The legend of Jhalkaribai ( 1830 – 1858 ) – especially the incident of her fighting with the East India Company army on the front in the disguise of Rani Lakshmibai which helped Lakshmibai escape safely—is still sung in the various folklores of the Bundelkhand. During the Battle of Jhansi in the 1857 rebellion, she played an important role.
Jhalkaribai was raised like a boy, well trained as a warrior and served as a soldier in the women’s army of ‘Jhansi ki Rani’. She once killed a leopard in the forest with her cattle herding stick.
Jhalkari Bai’s great valour and deeds were seen in the battle when General Huge Rose had besieged Jhansi with a large army on March 23, 1858. Rani of Jhansi herself was fighting like a great warrior with sword in her hand and son Damodar on her back. Jhalkaribai bore an uncanny resemblance to Rani Lakshmibai. She was fighting when she heard about the escape of Lakshmibai. She thought about a plan to confuse Gen. Rose Jhalkaribai went out towards General Rose’s camp in disguise of the queen and declared that she was the queen , Lakshmibai. She successfully confused everyone for quite some time and this confusion helped Lakshmibai escape safely.
The history books have very few references about Jhalkaribai in the contemporary records. Vishnubhat Godse, the court priest of Jhansi during this period, has mentioned her ( although as a maid) in his travelogue.
The name of Jhalkaribai first appeared in the printed history in 1947.The reference to her story is found in a novel Jhansi ki Rani written in 1951 by B L Varma, who had interviewed Jhalkaribai’s grandson for his contents. Another book on Jhalkaribai was written in the same year by Ram Chandra Heran in his Bundeli novel Maati.
The death anniversary of Jhalkaribai is celebrated as Shahid Diwas ( Martyr’s Day ) by various organisations every year . The Government of India’s Post and Telegraph Department has issued a postal stamp in her honour. In the memory of Jhalkaribai, the Archaeological Survey of India is setting up a grand museum at Panch Mahal, inside the Jhansi Fort.
( Courtesy: Wah Bharat ) Nirmal Joshi