Sarojini Naidu

Sarojini Naidu
Born Sarojini Chattopadhyay
(1879-02-13)13 February 1879
Hyderabad, Hyderabad State, British India
(now in Telangana, India)
Died 2 March 1949(1949-03-02) (aged 70)
Lucknow, United Provinces, India
(now in Uttar Pradesh, India)
Nationality Indian
Alma mater University of Madras
King's College London
Girton College, Cambridge
Occupation Political activist, feminist, poet-writer
Title The Nightingale of India;[1] Governor of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh
Term 15 August 1947 – 2 March 1949
Predecessor Francis Verner Wylie
Successor Hormasji Peroshaw Mody
Political party Indian National Congress
Movement Indian independence movement
Religion Hindu
Spouse(s) Govindarajulu Naidu (1898–1949)
Children Padmaja and four others
Parent(s) Aghore Nath Chattopadhyay, Barada Sundari Devi
Relatives Harindranath Chattopadhyay, Virendranath Chattopadhyay, Suhasini Chattopadhyay , Leela Naidu

Sarojini Naidu (born as Sarojini Chattopadhyay) also known by the sobriquet as The Nightingale of India,[2] was an Indian independence activist and poet. Naidu served as the first governor of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh from 1947 to 1949;[3] the first woman to become the governor of an Indian state.[4] She was the second woman to become the president of the Indian National Congress in 1925 and the first Indian woman to do so.[5][6]

Early life

Sarojini Naidu was born in Hyderabad to Aghore Nath Chattopadhyay and Barada Sundari Devi on 13 February 1879. Her parental home was at Brahmangaon in Bikrampur (in present-day Bangladesh).[7] Her father, Aghor Nath Chattopadhyaya, with a doctorate of Science from Edinburgh University, settled in Hyderabad, where he founded and administered Hyderabad College, which later became the Nizam's College in Hyderabad. Her mother, Barada Sundari Devi, was a poet and used to write poetry in Bengali.

She was the eldest among the eight siblings. Her brother Virendranath Chattopadhyaya was a revolutionary and her other brother, Harindranath was a poet, a dramatist, and an actor.[8]

Naidu, having passed her matriculation examination from the University of Madras, took a four-year 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.

Naidu met Govindarajulu Naidu, a physician, and at the age of 19, after finishing her studies, she married him. At that time, Inter-caste marriages were not allowed, but her father approved the marriage.[8]

The couple had five children. Her daughter, Padmaja, became the Governor of West Bengal. Padmaja was a part of the Quit India Movement.

Political career

Sarojini Naidu (extreme right) with Mahatma Gandhi during Salt Satyagraha, 1930

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.[9] 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.

Congress party president

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.[10]

In 1930 during the salt satyagraha, she was one of the women protesters at the Dharsana salt works, Gujarat. Hundreds of satyagrahis were beaten by soldiers under British command at Dharasana. The ensuing publicity attracted world attention to the Indian independence movement and brought into question the legitimacy of British rule in India.

In 1931, she participated in the Round table conference with Gandhi and Madan Mohan Malaviya.[11]

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.

Literary career

Sarojini Naidu began writing at the age of twelve. Her Persian play, Maher Muneer, impressed the Nawab of Hyderabad.

In 1905, her first collection of poems, named "The Golden Threshold" was published.[12] 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 Padmaja.[13]

Death and legacy

The ashes of Sarojini Naidu kept at Golden Threshold, Hyderabad before immersion

Sarojini Naidu died of a heart attack while working in her office in Lucknow on 2 March (Wednesday), 1949.[14]

She is commemorated through the naming of several institutions including the Sarojini Naidu College for Women, Sarojini Naidu Medical College, Sarojini Devi Eye Hospital and Sarojini Naidu School of Arts and Communication, University of Hyderabad.

