We have many brave women who fought with true spirit and unflinching courage for the freedom of our India to win us freedom. For that, they faced many tortures, exploitations, and hardships. When most of the freedom fighters were in jail, these brave women came forward and took charge of the struggle. The Indian freedom struggle was a maelstrom of many different currents. We are going to talk about the brave women who were part of the freedom struggle and who have ignited the flames in the kitchen and the battlefield alike. The presence of women in the struggle was the source of energy for the Indian freedom struggle. Even though women did not have the freedom to go out like today, despite the prohibitions more than today, we have many women gems who rushed shoulder to shoulder with men to the front of the struggle to free the country from foreign forces. Many brave women from Kerala and Bengal as well as from many other states flew to the freedom struggle without distinction of state, caste or language.
Brave women of freedom struggle
Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership was the main driving force behind the end of British colonial rule and the country’s independence. He succeeded in coordinating national movements. But at that time, and long before, there were bloody struggles for independence on many fronts. There are many brave women who fought and led for the liberation of India. Among those who gave leadership to the Indian freedom struggle and armed struggle, there are many women fighters. When talking about brave women freedom fighters, names like Sarojini Naidu, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Hansa Jivraj Mehta, Rameshwari Nehru, and Kamala Nehru come up. But there are many brave women who sacrificed their lives for opposing the British and were subjected to many exploitations.
The brave women who spread the flame in the kitchen and the arena
Those brave women fighters who waged a war against the caste system, inequalities, and customs, lit the flame of the freedom movement both in the kitchen and in the arena. The revolutionary fire ignited by these women fighters is still a passion for women’s liberation struggles. Women’s movements gained strength and power in India in the fire of the freedom struggle. It was on the strength of the national movement that these brave women were able to initiate the eradication of customs, gender, color, and discrimination. These women fighters set fire to the freedom movement both in the kitchen and in the arena.
Velu Nachiyar was a great female presence in the freedom struggle that became a symbol of India’s pride. Velu Nachiyar was born in Sivaganga, Tamil Nadu, and was one of the first brave women fighters to fight against the British. She attacked the British base at Shivaganaga itself in 1780, long before the First War of Independence in 1857. Velu Nachiyar was the first queen to actively oppose British rule.
Velu Nachiyar is a brave woman who fought against the colonial rulers, years before the Sepoy Mutiny. Her courage and perseverance greatly impressed Hyder Ali (the Muslim ruler and military commander of the Mysore kingdom) and hence Velu Nachiar got full support from Hyder Ali who pledged to be his ally in the fight against the British. Thus, with the cooperation of Hyderali and Gopala Nayakar, she fought against the British and won. Nachiyar is hailed as a heroine (veeramanka) in Tamil folklore.
Rani Chennamma, who was the queen of Kittur land in Karnataka, was a prominent brave woman who took the first step toward freedom. The Doctrine of Lapse was part of the British drive to capture princely states. It was a declaration that princely states would take over the East India Company if there were no natural heirs. Rani Chennamma of Kittur fought against this. Chennamma was born on October 23, 1778, in Kakadi village near Belgaum in the Belagavi district of Karnataka.
Her husband was King Mallasarja Desai of Kittur. When her husband and only son died, Chennamma took over the administration of the Kittur princely state. Chennamma adopted a child named Sivalingappa as the heir. But the British were not ready to accept it. Unwilling to retreat, Chennamma decided to confront the British forces with her small army. When the British army attacked Kittur in 1824, Chennamma’s army resisted and Chennamma’s soldiers shot British captain Sir John Thackeray and captured two British officers.
Jhansi Rani Lakshmibai
Jhansi Rani Lakshmibai was the flaming name of the first freedom struggle. Jhansi Rani is the first name that even small children come up with when asked about the heroines of India’s freedom struggle. Jhansi Ki Rani popularly known as Rani Lakshmibai was the brave woman ruler of the Jhansi princely state in what is now the Jhansi district of Uttar Pradesh. She was a brave woman involved in the early Indian Mutiny of 1857. According to Wikipedia, Rani Lakshmibai was born on 19 November 1828 in the town of Varanasi. Her childhood name was Manikarnika Tambe and her nickname at home was Manu.
In May 1842, she was married to the Maharaja of Jhansi, Gangadhar Rao Newalkar, after that she came to be known as Lakshmibai. According to local tradition, women were given a new name after marriage. A baby boy was born to them, but the baby died when he was still a baby, so they adopted another baby boy. On March 23, 1857, Rani strongly resisted the British army that arrived at Jhansi, but finally, instead of surrendering, she tied her son to her body, jumped on a horse, and escaped from the top of the fort. Rani defeated the Scindia king who showed allegiance to the British and captured the kingdom of Gwalior. She was killed on June 18, 1858, while fighting on horseback in military uniform.
