Remembering the Nightingale of India
Remembering the Nightingale of India. Sarojini Naidu, born as Sarojini Chattopadhyaya on February 13, 1879, was popularly known as The Nightingale of...
Not only that, being one of the most famous leaders of the 20th century, her birthday is also celebrated as "National Women's Day."
Sarojini was born in Hyderabad. Her father was a doctor of Science from Edinburgh University, settled in Hyderabad State, where he found and administered the Nizam's College. Her mother was a poetess and used to write poetry in Bengali.
Sarojini passed her Matriculation examination from the University of Madras. In 1895, the "Nizam scholarship Trust" founded by the 6th Nizam - Mir Mahbub Ali Khan -- gave her the chance to study in England.
Her participation in Indian Independence struggle
Sarojini 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, Sarojini 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, 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.
Sarojini Naidu served as the first Governor of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh from 1940 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.
First meeting with Mahatma Gandhi
Sarojini's first meeting with Gandhiji was also in a way through Gokhale had invited Gandhiji to return to India from South Africa via London. But when Gandhiji reached London, Gokhale was unexpectedly held up for some days in Paris. Sarojini happened to be in London then by chance, convalescing from an illness.
Sarojini Naidu never forgot this first meeting and referred to it again and again. On October 2, 1947,-the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi's 78th Birthday - the last Gandhi-Jayanti during his life-time - she again recalled this dramatic unplanned first, meeting in London and added, "And so, laughingly, we began a friendship that has lasted, grown, developed through all these many years". The key phrase is "And so laughingly". Verily, she was a born, irrepressible Hasya Yogini and remained so till she breathed her last on March 2, 1949 at the Raj Bhavan in Lucknow.
Unique Guru-Shishya Relationship
The relationship between Gandhiji. and Sarojini Naidu blossomed into that of an ideal Master and Disciple-Adarsha Guru Shishyaa-the Guru with overflowing considerateness and affection for his Shishya. and the shishyaa with nothing but heartfelt veneration for her Guru. Their scintillating repartees. and delightful occasional reproaches were totally free from any -trace of malice. Utterly unselfish and transparent, both were endowed with great wit and wisdom.
Sarojini met Dr Govindarajulu Naidu, a doctor by profession, and fell in love with him. 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 and her marriage was a very happy moment.
The couple had five children- Jayasurya, Padmaja, Randheer, Nilawar and Leelamani. Her daughter Padmaja followed in her footprints and became the Governor of West Bengal, as well as a poet.
Sarojini died of a heart attack while working in her office in Lucknow on March 2, 1949.
The Golden Threshold
The Golden Threshold is the name of one of the central building on the University of Hyderabad's campus. The building was the residence of Naidu's father Dr 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.
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.
Harindranath Chattopadhyay had said about this house, where anyone and any ideas were welcome for discussion, “a museum of wisdom and culture, a zoo crowded with a medley of strange types – some even verging on the mystique.”
Her literary works
Sarojini began writing at the age of 13. 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.