Sarojini Naidu (February 13, 1879 – March 2, 1949)

February 13, 2019

“We want deeper sincerity of motive, a greater courage in speech and earnestness in action.” — Sarojini Naidu

Sarojini Naidu was one of the great leaders of the pre-Independence era who actively participated in the Indian National Movement to attain  freedom for the nation. Popularly called the Nightingale of India, Naidu was revered for her contribution in the field of Indian poetry, and many of her works were transformed into songs. Her birth anniversary also marks an important celebration in the country as India celebrates its very own Women’s Day on this day. On the occasion of her 140th birth anniversary, let us look at some interesting facts about Sarojini Naidu.

  • Sarojini Naidu was born on February 13, 1879 in a Bengali Hindu family in Hyderabad.
  • Naidu’s father Aghorenath Chattopadhyay did his PhD in science from Edinburg University and then settled in Hyderabad. It was Dr. Chattopadhyay who founded the Nizam College of Hyderabad.
  • Naidu’s mother, Barada Sundari Devi Chattopadhyay, was a poet and used to write poetry in Bengali.
  • Since childhood, Naidu was highly proficient in multiple languages including English, Bengali, Urdu, Telugu and Persian. She also topped her matriculation exams from the Madras University. Young Naidu, like her mother was very much attracted to poetry.
  • Her father encouraged her to nurture her talent in poetry. Naidu, with the help of her father, wrote the play called “Maher Muneer” in Persian language.
  • When Naidu turned 16, she got admission in the King’s College, England and later joined Girton College in Cambridge.
  • While Naidu was studying in England she met Muthyala Govindarajulu Naidu, a South Indian, non-Brahmin physician and fell in love with him.
  • After returning to India, she married him at the age of 19, at a time when inter-caste marriages were not common in India. They had four children out of the wedlock.
  • With the partition of Bengal in 1905, Naidu was deeply affected and decided to join the Indian freedom struggle.
  • Naidu met Jawaharlal Nehru in 1916, and worked with him for the cause of the Indigo workers of Champaran in the western district of Bihar and fought with the British for their rights.
  • In 1917, Naidu helped found the Women’s India Association with Annie Besant and other leaders.
  • During the freedom struggle, Naidu travelled to America and many European countries as the flag-bearer of the Indian Nationalist struggle and requested the Congress to involve more women in the freedom struggle.
  • Naidu religiously followed Mahatma Gandhi’s example and then actively supported his campaigns such as Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms, the Sabarmati Pact, and the Khilafat issue.
  • She also served several terms in prison – in 1930, 1932, and 1942. In 1942 she was imprisoned for 21 months.
  • Naidu was elected as the President of the Indian National Congress Party in 1925. After India attained its independence, Naidu became the first woman governor of UP and remained in the role till her death in 1949.
  • Besides the freedom struggle, Naidu is also remembered for her contribution to Indian poetry. In fact many of her works are transformed into songs. Her work is an inspiration from the nature, daily lives and people.
  • Some of Naidu’s famous works include: The Golden Threshold, The Bird of Time: Songs of Life, Death & the Spring, The Magic tree, The Indian Weavers, The Broken Wing: Songs of Love.
  • Apart from poetry, she has also penned articles and essays such as ‘Words of Freedom’ on her political beliefs and social issues such as women empowerment.
  • On March 2, 1949, Naidu breathed her last in Lucknow.
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