Sarojini Naidu – The Poetess and Freedom Fighter of India

By Bhudeb Chakrabarti

 

The Coromandel Fishers

Rise brothers rise; the waking skies pray to the morning light.
The wind lies asleep in the arms of the dawn like a child that has cried all night.
Come, let us gather our nets from the shore and set our catamarans free,
To capture the leaping wealth of the tide for we are the Kings of the sea

No longer delay, let us hasten our way in the track of the sea gull’s call,
The sea is our mother, the cloud is our brother, the waves are our comrades all.
What though we toss at the fall of the sea where the hand of the sea-god dares
He who holds the storm by the hair, will hide in his breast our lives.

Sweet is the shade of the coconut glade, and the scent of the mango grove,
And sweet are the sands at the full of the moon with the sound of the voices we love;
But sweeter, O brothers, the kiss of the spray and the dance of the wild foam’s glee;
Row brothers row to the edge of the verge, where the sky mates with the sea.

 

Many of you, who have studied in different parts of India may recall having read this poem in school. This poem was included in my English syllabus too. The poetess is none other than Sarojini Naidu, one of the greatest poets of India, whose 138th birth anniversary is being celebrated today as the National Women’s Day.

SarojiniNaidu

A glimpse into the life of Sarojini Naidu

On 13th February 1879, Sarojini was born in Hyderabad, to father Aghorenath Chattopadhyay, and mother Barada Sundari Devi. Her father was the founder and first Principal of Hyderabad College (Nizam’s College), and her mother was a Bengali poetess.

Sarojini, a child prodigy stood first in Matriculation Examination of Madras University at the age of twelve. She went to England on a Nizam scholarship and studied in King’s College and later in Girton College, Cambridge. She married Dr. Mutyala Govindarajulu Naidu a Hyderabad State Service Medical Officer in 1898.

Participation in India’s Freedom Movement

The early half of the 1900s witnessed a lot of political and social turmoil in India. In 1905, British Viceroy Lord Curzon had ordered for the Partition of Bengal. Many eminent persons saw it as a “divide and rule” policy to curb the growing nationalism. This further flared up the nationalistic sentiments and people protested against the partition. Sarojini Naidu actively participated in these protests led by Annie Besant, Lokmanya Tilak, Rabindranath Tagore, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Sister Nivedita. The first Partition of Bengal was annulled in 1911, though the seeds of discontent remained to erupt later again.

After Mahatma Gandhi returned to India from South Africa in 1915, Sarojini Naidu met him and fully committed herself to the cause of India’s Freedom Movement. A forceful orator, she rejuvenated the people of the Nation for freedom struggle. She founded Women’s Indian Association in 1917 and went to England with Annie Besant, the first woman President of Indian National Congress to present the case for women’s vote to the Joint Select Committee.

Sarojini Naidu took active role in Non-Cooperation Movement in 1921 under the guidance of Mahatma Gandhi. She was elected President of Indian National Congress (INC) held in 1925 Congress Session. Thus, she was the second woman President of INC. In 1928, she went to USA to espouse the cause of India’s freedom. In 1930, she participated in Civil Disobedience Movement started by Mahatma Gandhi, and took part in Salt Satyagraha. She was arrested during the movement. She was again arrested during the 1942 ‘Quit India Movement’ and was jailed for 21 months along with Gandhiji.

Sarojini Naidu – A poetess of exceptional quality

A woman of multiple skills and a poet of exceptional quality, Sarojini Naidu wrote her poetry in English.  Her first collection titled ‘Golden Threshold’ was published in 1905.’The other books of poems of Sarojini Naidu were titled ’The Bird of Time’, ‘The Broken Wing’, ’The Magic Tree’, ’The Wizard Mask’ and ‘A Treasury of Poems’.

Many of her poems reflected the simmering anger against the British rule.  “The Gift of India” (1915), laments the lack of recognition for the sacrifices made by the Indian soldiers, who were deployed by the British rulers to fight wars for them in different parts of the world.

Gathered like pearls in their alien graves
Silent they sleep by the Persian waves,
Scattered like shells on Egyptian sands,
They lie with pale brows and brave, broken hands,
They are strewn like blossoms mown down by chance
On the blood-brown meadows of
Flanders and France . . .

Sarojini Naidu’s poetic and communication skills were highly admired by Rabindranath Tagore and Jawaharlal Nehru. Her childhood home became the Sarojini Naidu School of Arts and Communication, of the University of Hyderabad.

 

After Independence Sarojini Naidu was the Governor of UP, the largest State of India from 1947 to 1949 till her last breath. She passed away on 2 March 1949.

Today, on her birth anniversary, we pay our respect to Sarojini Naidu, the ’Nightingale of India’ and one of the greatest women of India for her contribution towards the freedom of our Nation and for women empowerment.

 

Image Source

References:

  1. Chandamama Magazine October 2011 Mumbai
  2. Wikipedia
  3. www.allpoetry.com

 

This article is contributed by Bhudeb Chakrabarti, Dy IG (Retd) CRPF, and edited by Somali K Chakrabarti

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30 thoughts on “Sarojini Naidu – The Poetess and Freedom Fighter of India

  • February 13, 2017 at 8:51 am
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    Sarojnis two poems which I love the most are The Indian Weavers & Queens Rival. Indeed an illustrious woman.

