Andrew has a keen interest in all aspects of poetry and writes extensively on the subject. His poems are published online and in print.
Sarojini Naidu and a Summary of 'In the Bazaars of Hyderabad'
In The Bazaars of Hyderabad is one of Sarojini Naidu's most popular poems. It was first published in her book The Bird of Time, in 1912, from the section titled 'Songs of My City.'
Sarojini Naidu (1879–1949) was born in the city of Hyderabad and raised in a relatively wealthy family. Her father was a scientist and educational administrator, her mother a poet and artist.
As a young child, Sarojini began writing verse of good quality and being a studious type did well enough in university exams to gain a scholarship to England, spending three years at King's College, London and Girton College, Cambridge, 1895–98.
While in England she sharpened her poetic skills and gained invaluable advice from teachers and writers, including Edmund Gosse and Arthur Symons. Her work, at first imitative and heavily influenced by such poets as Tennyson and Keats, began to focus on Indian life and culture, and became more exotic and true to itself.
- 'In the Bazaars of Hyderabad' is a five-stanza poem with a steady trochaic/iambic mixed beat and simple alternating full rhyme. It is a rhetorical question and answer poem—the speaker could be walking through the bazaar loudly asking each of the different people just what it is they are making and selling. Or the answer is already known to the speaker.
- This poem is lyrical and straightforward. It evokes the atmosphere of the bazaar (from the original Persian: a street or covered market where goods are bought and sold) in the poet's city of Hyderabad, southern India.
- The use of the archaic second person plural pronoun 'ye' contrasts with the more modern singular 'you' throughout the poem. The rather old fashioned 'ye' was still popular in many Victorian poems at that time.
Having finished her studies, Sarojini (Chattopadhyay) married a doctor, Paidipati Naidu, and had four children with him.
Doctor Naidu was of a different, lower caste (the Hindu tradition of categorising people according to status) and, at the time, this union could have been problematic. But both sets of parents were in agreement, so the marriage went ahead and proved to be successful.
Sarojini Naidu continued to write and publish her romantic poems. She also became a political activist and began her pursuit of justice for India and in particular for Indian women.
She grew in confidence, got to know and work with no less a figure than M.K. Gandhi, became a civil disobedience leader for a time and fought for independence against the British and for votes for women.
So vociferous a voice was she that she ended up in prison in 1942. Gandhi's 'Nightingale of India' spent a total of 21 months behind bars but firmly believed that this was of benefit to the independence movement as a whole.
But she never gave up her love of poetry:
'While I live, it will always be the supreme desire of my soul to write poetry - one poem, one line of enduring verse even. Perhaps I shall die without realising that longing which is at once an exquisite joy and an unspeakable anguish to me.'
She died of a heart attack whilst working as Governor of Uttar Pradesh in 1949.
'In the Bazaars of Hyderabad' by Sarojini Naidu
What do you sell, O ye merchants?
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Richly your wares are displayed.
Turbans of crimson and silver,
Tunics of purple brocade,
Mirrors with panels of Amber,
Daggers with handles of jade.
What do you weigh, O ye vendors?
Saffron, lentil, and rice.
What do you grind, O ye maidens?
Sandalwood, henna, and spice.
What do you call, O ye pedlars?
Chessmen and ivory dice.
What do you make, O ye goldsmiths?
Wristlet and anklet and ring,
Bells for the feet of blue pigeons,
Frail as a dragon - fly's wing,
Girdles of gold for the dancers,
Scabbards of gold for the kings.
What do you cry, O ye Fruitmen?
Citron, pomegranate and plum.
What do you play, O ye musicians?
Sitar, Sarangi and drum.
What do you chant, O ye magicians?
Spells for the aeons to come.
What do you weave, O ye flower-girls?
With tassels of azure and red?
Crowns for the brow of a bridegroom,
Chaplets to garland his bed,
Sheets of white blossoms new-garnered
To perfume the sleep of the dead.
Stanza-by-Stanza Analysis of 'In the Bazaars of Hyderabad'
This poem is basically a litany (list) of all who trade and work at the bazaar. Note how the first, third and fifth stanzas are dedicated to one type: merchant, goldsmith and flower-girl. The second and fourth focus on three different types.
The first line of six is a question asked by the speaker to those in the bazaar—starting with the merchants, traders who buy from craftspeople, growers and artists and sell on to others.
The speaker also seems to give a ready answer, replying to their own question, which comes over as rhetorical. All the goods are on display, from colourful turbans (special headwear of wrapped cloth of various Asian and Arabic cultures; for Sikhs, a religious item) to daggers.
Tunics of brocade . . . brocade is a woven fabric with a raised design. Amber is a tree resin that is shaped into a gemstone and used for decorative purposes. Jade is a hard mineral, usually green in colour but sometimes white or yellow. It too has been used for centuries in, for example, jewelry and sculpture.
Again, questions and again, answers. This stanza provides the reader with vendor, maiden and pedlar. They weigh, grind and call respectively. They are all active verbs, producing a busy kind of scene.
