Sarojini Naidu, Nightingale of India, remembered on her Birthday, the 13th February

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In a gathering held to pay tributes, Sarojini Naidu, the Nightingale of India was remembered as  one of the very few  distinguished ladies who played a leading role in the freedom struggle of  India. She was one of  the pioneers who took the cause of women welfare and empowerment and induced nationalism through her poems. No wonder she was called Nightingale of India. 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 home rule league and Women’s Indian Association, to present the case for the women’s vote to the Joint Select Committee. Her role is most befitting in present context where our country is taking up the campaign of  “Beti Padhao Beti Bachao”. Stress is being laid on training women in every field and prove that women are no less than men and can carry out all types of jobs assigned to them.

          Sarojini Naidu was a poet and politician. She was the second woman to become the president of the Indian National Congress in 1925 and the first Indian woman to do so.

      Sarojini Naidu was born in Hyderabad, where her father, Aghor Nath Chattopadhyaya, with a doctorate of Science from Edinburgh University, settled  down. Her mother Barada Sundari Devi,  was a poet and used to write poetry in Bengali. Her parental home was at Brahmangaon in Bikrampur (in present-day Bangladesh.  She founded and administered Hyderabad College, which later became the Nizam’s College in Hyderabad. She was the eldest among the eight brothers and sisters. Her brother Virendranath Chattopadhyaya  was a revolutionary and her other brother, Harinranath was a poet, a dramatist, and an actor.

       Sarojini 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.

       Sarojini 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 in practice, but her father approved the marriage. The couple had five children. Their daughter, Padamja, also joined the freedom struggle, and was part of the Quit India movement. She was appointed the Governor of the state of West Bengal soon after Indian independence.

        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 Jawahar Lal Nehru.

In 1925, Naidu presided over the annual session of  Indian National Congress at  Congress Party president 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 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.

       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.  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.

Naidu served as the first governor of the United Provinces of  Agra and Audh from 1947 to 1949. She was the first woman to become the governor of an Indian state.

    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.

    Golden Threshold : 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.

Sarojioni Naidu, 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 luxury 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.”

  We remember Sarojini Naidu, on her birthday and pay our tributes to  her great contribution to the freedom struggle, upholding womens cause, and literature.

  Naidu served as the first governor of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh from 1947 to 1949. She was the first woman to become the governor of an Indian state.

    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.

  Indian women must take inspiration from her life.

Brig. K.G. Behl (Retd.)

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