Sarojini Naidu (1879- 1949)
Sarojini Naidu is known as a poet, activist, politician and freedom fighter. She was the second Indian woman to become the president of the Indian National Congress and the first woman to become the Governor of the state of Uttar Pradesh. Sarojini Naidu was famously known as the ‘Nightingale of India’ (Bharatiya Kokila).
Life of Sarojini Naidu:
Sarojini Naidu was born on 13th February 1879 in Hyderabad in India. She was the eldest daughter of philosopher, scientist, educator and linguist Aghornath Chattopadhyay and Barada Sundari Devi, a Bengali poetess. Her father was a linguist and a thinker and the first member of the Indian National Congress in Hyderabad and her mother was a poetess and used to write poetry in Bengali. Her father settled in Hyderabad after receiving a doctor of science degree from Edinburgh University. In Hyderabad he founded and administered the Hyderabad College which later went on to become the Nizam College.
Sarojini Naidu was the eldest of eight siblings and one of her brothers Birendranath was a revolutionary and another brother Harindranath was a poet, dramatist and an actor. Sarojini Naidu was a brilliant student and was proficient in Urdu, Telegu, English, Bengali and Persian. When she was 12 years of age, she attracted national fame when she topped the matriculation examination in Madras University. Her father desired to make her a mathematician or a scientist, but as she was interested in poetry, she started writing poems in English. She also received a scholarship to study abroad by the Nizam of Hyderabad who got impressed by her play Maher Muneer and awarded her.
At the age of 16, Sarojini Naidu travelled to England to first study at King’s College in London and later in Girton College in Cambridge. During that time, she met famous laureates of her time like Arthur, Symons and Edmund Goose. It was Edmund Goose who convinced Sarojini Naidu to stick to India themes to express her poetry. Subsequently she started depicting contemporary Indian life and events. Her collections namely ‘The Golden Threshold’ (1905), ‘The Bird of Time’ (1912) and the ‘The Broken Wing’ (1912) among other attracted huge Indian and English readership.
Sarojini Naidu married Dr. Muthyala Govindarajulu Naidu, a South Indian doctor. The marriage took place at the time when inter caste marriage was not acceptable in the society. They were married by the Brahmo Marriage Act (1872) and the couple had four children.
Role of Sarojini Naidu in freedom movement:
Sarojini Naidu joined the Indian national movement in the wake of the Bengal Partition in 1905. At that time she came into contact with leaders like Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Rabindra Nath Tagore, C.P. Ramaswami Iyer, Annie Besant, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi. During the time period from 1915 to 1918, Sarojini Naidu travelled to different regions in India delivering lectures on social welfare, women empowerment and nationalism. She also created awareness among the woman of India and brought them out of the kitchen to work and fight for the country. She also helped to establish the Women’s India Association (WIA) in 1917. She was also sent to London along with Annie Besant, the president of WIA, to present the care for the women’s vote to the Joint Select Committee.
In the year 1925, Sarojini Naidu presided over the annual session of Indian National Congress in Kanpur. In the year 1929, she presided over the East African Indian Congress in South Africa. She was honoured with S the Kaiser-i-Hind medal by the British Government for her work during the plague epidemic in India. in the year 1930, Sarojini Naidu participated in the Round Table Conference with Mahatma Gandhi and Madan Mohan Malaviya. She also played a leading role during the Civil Disobedience Movement and was jailed along with Gandhiji and other leaders. In the year 1942, Sarojini Naidu was arrested during the Quit India Movement and jailed for 21 months with Gandhiji.
Death of Sarojini Naidu:
After India’s independence, Sarojini Naidu became the Governor of Uttar Pradesh. She was India’s first woman governor. She passed away on 2nd March, 1949 in office.
Literary Works of Sarojini Naidu:
Sarojini Naidu began writing at the age of 12. in the year 1905, her collection of poems ‘The Broken Wings’ was published. Many prominent Indian politicians like Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Jawaharlal Nehru admired her poems and writings. Many of her articles were also published in various journals and newspapers, apart from her poems.