Uda Devi was a Dalit armed fighter who participated in the Battle of Sikandar Bagh in November 1857. Uda Devi, hiding on the top of a tall tree, shot and killed about forty soldiers. Uda Devi and other Dalit women were brave women warriors of the Indian Rebellion. Udadevi was born in Ujirao, Lucknow, she was a brave and talented woman who was part of the royal guard of Begum Hazrat Mahal of Awadh. Her husband was also a soldier. Her husband Makka Pasi was working as an infantry soldier in the army of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh.
In Hazrat Mahal’s palace, there were many women like Uda devi, to attend to the needs of the royal family. They were from marginalized communities. Uda Devi and other Dalit women who were among the warriors of the 1857 revolt known as ‘Dalit Veerangana’. Udhadevi was shot dead by the British army. Uda devi is an unforgettable brave woman when talking about the freedom struggle.
Usha Mehta from Gujarat is a name that can never be forgotten when talking about the presence of brave women in the freedom struggle. She participated in the ‘Simon Commission Go Back’ campaign when she was very young, i.e. at the age of eight. She was the founder of Secret Congress Radio which started in 1942. Usha Mehta was born on March 25, 1920, in Saras village near Surat, Gujarat. It was a time when the country was fighting strongly against the British. She struggled a lot to spread the spirit of nationalism in the fight against British rule.
In 1939, Usha Mehta graduated from Wilson College, Bombay with a degree in philosophy. The shift to Bombay gave her an opportunity to become more active in the freedom struggle. After graduating, she wanted to study law. Usha Mehta started preparing for law studies but with the announcement of the Quit India movement, she decided to quit her studies and join the freedom struggle. She strongly believed that radio was a powerful medium to inform people about the happenings in her country. That is what inspired her to organize a secret radio station and bring news to the far corners of the country.
Have you heard about Ilamma? When we talk about the freedom struggle, when we talk about the brave woman who participated in it, Ilamma is a name that shines brightly in front of us. The Telangana land struggle started with Ilamma. Ilamma was born in Krishnapuram village of Warangal in a Rajaka caste Bahujan family. The clan occupation of Ilamma’s family was laundry in upper-class households. She got married to Chittayala Narasaiah at the age of 10. They had five children. When she could not support her family by doing laundry alone, she leased forty acres of land from a zamindar named Kondalla Rao and started farming.
This was questioned by the upper castes and they ganged up to destroy Ilamma’s cultivation. But Ilamma, who was a member of the Andhra Mahasabha, formed by the Communist Party, defended it with the help of party workers. In response to this, a zamindar named Ramachandra Reddy filed a case in court against Ilama’s right to the land. But the court verdict was in Ilamma’s favor and with the help of the Andhra Mahasabha, Ilamma harvested her crops. Although she had to suffer a lot, Ilamma was not ready to give up. Many farmers were killed and more than 10,000 were jailed in the Telangana Land Struggle, which established the rights of farmers to the soil.
Don’t you remember Bhagat Singh? A brave freedom fighter who sang the inquilab of rebellion against imperialism. But how many people know that behind his first escape, there is a brave woman? Her name is Durgawati Devi. Durgawati Devi was born in October 1907 in a well-to-do family near Prayagraj, UP. Devi was married at the age of 11 to Shri Bhagwati Charan Vora of Lahore who also belonged to a good family. Bhagat Singh, who was a regular visitor to their home, made Vora a member of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. Vora and Devi are said to be instrumental in forming the association. Devi donated all her jewelry and money to HSRA.
After the assassination of the British police officer, John Sanders, revolutionaries Bhagat Singh and his cohorts took refuge in Vora’s house. Devi helped them escape by train to Calcutta. They escaped in disguise. Vora was killed while making a bomb to blow up Lahore Jail. Even after that, Durgawati continued to fight against colonial rule. Rallies and marches were held to demand Bhagatsingh’s release. She was later imprisoned for attempting to assassinate Punjab Governor Malcolm Hailey. After release from jail, Durgawathi came to Bombay and was again arrested and jailed for trying to kill a police officer. After her release from prison in 1935, Durgawati left politics and settled in Lucknow with her son, where she established a school for underprivileged children.
Captain Lakshmi was a crucial leader in the freedom struggle movement. An unforgettable female presence. We have many exciting memories to share about Captain Lakshmi, who was a leading fighter in the struggle to uphold democracy, secularism, and unity of the country. Lakshmi was born to Dr. Swaminathan, a well-known lawyer, and A. V Ammukkutty (Ammu Swaminathan), a public activist, at Anakkara Vadakkathu family in Anakkara Panchayat of Palakkad district. Lakshmi had questioned the fact that she was not allowed to play with lower caste children as a child.
After completing her MBBS in 1938, Lakshmi obtained a diploma in gynecology and started a clinic for the poor. She also worked for the Indian Independence League, which fought for Indian independence. Captain Lakshmi served as the Colonel of the Rani Regiment named after the Rani of Jhansi in the Indian National Army. Debates about the Russian Revolution and socialist ideas led her to communist ideas. Lakshmi was one of the pioneers in the formation of the All India Janathipatya Mahila Association. Captain Lakshmi was a personality who took a bold stand against communalism not only during the freedom struggle but also continued.
