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75 Year Anniversary of the Death of Sarojini Naidu

Authored by Nishah Malik
Published on 2nd March, 2024 3 min read

75 Year Anniversary of the Death of Sarojini Naidu

Today (02/03/2024) marks the 75th anniversary of the death of the Indian independence activist, poet, and politician, Sarojini Naidu. Born in 1879 to a Bengali family in Hyderabad (present day India), Naidu was academically gifted from a young age. After passing her matriculation examination with flying colours at the mere age of twelve, she attended King’s College London and Girton College at the University of Cambridge between the years 1895 and 1898. 

During her time in England she became a suffragist and was exposed to ideas of liberty, democracy, and nationalism through her interactions with British and the Indian intellectuals residing in the country. This experience awakened her political consciousness and laid the groundwork for her future work. Upon her return to India she became involved in the campaign for independence from British rule that was being spearheaded by the Indian National Congress. Naidu is widely regarded as one of the first women to participate in India’s struggle for independence. She was a consistent advocate of Indian independence and worked closely with nationalist leaders, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. She also participated in a number of non-violent protests and became the first female president of the Indian National Congress. When India gained its independence in 1947, she became the first woman governor of Uttar Pradesh, a position that she held until 1949. 

Naidu was a staunch advocate of women’s rights and empowerment in India. She actively encouraged families to educate their daughters and to set up schools for girls—she believed a woman’s education was key in terms of her empowerment. Naidu routinely spoke out against aspects of traditional Indian culture that restricted women’s freedom, such as child marriage and the purdah system—the strict seclusion and veiling of women in certain Indian communities. 

Alongside her political work, Naidu contributed significantly to the literary and cultural landscape of India. Often referred to as the “Nightingale of India”, she was a highly acclaimed poet. Her poetry, some of which she wrote for children, was renowned for its lyrical beauty and for the way in which it blended Indian culture with more contemporary themes, such as social awareness and patriotism. Naidu’s poem In the Bazaars of Hyderabad, penned in 1912, is her most popular piece.1 

Naidu is an inspiration to all women: she gained degrees from two prestigious British universities, became the first woman president of the Indian National Congress, was appointed the first woman governor of Uttar Pradesh, and was a proponent of women’s rights, all at a time when an Indian woman’s place was widely deemed to be in the home. Yet Naidu’s life and legacy is particularly important to South Asian women, who continue to fight for equal rights in a predominantly patriarchal culture. South Asian women have struggled with cultural and sexual limitations for generations. Crucially, this is not just the case in South Asia, but throughout the South Asian diaspora. 

Sarojini Naidu made significant contributions to the development of Indian culture and society. She remains an iconic figure in the country’s history. Her legacy is celebrated annually on National Women’s Day in India on 13 February (Naidu’s birthday). 

Endnotes 

1. Sarojini Naidu, "In The Bazaars of Hyderabad," in The Birds of Time: Songs of Life, Death and The Spring (London: John Lane Company, 1916).


Authored by Nishah Malik

Nishah Malik

Nishah Malik is Collections Editor at British Online Archives. Nishah gained a Masters in History from the University of Derby in 2020. Her research interests centre around South Asian culture and heritage, as well as the history and experiences of the South Asian diaspora. She also has a keen interest in women's history.


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The British Online Archives Notable Days diary is a platform intended to mark key dates and events throughout the year. The posts draw attention to historical events and figures, as well as recurring cultural traditions and international awareness days, in both religious and secular contexts.

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