Sarojini Naidu

Sarojini Naidu (née Chattopadhyay; 13 February 1879 – 2 March 1949)[1] 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 'the Nightingale of India', or 'Bharat Kokila' by Mahatma Gandhi because of colour, imagery and lyrical quality of her poetry.[2]

Sarojini Naidu
Sarojini Naidu 1964 stamp of India.jpg
Naidu on a 1964 stamp of India
1st Governor of United Provinces
In office
15 August 1947 – 2 March 1949
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byHormasji Peroshaw Mody
President of Indian National Congress
In office
Preceded byMahatma Gandhi
Succeeded byS. Srinivasa Iyengar
Personal details
Sarojini Chattopadhyay

(1879-02-13)13 February 1879
Hyderabad, Hyderabad State, British India (now in Telangana, India)
Died2 March 1949(1949-03-02) (aged 70)
Lucknow, United Provinces, Dominion of India
Political partyIndian National Congress
Spouse(s)Govindarajulu Naidu (1898–1949)
Children5; including Padmaja
Alma materUniversity of Madras
King's College London
Girton College, Cambridge
OccupationPolitical activist, poet-writer
Nickname(s)Bharat ki bulbul
Writing career
SubjectIndian nationalism
Notable worksGolden Threshold; In the Bazaars of Hyderabad

Born in a Bengali family in Hyderabad, Naidu was educated in Madras, 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 as 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 married Govindarajulu Naidu, a general physician, and had five children with him. She died of a cardiac arrest on 2 March 1949.

Personal lifeEdit

Sarojini Chattopadhyay was born in Hyderabad on 13 February 1879 to Aghorenath Chattopadhyay and Barada Sundari Debi. Her parental home was at Brahmangaon Bikrampur, Dhaka, Bengal province (present-day Konoksar village, Louhajang, Munshiganj Bangladesh).[3] Her father, Aghorenath Chattopadhyay, was a Bengali Brahmin and the principal of Hyderabad college, which later became Nizam College. He held a doctorate of Science from Edinburgh University. Her mother, Barada Sundari Devi Chattopadhyay, was a poet and used to write poetry in Bengali.

Drawing of Naidu by John Butler Yeats, 1896

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.[4]


Chattopadhyay passed her examination from the University of Madras when she was twelve, then took a four-year break from her studies. Beginning in 1895, she studied in England, with funding from H.E.H. the Nizam's Charitable Trust founded by the 6th Nizam, Mahbub Ali Khan. She studied first at King's College, London and later at Girton College, Cambridge.[5]


Chattopadhyay returned to Hyderabad in 1898.[6] She married Paidipati Govindarajulu Naidu, a physician, whom she had met at the age of 19. As Chattopadhyay was from Bengal, while Govindarajulu Naidu was from Andhra, this was an inter-regional marriage of East and South India, with two different cultures. It was also an inter-caste marriage, which has been called "groundbreaking and scandalous."[6] Both their families approved their marriage, which was long and harmonious. The couple had five children. Their daughter 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.

Political careerEdit

Early workEdit

Naidu in 1912

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.[7]

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.[8]

Later in 1917, Naidu also accompanied her colleague Annie Besant, who was the president of Home Rule League and Women's Indian Association, to advocate universal suffrage in front of the Joint Select Committee in London, United Kingdom.[7]

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.[7] Naidu said in her address, "In the battle for liberty, fear is one unforgivable treachery and despair, the one unforgivable sin."[7] Naidu also presided over East African and Indian Congress' 1929 session in South Africa.

Naidu (extreme right) with Mahatma Gandhi during Salt Satyagraha, 1930

Naidu was 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.[7]

In 1931, however, 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.[7]

Naidu was one of the major figures to have led the Civil Disobedience Movement and the Quit India Movement led by Mohandas Karmachanda Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi). She faced repeated arrestings by the British authorities during the time and even spent over 21 months (1 year and 9 months) in jail.[7]

Naidu plants a tree in Mehrauli, Delhi.

