Thursday, July 10, 2014

Veerangini Jhalkari Bai Kori, Story of courageous Dalit warrior woman in colonial India


                    
  This is the story of a courageous woman who came from a humble background but rose to the occasion to fight for her people and country.  Like any other Dalit heroes who attained martyrdom in any war she had no ambition  to own a palace, become a queen to rule a kingdom,  become a heir to the throne , earn fame but sacrificed for the freedom of India may be 1857 freedom struggle or any other movement for motherland’s freedom.
            The history of India is full of rulers -- both men and women -- who combined bravery with a strategy to repulse attacks by foreign invaders down the ages. Members of ruling families fought for the sake of gaining control over others territory or to defend their kingdoms, but for Dalits it was their commitment to their country with no personnel ambitions to full fill.
Jhalkari Bai Kori’s story is a saga of courageous and selfless sacrifice for her mother land Jhansi. She was the 'double' of Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, the legendary warrior who fought the invading British army in the first War of Independence, when her kingdom was annexed by the British as her husband Ganga Dhar Rao had died heirless. A little known figure in Indian history, Jhalkari Bai lives on in the folklore of the Bundelkhand region. Bundelkhand was once a Buddhist region and also called Budha-khand.
             Jalkari Bai was born on 22nd November 1830 in village Bhojalla on Balaji Marg. His father was Sadova Singh and mother named Dhania but some authors say her father was named as Mool Chand & mother Jamuna Devi. They were agriculturists, belonging to Kori Caste of Untouchables having  Laria Gotar.  Kori Caste has a glorious history and Kories are said to have been rulers of this country . Shamba Asur  Maharaj  was a Kori ruler as also revered  Yashodhara wife of Gotam Budha was too from Kori Caste. How this so warrior and prosperous Kori peoples were reduced to a unknown position is a mystery. Jalkari Bai also nicknamed as Chaloria was the only child of her parents and she lost her mother at a very young age. So she was brought up by her father with utmost care, love and affection. Jalkari Bai grew into a strong, courageous, beautiful girl. At the age of 12 years when she went to bring wood for cooking in forest area she was attached by a panther. She also attacked it with her axe but missed and the axe fell from her hands. Then she courageously caught the animal from its both jaws and tore them apart. In this she also got scratches, some wounds on her self and her clothes were torn. This news spread in the Jhansi town like wild fire and adjoining areas , all praised her bravery. On another occasion, she challenged a gang of dacoits who raided the house of a village businessman and forced them to retreat.
            This was also heard by Pooran of Namapur Jhansi, himself from Kori caste, a courageous and famous  wrestler, had experience in archery besides having gained expertise in horse riding, fire arms, sword yielding. Pooran asked his mother that he wanted to marry brave Jalkari Bai .This idea was accepted by father of Jalkari Bai, and their marriage was ceremonised with religious gaiety in 1843.  Pooran was  an ordinary solider, canon  operator at main gate of Jhansi. Jalkari Bai learnt the art of cloth weaving the job carried by her in-laws. This union of two healthy bodies & souls impressed Jalkari Bai to have military training and Pooran supported her idea .He stated training her in all types of martial arts both defensive & offensive. This was not liked by the elders from their society, as for them women had no choice of out door  military activities, but to serve their husband gods, rare children and confine to house hold duties only. But this new couple did not bother to this type of criticism.  She also  used to go to Raj Darbar with her husband. Rani used to invite women from the area on Gouri Pooja  day & putting Turmeric-saffron marks on fore heads day. Jalkari Bai also went to palace wearing new clothes as new bride along with her mother- in -law and other women to pay obedience to Laxmibai the Rani of Jhansi.  On conversing with Jalkari Bai the queen found her fearless and enquiring further Jalkari Bai put forward her desire to join army. Jalkari Bai‘s pleasing & stout body contours impressed the  queen . Laxmibai was struck by Jhalkari's uncanny resemblance to her, Rani felt as if Jalkari Bai was her separated sister. After being told about her courage tales by other women Rani ordered Jhalkari's induction into the Durga Dal or women army of Jhansi. Jhalkari Bai was asked to see the Rani daily. Jalkari Bai was trained by Rani herself into the art of archery, horse ridding, shooting, wrestling and other physical exercises. Jhalkari, along with the other women, was trained in shooting and igniting the cannons at a time when the Jhansi army was being strengthened to face any British intrusion. Jhalkari was subsequently made its commander. The Durga Dal recruits repeatedly foil attacks by the British army. But for the betrayal by one of Laxmibai generals, the Jhansi fort would have remained invincible for at least some more time.  
   On the death of Rani’s only son at the age of 4 months her husband king Gangadhar Rao  fell ill due to shock  and he  adopted Damodhar Rao aged 5years , King’s distant cousin, On November 19, 1853  as their heir and  applied for heir ship in his favour along with Rani as Regent to Major J.M Ellias  an Assistant Political agent at Jhansi.   King Gangadhar Rao died on 12 November 1853. Despite Rani’s strong arguments for accepting Damodhar Rao, her adopted son as successor, Rani‘s request was declined by Lord Dalhousie despite it being supported sub-ordinate officer.   A new captain Alexander Skene was ordered to take over the charge of Jhansi under the Doctrine of Lapse1848. This Doctrine was made applicable with effect from7thMarch 1854 merging Jhansi into the East India Company’s dominions in India. Rani was sanctioned annual Pension of Rs, 60,000 with instructions to keep the palace as her personnel residence and pay her husbands debits from it. Damodhar Rao inherited king’s personnel estate but neither his title nor kingdom. On 13th March 1854  Major John Malcolm Ellias presented this order to Rani and Rani said “I shall not surrender  Jhansi to  any body on any conditions” so Allis went back quickly. All the petitions of the Rani to retain power were rejected by early 1856. Thakur Laxmin Singh  a famous historian  writes that Rani of Jhansi ruled Jhansi  in 1855-56 on behalf of British.
