Sarojini Naidu was an Indian freedom fighter and poet. She was a prime figure in the National Movement of India where she started following Mahatma Gandhi. She fought for the freedom of India during the modern India period. Naidu is known for her poems on patriotism, love and death. Title of ‘Nightingale of India’ was for her work in poetry. Sarojini was also a part of politics when she joined Indian Congress party and got appointed as the Governor of United Provinces.
She was born on 13th February 1879 in Hyderabad in a Bengali family. Her father Aghorenath Chattopadhyay had a PhD in science and worked as an administrator at a college in Hyderabad. Mother Sundari Devi was a poet and writer. Sarojini had seven siblings in them she was the eldest.
Sarojini Naidu completed her matriculation at Madras University and later got a chance to study in England. She completed her education from King’s College in London and Girton College in Cambridge. Then she got married to Paidipati Govindarajulu Naidu at the age of 19. The couple had five children. One of their daughters Paidipati Padmaja followed her mother’s path to fight for her the nation’s independence.
Naidu joined the Indian National Movement in 1905. West Bengal was suffering from its partition then. It was the time many freedom fighters such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Rabindranath Tagore, Annie Besant came into the limelight and she also was with them. She formed the Women’s Indian Association in 1917 and along with Annie Besant fought for the right to vote for women. Her political career was mainly for attaining Swaraj for India and she was successful in it. On the other hand, her poetry flourished in India which inspired and entertained many.
Sarojini Naidu was declared president of the Indian National Congress in 1925 followed by her presidency of East African Indian Congress in South Africa. She was a follower of M.K. Gandhi and accompanied him in his missions. Even though she was captured prisoner for them, she was present in the Civil Disobedience Movement and Quit India Movement. During the Salt Satyagraha in 1930 she was standing next to the father of nation. In 1947, Naidu was present at the Asian Relations Conference and was appreciated for her presence.
She had a knack for poetry since she was 12. Even the Nawab of Hyderabad was impressed by her first ever written play ‘Maher Muneer’. Her collections of poems were published for the first time in the book ‘Golden Threshold’. The book is appreciated by citizens of India till the date.
In 1961, her daughter Padmaja Naidu who was the chief minister of West Bengal by then published her mother’s next set of poems in a book called ‘The Feather of the Dawn’. Some of her other works are:
- 1912 – The Bird of Time: Songs of Life, Death & the Spring
- 1917 – The Broken Wing: Songs of Love, Death and the Spring
- 1916 – Muhammad Jinnah: An Ambassador of Unity
- 1943 – The Sceptred Flute: Songs of India
- 1971 – The Indian Weavers
She was a sweet lady and so were her poems for which she got the name of ‘Nightingale of India’.
Quotes by Sarojini Naidu
“We want deeper sincerity of motive, a greater courage in speech and earnestness in action.”
“One needs a Seer’s Vision and an Angel’s voice to be of any avail. I do not know of any Indian man or woman today who has those gifts in their most complete measure.”
“A country’s greatness lies in its undying ideals of love and sacrifice that inspire the mothers of the race.”
“When there is oppression, the only self-respecting thing is to rise and say this shall cease today, because my right is justice. If you are stronger, you have to help the weaker boy or girl both in play and in work.”
“Sense of justice is one of the ideals Islam, because as I read Quran I find those dynamic principles of life not mystic but practical ethics for the daily conduct of life suited to the whole world.”
“Oh, we want a new breed of men before India can be cleansed of her disease.”
“I am not ready to die because it requires infinitely greater courage to live.”
The Writer is Immortal
Sadly Sarojini Naidu passed away at the age of 70 due to heart attack. Being a writer and poetess, she will remain immortal through her works. Also there are many structures named after her. Those include institutes of Sarojini Naidu College for Women, Sarojini Naidu Medical College, Sarojini Devi Eye Hospital and Sarojini Naidu School of Arts and Communication, University of Hyderabad.
The residence of her father was named after her book ‘Golden Threshold’. It is now campus for Arts and Communication wing of University of Hyderabad. Her ashes were kept near it for a brief period before being immersed according to the Hindu customs.
Written By: Rituparna Desai