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 (aged 70).[7]

Writing careerEdit

Naidu began writing at the age of 12. Her play, Maher Muneer, written in Persian, impressed the Nizam of Kingdom of Hyderabad.

In 1905, her first collection of poems, named The Golden Threshold was published.[9] The volume bore an introduction by Arthur Symons. Her poems were admired by prominent Indian politicians like Gopal Krishna Gokhale.

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 received by critics, who variously noted Naidu's visceral use of rich sensory images in her writing.[10][11][12][13]

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.[14] Moreover her poem The Gift of India is also noteworthy for its patriotism and the actual environment of the 1915 India.

Death and legacyEdit

The ashes of Naidu kept at Golden Threshold, Hyderabad before immersion

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.[15] She subsequently died, and her last rites were performed at the Gomati River.[16]

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."[17]

Golden ThresholdEdit

Golden Threshold in 2015

The Golden Threshold is an off-campus annex of University of Hyderabad. The building was the residence of Naidu's father Aghorenath 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.[18]

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.[19]


  • 1905: The Golden Threshold, published in the United Kingdom[20]
  • 1912: The Bird of Time: Songs of Life, Death & the Spring, published in London[21]
  • 1917: The Broken Wing: Songs of Love, Death and the Spring, including "The Gift of India" (first read in public in 1915)[21][22]
  • 1919: Muhammad Jinnah: An Ambassador of Unity[23]
  • 1943: The Sceptred Flute: Songs of India, Allahabad: Kitabistan, posthumously published[21]
  • 1961: The Feather of the Dawn, posthumously published, edited by her daughter, Padmaja Naidu[24]
  • 1971:The Indian Weavers[25]

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.[26]

Naidu's birthday i.e. 13 February is celebrated as Women's Day to recognise powerful voices of Women in India's history.[2]

Sarojini Naidu (1960) is a documentary film about her life, directed by Bhagwan Das Garga and produced by the Government of India's Films Division.[27]

For her work in the field of poetry writing, Naidu was given the title of "Nightingale of India".[28]

In 2014, Google India commemorated Naidu's 135th birth anniversary with a Google Doodle.[29] Naidu was listed among "150 Leading Women" list by the University of London in the United Kingdom in 2018.[30]

Asteroid 5647 Sarojininaidu, discovered by Eleanor Helin at Palomar Observatory in 1990, was named in her memory.[31] The official naming citation was published by the Minor Planet Center on 27 August 2019 (M.P.C. 115893).[32]

