Statue of Jhalkaribai in Gwalior
22 November 1830|
Bhojla Village, near Jhansi
|Died||1858 in Gwalior|
|Movement||Indian Rebellion of 1857|
Jhalkaribai (22 November 1830 – 1858) (Hindi: झलकारीबाई [dʒʱəlkaːriːˈbaːi]) was an Indian woman soldier who played an important role in the Indian Rebellion of 1857 during the battle of Jhansi. She was a soldier in the women's army of Queen Laxmibai of Jhansi. Born into a poor Kori family, she started her career as an ordinary soldier in Laxmibai's army, but rose to a position of advising the queen and participating in vital decisions. During the rebellion, at the height of the battle of fort of Jhansi, she disguised herself as the queen and fought on the front to let the queen escape safely out of the fort.
The legend of Jhalkaribai remains in the popular memory of Bundelkhand over centuries. Her life and especially the incident of her fighting with the East India Company army on the front in disguise, continues to be sung in various Bundeli folklores. Her bravery along with her identity as a Dalit has helped to create a sense of pride and cultural unity in Dalits in North India. She was afterwards hanged to death by the British.
Recently the name of Jhalkaribai, along with others, has played a crucial role in the political landscape of North India, especially of Uttar Pradesh. Taking advantage of her popular image, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the leading Dalit-based party in India, projected Jhalkaribai as one of the symbols of Dalit pride and honour. Efforts were taken in research and find facts about her life and spreading them to the masses. Emphasis was given to portraying her as a historical heroine of the bahujans.
Jhalkaribai was daughter of a Sadoba Singh, and Jamuna Devi. She was born on November 22, 1830 in Bhojla village near Jhansi. After the death of her mother, when she was very young, her father raised her like a boy. She was trained in horse-riding and using weapons. Consistent with the social conditions of those days, she could not have a formal education, but soon became well-trained as a warrior. She killed a leopard in the forest with a stick she used to herd cattle.
Jhalkaribai bore resemblance to Rani Laxmibai. She married an artilleryman, Puran Singh, from the artillery unit of Rani Laxmibai. Jhalkaribai was introduced to the queen by Puran Singh. She joined her. After joining the army, she gained further expertise in all aspects of warfare.
During the Rebellion of 1857, General Hugh Rose attacked Jhansi with a large army on 23 March 1858. The queen valiantly faced the army with 4000 of her troops in her fort. She waited for relief from Peshwa's army camping at Kalpi but it did not come because Tatya Tope was defeated by Rose. Meanwhile, Dulha ju, in charge of Orcha Gate, made pact with English and opened doors of Jhansi for English Army. The English Army rushed through and amidst this mayhem, Rani, on advice of her Courtier escaped through Bhanderi Gate with heavy fighting and casualties. On hearing escape of Jhalkaribai thought of a plan to Confuse Gen Rose. Jhalkaribai set out for General Rose's camp in disguise as the queen and declared herself to be the queen Laxmibai. This led to a confusion that continued for a day and she was released only after it was revealed that she was not the queen.
In popular culture
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 Korin and an ordinary soldier in Laxmibai's army. Another novel where we can find Jhalkaribai was written in the same year by Ram Chandra Heran in his Bundeli novel Maati. Heran depicted her as "chivalrous and a valiant martyr". The first biography of Jhalkaribai was written in 1964 by Bhawani Shankar Visharad, a Dalit intellectual, with the help of Varma's novel and his research from the oral narratives of the lower caste people living in the vicinity of Jhansi.
As a result of Bahujan Samaj Party's policy of social mobilization, several booklets, dramas, and songs have been composed by Dalit activists, politicians, and 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 acquired a political dimension and her image is being reconstructed with the demands of social situation.
The image of Jhalkaribai has gained prominence in North India in the recent years. The socio-political importance of the story of Jhalkaribai to create social awareness and a sense of pride in the Dalits has been recognized and used by political parties like Bahujan Samaj Party. The death anniversary of Jhalkaribai is celebrated as Shahid Diwas (Martyr Day) by various Dalit organizations.
The movement to create a separate Bundelkhand 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.
Archaeological Survey of India is setting up a museum at Panch Mahal, a five storey building located inside the Jhansi Fort in remembrance of Jhalkaribai. The ASI, which comes under the Union Culture Ministry, proposes to display sculptures and architectural heritage at the museum to highlight the history, archaeology of the area and life history of Jhalkari Bai and Rani Lakshmibai.
- 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.
- Sarala 1999, pp. 112–113
- Varma, B. L. (1951), Jhansi Ki Rani, p. 255, as quoted in Badri Narayan 2006, pp. 119–120
- Badri Narayan (2006), p. 119 mentions "Today, the Koris, 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 Kori caste and they highlight this dimension while recounting her brave deeds."
- Sarala 1999, p. 112
- "Commemorative Postage Stamp on Jhalkari Bai – Latest Releases". Retrieved 9 March 2010.
- Badri Narayan 2006, p. 119
- Badri Narayan 2006, p. 129
- Badri Narayan 2006, p. 125
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