Saga of Independence!
Chapter 32: Jhalkari Bai
There are many tales in the history which deserve all the praise and respect but alas are lost in the pages. One such story is of Jhalkari Bai.
We all know Jhansi Lakshmi Bai, who fought with the British like a lioness and played a critical role in First war of Indian independence of 1857.
Jhalkari Bai is someone who led Rani Lakshmi Bai’s all women battalion ‘Durga dal’, she is often referred to as ‘the other Rani Lakshmi Bai’. Why? Let us know her story.
Jhalkari Bai was born on November 22, 1830 to Sadoba Singh and Jamuna Devi in Bhojla village near Jhansi. She was their only child and lost her mother at a very young age. Her father took care of Jhalkari and raised her as a single parent.
She had a very humble beginning. Family was poor and they belonged to Kori caste(a Dalit community which was not welcomed among the upper elite class).
Her father taught her to wield weapons skillfully and gave her horse riding lessons. Other than these Jhalkari never got an opportunity of getting formal education.
There are many tales prevalent of her bravery. Her fight with the dacoits and she drove them away from the village, how she was able to kill a tiger with an axe, which had attacked her in the jungle.
Jhalkari got married to Puran Singh, a soldier in Rani Lakshmi Bai’s army. He was a soldier of great caliber even the generals of the army had recognized it.
During Gauri Pooja, number of women from the kingdom had visited the fort and Jhalkari was one among them. Here she met ‘Rani Lakshmi Bai’ for the first time.
Anyone who had seen both of them would often tell Jhalkari that she resembles the queen. When they were face to face the resemblance was uncanny.
Rani Lakshmi Bai too noticed this. When she enquired about Jhalkari she came to know of the latter’s bravery, valour and her skill of wielding weapon. Greatly impressed by her, Jhansi ki Rani inducted Jhalkari into her women wing.
Jhalkari got her training to shoot and ignite cannons to fight British invasion.
Why was she called ‘the other Lakshmi Bai’?
A mutiny that broke out on May 10,1857 quickly gave rise to a number of rebellions against British raj across India. Soon it took form as the first war of Indian independence.
Jhansi played a very crucial role in the rebellion and the Queen of Jhansi and her legend of taking on British became an immortal tale.
It was 1858,
Field Marshal Hugh Henry Rose, attacked Jhansi to put of the resistance once for all. This story has been very well recorded even in the British accounts as the Jhansi Rani took on British forces from her fort with just an army of 4000 men.
Like any other tragic history of India, here too the queen was betrayed by her own. She could have held the fort against British for much longer but this treachery made defeat inevitable.
Her counsel suggested her quick escape, because at the moment to have queen alive was much important than holding fort.
This is when Jhalkari Bai took the Central stage.
During the time in the army if Lakshmi Bai, Jhalkari had rose to a position if close aide of Queen. So when the time came for Rani Lakshmi Bai to escape into safety, Jhalkari without second thought got ready to become ‘Rani Lakshmi Bai’.
She put herself in a grave danger, and disguised herself as queen. Because if her resemblance to the queen nobody could suspect her disguise.
She took command of the army and rode upto the General Rose’s camp. She demanded a meeting with General himself.
This plan was to give queen sufficient time to escape and also to give army the time to reorganized.
According to a Bundelkhand legend, General thinking it is Rani Lakshmi Bai who have come to meet him, asked what should be the punishment to be given? Jhalkari had answered without even a hint of fear ‘to hang her’.
It was only a day later, a man named Dulha Joo identified Jhalkari and British learned that they have been deceived.
Some say that she was executed when British learnt the truth about her, and
some folklore say impressed by the answer she had given the General, he released her saying, if every Indian shows atleast a percent of fearlessness Jhalkari had, British rule will be very short lived in future.
Freed from British, Jhalkari is said to have collect information on her queen but failed to reunite with the army. after death of Rani Lakshmi Bai she is said to have lived in the jungle and passed away in 1890.
Like so many other heroes of freedom struggle, Jhalkari’s story too is neglected by the historians. The stories of her valour lives in the tales her Kori community sings till today.
Jhalkari’s statue has now been erected in Gwalior and Government of India released postal stamps to pay tribute to her.
Jhalkari is not just an inspiration due to her warrior skills, but also her Supreme sacrifice. She thought of her people and kingdom and laid down her life fighting for them.
Dr Sindhu Prashanth