The Nightingale of India Sarojini Naidu, Her Literary & Political Contributions

Updated October 10, 2022

The legendary Sarojini Naidu is famously known as Nightingale of India. She was a poet, freedom fighter and has credit of being first woman president to INC and first women governor to Independent India.

Sarojini worked as Suffragist in England and used her expertise in India for Women’s right. Hind Kesari Medal to her in 1928 speaks ample about her stature.

Mrs. Naidu was named as ‘the Nightingale of India’ by Mahatma Gandhi for her beautiful poetry. Her remarkable contributions like “The Golden Threshold”, “The Bird of Time” and “The Broken Wings” made her to win the sobriquet (moniker) “the Nightingale of India”. Last volume of Sarojini’s poems were published in 1961 after her death.

Sarojini Naidu Biography in Short

Legendary Sarojini need no introduction as her contributions to poetic space and in the movement for freedom are huge. Following write- up would give you the precise idea why I am talking so high of her.

Early Life, Family & Literary Works

Mother India’s gifted child, Sarojini Naidu was born in February 13, 1879 in Hyderabad. She was a child prodigy as she began composing poems from the age of 12 years. Moreover, Mrs. Naidu composed her first poem of 1300 lines, “Lady of the Lake’ in six days. Her source of inspiration was nature and the proximate daily life.

Sarojini Naidu was born to Dr Aghore Nath Chattopadhyay and Varada Sundari Devi on 13th February, 1879. Her father was a scientist, philosopher, and educator who was the principle Nizam’s College of Hyderabad and her mother was a poet. Mrs. Naidu was the eldest daughter of Aghorenath Chattopadhyay, a Bengali Brahman. She entered the University of Madras at the age of 12. After that she studied at King’s College, London, and later at Girton College, Cambridge.

Sarojini Naidu, the Nightingale of India started writing the poems when she was barely 12 years old. Her first poem at the very age was “Lady of the Lake”. But her first collection of poems “The Golden Threshold” was published in 1905. After that, Sarojini Naidu’s second volume of poems, “The Bird of Time” came out in 1912. The poems of this collection, which had “a graver music”, were no less enthusiastically received than those of the first collection.

In 1914, Sarojini was elected as fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Her third and final collection “The Broken Wing” came out in 1917. This collection displayed a greater depth of feelings and a brooding sense of sadness not present in her earlier volumes. Her remarkable poems are such as “Coromandel Fisheries”, “the Autumn Song”, Village Song. Naidu’s other poems are “Caprice”, “If You Call Me”, “The Queen’s Rivals”, “To My Fairy Fancies”, “Summer Woods” and “The Soul’s Prayer” etc.

Sarojini Naidu’s Contributions to The Freedom Struggle

Remembering Sarojini Naidu as a poet would be an incomplete tribute to her. In fact, she was way more than a poet. She was a nationalist who made a commendable contribution to the freedom struggle of India. She was also a fighter for women’s rights. Mrs. Naidu worked to arouse women to fight for their rights and to work for their responsibility.

When Sarojini Naidu was in the England, she worked as a Suffragist there. After some experience in the suffragist campaign in England, she came to India and took part in Indian National Congress movement and in Gandhi’s Non-cooperation Movement. In fact, she was the firm believer of Satyagraha and the close follower of Mahatma Gandhi. Precisely, she was a nation builder who tried hard to bring about reforms which would usher in a better society where justice was ensured for all.

In 1917, she helped found the Women’s India Association and highlighted to Congress the need to involve more women in the struggle for freedom.  She travelled all over India, working and giving speeches on youth welfare, workers rights, women’s emancipation and nationalism.

She was the first woman president of INC (Indian National Congress). After getting Independence, she was also the first woman to be appointed the governor of Independent State (United Province). Besides writing poems, she had made a commendable contribution to the freedom struggle of India.

