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Cultural Unity and National Traditions in the Works of Sarojini Naidu

                                                                  – Dr Charu Mehrotra

     Associate professor (Dept of English)

Bareilly College, Bareilly.

 The medium of an artist and writer may be varied – a sculpture medium is stone, a painter’s colors and canvas, a musicians musical note where as a writers is words. Irrespective of the fact whether the writer is a poet or the novelist, the ultimate aim is the same i.e. unraveling the truth.  It is evident that no power in the world, no scepter could choke the voice of a man, the freedom of speech, writings of the great leaders and thinkers of the time. It is because of the fact that all those books suppressed  had their deep and lasting influences fresh and energizing impact on readerrs mind. Human thoughts and activities are usually influenced by two things- religious or moral and political. It cannot be refuted that men have the basic instinct to moralize their action and to see the society comply with certain well – acknowledged ethical concepts. Thus, man of genius, who discards the age – old sanctities of life, contemporary social and political event renders irreparable harm to art. No wonder, if the government and the general public have often been easily upset by the activities of the artists who are very original and innovating. Since time immemorial, persons in power have always been ruthlessly imposing restrictions on free independent thinking in every sphere of life – religious or moral, social, political, literary etc. As it is an old saying that literature mirrors the society “a literary artist, therefore, reflects the social and political aspect and his work of literature are deeply tinged with the current contemporary wave. Whenever there is a political upheaval in the society the work of the writer is affected by it. They being in the society the work of the writer are affected by it. They being very sensitive and emotional are stirred by it and their feelings are exposed in their work. Boris Pasternak could not ignore the impact o f Russian revolution and mirrored it in ‘Doctor Zhivago’ . George Orwell in his novel ”Animal Farm” has presented the story of the world ruled by the dictatorship of the Stalinist style, was kept under surveillance. Annie Besant edited a paper entitled ‘New India’ which upheld the rights of the Indians for freedom, and that landed her in Madras Jail in 1917. Gandhi’s ‘Hind Swaraj’ was also banned. Taslima Nasrin wrote ‘Lajja’ (shame) in the wake of the Babri structure demolition on 6th December 1992 at Ayodhya. Perhaps in ‘Lajja’ Taslima Nasrin wanted to show the other side of the picture and to make the riotous temple- breaking mobs of Bangladesh look into their own heart and ask themselves sharply whether they were any better than ‘mosque breaking’ Hindus or whether they were not worse, for they had destroyed not only  structure  of stone but the lives of countless men, women and children and made quite a few of them refugees seeking shelter in India.  Indian literature in English is directly related to the Indian Renaissance which manifested itself in 19th century right from the very first poem of Indian poet Henry Derozio. The theme of resurgent India is evident in Indian English Literature in the works of Tagore, Shri Aurobindo, Harindra Nath, MulkRaj ,Raja Rao and others. However,this regeneration of Indian polity is most specifically reflected in the poetry of Sarojini Naidu.  Sarojini Naidu’s ‘ Lotus’ addressed to Gandhi  and ‘Awake’ addressed to Jinnah are the fine examples of her political poetry where she emphasizes the invincible glory of the Indian culture. In spite of many foreign invasions India remains a lotus and therefore it cannot be converted into a waste land as visualized by T.S. Eliot the land of cacti. Sarojini Naidu was one of Mother India’s most gifted children, readily sharing  her burden of pain, agonies and hopes. She has been struggling all her life between two ideals- 1. her allegiance to song  2.the service of the country. She is filled with an over powering passion of love for mother India which she has naturally to express in some of her poems. In India she was hailed as the Nightingale of India by Gandhi. She is deeply associated with the rise of political consciousness among the Indian people. She started her poetic career as a romantic poet singing songs of love, nature, joys, and sorrows that were mainly personal lyrics. Her poetry upto 1914 is personal and romantic then she got associated with the freedom struggle and came in contact with Tilak, Gokhale, Gandhi and Nehru. Those were the days of Vande Matram the time was appropriate for her entry into  politics. In 1906, at the Calcutta session of the Indian Social Conference she adroitly linked up the suppression of women’s rights in India with the loss of country’s freedom. After the active participation in the politics of the Gandhian era she scarified her poetic ambition and devote herself to the service of mother lndia she became the official poet of the Congress party and sang patriotic song at every convention where she was present. She wrote poems highlighting the personalities associated with the freedom movement. In her poems we meet Tikal, Gokhale, Gandhi and Jinnah. Her last volume of poetry ‘The Broken Wing’ has made it clear that the woman, the mother ,the patriot  remained but the poet was no more than a memory. With the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi on the political scene Sarojini Naidu found a new power for life. She looked