India’s Lesser Known Heroes – Jhalkaribai

M Venkaiah Naidu

Jhalkaribai

Jhalkaribai

There is a school of history that undermines the 1857 war of independence as a mere mutiny of some disgruntled native rulers and soldiers.

Nothing could be farther from truth. Veer Savarkar called it the First War of our Independence, in which Indians regardless of caste, creed, region and religion fought together against the oppressive foreign rule.the

Many of these brave hearts came from humble backgrounds and their stories remain unknown to the people. Unfortunately, the recorded history has almost forgotten their love for motherland, valour and sacrifices.

In my ongoing Facebook series on unsung heroes of our freedom struggle, today we will get to know about Jhalkaribai of Jhansi.

You must have heard about Jhansi…

But have you ever heard about Jhalkaribai of Jhansi…?

She was a look-alike of Rani Laxmibai… and that made her an important figure in our First War of Independence in 1857.

Jhalkaribai was born in 1830 to poor parents in a village in Bundelkhand near Jhansi.

It is said that even as a child, she was so courageous that she killed a leopard with only a wooden stick in her hand. It is also believed that once she challenged a gang of dacoits, intent upon looting a village businessman and forced them to retreat.

As a mark of gratitude, the village organised her marriage with Pooran Kori, who was one of the celebrated soldiers of Jhansi’s army.

Jhalkaribai met Rani Lakshmibai for the first time during Gauri Pooja festival in the fort. It is believed that Rani was struck by Jhalkaribai’s resemblance to her.

When the queen got to know of her bravery and fighting skills, she inducted Jhalkaribai in Durga Dal, the prestigious women’s brigade. Soon through her courage, skills and leadership, she rose to become the Commander of Durga Dal.

When the British attacked Jhansi in March 1858, the proud Rani refused to submit and a series of fierce battles ensued.

During one such battle, British Army officer Hugh Rose laid siege and the Fort was breached. It is said that Jhalkaribai asked Rani Laxmibai to escape and mobilize the forces. She disguised herself… wore Rani’s battle attire and led Jhansi’s army from the front riding her horse.

The British were fooled by her resemblance to Rani Laxmibai… and put all their might after her. Jhalkaribai fought with fierce determination until she was captured. Britishers thought they had captured Rani Laxmibai. But Rani had escaped the siege.

When the Britishers realized that they were completely hoodwinked, they hanged Jhalkaribai.

The British General is believed to have said that if one per cent of Indian women were like Jhalkaribai, the British would have to leave India.

The valour and courage of Jhalkaribai have become part of Bundelkhandi folklore.

Many such warriors and freedom fighters are celebrated and idolized by their local communities, but strangely they don’t find a place in our history books. We need to explore the tradition of heroism and courage of every region to create a comprehensive narrative of our history.