Hyderabad is an ancient city and has many bazaars and marketplaces. This stanza takes us right into the colourful, bustling heart.
This stanza focuses on the goldsmiths and all that they make.
Fruitmen, musicians and magicians is a curious mix of person but shows the diversity of those at the bazaar. The magicians have spells which will last 'for aeons to come', in complete contrast to the fruit on sale, which presumably would soon perish in the heat.
The flower-girls are weavers and make things for the marriage bed and also for those who have passed away. A chaplet is a garland or headpiece used in festivals and such.
What Is the Metre?
Let's take a closer look at the opening stanza:
What do / you sell, / O ye / merchants?
Richly / your wares / are displayed.
Turbans / of crim / son and / silver,
Tunics / of pur / ple brocade,
Mirrors / with pan / els of / Amber,
Daggers / with han / dles of jade.
Firstly, the lines alternate with eight syllables in lines 1, 3 and 5 and seven syllables in lines 2, 4 and 6. This pattern repeats throughout the whole poem.
Each line has an opening trochee (DUMda) foot, a stressed opening syllable followed by an unstressed. Each second foot is an iamb (daDUM) unstressed followed by stressed.
In lines 1, 3 and 5, the third foot is a pyrrhic (dadum) no stress or soft emphasis. the fourth foot is a trochee.
In lines 2, 4 and 6, the third foot is an anapaest (dadaDUM) two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed. This gives a rising beat at the end.
So the basic metre is tetrameter, trochaic tetrameter. This gives a regular familiar rhythm to the poem as it is read, so it becomes quite lyrical, like a song.
Edmund Gosse Writes the Foreword in Naidu's "The Bird of Time"
Sarojini Naidu Meets W.B. Yeats in London
Sarojini Naidu certainly kept busy during her time in England. Aside from her studies, her social life must have given her great insights into literary and social trends and issues. She got to meet none other than W.B. Yeats the Irish poet and occultist.
The following are taken from Papers on Indian Writing in English, A.N. Dwivedi, Atlantic Publishing, 2001:
'Little D - F - of Hyderabad••• ' - Yeats identifies D-- F-- in Memoirs, p. 175, as Sarojini. Yeats also mentions this poet in a letter to Dorothea Hunter, dated 1 January, 1898:
'I wish you and your husband would come to my home on Monday next. I expect Osman Edwards, a rather well known critic of French literature, Sarojini Chattop~hy~y, a charming princess of Hyderabad, who will come in Eastern costume, Mrs. Emery, Miss Alma Tadema and Arthur Symons - all people interested in mysticism.' (Letters, p.293)
'two rooms in Bloomsbury' - Yeats moved into 18 Woburn Buildings, Euston Road, Bloomsbury, London, on 25 March, In A Servant of The Queen (Gollancz: London, 1938), p. 331, Maud Gonne wrote of Yeats's rooms:
'We had tea in Willie's rooms in Woburn Buildings in the little room over the cobbler's shop with dark blue hangings and prints of Blake's drawings on the walls. What strange talks that room had listened to! Men of the Irish Republican Brotherhood had met there. William Sharpe had told of his spirit love, Fiona McLeod. MacGregor had talked of his Rosicrucian mysteries. Sarojini Naidu, the beautiful Hindu Nationalist, 'the little Indian princess', as Willie called her, had read her poems there.'
- Dwivedi, A. N. “Sarojini—The Poet (Born February 13,1879).” Indian Literature, vol. 22, no. 3, 1979, pp. 115–126. JSTOR. Accessed 16 May 2021.
- The Bird of Time. Sarojini Naidu. Internet Archive.
- sarojini_naidu_2012_4.pdf (poemhunter.com)
- Sarojini Naidu: WWI poetry and the ‘Gift’ of India – Young Poets Network (poetrysociety.org.uk)
- "Papers on Indian Writing in English" by A.N. Dwivedi – Google Books
© 2021 Andrew Spacey
Andrew Spacey (author) from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on May 20, 2021:
Thank you for the visit Ravi, appreciate it very much. There are many Indian poets writing in English that I need to explore!
Andrew Spacey (author) from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on May 20, 2021:
Grateful for your comment Chitrangada. I am learning so much about Indian poets writing in English. One day when the world is settled and sane again, I will visit India!
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on May 20, 2021:
How nice of you to have analysed the work of Sarojini Naidu, and you have done it so beautifully. She has inspired generations, and had an important and significant role in the freedom struggle of India.
She was a genius and had multiple talents, as you have so rightly summed up.
Fondly referred to as the Nightingale of India, her contributions to literature is immense.
As always, your analysis of her poem, ‘In the bazaars of Hyderabad’ is extremely well done, and I was enlightened by your review.
Thank you for sharing. Have a wonderful day.
Ravi Rajan from Mumbai on May 20, 2021:
Nice to know about your keen interest in the works of Sarojini Naidu. She was called the "nightingale of India" because of her stunning poetic works and literature gems. Thanks for this wonderful analysis of her beautiful poem.