Sarojini Naidu Biography
The legend was born on 13th February 1879 in Hyderabad to parents Aghornath Chattopadhyaya, a scientist, philosopher, linguist and educator and his Bengali poetess wife Barada Sundari Devi. Sarojini Naidu’s father settled in Hyderabad where he founded and administered the Hyderabad College after receiving a doctor of science degree from Edinburg University.
Being a brilliant student, she was well versed in Urdu, Telugu, English, Bengali and Persian. She even topped the matriculation examination at Madras University at the age of 12. Inspired by her mother, she was interested in poetry and wanted to take up a career in this divine profession. But her father wanted her to become a mathematician or a scientist.
Impressed by her play ‘Maher Muneer’ , the Nizam of Hyderabad gave her scholarship to study abroad. So Naidu at the age of 16 travelled to England to study first at King’s College, London and then Girton College, Cambridge where she met famous laureates of her time such as Arthur, Symons and Edmond Gosse.
The credit of her depiction of contemporary Indian life and events in her poems goes to Edmond Gosse who convinced her to stick to Indian themes. And her collections ‘The Golden Threshold’ (1905), ‘The Bird of Time’ (1912) and ‘The Broken Wing’ (1917)’ enjoyed huge Indian and English readership.
The condition of India during the rule of the British greatly affected her and she joined the Indian national movement in the wake of partition of Bengal in 1905. Most of her poems reflect Indian culture and simplicity.
During 1915-1918, she travelled to different regions in Indian delivering lectures on social welfare, women empowerment and nationalism. Her support and guidance gave women courage to step out of their restricted home sphere and she also aided in founding the Women’s Indian Association (WIA) in 1917.
She was sent to London along with Anne Besant, President of WIA, to present the case for the women’s vote to the Joint Select Committee. Then in 1925, she presided over the annual session of Indian National Congress at Cawnpore. In 1929, she also presided over East African Indian Congress in South Africa.
She was awarded the Kaiser-i-hind medal by the British government for her work during the plague epidemic of India. Participating in the round table conference in 1931 with Gandhiji and Madan Mohan Malviya, she played an important role in the Civil Disobedience Movement inspiring Indians to fight for their freedom. She was jailed along with Gandhiji and other leaders for her support in the movement.
In 1942 she was again arrested for her participation in the Quit India movement. Her help, support and guidance during the freedom fight of our country developed a strong relationship between her and Gandhiji and she called him ‘Mickey Mouse’. She started writing at the age of 12 and had a number of fans including the nawab of Hyderabad. She was also admired by prominent Indian politicians like Gopal Krishna Gokhle and Jawaharlal Nehru.