Sarojini Naidu
1879 - 1949

Early Life:

Sarojini Naidu was born on February 13th, 1879 as Sarojini Chattopadhyaya in Hyderabad. Aghorenath Chattopadhyaya, her father, was a Principal of Nizam College and advocated for social reform and education for women. Naidu’s mother, Varada Sundari, was a Bengali writer and dancer. Naidu was educated at home; her father gave her lessons in Mathematics and Science and encouraged her to pursue them.

She passed the Madras University matriculation exam at the age of twelve and obtained Hyderabad Nizam’s scholarship to study in King's College, London, and later in Girton College, Cambridge. 

 

Role in India’s independence movement:

After her return to India, Naidu embarked on India’s freedom movement. She took part in the Congress session in Bombay in 1904. Thereafter, she made associations with Gokhale, Tagore, Annie Besant, Gandhi, and Nehru. She went on to become the first Indian women to preside Indian National Congress in 1925 at its 40th session, Kanpur.

Naidu was involved in Non-cooperation movement, Home Rule movement, Salt Satyagraha. She was arrested 5 times during the freedom struggle.

Mahatma Gandhi and Sarojini Naidu during Salt Satyagraha, 1930.

As a suffragette and women rights activist, she advocated for reforms to improve conditions of widows in Indian National Social Conference in Madras, 1908. In 1917 she headed the All-India Women's Deputation and championed women’s suffrage before E. S. Montagu (Secretary of State for India). In the same year she along with Annie Besant set up the Women’s India Association.

 

Contribution to Constitution Making:

She was appointed to the Constituent Assembly from Bihar.

 

Key Writings:

Sarojini Naidu began writing at an early age and wrote her first poem at the age of 12. Her published poems include: Songs; The Golden Threshold; The Bird of Time; The Broken Wing; The Feather of the Dawn. 

Arthur Symons, an English poet, noted: “It was the desire of beauty that made her a poet; her "nerves of delight" were always quivering at the contact of beauty”.

Additionally she authored: Mahatma Gandhi: His Life, Writings and Speeches and Words of Freedom: Ideas of a Nation

 

Later Contributions:

Naidu was appointed as the Governor of Uttar Pradesh from 15th August 1947 to 2nd March 1949.

Sarojini Naidu was a part of Ad Hoc Committee on National Flag.

In the Constituent Assembly, she spoke only in the following two instances:

  1. On 11th December 1946, Sachidananda Sinha, Chairman of the Assembly referring to her as “bulbul-i-Hind, the Nightingale of India”, asked her to address the house regarding appointment of Rajendra Prasad as the President of the Assembly. Naidu goes on to praise Prasad extensively: “Rajendra Prasad has certainly descended spiritually from the great Buddha, the embodiment of compassion, understanding, sacrifice and love.” She ends on an optimistic note hoping that Muslim League and Princely states participate in the constitution making process: “hope... (Princes)...will realise that the constitution for India is a constitution for the freedom and emancipation of every human being in India, whether Prince or peasant.”
  2. During the discussion around adoption of National flag, she narrated instances where she represented India on international forums and was aggrieved to not have an Indian flag. She added: “But here today we retrieve that sorrow and that shame: we attain our own Flag, the Flag of Free India”. She claimed that under the Flag “There is no privilege there is only duty and resibility and sacrifice.”

  1. Naidu, Sarojini. Speeches and Writings of Sarojini Naidu. (1918). Madras, India: G. A. Natesan, 1919.
  2. Sengupta, Padmini. Sarojini Naidu: A Biography. London and New York: Asia Publishing House, 1966.
  3. Bakshi, Shiri Ram comp. Sarojini Naidu: Struggle for SwarajIndian Freedom Fighters 15. New Delhi: Anmol Publications, 1991.
  4. Vishwanath S. Naravane, Sarojini Naidu: Introduction to Her Life, Work and Poetry, Orient BlackSwan, 199.
  5. Meena Alexander, Sarojini Naidu: Romanticism and Resistance, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 20, No. 43 (Oct. 26, 1985).