Sarojini Naidu Poems That Inspire

Poems of Sarojini Naidu were not only relevant to her time. In fact, they are every green, insightful and ever inspiring. These poems by her touch various dimensions of life and world. Here is the list of Naidu’s Poems:

1. A Love Song from the North2. A Rajput Love Song
3. Alabaster4. An Indian Love Song
5. Autumn Song6. Corn Grinders
7. Coromandel Fishers8. Cradle Song
9. Damayante To Nala In The Hour Of Exile10. Ecstasy
11. Harvest Hymn12. Humayun To Zobeida (From the Urdu)
13. In Praise Of Henna14. In Salutation to the Eternal Peace
15. In The Forest16. Indian Dancer
17. Indian Love Song18. Indian Weavers
19. Leili20. Life
21. My Dead Dream22. Nightfall In The City Of Hyderabad
23. Ode to H.H. The Nizam Of Hyderabad24. Palanquin Bearers
25. Past and Future26. Song Of A Dream
27. Street Cries28. Suttee
29. The indian gipsy30. The Pardah Nashin
31. The Poet To Death32. The Poet’s Love Song
33. The Queen’s Rival34. The Royal Tombs Of Golconda
35. The Snake Charmer36. The Song Of Princess Zeb-Un-Nissa In Praise Of Her Own Beauty
37. To A Buddha Seated On A Lotus38. To India
39. To My Children40. To My Fairy Fancies
41. To The God of Pain42. To Youth
43. Transience44. Village Song
45. Wandering Singers

Features of The Poetry by Sarojini Naidu

Naidu portrays the everyday life or the natural world in her poems. Many are infused with her patriotism and her desire to make India free from the British rule. Her poems on nature occupy the first place in her poetry. Love, life, death, religion, patriotism and women’s freedom occupy prominent place in her poems. She has expressed these things in simple language which can be easily comprehended.

Simple and Traditional language

Mrs. Naidu’s poems are written in simple and traditional, with the use of Imagery and alliteration devices. Basically, imagery is description using any of the five senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch, or smell. And Alliteration is the repetition of a speech sound in a sequence of nearby words. So, Naidu’s poems are rich with imagery and Alliteration. For instance, in “Autumn Song,” she describes a sunset as follows:

A golden storm of glittering sheaves,
Of fair and frail and fluttering leaves,
The wild wind blows in a cloud.

Mrs. Naidu writes traditional poems that use imagery, rhyme and alliteration and convey her emotions in simple language.

Influence of the Romantic & Victorian Poets

Another characteristic of her poems is that they are influenced by the Romantic and Victorian poetry of England. The influence of Tennyson, Shelley and Browning can easily be seen in her poetry. Nevertheless, Naidu’s all poems have special love for nature.

Most of her imagination originates from trees, rivers, forest and birds. Even the most personal poems do not escape from this strong presence. Their romanticism is such that she blends in a very balanced manner, her emotion and imagination with folk tales and songs. “Village Songs” does it in a very spontaneous way as Naidu transcribes Indian ethos in a perfect romantic vein.

My mother will wait and weep,
Saying O safe may the Great Gods bring her,
The Jamuna’s waters are deep.”

Absence of Noise or Bustle in her Poems

There is a unique quietness in all Naidu’s poems whether they deal with love, nature fairy tales or spirituality. So, the reader is able to establish a connection with the sentiments of the poetess instantly. The quietness comes from Naidu’s direct approach. In “the Soul’s Prayer”, she challenges God like an ignorant child to give her all the raptures and agonies of the world. In the second section of the poem, she also provides God’s reply who tells her the mysteries of her life and death in the following words;

“Life is a prism of my light,
And Death shadow of my face.”

Melancholic Strain

Naidu’s later poetry does have a melancholic strain. It comes from her broken love relationship. The mood of sadness, however, is the most obvious in the poems “Caprice” and “Summer Woods”. “To My Fairy Fancies” also had sadness integrated in its fabric. The pangs of her broken heart are most audible in “Caprice”.

“Idly you tore its crimson leaves depart…
Alas! It was my heart.”

In this way, Sarojini Naidu does prove to be lyrical grace of India.

Life & Works of Sarojini Naidu in Conclusion

Sarojini Naidu has been a gem of a kind among the personalities who earned India a distinct place. Apart from a literary life, Sarojini Naidu led a great political life. She actively participated in the Indian National Congress movement and Mahatma Gandhi’s Non- Cooperation movement.

Patriotism is very much apparent in her poems which seem to be infused of patriotic fervor and her desire to make India free from the English rule. Her love for the country is vocal in many of her poems. The Gift of India by her reflects Sarojini’s love for her country, and reminds us of the sacrifices made by Indian soldiers during the First World War.

Beyond Sarojini Naidu’s Life & Works Under Literature Reads

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