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Updated on October 14, 2012

Freedom Fighter, Poet, Orator & Politician

The symbol of the Indian Independence Movement was Mother Durga for good reasons. Mother Durga is a great warrioress against all forms of nasty demons. Many members of the movement took the female form and were physical embodiments of this great goddess. With Navratri beginning October 16, it's great to remember women who were like Mother Durga. Women from India, the Americas and United Kingdom were prime activists in the movement. They were fiesty and uppity women who had great courage like Rosa Parks who sat in the front of the bus and started the American Civil Rights Movement. Many of these women went to jail, organized and confronted the oppression of the British. Many became leaders when India became independent of the British Empire.

One of these great foremothers was Sarojini Naidu, who was a great freedom fighter, orator, poet, activist and politician. She was elected to the Presidency of the Indian National Congress and one of Gandhi's great associates and activists who led the Salt Satyagrapha Action. Later she became Governor of Uttar Pradesh when India achieved its independence from the Brits.

She was a woman who certainly had a very supportive husband. They raised four children together while she was involved with all this activity. Behind every great woman is another great person or persons who support her greatness. This husband certainly was one of these great people who stood by her activism.

Sarojini was born on February 13, 1879 in Hyerbad, India to a very intelligent and gifted scientist, philosopher and educator, Aghornath Chattopadhyaya. Barada Sundari Devi, her mother, was talented at writing Bengali poetry and writing Sanskrit. Her father was a political activist and co-founder of Nizam College and first member of the Indian National Congress in Hyerbad. He lost his position because of his activism in the movement. So her father was a man of great principles and courage, one of her first role models in activism.

She met her husband, Dr. Muthyala Govindarajulu Naidu, when she was 17 and attending college. Their marriage was based on love and their parents supported their marriage. In 1985 she studied at King's College in London and Girton College, Cambridge University. She was multi-lingual in Urdu, English, Persian, Telugu and Bengali. At the age of 19 she married Dr. Naidu upon completion of her studies at college. Their marriage was considered radical at the time because she was a brahim and he was a non-brahim. They had four children together and had very successful marriage. Jayasurya, Padmaja, Randheer and Leelamani were the names of their children. Her daughter, Padmaja, became Governor of West Bengal and published a poetry collection, The Feather of the Dawn.

Sarojini joined the Indian Freedom Movement in 1905. As first female president of the Indian National Congress, she met Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Jawaharial Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi. She was one of Gandhi's closest associates. In 1915-18 she worked on several activist issues: "social welfare, female empowerment, emancipation and nationalism." In 1919 she joined the Non-Cooperation Movement led by Gandhi. In that same year she became the Home Rule League's Ambassdor to England. In 1924 she was a delegate to the East African Indian Congress.

She was called the Nightingale of India because of her great ability as a writer and poet. Her poetry books were: The Golden Threshold, The Bird of Time and Broken Wing. She also published the biography of Muhammad Ali Jinnah entitled, The Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity.

She also ended up in jail for her activism with Gandhi in the Quit India Movement of 1942. She sat in prison for two years for her bravery and courage. Think about it, she was 63 at the time. In 1947 she became the first female governor of an Indian state, Uttar Pradesh. She died at her desk on March 2, 1949, at the age of 70, of a heart attack.

Navratri celebrates the power of the Goddess in all her great forms. What a great goddess Sarojini Naidu was when she she confronted the British police in the Salt Satyagrapha Action. This is where she first earned her reputation as a fiesty and courageous activist. She was a woman who had a career, a family, a marriage and was an activist who changed the world. She is a great foremother, role model, feminist, human rights activist, politician and creative writer. India had many women like her in the movement. It's great to remember you can be like her your own way. You do not have to follow some pre-set stereotype of what some people think a woman should be. Just be who you are. You can be an intelligent, articulate women who changes the world.

I admire her husband for supporting her through all these great events. He obviously respected her as a person and encouraged her activism. He supported her freedom to be who she was as a woman, activist, mother, politician and writer. Modern women have many challenges balancing their family life and career goals as mentioned in a recent yagna at Vishnu in Minneapolis by Pandit Jagmohan Persaud in his excellent katha on Mother Sita, a great Shakti, who knew what she wanted. Many of the women of this movement were excellent embodiments of Durga Ma and womankind. They certainly knew what they wanted. In the 1970's women started raising consciousness on these issues of family balance and career on a larger scale. Many of the female leaders of this great movement lived this balance so wonderfully and profoundly in the 1940's. Have a Happy Navratri! May the Mother bless you many times over!




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      radhapriestess 5 years ago

      Thanks for the link. I have written a number blogs for Navratri of a similiar nature. This time I wanted to be creative and focus on actual women who embody the attributes of the mother. I tend to be practical in my applications.

    • parwatisingari profile image

      parwatisingari 5 years ago from India

    • radhapriestess profile image

      radhapriestess 5 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Thanks for the information and personal experience with her poetry. Very interesting to know about this.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      When I was a student in India, we had to read Sarojini's poem. This is how I came to learn about the the activist and poet. Many women in Nepal took a lesson from Naidu. In the early times of democratic struggle in Nepal lots of women were directly influenced by Sarojini.

      Navaratra, the festival of nine days, commemorated women in divine form. It is much touted festival in Nepal. We call it Vijaya Dashami, or Dashain, in Nepal