Thursday, 16 March 2017

A brave woman warrior Jhalkaribai - 1857

Agra, UP. Statue of veer Jhalkaribai. www.alamy.com
india postage stamp. iStampGallery.Com
The Sepoy mutiny of 1857 was an important event in Indian history. Considered as the first  major war of independence against the oppressive East India company,  few Indian women like Jhansirani and Hazrat Mahal revolted against the British. It was the worst rebellion in the entire British Empire history. British killed Indians in thousands in retaliation against the killing of the British, including women and children by the hell-bent rioting Indian mob. 

Jhalkaribai (22 November 1830-1858), an Indian woman soldier had played a commendable  role in the Sepoy Mutiny during the battle of Jhansi. She was a soldier in the women's army of Queen Laxmibai of Jhansi. Coming from a poor Kori family, she began her career as an ordinary soldier in Laxmibai's army. Her fighting ability, courage  and  curiosity to learn various aspects of military warfare came handy for her and this helped her rise to a position of power and  quick promotion.  Her level of success in the army and administration was so rapid  she became Rani Laxmibai's advisor and actively participated in discussions involving vital security matters.  Jhalkaribai also developed a strategy on her own to protect the queen, particularly in the  battle fields. This unique strategy worked well during the rebellion. In the height of the battle of fort of Jhansi, the British were after Rani Laxmibhai to capture the fort. Under the doctrine of lapse, the British wanted to take over the Kingdom of Jhansi and the Gwalior fort and queen Laxmibhai did not budge. Jhalkaribai disguised herself as the queen and fought on the front as a ploy to let  Jhansirani escape safely out of the fort which was almost in siege.
Queen laxmibai of Jhansi. Indiatimes.com
There may be many  folklore about her bravery in the midst of her personal safety.  Her life and especially  her fierce fighting with the East India Company army on the front in disguise, continues to dominate various Bundeli folklore. That her being a brave dalit woman who safeguarded Jhansirani in the wars has  created a niche in the  cultural unity in Dalits. She became a symbol of Dalit pride and honor in the north  India.

Jhalkaribai, daughter of a Sadoba Singh, and Jamuna Devi(  born on November 22, 1830) was from  Bhojla village near Jhansi. Right from the early childhood, Jhalkaribai was brought up like a boy and was trained in horse-riding and using weapons. Being a dalit girl, she had no basic education, however she became a trained woman warrior. She married a man by the name of Puran Singh who was in  the artillery unit of Rani Laxmibai. Puran Singh introduced her to Rani Lakshmibai and Jhalkaribai was inducted into the Woman's army. The advantage she had was she bore close resemblance with Jhansibhai.
Jhalkaribai. 1857 Twitter
As already mentioned earlier, the British were very particular about taking over Jhansi as Rani Jhansi did not have a legal heir to succeed the throne. When General Hugh Rose attacked Jhansi with a large army on 23 March 1858  the queen fought against the British army with 4000 of her troop, anticipating additional enforcement from  Peshwa's army camping at Kalpi. Unfortunately, the relief did not come as  Tatya Tope was defeated by Rose. The English managed to get into the fort and heavy fighting broke out. Since the British had an upper hand,  Jhalkaribai thought of a plan to  mislead  Gen Rose. Jhalkaribai set out for General Rose's camp, disguising  as the queen and declared herself to be the queen Laxmibai  and it took  some time  for the British to realize that she was not the queen of Jhansi. This gave enough time for Jhansi rani to move over to a safer location. Jhalkaribai  was subsequently hanged to death by the British in 1858 without proper trial.

The image of Jhalkaribai has gained political significance  in North India in the recent years on account of some politicians who have their eyes set on the Dalit votes. Some political parties churn out stories on Jhalkaribai creating a social myth and awareness and a sense of pride in the Dalits. The death anniversary of Jhalkaribai is celebrated as Shahid Diwas (Martyr Day) by various Dalit organizations.

  The Government of India's Post and Telegraph department has issued a postal stamp on Jhalkaribai and ASI under the union government is setting up a museum inside the Jhansi Fort in memory of Jhalkaribai and queen Laxibhai and their life history, etc. These two brave women ware part of the early rebellion against the British and their obnoxious and unjust rule in India.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jhalkaribai