An incredible warrior who fought like a tigress killing many British soldiers alongside the legendary queen Lakshmibai of Jhansi till her death in the battle field went into oblivion. The unsung hero or heroine, as you may call her, of our freedom movement goes by the name Jhalkaribai.
Born on 22 November 1830 in the Jhansi region to a Dalit family, Jhalkaribai, was not allowed to attend school owing to her lower caste background. Instead, her father trained her in horse-riding and martial arts. In due course of time, she grew up to become an advisor to the queen.
Being a confidant of the Rani Lakshmibai, Jhalkaribai played a key role in the planning and strategising war strategy and emerged a prominent figure during the first war of India’s independence in 1857.
Jhalkaribai was born to Suba Singh and Jamuna Devi. Tales of her bravery were famous in households in and outside Jhansi. It is said that once when decoys tried to destroy her village, Jhalkari single-handedly drove them away. According to some legends, she once killed a tiger with an axe when the beast tried to attack her in the jungle.
Jhalkaribai was married to a soldier in the Jhansi army. Rani Laxmibai spotted her during a festival at Jhansi fort, and was pleasantly surprised by the uncanny resemblance Jhalkaribai had with her. When the queen was briefed on Jhalkaribai’s brave acts, she quickly inducted her into the women’s wing of her army and trained her further in warfare.
In 1858, when British Field Marshal, Hugh Rose, attacked Jhansi, Rani Laxmibai took on the British forces from her fort with a 4,000-strong army. However, she was betrayed by one of her commanders and was defeated.
On the advice of her generals, Laxmi Bai quietly slipped away from Jhansi on a horseback. But Jhalkaribai stayed put and fought like a tigress killing many British soldiers and set out for general Roses’s camp in disguise and declared herself queen. Her mistaken identity led to confusion that continued for the whole day, giving Laxmibai enough time to escape.
Jhalkaribai died on April 4, 1858 while defending her queen fighting for her mother land. Dalit communities in Bundelkhand look up to her as a goddess even today and celebrate Jhalkaribai Jayanti every year.
Her courage has left behind a rich legacy for millions to emulate. There is a statue installed in her honour in Gwalior, in 2001. The government of India released a stamp in commemoration of Jhalkaribai, a warrior who lived and died defending her people and her country.