The country is observing the birth anniversary of the ‘Nightingale of India’, Sarojini Naidu, on Wednesday. A child prodigy, freedom fighter and a politician, she achieved many firsts during her lifetime.
On her 140th birth anniversary, here are some facts about her career and life.
Sarojini Naidu was born on 13 February 1879 in Hyderabad to Aghornath Chattopadhyaya and Barada Sundari Devi.
Her father was a scientist, philosopher, linguist, educator and a political activist. He was a co-founder of the Nizam College and the first member of the India National Congress (INC) in Hyderabad.
Her mother was a poetess in the Bengali language.
Since childhood, Sarojini was a bright student and proficient in multiple languages like Urdu, Telugu, English, Bengali and Persian.
At the age of 12, she topped the matriculation examination at Madras University.
Sarojini’s father wanted her to become a mathematician or a scientist, but she was interested in poetry.
She studied at King’s College in London and later at Girton College, Cambridge University.
In 1898, she married Dr. Muthyala Govindarajulu Naidu and had four children.
A Freedom Fighter
Sarojini Naidu had joined the freedom struggle movement in the wake of the Bengal partition in 1905.
She travelled across the country educating people on the issues like women empowerment, social welfare, emancipation and nationalism during 1915-1918.
In 1917, she aided in founding the Women’s Indian Association (WIA) with Annie Besant and other prominent leaders.
Influenced by Jawaharlal Nehru, she provided help and support to the indigo workers in Champaran who were being subjected to violence and oppression.
Naidu was appointed president of the INC in 1925. She was the first Indian woman to hold the post.
Bonding With Mahatma Gandhi
When the Rowlatt Act in 1919 was introduced, she joined Mahatma Gandhi in his Non-Cooperation Movement.
She was also appointed the Home Rule League’s ambassador to England in 1919.
Five years later, Sarojini became a delegate to the East African Indian Congress.
When Gandhi was arrested after the Salt March to Dandi in 1930, she led the Dharasana Satyagraha with other leaders.
She also went to London with him to participate in the Round Table Talks with the British Government in 1931.
She was jailed for playing an important role in the Civil Disobedience Movement and later in 1942 for participating in the Quit India movement.
During her participation in the freedom struggle, she developed a strong relationship with Mahatma Gandhi whom she called ‘Mickey Mouse’.
Sarojini Naidu After Independence
After India attained freedom, Sarojini Naidu was appointed as the Governor of the Uttar Pradesh.
She is the first woman to become the governor of a state.
Sarojini died due to a cardiac arrest on 2 March 1949 in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.
Her daughter, Padmaja, followed in her footsteps and became the Governor of West Bengal. She published a collection of poems entitled The Feather of The Dawn in 1961.
An Author And Poet
As long as I have life, as long as blood flows through this arm of mine, I shall not leave the cause of freedom…I am only a woman, only a poet. But as a woman, I give to you the weapons of faith and courage and the shield of fortitude. And as a poet, I fling out the banner of song and sound, the bugle call to battle. How shall I kindle the flame which shall waken you men from slavery.
– Sarojini Naidu
Apart from being a freedom fighter, Sarojini Naidu is also revered for her contribution in the field of Indian poetry.
Naidu was given the sobriquet Bharat Kokila (The Nightingale of India) for her poems and songs.
Her works were inspired by nature and surrounding but also echoed with the ethos of her patriotism.
Her first collection of poems was published under the title “Golden Threshold” in 1905.
Later she published two other collections, “The Bird of Time”, and “The Broken Wings”.
In 1916, she published a biography of Muhammad Ali Jinnah titled ‘The Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity’.
She had also authored articles and essays like ‘Words of Freedom’ on her political beliefs and social issues like women empowerment.
Some of her famous poems are ‘Damayante to Nala in the Hour of Exile’, ‘Ecstasy’, ‘Indian Love-Song’, ‘Indian Weavers’, ‘Nightfall in the City of Hyderabad’, ‘The Soul’s Prayer’ and ‘Street Cries’.