Sarojini featured in the very first exhibition of Female Poets of the First World War held i n November 2012 at The Wilfred Owen Story Museum, Wirral, UK
Sarojini wanted to Marry Dr. Govindurajulu Naidu, who though from a well-established and esteemed family, was not from the same Caste as Sarojini’s family. In the hopes that she would forget about him, her family send Sarojini to England to continue her studies.
In 1895 Sarojini went to study at King’s College, London and later to Girton College, Cambridge. She stayed in England for three years, except for a brief trip to Italy. During her stay, she met the Gosse family (Edmund Gosse was a poet), the poet and critic Arthur Symons (who persuaded her to publish her poems) and Siegfried Sassoon.
In “The Weald of Youth”, Siegfried Sassoon described meeting Sarojini “a charming Indian poetess” at a party given during the early part of the 20th Century by the poet Edmund Gosse at his London home in Hannover Terrace. The Gosse family and the Sassoon family were close friends.
“The Weald of Youth” by Siegfried Sassoon, published by Faber & Faber, London, in 1942 (p. 177).
In December 1898, Sarojini c aused scandal when she married Dr. Naidu, thus breaking through the bonds of the Caste system. In 1916, she met Mahatma Ghandi and from then on devoted herself to the cause of independence. She was also a feminist and travelled from State to State urging women to leave the kitchen and campaign for women’s rights. In 1928, Sarojini travelled to the United States of America.
After Independence was granted in 1947, Sarojini became Governor of Uttar Pradesh. She was the first woman to become President of the Indian National Congress.
Sarojini died on 2nd March 1949.
India was emerging as a modern nation when in 1914, they answered the call Britain put out to her Empire. Military and financial aid was sent to help the cause.
According to "The Times" newspaper at the time, "The Indian Empire has overwhelmed the British nation by the completeness and unanimity of its enthusiastic aid."
|Indian Cavalry of the Deccan Horse - Battle of Bazentin Ridge,|
14th July 1916
“The Gift of India”
Is there aught you need that my hands withhold,
Rich gifts of raiment or grain or gold?
Lo! I have flung to the East and West
Priceless treasures torn from my breast,
And yielded the sons of my stricken womb
To the drum-beats of duty, the sabres of doom.
Gathered like pearls in their alien graves
Silent they sleep by the Persian waves,
Scattered like shells on Egyptian sands,
They lie with pale brows and brave, broken hands,
They are strewn like blossoms mown down by chance
On the blood-brown meadows of Flanders and France.
Can ye measure the grief of the tears I weep
Or compass the woe of the watch I keep?
Or the pride that thrills thro' my heart's despair,
And the hope that comforts the anguish of prayer?
And the far sad glorious vision I see
Of the torn red banners of Victory?
When the terror and tumult of hate shall cease
And life be refashioned on anvils of peace,
And your love shall offer memorial thanks
To the comrades who fought in your dauntless ranks,
And you honour the deeds of the deathless ones
Remember the blood of thy martyred sons!
Sarojini Naidu, August 1915
From Sarojini Naidu’s WW1 collection “The Broken Wing Songs of Love, Death and Destiny 1915-1916” with an introduction by Edmund Gosse (William Heinemann, London, 1917) which is available as a download on Archive
With thanks to Phil Dawes for telling me about this poem.
The 1947 Indian Independence Act partitioned British India into the two new independent dominions of India and Pakistan. It received royal assent on 18th July 1947.
Map of the British Empire in the 1920s
Indian Cavalry of the Deccan Horse - Battle of Bazentin Ridge 14th July 1916 - WW1 Buffs