        When the Mutiny erupted in 1857 in Meruit and subsequently its spread in Jhansi .Sepoys of the East India Company took up arms against the British, Rani continued to remain loyal. She aided the rebels only at the point of their guns, and immediately informed the British of events. The British appointed her as their agent and gave her full authority to govern, which she did without wavering in her duty despite the foul blow dealt to her infant son by the British.
  On 8 June, 1857 Between 72 and 92 European men, women, and children were ruthlessly massacred by the rebellious troops who had promised them safe passage from Jhansi. The British pinned the responsibility on Rani though she was said to not involve.  The British, however, did not trust her and soon it became evident to Laxmibai that when law and order was restored in Central India, including Bundelkhandincluding Jhansi, they would come for her to arrest as a traitor. 
        Faced with the imminent likelihood of execution, Laxmibai then – and only then – revolted against the British. To call this astonishing woman a fighter for Indian freedom, and to posthumously bestow on her the highest laurels as one of the main rebel leaders, is not accurate. Non except Dalits in rebellion were fighting for an “independent India”, because such a concept did not existed then.
       So Laxmibai decided to fight back the British. Her generals and the people of Jhansi rallied round the queen and resolved to take up arms against the British instead of surrendering to them.  On March 22,1858 Sir Hugh Rose opens the siege of Jhansi.The cannonade of Jhansi fort begins on March 25 but the Rani’s troops respond in kind, refusing to give way.
   Nathe Khan too invaded Jhansi with 20,000 strong army from Orshey side to help British forces. Pooran Kori, Bhau Bakashi, Jhalkari Bai, Jawahar Singh, Gulam Goas were fighting from Rani Jhansi side.  A fierce fight was going and at lost Nathe Khan lost and was forced to run leaving behind lot of ammunition. Peer Ali joined hands with British and asked them to attack Jhansi from Jar hill side. Tantya Topey was advancing towards Jhansi with his army to help Laxmi Bai. He was forced to move  to another side from Kalpi front resistance of British army. Like Peer Ali Dewam Dulha also deserted Rani & joined enemy force and opened Orsha Gate of Jhansi Fort. The British army got entry into th fort, Rahi asked Pooran Kori, Bhau Bakashi,  Jawahar Singh ,Gulam Goas and Bhopatkar to resist entry of enemy from outside the fort. Soldiers were being killed in large number. Meanwhile Jhalhari Bai Kori  a close confident of Rani ,  along with Bhopatkar asked Rani to escape from the fort with her adopted son, as survival of Rani was important to continue the fight for Jhansi’s freedom. Rani  Laxmi Bai escaped from Jhansi fort in the darkness of 4th April 1858 night on horse back  through  Bhanderi Gate under the charge of Pooran Kori ,carrying her son along.
    Jhalkari Bai being a close resemblance of Laxmi Bai wore Rani’s robes and went on fighting & leading Jhansi army. On reaching Bhandari gate she found her husband Pooran Kori attained martyrdom while fighting. She was shocked to see her husband dead. She saluted his body and with out mourning much she stated fighting with greater fierceness. Her sole aim was to get engaged enemy forces till Rani escaped to some safe distination. She worked out a plan to deceive the British. She dressed up like Laxmibai and took command of the Jhansi army. She asked some women soldiers to follow her with loudly sloganeering “Rani Jhansi Ki Jai”.
  There after she marched out of the fort towards the camp of British General Hugh Rose. On reaching the British enclave, she shouted that she wanted to meet the general Sir Hugh Rose.  She was captured. Besides capturing Jhansi, the British thought they had caught the queen alive. When the general Sir Hugh Rose -- thinking she was the queen -- asked Jhalkari what should be done to her, she firmly said, ‘‘Hang me.'' But Dulha Joo identified and  said she was not Laxmi Bai the queen but Jhalkari Bai Korin
Bundelkhand legend has it that her reply stunned the general, who said on 4th June, 1858 that if even one per cent of Indian women were like Jhalkari; the British would soon have to leave India.The British had to vacate India nine decades there after,in 1947.
 This is in brief the saga of bravery of one of the rare courageous women soldiers of Indian forces. She made way for the safe escape of Maharani Laxmi Bai, sacrificing her life along with life of her Husband. But alas the discourteous caste infected historians for long did not mention the contribution of Dalit women & men who laid their lives purely for the freedom of their mother land despite being treated even worst than animals in their mother land. Dalit martyrs did not have any personnel axe to grind in the form of kingdoms, titles, estates etc. but love for the freedom of the country .The recent research work by independent writers is trying to dig out truth from the debris of the one sided history materials written by self interested persons.

                                                                                      
   Bibliography:-

1)     Veerangana JhalkariBai (Hindi)by Mohnash Namishry Samyak Prakashan32/3,Club Road Pashachim Puri NewDelhi-63
2)      1857 KiKrantiMeinDalitonKaYogdan(Hindi)by Satnamsingh Samyak Prakashan32/3,Club Road Pashachim Puri  New Delhi-63 
3)       Sawtantra Sangram Mein Ashutoyan Ka Yogdhan( Hindi) byD.C. Dhenkar Gotam Book Centre,Chandan Sadan,C-263-A,Gali No-9 Hardev Puri Shahdara
            Delhi-110093
4)         History Net, Window Internet Explorer( Weikipedia)
5) The photograph given here is from “Veerangana JhalkariBai (Hindi)by Mohnash Namishry Samyak Prakashan”


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