    Reply
    • February 13, 2017 at 3:06 pm
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      Many thanks for mentioning about the two poems of Sarojini Naidu which you love most.
      Sarojini Naidu delved deep into the lives of the common people of India in her poems.
      Regards.

      Reply
  • February 13, 2017 at 9:16 am
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    “Reverence” . Explicit write-up.

    Reply
    • February 13, 2017 at 2:49 pm
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      Many thanks Shri RK Gaur for your Tribute to Sarojini Naidu and valuable comment.
      Regards.

      Reply
    • February 13, 2017 at 2:59 pm
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      Sarojini Naidu was known as the ‘Nightingale of India’.
      Many thanks for your valuable comment.
      Regards.

      Reply
    • February 13, 2017 at 3:00 pm
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      Many thanks for your kind words.
      Regards.

      Reply
  • February 13, 2017 at 2:27 pm
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    What an inspiring woman Sarojini Naidu is in Indian culture and history. It sounds like she was one of the first women to stand up for equal rights. To stand up for political rights is very brave because it is such a sensitive area and everyone has their own opinion. Also so skilled in writing and poetry. She must have got her message out there in many place 🙂

    Reply
    • February 13, 2017 at 3:13 pm
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      Many thanks for your rich tribute to Sarojini Naidu one of the greatest women of India
      on the occasion of National Women’s Day.
      Regards.

      Reply
  • February 13, 2017 at 5:58 pm
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    Wonderful, I long for the sea with this poem at my side.

    Reply
    • February 17, 2017 at 10:45 am
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      Many thanks. Regards.

      Reply
    • February 23, 2017 at 7:57 pm
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      Thank you very much Lindsay. My apologies for the delay in reply. Her poetry is beautiful indeed. The poems are often included in English literature taught in the schools in India.

      Reply
  • February 19, 2017 at 7:12 pm
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    This is my first introduction to this wonderful Poetess, and her poems are powerful reflections of her obvious love of Nature and her country.
    We British have much to amend in our treatments of others as they gained their controls of what once was The British Empire.. But like all Empires, they rise and they fall.
    I really enjoyed learning about Sarojini Naidu in her courage to standing up with her written word for the things she loved. Not easy for a female to do back in her day..

    Love and Blessings for a peaceful weekend
    Sue 🙂

    Reply
    • February 23, 2017 at 8:03 pm
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      Hello Sue, Many thanks for sharing your thoughts. Sarojini Naidu was a multifaceted personality – a freedom fighter and later a political leader and a poetess par excellence. You have rightly said, it must have taken a lot of determination and the right sensibilities to do all that back in those days. Empires rise and fall, we read about them but we somehow always forget to learn the lessons and the cycle repeats itself – somewhere or the other.
      I have rather been late in replying and the next weekend is approaching. Love and Regards, Somali

      Reply
      • February 24, 2017 at 11:48 pm
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        Yes it is sad we do not learn from the repeated cycles Somali.. but do not worry about the lateness of replying.. I am very late having had a few days with the modem turned off lol.. I really did enjoy learning about this amazing lady.. Love and Hugs my friend xx

        Reply
  • February 23, 2017 at 7:32 pm
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    Indeed she has been one of the strong force behind the Indian Freedom Fight and she has always been love for her poetic magic. She has always reflected those beautiful thoughts on nature and nation in her poetry. Being able to creatively express in such a disturbing time and with such fight all around with the Britishers is something hats off to her…
    No better person can represent the essence of National Women’s Day…
    Thanks for sharing such a powerful post on Sarojini Naidu and her invaluable contribution to India’s Freedom Struggle and the Literature…

    Reply
    • February 24, 2017 at 11:06 am
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      Thank you Nihar for reading and remembering Sarojini Naidu.
      I have noticed that in different countries, people have used various forms of art such as music, poetry or paintings to convey their stand during tumultuous times. Maybe simmering discontent or raging emotions find an outlet through such creative expressions. Worth reading and writing about, and learning from the life and works of such a powerful, multifaceted personality.

      Reply
      • February 24, 2017 at 4:41 pm
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        I agree Somali, art and culture has its role in such major transformation in in any society, there are stories after stories etched in our history and perhaps creative art forms provides that much needed free space to convey the message and create movement for fighting such causes…
        She was been exceptional talented and her contribution towards the freedom fight and literature stands out…thanks so much for sharing and reminding us.
        By the way I read your post on Insurance, wanted to share my thoughts and found out that you have stopped the comment…
        Have a lovely weekend.
        😀

        Reply
  • March 2, 2017 at 5:20 pm
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    What a beautiful and wise soul she was! Today is my birthday, March 2nd, and I see that she passed away on my birthday 🙁 Well, may her inspiration live in all poets. <3

    Reply
    • March 2, 2017 at 5:25 pm
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      Hey many many happy returns of the day Poet Rose 🌸🌼🌻🌺🌹🌷⚘💐.
      Have a blast on your birthday, for you’ve grown a year younger. 💚💛💕💜🎶🎵😀

      Reply
      • March 2, 2017 at 5:31 pm
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        Oh, thank you so much, my wonderful friend! I feel very blessed having found the friendships here on WordPress.

        I shall eat cake today and make a wish for your happiness and peace. 💕 💞 💓 💗 💖

        Reply
  • October 13, 2017 at 2:52 pm
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    The political turmoil in India gave birth to so many freedom fighter who fought for a just cause and I am so proud of our cultural and political legacy to create awareness, something we should preserve by all means. Thank you for writing about such a multi-talented person.

    Reply

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