Akkamma Cheriyan, known as the Jhansi Queen of Kerala, was a brilliant figure in the history of the women’s movement and political history. Akkamma was born on February 14, 1909, as the second daughter of Thomman Cherian and Annamma at Karipapparampil in Kanjirapalli, Kottayam. She had her primary education at Kanjirapally Government Girls High School and after that at Changanassery St. Joseph High School. She then graduated in History from St. Teresa’s College, Ernakulam. Although she worked as a headmistress at St. Mary’s School, Kanjirapalli, her real dream was to see her country free. So, she quit her job to join the Indian freedom struggle.
The Travancore State Congress was formed during Akkamma’s tenure as a headmistress. Akkamma was fascinated by the activities of the State Congress. But the then Diwan C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer suppressed the activities of the State Congress and outlawed the State Congress and the Youth League. But the state congress dissolved the working committee by giving all power to the president. But the Presidents were arrested one after another on charges of violation of the law. Thus, when there was a shortage of youth, young women had to come forward for the Congress organization activities in Kanjirapilli. This was led by our brave woman Akkamma. Akkamma Cheriyan has also been arrested several times for violating the ban and protesting.
Bhogeswari Phukanani was born in 1885 in Barhampur, Nagaon district of Assam. Bhogeswari Phukanani is a brave woman who participated in the Quit India movement at a time when women were supposed to be inside the house looking after household chores and taking care of children. She not only became active in the Quit India movement but also asked her eight children to fight against the British. She married Bhogeshwar Phukan. The couple had two daughters and six sons. Phukanani was active in the Berhampur, Babajia, and Barpujia areas of the Nagaon district in Assam and helped set up offices for the Indian National Congress.
During the Indian freedom struggle, the thousands of women who gave brave leadership in the anti-imperialist and caste struggles are an inspiration to the new generation. Phukanani is a good example of that. Overwhelming love for the country and an unquenchable passion for freedom led Phukanani to participate in local protests against the British authorities and women’s organizations in the region. Neither her age nor her household responsibilities could stop her from fighting for freedom. Following her example, many local women became part of the national movement. In 1942, she was shot dead by the British forces. Phukanani was a prominent female presence who lit the flames of the freedom struggle.
Female presence in the freedom struggle
There were many brave women, who have flown into the fire of the struggle for freedom and showed a life of self-sacrifice. We must remember that the freedom we experience is the result of efforts not only by men but also by many brave women. In it there were queens who sacrificed everything for the sake of their native land, there were those who had higher education and higher jobs and gave it up, and there were many women who were ordinary housewives, wage workers, and so on. The story of Matangini Hazra, who despite being shot by the police during the Quit India protest, held the Indian flag close to her chest and sang ‘Vande Mataram’, became a brave martyr, is an inspiration to any patriot.
Kanaklata Barua in Assam, Pushpa Gujral who strengthened the struggle in the interior of Punjab, Sucheta Kripalini who traveled in disguise and encouraged the workers, Pritilata Waddedar who is known as the first woman martyr of the freedom struggle, we have so many women fighters. The freedom struggle is notable for the presence of so many great women like Rani Gaidinliu, a Manipur girl who led the rebellion against British rule, Princess Amrit Kaur who led the protests in Shimla, Aruna Asaf Ali, who led the struggle in hiding after raising the national flag at the Gaulia Tank Maidan in Bombay, etc.
It must be remembered that freedom fighter Parbati Giri was only sixteen years old when she was active in the Quit India movement. Similarly, Bima Bai Holkar, who was the daughter of the Indore king, fought through guerilla warfare. It was Madam bhikaji cama who hoisted the Indian national flag at the International Socialist Conference held in Germany. Savitribai Phule from Maharashtra fought for women’s rights. Begum Hazrat Mahal was a participant in the rebellion along with Nana Sahib.
Another thing worth mentioning is the influence of the renaissance leaders of those periods. Renaissance leaders and various social reform movements under them succeeded in bringing women from the kitchen to the stage. Their motivation, inspiration, and enthusiasm were a guiding light for women. Inspired by their words, many brave women participated in the Indian freedom struggle with all their nerve and verve.
Among those who are known like this, there are many other women who have disappeared from history without being known by anyone. They are the real ‘unsung heroines”. It is good to remember that the freedom we enjoy today is due to the struggle of many women too. These women created heroic epics on the battlefields by enduring many tortures and miseries. There are women who have been jailed just for participating in demonstrations. They faced beatings and threats from the authorities in prison. It wasn’t for them but it was for the next generation. The names of many of these people who made history with their hot blood to quench the might of the white man are not recorded in history. Let us remember them with respect. We can’t forget these brave women when talking about the freedom struggle.
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