Sarojini Naidu, Kings College London; Class of 1898

13 Feb

In honour of what would be her 135th birthday, if she were still alive, we’re celebrating the life of Sarojini Naidu, one of the early female Indian students to head to the U.K. for her higher studies – and subsequent President of the Indian National Congress party.

Born in Hyderabad to a Bengali family, Naidu (born Chattopadhyay) was a child prodigy – who topped the matriculation exams at Madras University at the grand age of 12 years old. She was fluent in Urdu, Telugu, English, Bengali, and Persian – and was also a proficient poet.

In 1895, at age 16, she was given a scholarship by the Nizam of Hyderabad’s trust, to study at King’s College London, graduating from here in 1898. This was followed by attendance at Girton College, Cambridge, where she honed her poetry skills and developed expression of Indian themes within her writing.

After falling in love with Dr. Govindarajulu Naidu, a non-Brahmin doctor, who she met in England, she married him age 19, with the blessings of her parents.

Naidu went on to become a well known poet; and then was approached to use her poetic talents in the fight for India’s independence.  This led to her meeting with Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who’s message of non-violence she took to the U.S. in 1928. When Gandhi was arrested in 1931, she took the lead in his struggle for independence. In 1942, she was also arrested and spent 21 months in jail alongside Gandhi.

Naidu became the first Indian woman to become President of the Indian National Congress, and after independence was the first Governor of Uttar Pradesh.

(The above photo of Sarojini Naidu, taken in 1930, is courtesy of

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