Sarojini Naidu, also known by the sobriquet The Nightingale of India, was a child prodigy, Indian independence activist and poet. Sarojini Naidu was the first Indian woman to become the President of the Indian National Congress and the first woman to become the Governor of Uttar Pradesh state. Being one of the most famous heroines of the 20th century, her birthday is celebrated as Women's Day all over India.
Sarojini Naidu was born on 13 February 1879 in Hyderabad. Her father Dr. Aghornath Chattopadhyaya was a scientist, philosopher, and educator and her mother Varada Sundari Devi was a Bengali poetess. She was the eldest daughter of her parents. A political activist, her father was a co-founder of the Nizam College and the first member of the India National Congress in Hyderabad. Chattopadhyaya was removed from his position as a penalty for his active participation in Indian Independence movement.
Since childhood, Sarojini was a very bright and intelligent child. Though Aghornath wanted his daughter to become a mathematician or scientist, young Sarojini was fond of poetry. At an early age, she wrote a "thirteen-hundred-lines" long poem "The Lady of the Lake". Impressed with her skills of expressing things with appropriate words, Aghornath Chattopadhyaya encouraged her works. Few months later, Sarojini, with assistance from her father, wrote the play "Maher Muneer" in the Persian language.
Sarojini's father Dr. Aghornath Chattopadhyaya distributed some copies of the play among his friends and relatives. He also sent a copy to the Nizam of Hyderabad. Impressed with the works of the little child, the Nizam granted her a scholarship to study overseas. At the age of 16 she got admitted to King's College of England. She traveled to England to study first at King's College London and later at Girton College, Cambridge. There, she had the opportunity to meet prominent English authors like Arthur Simon and Edmond Gausse. It was Gausse who asked Sarojini Naidu to write on the Indian themes like great mountains, rivers, temples, social milieu etc. She depicted contemporary Indian life and events. Her collections "The golden threshold (1905)", "The bird of time (1912)", and "The broken wing (1912)" attracted huge Indian and English readership.
After returning to India, at the age of 19, Sarojini Naidu married Muthyala Govindarajulu Naidu. He was a noted doctor from South India. They were married by the Brahmo Marriage Act (1872), in Madras in 1898. The marriage took place at a time when inter-caste marriages were not allowed and tolerated in the Indian society. Her marriage was a very happy one. They had four children.
Sarojini Naidu had many credits to her, including a notable contribution to the Indian Independence Movement. She joined the movement at the rear of Bengal partition in 1905 and since then, she stuck to her commitment to the cause. While working for the Indian National Congress, she was introduced to many eminent personalities such as Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi with whom she shared a special bond and a very good rapport.
During 1915-1918, she traveled across the India lecturing on social welfare, women empowerment, emancipation and nationalism. Inspired by Jawaharlal Nehru, she embarked on providing help and support for the indigo workers in Champaran who were being subjected to violence and oppression. In 1925, Naidu was appointed the President of the National Congress thus making her the first Indian women to hold the post.
With the introduction of the Rowlett Act in 1919, Sarojini joined the Non-Cooperation Movement organized and led by Mahatma Gandhi. In the same year, she was appointed the Home Rule League's ambassador to England. In 1924, she became a delegate to the East African Indian Congress. In 1925, she was elected as the President of the Indian National Congress Party.
Her major contribution was also in the field of poetry. Her poetry had beautiful words that could also be sung. Soon she got recognition as the "Bul Bule Hind" when her collection of poems was published in 1905 under the title Golden Threshold. After that, she published two other collections of poems--The Bird of Time and The Broken Wings. In 1918, Feast of Youth was published. Later, The Magic Tree, The Wizard Mask and A Treasury of Poems were published. Mahashree Arvind, Rabindranath Tagore and Jawaharlal Nehru were among the thousands of admirers of her work. Her poems had English words, but an Indian soul.
She shared a very warm relationship with Gandhiji and used to call him "Mickey Mouse”. In her last years, Sarojini actively participated in the freedom movement and was a part of the Round Table summit held in 1931. In 1942, she was arrested along with Mahatma Gandhi for her involvement in the Quit India movement and was jailed for almost 2 years. After her release from the jail, she presided over the Steering Committee at the Asian Relations Conference. With the independence of India in 1947, Sarojini Naidu was made the Governor of the Uttar Pradesh in the wake of her contribution to the movement. She was the first woman to become the governor of a state. She died of a heart attack while working in her office on 2 March 1949 at Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.