into her broken heart and there she saw a new vision of the chained mother and there she took the pledge to break the bond. She expressed her feelings in inspiring speeches and fearless actions. On her death on 3rd March, 1949, Nehru as a Prime Minister paid tribute to her in the Constituent Assembly: “She began life as poetess. In later years when the compulsion of events drew her into the national struggle and she threw herself into it with all the zest and fire she possessed, she did not write much poetry with pen and paper but her whole life became a poem and a song …………….Just as the Father of Nation had infused moral grandeur and greatness in the struggle, Mrs. Sarojini Naidu gave it artistry and  poetry and the zest for life and indomitable spirit which not only faced disaster and catastrophe but faced them with a light  heart and with a song on the lips and a smile on the face.”Love of one’s country was an emotion as much as the love of Man or Nature. She was an advocate of national freedom , cultural unity and Indian tradition. Her poetry is known as the voice of India’s ‘ composite culture’. We can hear their cries of Hare Krishna, Allah Oh Akbar, Sat Shree Akal and Zenavesta. Some fine examples of her political poetry are her earlier poems. ‘The Gifts of India’ depicts the chivalry of Indians in the World War I (1914-18). It reminds the world of the brave who fought and died for the cause of their nation:”Gathered like pearls in their alien gravesSilent they sleep by the Persian waves,Scattered like shells on Egyptian sands They lie with pale brows and braves, broken hands,They are strewn like blossoms mown down by chance.”2She composed and recited a poem (Awake) at the Indian National Congress held in 1915, in which she described the blessings showered by India upon her children.- “Are we not thine, o Belov’d to inherit The manifold pride and power of thy spirit?Ne’er shall we fail thee, for sake thee or falter,Whose hearts are thy home and thy shields and thine altars?”3 ‘Anthem of Love, may be regarded as the offering of love to the mother country -“One heart are we to love thee, O our mother,One undivided, invisible soulBound by one hope, one purpose, one devotionTowards a great, divinely destined goal”4In her sonnet ‘Lotus’ she emphasizes the invincible glory of Indian culture. India has suffered many invasions but no foreigner has been able to crush the spirit –  the culture of India because it is deeply rooted in life affirming water of philosophy, religion and tradition. India remains a lotus growing in eternal water and therefore it cannot be converted into waste land as visualized by T.S. Eliot which is the land of ‘cacti’. This sonnet is dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. The symbol (Lotus: Gandhi) continues through the entire poem and helps the poet to elevate the personality and character of Mahatma to great heights, his god like quality of swaying the hearts and mind of men. “But who could win thy secret, who attainThine ageless beauty born of Brahma’s breath,Or pluck thine immortality, who artCoeval with the Lords of Life and Death?”5Another very famous poem which was dedicated to Jinnah is a song called “Awake” when she gives a clarion call to her people exhorting them to dedicate their lives to the great mother India. In this patriotic lyric she praised to the sleeping mother to rise up and bless her children so that they may organize themselves into one dynamic power and defeat the foreign rulers, banishing them from her source. The cry ‘Awake’ remains the symbol of Indian Renaissance that is epitomized in her poetry. The children of India have different creeds and culture but they are all united in their dedication to the  service of their motherland. In this poem we hear the voices of Hindus, Muslims, Parsees, Christians and people of all other creeds singing a chorus of love and patriotism.”Hindus – Mother! the flowers of our worship have crowned thee!Parsees – Mother! the flame of our hope shall surround thee!Mussalmans-Mother! the sword of our love shall defend thee!Christians – Mother! the songs of our faith shall attend thee!All creeds – Shall not our dauntless devotion avail thee? Hearken! O Queen O Goddess ,we hail thee!”6
Her another patriotic poem “To India” was composed before the attainment of independence. It is addressed to Mother India who is presented as “young through all thy immemorial years.” She invokes her to rise from her gloom of slavery and ‘ beget new glories from the ageless womb’. There is prophetic note in the end of the poem “Thy future calls thee with a manifold soundTo crescent honors, splendors, victories vast;Waken O slumbering!Mother and be crowned,Who once went Empress to the sovereign past”?7Her poems are immediately intelligible; they rhyme and they scan; there is no ruggedness in their phrasing they have a feeling for place,occasion and atmosphere. Sir Aurobindo has rightly remarked about Sarojini Naidu, ‘her works are a real beauty. Some of her lyrical work is likely, I think, to survive among the lasting things in English literature and by these, even if they are fine rather than great, she may take her rank among the immortal’.


1. Indian Writing in English – K.R.S. Iyengar Pg-396.

2. The Broken Wing,Allahabad ,   Kitabistan,1917,Pg.173.

3.The sceptred flute, Allahabad, Kitabistan 1969, Pg.146.

4. The sceptred flute, Allahabad, Kitabistan 1969, Pg.131.

5. The sceptred flute, Allahabad, Kitabistan 1969, Pg.167.

6. The sceptred flute, Allahabad, Kitabistan 1969,Pg.180-181

7. The sceptred flute, Allahabad, Kitabistan 1969, Pg.58.

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