At the age of 18, she commanded Burma’s “Rani of Jhansi” Regiment! Meet Janaki Thevar whose role model was Netaji Bose

It is a known fact that India attained its Independence after the revolutionary leaders started to pick up the guns. Like Bhagat Singh, Veer Savarkar, Subhash Chandra Bose, Chandra Shekar Azad, there were several heroes who sent shivers down the spine of the British. Unfortunately we Indians know only a handful of such heroes due to whom we are breathing freely today.

Janaki Thevar is one among several unsung heroes during the freedom struggle. She was just 16 years of age when she made up her mind to free the nation from the clutches of the British. Born in a Tamil family, she had first seen Subhash Chandra Bose in Singapore in July 1943. The event was attended by around 60,000 people including the teen Janaki Thevar.

Motivated by Netaji’s words, she decided to dive into the battle of freedom struggle by donating her expensive jewels. Later she announced her decision to participate in one of the most improbable events in World War II’s Asia-Pacific theatre — the creation of an all-female combat squad, INA’s ‘Rani of Jhansi’ Regiment (RJR).

Janaki Thevar

The “Rani of Jhansi” regiment was inaugurated on October 22, 1943, on Singapore’s Waterloo Street and the girls were trained under the command of Captain Lakshmi Swaminathan (later Lakshmi Sahgal).

The training was not easy as it comprised of all kind of drills, yet the young girls moved ahead with determination. Soon, Janaki earned the rank Lieutenant and in April 1944 she was promoted to Captain and was transferred to base hospital in Maymyo. Note that she was just 18 years old by then, yet she became the commander of the Burma contingent of Rani of Jhansi (RJR).

After the Indian National Army was demobilized, Janaki joined the Indian Congress Medical Mission in Malaya and in the year 1946 she helped John Thivy establish the Malayan Indian Congress. She even went on to become a senator in the Dewan Negara of the Malaysian Parliament.

Recognizing her achievements, the Indian government honored her by awarding with Padma Shri in 2000. Her children were Dato Ishwar Nahappan, Gouri Nahappan and Jayashri Nahappan. She passed away at the age of 89 years due to pneumonia on 9 May 2014.

Here’s a motivational quote all the women and girls should keep in mind:

“We may be the softer and fairer sex but surely I protest against the word ‘weaker’. All sorts of epithets have been given to us by man to guard his own selfish interests. It is time we shattered these chains of men along with the chain of Indian slavery”.

This was what the Janaki Thevar had said to a Malayan newspaper when she was 17-year-old.

Janaki and her husband Athi Nahappan. She married Athi Nahappan in the year 1949. He was the then editor cum publisher of the Malayan Tamil daily Tamil Nesan.


The history text books of young kids should be filled with inspirational characters like Janaki Thevar, who led her contingent at a very young age of 18. That’s when the country will move ahead in the right direction.

Source: The Better India

Hansika Raj