In popular cultureEdit

Naidu's biographical film has been released on netflix[when?], which is directed by Akash Nayak and Dhiraj Mishra. Dipika Chikhlia will play Naidu.[33]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Sarojini Naidu | Biography & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  2. ^ a b Treasure Trove: A Collection of ICSE Poems and Short Stories. 4738/23, Ansari Road, Darya Ganj, New Delhi-110002, India: Evergreen Publications (INDIA) Ltd. 2020. p. 13. ISBN 9789350637005.CS1 maint: location (link)
  3. ^ Lilyma Ahmed. "Naidu, Sarojini". Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  4. ^ "Biography of Sarojini Naidu". PoemHunter.Com. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  5. ^ "Nizam's kin pulls out 'firmans' showing last ruler's generosity | Hyderabad News - Times of India".
  6. ^ a b O'Brien, Jodi (2009). "Naidu, Sarojini (1879-1949)". Encyclopedia of Gender and Society. SAGE Publications Inc. p. 589. doi:10.4135/9781412964517.n292.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h "Mrs. Sarojini Naidu". Indian National Congress. Retrieved 18 October 2019.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Pasricha, Ashu (2009). The political thought of Annie Besant. New Delhi: Concept Pub. Co. p. 24. ISBN 978-81-8069-585-8.
  9. ^ Sarkar, Amar Nath; Prasad, Bithika, eds. (2008). Critical response to Indian poetry in English. New Delhi: Sarup & Sons. p. 11. ISBN 978-81-7625-825-8.
  10. ^ Anand, Renu; Alurkar, Sudha (1964). Techniques of counseling guidance, counseling and student personnel in education McGraw-Hill series in education. Tata McGraw-Hill Education. pp. 66–70. ISBN 9780070683815. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  11. ^ Iyer, N Sharada (1964). Musings on Indian Writing in English: Poetry. Sarup & Sons. p. 150. ISBN 9788176255745. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  12. ^ Jagadisan (2001). A thing of beauty. Orient Blackswan. p. 55. ISBN 9788125016250. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
  13. ^ Ashita, Barot. Perfect Practice Series English Babharati Workbook Std.VIII. pp. 17–20. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  14. ^ Nasta, Susheila (16 November 2012). India in Britain: South Asian Networks and Connections, 1858–1950. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-230-39271-7. Retrieved 13 February 2016.
  15. ^ "Mrs. Sarojini Naidu Passes Away". The Indian Express. 3 March 1949. p. 1. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  16. ^ "Last Rites of Sarojini Naidu at Lucknow". The Indian Express. 4 March 1949. p. 1. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  17. ^ Huxley, Aldous (1926). Jesting Pilate: Travels Through India, Burma, Malaya, Japan, China, and America. Paragon House, New York. p. 22.
  18. ^ "Sarojini Naidu School of Arts & Communication". Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  19. ^ Sharma, Kaushal Kishore (1 January 2003). "Sarojini Naidu: A Preface to Her Poetry". Feminism, Censorship and Other Essays. Sarup & Sons. pp. 56–57. ISBN 978-81-7625-373-4. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
  20. ^ Knippling, Alpana Sharma, "Chapter 3: Twentieth-Century Indian Literature in English", in Natarajan, Nalini, and Emanuel Sampath Nelson, editors, Handbook of Twentieth-century Literatures of India (Google books link), Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996, ISBN 978-0-313-28778-7, retrieved 10 December 2008
  21. ^ a b c Vinayak 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 6 August 2010
  22. ^ Sisir Kumar Das, "A History of Indian Literature 1911–1956: Struggle for Freedom: Triumph and Tragedy", p 523, New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi (1995), ISBN 81-7201-798-7; retrieved 10 August 2010
  23. ^ "Jinnah in India's history". The Hindu. 12 August 2001. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  24. ^ Lal, P., Modern Indian Poetry in English: An Anthology & a Credo, p 362, Calcutta: Writers Workshop, second edition, 1971 (however, on page 597 an "editor's note" states contents "on the following pages are a supplement to the first edition" and is dated "1972")
  25. ^ "Indian Weavers". Poem Hunter. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  26. ^ Jain, Reena. "Sarojini Naidu". Stree Shakti. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
  27. ^ "Sarojini Naidu".
  28. ^ Augestine, Seline (17 June 2017). "Nightingale of India". The Hindu. Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  29. ^ "Google Doodle celebrates Sarojini Naidu's 135th Birthday". Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  30. ^ "Leading Women 1868–2018", University of London.
  31. ^ "JPL Small-Body Database Browser: 5647 Sarojininaidu (1990 TZ)" (11 May 2019 last obs.). Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  32. ^ "MPC/MPO/MPS Archive". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  33. ^ "Ramayan actor Dipika Chikhlia to play Sarojini Naidu in biographical film". The Indian Express. 15 May 2020. Retrieved 30 September 2020.

Further readingEdit

  • Gupta, Indra (2004). India's 50 most illustrious women (2nd ed.). New Delhi: Icon Publications.
  • Baig, Tara Ali (1985). Sarojini Naidu: portrait of a patriot. New Delhi: Congress Centenary (1985) Celebrations Committee, AICC (I).
  • Ramachandran Nair, K. R. (1987). Three Indo-Anglian poets: Henry Derozio, Toru Dutt, and Sarojini Naidu. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers.
  • Padmini Sengupta (1997). Sarojini Naido. ISBN 9788178624495.

External linksEdit