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☾ Sarojini Naidu

Hey there, you gorgeous souls, we are so excited for the subject this week, this is one of the reasons why The Spiritual mamas even exist! From the get-go we wanted to be able to talk about all things spiritual but also all things women empowerment!

We are so proud to be a woman, us women are strong, beautiful, powerful and do so many amazing things every day without even realising it. WOMEN.ARE.INCREDIBLE!

We have been talking a lot about women empowerment for the last few weeks to each other, and we really wanted to focus on some influential, empowering women, in the past and in the present moment who have helped paved the way and shattered barriers, we wanted to write for the women who are continuing to fight for our rights. To thank the women in our past and present for helping guide us to live our most authentic life and to be able to do even the simplest tasks and making it known that we deserve just as much respect as everyone else.

So, I was thinking a lot about who I wanted to cover in this post and after going back and forth on a lot of amazing, just phenomenal women and feeling so inspired, I chose to talk about Sarojini Naidu today. The reason I wanted to talk about Sarojini was because the moment I started reading about her, I felt instantly her power, her strength and was just totally inspired by her, so shall we begin?

You might have heard about Sarojini Naidu before, she was a poet, activist, politician – Just a pretty amazing woman! She fought for civil rights, women’s emancipation, anti-imperialism, she stood at the forefront of India’s battles for independence from British rule. Impressive right?

Sarojini Naidu (born Sarojini Chattopadhyay) was born Thursday 13th February 1879 in Hyderabad India, she was born into a Bengali family.

Her father Aghorenath Chattopadhyay was an Indian educationist, social reformer and in 1877 was the first Indian to secure a Doctor of Science degree from Edinburgh University. He later became the first principle of Nizam college in Hyderabad which used to be called Hyderabad college.

Sarojini’s mother was called Varada Sundari Devi, she was involved in women’s education and was a prominent Bengali poet.

Sarojini was the eldest of her 8 siblings, her brother Virendranath Chattpadhyay was a revolutionary nationalist who became a communist and died during the Moscow purges in 1937. Her other brother Harindranath was a poet, an actor and musician.

The family was well-regarded in Hyderabad, not only for leading the Nizam college of Hyderabad but also as Hyderabad’s most famous artists at that time, so let me just go into this a little bit more, so, being an artist in the era of British rule in India was considered quite a risky career, yet with their developing values, they pursued them anyway, Sarojini was actually encouraged to pursue them by her parents.

Sarojini went to school in Hyderabad and after she passed her matriculation examination to qualify for university study, which by the way, she earned the highest rank in 1981, when she was twelve!

From 1895 to 1898 Sarojini studied in England, at Kings college, London and the Girton College in Cambridge with a Scholarship because of the strength of her poetry but was opposed to structured education and chose not to take the degree. In England, she met artists from Aesthetic and Decadent movements and travelled shortly in Europe.

During her time in London, Sarojini encountered the suffrage movement and quickly became a campaigner and activist, Sarojini’s campaigning gained momentum when she gave evidence to try to persuade the British Government to give voting rights to Indian women. Although this failed, the bill paved the way for Indian states to decide the issue.

At King’s College, Sarojini was encouraged to develop her talents as a poet and to write about her experiences of growing up in India and in 1905 Sarojini’s first published work was the poetry collection “The Golden Threshold”, her most famous poem is “In the Bazaars of Hyderabad” which is still taught in Indian secondary schools and European universities to this day! Which is just awesome.

I’ve included “In the Bazaars of Hyderabad”, just in case you’ve never read it before.

“In the Bazaars of Hyderabad”.

What do you sell, 0 ye merchants?

Richly your wares are displayed,

Turbans of crimson and silver,

Tunics of purple brocade,

Mirrors with panels of amber,

Daggers with handles of jade.

What do you weigh, 0 ye vendors?

Saffron and lentil and rice.

What do you grind, 0 ye maidens?

Sandalwood, henna and spice.

What do you call, 0 ye pedlars?

Chessmen and ivory dice.

What do you make, 0 ye goldsmiths?

Wristlet and anklet and ring,

Bells for the feet of blue pigeons,

Frail as a dragon-fly’s wing,

Girdles of gold for the dancers,

Scabbards of gold for the king.

What do you cry, 0 ye fruitmen?

Citron, pomegranate and plum.

What do you play, 0 musicians?

Cithar, sarangi and drum.

What do you chant, 0 magicians?

Spells for the aeons to come.

What do you weave, 0 ye flower-girls?

With tassels of azure and red?

Crowns for the brow of a bridegroom,

Chaplets to garland his bed,

Sheets of white blossoms new gathered

To perfume the sleep of the dead.

When she did eventually return to India in 1898 after falling ill, she married Dr. Muthyala Govindarajulu Naidu the same year, at this time this was unusual since it meant an intercommunity as well as an intercaste marriage (the Chattopadhyays were Bengali Brahmins, while Sarojini was a non-Brahmin from Andhra Pradesh). Luckily both their families approved their marriage, which was long and harmonious, and they had 5 children together.

Beginning in 1904, Sarojini became an increasingly popular public speaker, promoting Indian independence and women’s rights, especially women’s education. She addressed the Indian National Congress and the Indian Social Conference in Calcutta in 1906 and her social work for flood relief earned her the Kaisar-i-Hind Medal in 1911, which she later returned in protest over the April 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, actual Queen energy, which I am living for!

She was highly moved by Gandhi and his idea of attaining Independence through non-violence and in 1914 she had met Mahatma Gandhi, whom she credited with inspiring a new commitment to political action and they formed a close friendship.

Sarojini met Muthulakshmi Reddy in 1909 and with Reddy she helped establish the Women’s Indian Association in 1917, later that year, Sarojini accompanied her colleague Annie Besant, who was the president of Home Rule League and Women’s Indian Association, to advocate universal suffrage in front of the Joint Select Committee in London, United Kingdom. Sarojini and her daughter Padmaja later played an important role in the Quit Indian Movement rule in India and were both imprisoned several times.

Sarojini began her presidency of the Indian National Congress in 1925 and was the first governor of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh from 1947 until her death in 1949.

On her return from New Delhi on 15 February, she was advised to rest by her doctors, and all official engagements were cancelled. Her health deteriorated substantially, and bloodletting was performed on the night of 1st March after she complained of severe headache. She collapsed following a fit of cough. Naidu was said to have asked the nurse attending to her to sing to her at about 10:40 p.m. which put her to sleep. Unfortunately, Sarojini died of cardiac arrest at 3:30 p.m. on the 2nd of March 1949 at the Government House in Lucknow, her last rites were performed at the Gomati River.

Sarojini’s birthday is now celebrated as Women’s Day in India to recognise powerful voices of women in India’s history and as a poet, Sarojini was known as the “Nightingale of India”. Edmund Gosse called her “the most accomplished living poet in India” in 1919.

I hope you understand now why I picked Sarojini Naidu, she is a fascinating woman who has done so much for women in India and is someone who should never be forgotten. She really is an incredible woman who has shown us that we should keep fighting for what we believe in, even when the circumstances are tough! So, from The Spiritual Mamas, we thank you Sarojini for being a true inspiration to all us women.

We have more amazing, inspirational, strong women who will inspire you coming, so keep a look out and if there is anyone you want us to cover, please let us know!!

Love and Light

☾ The Spiritual Mamas x

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