Statue of Jhalkaribai in Gwalior
|Born||22 November 1830|
Bhojla Village, near Jhansi
|Died||1858 in Gwalior|
|Movement||Indian Rebellion of 1857|
Jhalkaribai (22 November 1830 – 1858) was a woman soldier who played an important role in the Indian Rebellion of 1857. She served in the women's army of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi. Born into a Koli family, she eventually rose to a position of a prominent advisor to the queen, Rani of Jhansi herself. At the height of the battle of fort of Jhansi, she disguised herself as the Queen and fought on her behalf, on the front, allowing the Queen to escape safely out of the fort.
The legend of Jhalkaribai remains in the popular memory of the people of Bundelkhand over centuries. Her life, especially her heroism fighting the East India Company army to protect the Queen, continues to be praised in various Bundeli folklores. Her bravery along with her identity as a koli has helped to create a sense of pride and cultural unity in koli in North India.
Jhalakaribai was born to Moolchand and Dhaniyabai on 22 November 1830 in Bhojla village near Jhansi. As a rural girl, her tasks mostly included chores around the household. However, at a very early age, she is said to have exhibited exceptional strength of will. Local folklore tell of several legendary acts of bravery. People were reportedly amazed when they learnt that when a tiger from the jungle tried to attack young Jhalkari, she stood her ground and killed the tiger with only an axe. She reportedly once killed a leopard in the forest with a stick she used to herd cattle.
After the death of her mother when she was very young, her father raised her. Consistent with the social conditions of the era, she lacked a formal education, but was trained in horseback riding and the use of weaponry.
She married Puran Singh, a soldier from the artillery unit of Rani Laxmibai's army, who introduced her to the Rani. Jhalkaribai bore an uncanny resemblance to Laxmibai and because of this she was inducted into the women's wing of the army.
Courage in battles
In the queen's army, she quickly rose in the ranks and began commanding her own army. During the Rebellion of 1857, General Hugh Rose attacked Jhansi with a large army. The Queen valiantly faced the army with 4000 of her troops in her fort. She waited for relief from Peshwa Nana Sahib's army camping at Kalpi that did not come because Tantia Tope had already been defeated by General Rose. Meanwhile, Dulha Ju, in charge of one of the gates of the fort, had made a pact with English and opened the doors of Jhansi for the British forces. When the British rushed the fort, Laxmibai, on advice of her courtier, escaped through another gate amidst the chaos of heavy fighting and casualties. Upon hearing of Laxmibai's escape, as Laxmibai told Jhalkaribai set out for General Rose's camp in disguise and declared herself to be the Queen. This led to a confusion that continued for a whole day and gave the Rani's army renewed advantage.
While this act of sacrifice and courage is what she is most well known for another little acknowledged fact remains that she was a close confidante and advisor to the queen playing a key role she played in the analysis and strategizing of the battle itself, alongside Laxmibai.
The image of Jhalakaribai has gained prominence in North India in the recent years. The sociopolitical importance of the story of Jhalkaribai has been recognized .The death anniversary of Jhalkaribai is also celebrated as Shahid Diwas (Martyr Day) by various Koli organizations. The movement to establish Bundelkhand as a separate state has also used the legend of Jhalkaribai to create the Bundeli identity. The Government of India's Post and Telegraph department has issued a postal stamp depicting Jhalkaribai.
She is referred to in the novel Jhansi ki Rani written in 1951 by B. L. Varma, who created a subplot in his novel about Jhalkaribai. He addressed Jhalkaribai as Koli and an extra – ordinary soldier in Laxmibai's army. Ram Chandra Heran's Bundeli novel Maati, published in the same year, depicted her as "chivalrous and a valiant martyr". The first biography of Jhalkaribai was written in 1964 by Bhawani Shankar Visharad, with the help of Varma's novel and his research from the oral narratives of Koli communities living in the vicinity of Jhansi.
Writers narrating the story of Jhalkaribai. Efforts have been made to place Jhalkaribai at an equal footing of Laxmibai. Since the 1990s, the story of Jhalkaribai has begun to model a fierce form of koli womanhood, has acquired a political dimension, and her image is being reconstructed with the demands of social situation.
President Ramnath Kovind unveiled the statue of Jhalkari Bai at Guru Tegh Bahadur Complex in Bhopal on 10 November 2017.
- Sarala 1999, p. 111
- "When Jhalkari Bai fought as Lakshmi Bai". Tribune India. Archived from the original on 11 May 2008. Retrieved 26 March 2010., which quotes Mr. Nareshchandra Koli stating her date of death as 4 April 1857. Sarala (1999, pp. 113–114) notes that she died in the battle following her disguise incident suggesting the date 4 April 1858. Varma & Sahaya (2001, p. 305) notes that she died as a very old woman without giving any exact date of death.
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- Badri Narayan (2006, p. 119) mentions "Today, the Kolis, like other Dalit castes, use the myth of Jhalkaribai for the glorification of their community. They also celebrate Jhalkaribai Jayanti each year to enhance their self respect and elevate the status of their caste. It is a matter of great pride that she was a Dalit Virangana (brave woman warrior) born in the Koli caste and they highlight this dimension while recounting her brave deeds."
- "Rediff On The NeT: Jhalkari Bai, a little known chapter on a woman's courage in colonial India". www.rediff.com. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
- Sarala 1999, p. 112
- "Commemorative Postage Stamp on Jhalkari Bai – Latest Releases". Retrieved 9 March 2010.
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- Badri Narayan 2006, p. 119
- Prez unveils Jhalkari Bai's statue. Daily Pioneer (11 November 2017)
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