Sarojini Naidu(February 13, 1879-March 2, 1949) born as Sarojini Chattopadhyay also known by the sobriquet as The Nightingale of India, was a child prodigy, Indian independence activist and poet. Naidu served as the first governor of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh from 1947 to 1949;the first woman to become the governor of an Indian state. She was the second woman to become the president of the Indian National Congress in 1925 and the first Indian woman to do so.
She was born in Hyderabad to Aghore Nath Chattopadhyay and Barada Sundari Debi on 13 February 1879. Her father was a doctor of Science and mother was a poetess and used to write poetry in Bengali. She was the eldest among the eight siblings.
Naidu passed her matriculation examination from the University of Madras, but she took four years’ break from her studies. In 1895, the “Nizam scholarship Trust” founded by the 6th Nizam – Mir Mahbub Ali Khan, gave her the chance to study in England first at King’s College London and later at Girton College, Cambridge. She met Govindarajulu Naidu, a doctor by profession, and at the age of 19, after finishing her studies, she got married to him. At this time, inter-caste marriages were not allowed, but her father approved the marriage. The couple had five children. Her daughter Padmaja became the Governor of West Bengal.
Naidu joined the Indian national movement in the wake of partition of Bengal in 1905. She came into contact with Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Rabindranath Tagore, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Annie Besant, C. P. Ramaswami Iyer, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. During 1915-1918, she travelled to different regions in India delivering lectures on social welfare, women’s empowerment and nationalism. She also helped to establish the Women’s Indian Association (WIA) in 1917. She was sent to London along with Annie Besant, President of WIA, to present the case for the women’s vote to the Joint Select Committee.
In 1925, Naidu presided over the annual session of Indian National Congress at Cawnpore (now Kanpur). In 1929, she presided over East African Indian Congress in South Africa. She was awarded the Kaisar-i-Hind Medal by the British government for her work during the plague epidemic in India. In 1931, sheparticipated in the Round table conference with Gandhi and Madan Mohan Malaviya. She played a leading role during the Civil Disobedience Movement and was jailed along with Gandhi and other leaders. In 1942, she was arrested during the “Quit India” movement.
Naidu began writing at the age of thirteen. Her Persian play, Maher Muneer, impressed the Nawab of Hyderabad. In 1905, her first collection of poems, named “The Golden Threshold” was published. Her poems were admired by many prominent Indian politicians like Gopal Krishna Gokhale. Her collection of poems entitled “The Feather of The Dawn” was edited and published posthumously in 1961 by her daughter Padamaja.Naidu died of a heart attack while working in her office in Lucknow on March 2, 1949.
Some of the details of her literary work:
- 1905: The Golden Threshold, published in the United Kingdom
- 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)
- 1916: 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
Damayante to Nala in the Hour of Exile, Ecstasy, Indian Dancers, The Indian, Indian Love-Song, Indian Weavers, In Salutation to the Eternal Peace, In the Forest, In the Bazaars of Hyderabad (Refer to English textbook of 9th std ICSE board), Ramamuratham, Nightfall in the City of Hyderabad, Palanquin Bearers, The Pardah Nashin, Past and Future, The Queen’s Rival, The Royal Tombs of Golconda, The Snake-Charmer, Song of a Dream, Song of Radha-the milkmaid, The Soul’s Prayer, Suttee, To a Buddha Seated on a Lotus, To the God of Pain, Wandering Singers, Street Cries, Alabaster, Autumn Song, Bangle Sellers, The Coromandel Fishers and To youth.