Saraladevi Chaudhurani was a typical member
of the Tagore family of Jorasanko, Calcutta,
the then acknowledged social and cultural
leaders of Young Bengal. She was also an eminent
feminist after the Victorian pattern, ardent,
Her mother was the well-known writer and editor
Swarnakumari Devi, daughter of Maharshi Debendranath
Tagore and granddaughter of the famous Prince
Dwarkanath Tagore. Her father was Janakinath
Ghosal, said to be one of the founders of
the Indian National Congress. Rabindranath
was her mothers younger brother.
She was born in the old Tagore house at Jorasanko
on 9 September 1872 and spent there some of
the most impressionable years of her childhood,
when her father was in England. Her natural
talents for music, literature and arts, as
well as her passionate patriotism were nurtured
by her Tagore relatives.
All the great names of the day converged in
Jorasanko. The great writer Bankimachandra
Chatterjee and the immortal educationist Pandit
Iswarchandra Vidyasagar were callers at her
fathers house. The Tagores were patrons
of music and drama and had their own private
theatre. They also encouraged national industry
and participated in the Swadeshi movement.
Saraladevi Chaudhurrai was nurtured on these
ideals. At school she met the poetess Kamini
Ray (Sen) and the social worker Lady Abala
Bose, both unmarried at the time and senior
Like all Tagore-children Saraladevi was first
taught by a private tutor at home. Later she
was admitted into the Bethune School, and
after passing her Entrance examination, continued
her studies in the Bethune College. She took
her B.A. degree with Honours in English in
1890. She later studied French and Persian
and prepared herself for the M.A. examination
in Sanskrit, although she did not sit for
Unlike other girls of the day, she was not
married off to a suitable bridegroom until
much later. She continued her musical training
with zeal and soon became well-known as a
fine and original singer. She sang Bankimchandras
song, Bandemataram, from the platform of the
Indian National Congress. She once changed
Sapta-Koti to Tringsa-Koti to give the song
an all-India basis.
She composed many patriotic songs, later included
in her book Satagan, literally
a hundred songs. Among these songs
Hindusthan and Namo Bharata
Janani are unique in their beauty and
Saraladevi was a born teacher and even at
this early stage taught music to may young
girls. She shortly took the bold step of going
to Mysore as a teacher in the Maharani School.
She also acted as the Maharanis secretary
for a short time.
She married Rambhaj Datta Chaudhuri, a Punjabi
Brahmin, living at Lahore. This was probably
in 1905. Rambhaj was interested in the Arya
Samaj movement and was lawyer by profession.
He was an ardent patriot and editor of an
Urdu paper called Hindusthan. This drew
down the displeasure of the British Government
and Rambhaj had to suffer harassment and was
later arrested. Saraladevi then took over
the editorship and even published English
versions of the paper. Her excellent management
drew the praise of Englishmen like Ramsay
Saraladevi had only one son, Dipak, Rambhaj
died in 1923, but she continued her work as
a patriot and an educationist. She worked
for womens education in the villages
around Lahore and had larger plans for the
education of purdah women, which she revealed
during the Congress session at Allahabad in
1910. This led to the foundation of the Bharat-Stri-Mahamandal,
with branches in many Indian cities and villages.
In 1930 she opened the Bharat-Stri-Shiksha-Sadan,
a school for girls, in Calcutta.
Saraladevi retired from educational work in
1935 and took up spiritualism. In her early
days she had been much influenced by the Theosophical
Society, probably encouraged by her mother,
Swarnakumari. Later she had been attracted
by the great Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Swami
Vivekanandas teachings. In the end she
accepted as her Guru Bijoy Krishna Dev Sharma.
Saraladevis whole life was one of hard
work, often on pioneering lines. Her ardent
patriotism was somewhat militant in her youthful
days. She had a constructive mind and yearned
to inspire courage in her young countrymen.
She believed in the influence of ceremonial
demonstrations. The Tagores of Jorasanko had
always been liberal in social and religious
matters. Saraladevi imbibed this spirit from
them. The ceremonies she instituted were more
patriotic than orthodox.
She believed in physical culture and instituted
the Virashtami Utsava with exhibition
of physical feats. During the 1903 Congress,
she proposed a display of Indian games. She
tried to popularise Udayadiya Utsava
accompanied by physical feats.
In 1904 she opened a Swadeshi shop called
Lakshmir Bhandar. She collected and sent Swadeshi
goods to the Bombay Congress and was awarded
a gold medal for her endeavours.
She had been born in the lap of luxury and
had every opportunity in imbibe national and
Western culture. She was never in favour of
Western education and was easily converted
to Gandhijis ideals. In her mature years
she gave up her militant patriotism and turned
to non-violence, non-cooperation and Khadi
movement. She came into close contact with
the great personalities of the social and
political world of the day-Lala Lajpat Rai,
Tilak, Gokhale and Mahatma Gandhi.
She also had the good fortune to have an
active and intellectual mother, from whom
she received practical instruction in literary
work and even edited the journal called Bharati
with the help of her elder sister, Hiranmoyee
Devi, for a short while. These inherited qualities,
along with her own native sound common sense,
helped her to carve out a career for herself.