Jhalkari Bai was a very courageous freedom fighter who died trying to save the life of Jhansi ki Rani in a grimly fought battle against colonial rulers in 1858.
To realise the full worth of her great sacrifice it needs to be remembered that just a few hours before she died fighting the heavily armed British force, she had seen her husband Pooran Kori dying in the battle to protect the fort of Jhansi from British attack, Pooran was a very brave warrior and also a very nice husband. They had a relationship of great affection. They were both young and were bringing up small children.
So it must have been a very great shock for Jhalkari when she saw the death of her husband in this furious battle. In fact for some time they had both fought side by side. Jhalkari’s disress knew no bounds when she saw hwe dearest husband losing his life in enemy fire. Yet, she continued fighting and did not hesitate to sacrifice her own life. Before this, she had handed over their children to the care of close friends.
Unfortunately, such a great sacrifice of Jhalkari Bai did not receive the due attention of scholars for a long time. Some attribute it to the fact that she belonged to a poorer family or so-called lower caste. In fact in her personal life she also suffered from the ill-treatment of richer and dominant persons of village who conspired against her because they did not like the special affection she had started receiving from Jhansi Ki Rani Lakshmibai. However Jhansi Ki Rani came to her rescue and protected her from this social oppression and injustice.
1857 was the year of a very big and brave uprising against the highly oppressive and exploitative rule of the East India Company in India. Jhansi and Jhansi Ki Rani Lakshmibai played a very important and inspiring role in this revolt of great courage and determination. Lakshmibai had been preparing for the impending confrontations In this context a very interesting and pioneering initiative that she had taken was to constitute a unit of women warriors who were given adequate training for fighting actual battles.
By this time Jhalkari had won a reputation as a very brave young woman. Legend has it that when she had gone to a forest for abtaining wood, she was attacked by a leopard. She fought bravely in self-defence and in the process it is the attacking leopard who perished. Her husband Pooran was recognised as a very brave soldier of the kingdom of Jhansi. When Jhalkari met the queen with her husband, everyone noticed that the face of the two women had a remarkable resemblance. They come closer to each other. So when the recruitment and training of women soldiers started, it was only to be expected that Jhalkari joined this initiative with great enthusiasm. Her husband also helped in her training.
When the attack of the highly armed British forces came, Pooran and Jhalkari were determined to fight till their last. The Rani of Jhansi had great faith in them, and they were determined to live up to this faith. As a result of their inspiring example, many other people of their Kori community came forward to fight very bravely. For some time Pooran and Jhalkari were fighting side by side. They along with several other Kori men and women made it very difficult for the colonial force to enter the fort. Those Kori women who did not have any weapon or weapon training simply collected stones and lot of hot water to throw on those who were attacking the fort.
However soon it became clear that it may be difficult to defend the fort. Now it became important to secure a safe escape for Jhansi Ki Rani. Hence a safe exit of the queen with a few soldeirs was planned. Jhalkari played an important role in this backyard move while Pooran kept fighting bravely in the frontline.
After the Rani left it was important to somehow create an impression that the Rani was still fighting in the fort. This was important for her safety. As Jhalkari had a strong resemblance to the Rani, she now dressed up as the queen.
Soon after she assumed this role she suffered the great shock of seeing the dead body of her husband Pooran who had sacrificed his life after fighting very bravely in this fierce battle.
Despite this great setback, the conditions were so critical that Jhalkari continued to fight bravely. According to some accounts she also died fighting while according to some other accounts, she was captured and executed. Yet other accounts say that she was imprisoned for a long time but released in her old age.
Whatever the truth of her last days and death, there is absolutely no doubt that Jhalkari Bai will always be remembered as a most courageous and inspiring daughter of Bundelkhand and of India.