Sarojini Naidu

Location

Girton College Cambridge, CB3 0JG
United Kingdom
52° 13' 42.168" N, 0° 4' 41.8332" E
Other names: 

née Chattopadhyaya

1
Date of birth: 
13 Feb 1879
City of birth: 
Hyderabad
Country of birth: 
India
Date of death: 
01 Feb 1949
Location of death: 
United Provinces, India
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1895
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Y
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1895-8 (as a student), 1905 (book tour of Britain for The Golden Threshold), 1912-14, 1919-21 (with All India Home Rule League), 1931 (Second Round Table Conference with M. K. Gandhi).

2
About: 

A student at King’s College, London, and Girton College, Cambridge in the early 1890s, and a writer of precocious if imitative verse, Naidu was feted in London in the 1900s as the poet of an exoticized India.

From a Bengali family based in Hyderabad, Naidu was sent to Britain in 1895 on the Nizam's scholarship on the strength of her poetry. She was then not married and known as Sarojini Chattopadhyaya. However, she had already embarked on a romantic relationship with Dr Govindarajalu Naidu, in Hyderabad, who had studied medicine at Edinburgh; her father, Aghorenath Chattopadhyaya had also been a student at Edinburgh University.

She became the ward of Elizabeth Manning, the Secretary of the National Indian Association, whose step-mother had been involved in the foundation of Girton College, Cambridge. Naidu was heavily influenced by the poets Edmund Gosse, Arthur Symons and W. B. Yeats. Particularly interesting accounts of her very early Europeanized work appear as the introductions to her second and third collections, by Arthur Symons, and Edmund Gosse respectively. Her poetry also appeared in the Savoy. Appearances and readings by Naidu in the 1900s were reported in the Indian Magazine.

Naidu returned to India in 1898, beset by ill-health, that dogged her throughout her life. She maintained correspondence with poets in Britain but also embarked on a political career. Her returns to Britain were marked by poetry readings and receptions, convalescence in British nursing homes, as well as political rallies and meetings. She joined the Indian National Congress in 1904 and was vocal about women's rights. She gave evidence in 1919 to a Select Committee in favour of the women's vote in India. She also had a public confrontation with Edwin Montagu over the Amritsar Massacre. Naidu had met M. K. Gandhi in London in 1914 and became very close to him. She accompanied him on the famous Dandi salt march and accompanied him to the Round Table Conference in 1931. Naidu was appointed Governer of United Provinces in 1947 and died in office in February 1949.

Involved in events: 

Poetry readings, London, 1900s

Second Round Table Conference, 1931

3
Published works: 

Songs (1895)

The Golden Threshold (William Heinemann, 1905)

The Bird of Time (William Heinemann, 1912)

The Broken Wing (1917).

Also nationalist speeches, for an extract see Susie Tharu and K. Lalita, Women Writing in India, Vol. 1 (1991)

Contributions to periodicals: 

Journal of the National Indian Association / Indian Magazine and Review

The Modern Review

'Eastern Dancers', Savoy (1896)

Reviews: 

The Academy

The Athenaeum

The Bookman

Manchester Guardian

Observer

Saturday Review

The Speaker

Secondary works: 

Boehmer, Elleke, ‘East is East’ in Stories of Women: Gender and Nationalism in the Postcolonial Nation (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005), pp. 158-171

Banerjee, Hasi, Sarojini Naidu: The Traditional Feminist (Calcutta: K. P. Baghci & Co., 1998)

Baig, Tara Ali, Sarojini Naidu (New Delhi: Government of India, 1974)

Paranjape, Makarand (ed.), Sarojini Naidu: Selected Letters 1890s to 1940s (New Delhi: Kali for Women, 1996)

Raychaudhuri, Tapan, ‘Naidu , Sarojini (1879–1949)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2010) [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/47743]

Sengupta, Padmini, Sarojini Naidu: A Biography (Delhi: Asia Publishing House, 1966)

Sturgeon, Mary C., Studies of Contemporary Poets (London: Harrap & Co., 1920)

4
Archive source: 

Photo of Naidu as the little ‘Indian princess’ appears in Maud Gonne’s The Servant of the Queen

Mss Eur A95, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Mss Eur F341/152 (notes on Naidu in Geraldine Forbes collection), Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

National Archives of India, Delhi

Nehru Memorial Library, Delhi