Aldous Huxley wrote "It has been our good fortune, while in Bombay, to meet Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, the newly elected President of the All-India Congress and a woman who combines in the most remarkable way great intellectual power with charm, sweetness with courageous energy, a wide culture with originality, and earnestness with humor. If all Indian politicians are like Mrs. Naidu, then the country is fortunate indeed."[15]

Her 135th birth anniversary (in 2014) was marked by a doodle on Google India's homepage.[16]

Golden Threshold

Golden Threshold in 2015

The Golden Threshold is an off-campus annexe of University of Hyderabad. The building was the residence of Naidu's father Aghornath Chattopadhyay, the first Principal of Hyderabad College. It was named after Naidu's collection of poetry. Golden Threshold now houses Sarojini Naidu School of Arts & Communication of University of Hyderabad.[17]

During the Chattopadhyay family's residence, it was the centre of many reformist ideas in Hyderabad, in areas ranging from marriage, education, women's empowerment, literature and nationalism.[18]


Each year links to its corresponding "year in poetry" article:



See also


  1. "Colors of India". First Woman Governor of a State in India. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  2. Jesudasen, Yasmine (2006). "Sarojini Naidu". Voices of Freedom Movement. Sura Books. pp. 53–54. ISBN 978-81-7478-555-8. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
  3. "Freedom fighters of India".
  4. Paranjape, Makarand R. (2010). "Chronology". Sarojini Naidu. Rupa & Company. ISBN 978-81-291-1580-5. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
  5. President of the Indian National Congress
  6. Lilyma Ahmed. "Naidu, Sarojini". Banglapedia : National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  7. 1 2 "Biography of Naidu".
  8. Pasricha, Ashu (2009). The political thought of Annie Besant. New Delhi: Concept Pub. Co. p. 24. ISBN 978-81-8069-585-8.
  9. Jain, Reena. "Sarojini Naidu". Stree Shakti. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  10. "The Biography of Sarojini Naidu". Poem Hunter. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  11. Sarkar, [editors], Amar Nath Prasad, Bithika (2008). Critical response to Indian poetry in English. New Delhi: Sarup & Sons. p. 11. ISBN 978-81-7625-825-8.
  12. India in Britain: South Asian Networks and Connections, 1858-1950. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-230-39271-7. Retrieved 13 February 2016.
  13. "Google doodles Sarojini Naidu's 135th birth anniversary'". Indiavision. February 13, 2015.
  14. Huxley, Aldous (1926). Jesting Pilate: Travels Through India, Burma, Malaya, Japan, China, and America. Paragon House, New York. p. 22.
  15. "Google Doodle celebrates Sarojini Naidu's 135th Birthday". Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  16. "Sarojini Naidu School of Arts & Communication". Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  17. Sharma, Kaushal Kishore (1 January 2003). "Sarojini Naidu: A Preface to Her Poetry". Feminism, Censorship and Other Essays. Sarup & Sons. pp. 56–57. ISBN 978-81-7625-373-4. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
  18. Knippling, Alpana Sharma, "Chapter 3: Twentieth-Century Indian Literature in English", in Natarajan, Nalini, and Emanuel Sampath Nelson, editors, Handbook of Twentieth-century Literatures of India (Google books link), Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996, ISBN 978-0-313-28778-7, retrieved 10 December 2008
  19. 1 2 3 Vinayak Krishna Gokak, The Golden Treasury Of Indo-Anglian Poetry (1828–1965), p 313, New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi (1970, first edition; 2006 reprint), ISBN 81-260-1196-3, retrieved August 6, 2010
  20. Sisir Kumar Das, "A History of Indian Literature 1911–1956: Struggle for Freedom: Triumph and Tragedy", p 523, New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi (1995), ISBN 81-7201-798-7; retrieved 10 August 2010
  21. "Jinnah in India's history". The Hindu. 12 August 2001. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  22. Lal, P., Modern Indian Poetry in English: An Anthology & a Credo, p 362, Calcutta: Writers Workshop, second edition, 1971 (however, on page 597 an "editor's note" states contents "on the following pages are a supplement to the first edition" and is dated "1972")
  23. "Indian Weavers". Poem Hunter. Retrieved 25 March 2012.


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