Sarojini Naidu

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The Indian English poetry that flourished in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was largely an imitation of the English Romantic poetry both in its form and matter. No attempt was made to project the essence and nuances of the rich culture and tradition of India. The Westerners inturn wished for a glmpse of Indian life and customs through the literature of the time. As Edmund Gosse says in his introduction to Sarojini Naidu’s The Bird of Time (1912) : What we wished to receive was not a rechauffe of Anglo-Saxon sentiment in an Anglo-Saxon setting, but some revelation of the heart of India, some sincere penetrating analysis of native passion, of the principles of antique religion and of such mysterious intimations as stirred the soul of the East long before the West had begun to dream that it had a soul. ( “Introduction” The Bird of Time ) Such a revelation of the heart of India began with the poems of Toru Dutt. Greatly influenced by the puranas and the religious culture of ancient India, she interpreted Indian life before the Western world by recapturing the legendary past of India in her verses. Following Toru Dutt, Sarojini Naidu wrote poems rooted in Indian folklore, myths and legends thus showing the West the soul of India. Sarojini Naidu’s poetry can be regarded as a mirror of India. She portrays the customs, traditions, festivals, myths and legends, men and women, flaura and fauna, landscape and skyscape of India through her poems. According to A.A Ansari, the most characteristic quality of Sarojini Naidu’s poetry besides its lyrical wealth is its purely Indian character. Her poems “Summer Woods” and “Village Song” are rich in Indian situations and sentiments. The poem “Village Song” included in The Golden Threshold has a purely Indian atmosphere with the girl hurrying off to the forest: “Where upon the champa boughs the champa buds are blowing; / To the koil- haunted river-isles where lotus lilies glisten,” (“Village Song” The Golden Threshold). The bridal songs, cradle songs, sandal, saffron and the lover riding for the wedding are all images associated with India. The poem also has a message that the material life is meaningless and that ultmate happiness of the mind can be attained only in the heart of nature where atma can meet the paramatma. This message is akin to the ancient Indian tradition where the rishis used to meditate in the interiors of the forest away from the hubbub of the world so as to attain nirvana. Similar idea is included in the poem “Summer Woods” where the narrator is craving to run away from the “strife and song and festivals and fame” and from the “ toil and weariness, the prays and prayers of men” (“Summer Woods” The Broken Wing). She wishes to unite with her lover in the peacefull solitude of “deep blossoming woods”. This union of individual soul with the oversoul is suggested through the archetype of Radha and Krishna, the divine lovers. The purely Indian myth is framed with a vrindavan like landscape reflecting the geography of India. The crimson gulmohurs, koel, tamarind and neem, jasmine boughs, slumbering serpents, water-lily pools, as well as the music of the flute are all images of India inscribed in the mind of every Indian. In Sarojini Naidu’s poems we find an attempt to reproduce the melodies of Indian birds, the fragrance of Indian flowers, the colours of Indian soil , the sweetness of Indian fruits and the coolness of Indian breeze through minute description of Indian nature. Sarojini Naidu’s description of India is comprehensive and realistic. No significant aspect of Indian common life is untouched by her. In the poem “Village Song” included in the collection The Bird of Time, she gives a realistic portrayal of rustic India. It is the opening song of the section named “Indian Folk Songs” in the collection. As such the poem has folk elements in it with the young maiden at the panghat. Panght or water quay is a routine of Indian rustics where they...
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