderabad's most famous artists at that time. Being an artist in the era of British rule in India was considered a risky career, yet with their progressive values, they pursued them anyway.
Sarojini Naidu, having passed her matriculation examination from the University of Madras, 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 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, 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. As Sarojini was from Bengal, while Paidipati Naidu was from Andhra Pradesh, this was an inter-regional marriage of East and South India, with two different cultures. 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 Uttar Pradesh soon after Indian independence.
Naidu joined the Indian independence movement in the wake of partition of Bengal in 1905. She soon met other such leaders as Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi and was inspired to work towards attaining freedom from the colonial regime and social reform.
Between 1915 and 1918, Naidu travelled to different regions in India delivering lectures on social welfare, emancipation of women and nationalism. She also helped to establish the Women's Indian Association (WIA) in 1917.
Later in 1917, Naidu also accompanied her colleague Annie Besant, who was the president of 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.
Naidu again went to London in 1919 as a part of the All India Home Rule League as a part of her continued efforts to advocate for freedom from the British rule. Upon return to India in 1920, she joined Gandhi's Satyagraha Movement.
Congress president and increased involvement in the Independence movementEdit
Naidu presided over the 1925 Annual Session of the Indian National Congress at Cawnpore (now Kanpur). She was the first Indian woman and second woman overall (after Annie Besant) to do so. Naidu said in her address, "In the battle for liberty, fear is one unforgivable treachery and despair, the one unforgivable sin".
Naidu also presided over East African and Indian Congress' 1929 session in South Africa.
Naidu was bula arrested, along with other Congress leaders including Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Madan Mohan Malaviya for participating in 1930 Salt March. The Indian National Congress decided to stay away from the First Round Table Conference that took place in London owing to the arrests.
Naidu was one of the major figures to have led the Civil Disobedience Movement and the Quit India Movement led by Gandhi. She faced repeated arrests by the British authorities during the time and even spent over 21 months in jail.
Governor of United ProvincesEdit
Following India's independence from the British rule in 1947, Naidu was appointed as the governor of the United Provinces (present-day Uttar Pradesh), making her India's first woman governor. She remained in office until her death in March 1949.
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.
Naidu 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 received by critics, who variously noted Naidu's visceral use of rich sensory images in her writing.
Death and legacyEdit
Naidu died of cardiac arrest at 3:30 p.m. (IST) on 2 March 1949 at the Government House in Lucknow. Upon her return from New Delhi on 15 February, she was advised to rest by her doctors, and all official engagements were canceled. 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 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. The last rites were performed at the Gomati River.
Analyzing her political legacy, English writer and philosopher 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 humor. If all Indian politicians are like Mrs. Naidu, then the country is fortunate indeed."
The Golden Threshold is an off-campus annex 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 very first 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 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 restrictions on marriage during this time period that persist 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.
- 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)
- 1919: 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
Awards and honorsEdit
Naidu was awarded the Kaisar-i-Hind Medal by the British government for her work during the plague epidemic in India, which she later returned in protest over the April 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
For her work in the field of poetry writing, Naidu was given the title of "Nightingale of India".
In 2014, Google India commemorated Naidu's 135th birth anniversary with a Google Doodle. Naidu was listed among "150 Leading Women" list by the University of London to mark the 150 years since women gained access to higher education in the United Kingdom in 2018.
Asteroid 5647 Sarojininaidu, discovered by Eleanor Helin at Palomar Observatory in 1990, was named in her memory. The official naming citation was published by the Minor Planet Center on 27 August 2019 (M.P.C. 115893).
In popular cultureEdit
Sarojini Naidu's biographical film is currently in works, which is directed by Akash Nayak and Dhiraj Mishra. The Dipika Chikhalia Will play Sarojini.
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Sarojini Naidu|
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sarojini Naidu.|
- The poetry of Sarojini Naidu: A fusion of English language and Indian culture
- Works by Sarojini Naidu at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Sarojini Naidu at Internet Archive
- Works by Sarojini Naidu at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
- Biography and Poems of Sarojini Naidu
- Letter written by Sarojini Naidu
- Sarojini Naidu: An introduction to her life, work, and poetry By Vishwanath S. Naravane
- Sarojini Naidu materials at the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA)
- Newspaper clippings about Sarojini Naidu in the 20th Century Press Archives of the ZBW