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The Nightingale of India: Sarojini Naidu

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When most of us are taught about the freedom fighters in India, there are only a few names that stand out: Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Bhagat Singh, amongst a few others. The rest, are just names to us. These people may not have famous movies made about them: their achievements and sacrifices, but their contribution in the making of the Republic of India needs to be celebrated just as much. Sarojini Naidu is one such woman.

 

Born to Bengali parents living in Hyderabad and despite being the eldest child in family, Naidu did not have a conservative childhood. She studied in England and had an inter-caste marriage, with her father’s blessing- this was back in late 19th century! Unlike most women at the time, she did not let marriage interfere with her dreams.

 

Naidu started writing at the age of 12. Her Persian play, ‘Maher Muneer’ was much appreciated by the Nawab of Hyderabad and later gave her the opportunity of studying abroad. Sarojini Naidu is as famous for her poetry as she is for her political career, her collection of poems: published both before and after her death, are highly regarded by academics throughout the country.

 

The Partition of  Bengal in 1905, was one of the most tragic events in the Independence history and saw a major political uprising in India. This urged Sarojini Naidu to become an active part of the protests that followed this partition. She joined the Indian national movement and travelled to different parts of the country urging people to join Nationalism movements and push women empowerment.

 

Mahatma Gandhi and Sarojini Naidu at 1942 AICC Session

Mahatma Gandhi and Sarojini Naidu at 1942 AICC Session.
Picture By: Wikimedia Commons

In 1930, when Mahatma Gandhi launched the Salt Satyagraha, she was one of the key participants of the movement and even joined him for the first round table conference. She was later jailed during the quit India movement, but continued to work for Independence struggle. Post-Independence, she became the first governor of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh from 1947 to 1949.

 

Here are some of her greatest achievements:

  • Her first book, a collection of poems, titled ‘The Golden Threshold’ was published in 1905.
  • In 1925, she was elected as the first Indian woman President of the Indian National Congress Party.
  • Sarojini Naidu was the first woman Governor of Uttar Pradesh.
  • She played a key role in the establishment of the Women’s Indian Association (WIA) in 1917.
  • She joined Annie Besant, President of WIA, in London, to present the case for the women’s vote to the Joint Select Committee.
  • In 1929, she was awarded the Kaisar-i-Hind Medal by the British government for her work during the plague epidemic in India.

 

Very few women in India were at the forefront of the Independence struggle. This was mostly due to lack of education and the social restrictions imposed on women. Naidu’s efforts in helping the nation gain its independence and later contributing to the development of the country as a part of the government: are not just noteworthy but inspirational. As a woman and a leader, Sarojini Naidu proved that talent, dedication and the drive to achieve something as not restricted to gender.

 

 

[Feature Picture Credit: Raghubir Singh Junior Modern School]

Special Report by

Shubhangini Arora

 

 

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