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Sarojini Naidu’s home in Hyderabad set to become a thriving cultural hub again

A view of Golden Threshold   | Photo Credit: G_RAMAKRISHNA

It was a place where Mahatma Gandhi planted trees and ‘Nightingale of India’ Sarojini Naidu wrote poetry. Golden Threshold is known as much as a family home to the Naidus as it is for the era it belonged to. Originally belonging to celebrated poet-nationalist leader Sarojini Naidu’s father Aghornath Chattopadhyaya, the Principal of Nizam College, it was a dwelling where ideas, arts and culture co-existed with patriotism and dozens of animals, as the Naidus were ardent pet lovers. In 1974, when the University of Hyderabad was created by a special act of Parliament, Padmaja Naidu (Sarojini’s daughter) donated the premises to be used for academic purposes. The social sciences and humanities streams of the University ran from the Golden Threshold premises in Abids, where stalwarts like Meenakshi Mukerjee and Shiv K. Kumar (Literature), Mahatma’s grandson Ramachandra Gandhi (Philosophy), Ratna Naidu (Sociology) and RVR Chandrasekhar Rao (Political science) taught legions of students.

A view of Golden Threshold

A view of Golden Threshold   | Photo Credit: G_RAMAKRISHNA

While these streams were moved to the Gachibowli Campus in 1988, the Sarojini Naidu School of Arts and Communication ran at the historic premises till 2003. Since then, the building has been used for its distance education program but still was a far cry away from its rich history where artists and poets as well as great thinkers of the age held salons and ideated in its hallowed precincts.

Currently however, there is a buzz of activity in its premises as plans are being chalked up to convert it as a place for arts and activities. Vinod Pavarala, Senior professor of communication at University of Hyderabad and the designated incharge of the restoration project says that multiple avenues are being explored to ensure that the place is transformed into a thriving arts centre. He explains, “In the new building constructed behind the heritage premises (on the property) the Raj Kumari Indira Devi Hall was inaugurated this month. With a seating capacity of nearly 100 people, we plan to use it as a gathering space for literary events, poetry readings or even small music concerts. As more and more cultural centres move away from the heart of the older parts of the city to Jubilee/Banjara Hills, we plan to make this an easily accessible arts hub.”

Plans are on the anvil to revamp the heritage premises. An erstwhile shell space is being earmarked for the construction of an auditorium which can be accommodate around 200 people while some of the outdoor spaces are being earmarked for events. A huge wall near the mango tree planted by Mahatma Gandhi is ready to be let out for movie screenings (ideal on wintry evenings) while a small stage is erected for theatre and art performances.

An annual University of Hyderabad-Golden Threshold lecture series is also on the cards which will allow the faculty members/researchers/scientists to showcase their wealth of knowledge with a cross section of society.

A view of Golden Threshold

A view of Golden Threshold   | Photo Credit: G_RAMAKRISHNA

The most significant plan however is to renovate the heritage structure which is badly in need of restoration. The heritage home was named Golden Threshold after Sarojini Naidu’s debut eponymous book of poetry published in 1905. Built in the Indo-European style of early 1900s with Islamic influences, the building remains a syncretic symbol of an architectural style which has since vanished.

The University has reached out to conservation architects and INTACH, Hyderabad and an action plan has been firmed up with a deadline of one year set aside for restoration. Vinod Pavarala asserts the importance of the premises when he says, “Golden Threshold remained at the heart of Independence movement and it shouldn’t be reduced to a monument. We want to pay our tribute to the ideas and ideals of Sarojini Naidu. Our aim is to convert it into an interactive and engaging space, much like it was a century ago.”

Once restored, the heritage structure would have a museum dedicated to the ‘Nightingale of India’ while an art gallery to encourage young artists is also scheduled to open. One only hopes that these ideas translate into action at the earliest, and a place where individualism was welcomed, will find its place out in the sun again.

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Printable version | Jun 8, 2021 5:28:12 AM |

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