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Women heroes of India’s freedom struggle

  • Category
    Modern History
  • Published
    19th Aug, 2022

Context

In his ninth Independence Day address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed “narishakti”, and urged people to pledge to not do anything that lowers the dignity of women.

About

Rani Laxmibai

  • The queen of the princely state of Jhansi, Rani Laxmibai is known for her role in the First War of India’s Independence in 1857.
  • She was born as ManikarnikaTambe in 1835 and later married the king of Jhansi.
  • The couple adopted a son before the king’s death, which the British East India Company refused to accept as the legal heir and decided to annex Jhansi.
  • Refusing to cede her territory, the queen decided to rule on behalf of the heir, and later joined the uprising against the British in 1857.
  • Cornered by the British, she escaped from Jhansi fort. She was wounded in combat near Gwalior’s PhoolBagh, where she later died.

Jhalkari Bai

  • A soldier in Rani Laxmibai’s women’s army, Durga Dal, she rose to become one of the queen’s most trusted advisers.
  • She is known for putting her own life at risk to keep the queen out of harm’s way.
  • Till date, the story of her valour is recalled by the people of Bundelkhand, and she is often presented as a representative of Bundeli identity.

 

Durga Bhabhi

  • Durgawati Devi, who was popularly known as Durga Bhabhi, was a revolutionary who joined the armed struggle against colonial rule.
  • A member of the Naujawan Bharat Sabha, she helped Bhagat Singh escape in disguise from Lahore after the 1928 killing of British police officer John P Saunders.
  • During the train journey that followed, Durgawati and Bhagat Singh posed as a couple, and Rajguru as their servant.
  • Later, as revenge for the hanging of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, and Sukhdev, she made an unsuccessful attempt to kill the former Punjab Governor, Lord Hailey.

Rani Gaidinliu

  • Born in 1915 in present-day Manipur, Rani Gaidinliu was a Naga spiritual and political leader who fought the British.
  • She was just 16 years old when she was sentenced to life imprisonment by the British colonials. After being released in 1947, she dedicated her work to the betterment of the community.
  • Nehru regarded her as the “daughter of the hills” and he titled her ‘Rani’ for her bravery. It is to be mentioned that she was awarded a Padma Bhushan.

Rani Chennamma

  • The queen of Kittur, Rani Chennamma, was among the first rulers to lead an armed rebellion against British rule. Kittur was a princely state in present-day Karnataka.
  • She fought back against the attempt to control her dominion in 1824 after the death of her young son.
  • She had lost her husband, Raja Mallasarja, in 1816.
  • She is seen among the few rulers of the time who understood the colonial designs of the British.

Begum Hazrat Mahal

  • After her husband, Nawab of AwadhWajid Ali Shah, was exiled after the 1857 revolt, Begum Hazrat Mahal, along with her supporters, took on the British and wrested control of Lucknow.
  • She was forced into a retreat after the colonial rulers recaptured the area.

VeluNachiyar

  • Many years before the revolt of 1857, VeluNachiyar waged a war against the British and emerged victorious.
  • She was born in Ramanathapuram in 1780, she was married to the king of Sivagangai.
  • After her husband was killed in battle with the East India Company, she entered the conflict, and won with support of neighbouring kings.
  • She went on to produce the first human bomb as well as establish the first army of trained women soldiers in the late 1700s.
  • Her army commander Kuyili is believed to have set herself ablaze and walked into a British ammunition dump. 
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