Warning: Long piece!
As I was reading about Joan of Arc’s Martyrdom, I remembered the Indian heroine Jhansi ki Rani, the young queen of the kingdom of Jhansi who bravely fought the British in 1857, defending her kingdom, and in the process lost her life. This was another young woman who fell victim to the British, centuries after Jeanne d’Arc.
I remembered a beautiful poem (in Hindi) written about her also which I recall reading in my Hindi course at school. The poetess in this case was Subhadra Kumari Chauhan who lived during the first half of the twentieth century.
सिंहासन हिल उठे राजवंशों ने भृकुटी तानी थी,
बूढ़े भारत में आई फिर से नयी जवानी थी,
गुमी हुई आज़ादी की कीमत सबने पहचानी थी,
दूर फिरंगी को करने की सबने मन में ठानी थी।
चमक उठी सन सत्तावन में, वह तलवार पुरानी थी,
बुंदेले हरबोलों के मुँह हमने सुनी कहानी थी,
खूब लड़ी मर्दानी वह तो झाँसी वाली रानी थी।।
(My) English translation:
Thrones trembled, royal eye-brows were raised
To old Bharat the youth gave new life.
People saw the value of the freedom now lost.
All resolved to chase out the aliens from distant lands.
The ancient swords now glittered again.
From the mouths of the singers of Bundel we heard the story:
She fought much like a man, the Queen of Jhansi.
It is a long poem. Here in prose is what it says:
Her name was Laxmibai the sole daughter.. She played with knife and sword. She had heard about the heroic Shivaji from itinerant singers. None could know if she was Goddess Durga re-born. She learned the strategies of war from the local folks, and she enjoyed ambushing.
Married grandly. she came to Jhansi as queen: as good luck for the Bandelos, and charm to the palace of Jhansi. Bright candles lighted up the palace to welcome her. But slowly unhappy clouds gathered. Her husband died and fate was unkind. The king had left no heirs, and the queen was very sad. The candles were snuffed. She gave up her bangles, for it was time to fight.
The British under Dalhousie had taken over her kingdom. He sent his sepoys and planted his flag on the fortress, The British became the guardian of an orphan. The intruders had come in the guise of merchants. They gradually took over the land. They were an affront to local rulers. The queen became a servant in her own palace: Yet she was the real queen.
The capital (Delhi) was lost. Lucknow, Nagpur, Tanjore and Karmayak, Sindh, Punjab and Assam: One by one they fell under British control. So did Bengal and Madras and other states. The queen wept upon hearing about these disasters. She was sickened by it all.
Her jewels and clothes. Her ornaments and costumes were sold in Calcutta markets.
There were advertisements for the sale of the royal stuff, published in British dailies.
“Buy the ornaments of Nagpur, Buy the Naulakha locket of Lucknow” they proclaimed. The honor of the royal ladies were sold to foreigners. There was great grief in the cottages of poor. The royal houses suffered insults from the British The poor suffered their cruelty. Bharat’s brave soldiers thought of the honor of their ancestors. They lost honorific titles and all their treasures.
The holy war now started: They had to arouse the Divine Bharat’s divine spirit, for now it was asleep The revolt began in the palace. It burned hot like the sun. Then it reached the homes of people. It touched the queen and spread to Delhi, It swept Lucknow. It was full blown in Meerut, then in Kanour and Patna. People in Jabalpur, Kolhapur were also touched.
In that struggle many brave brothers lost their lives. That included Nana GhunGhupant, Tantya, And the great Azeemullah, Many others died too, like Ahmedshah Moulvi, Thakur Kunwar singh, Sainik Abhiram. Their names will for ever be shining in the heaven that is the history of India, They were called rebels, their sacrifice a crime against British India.
From their tales of bravery let us go to the battlefield of Jhansi where Laxmibai is standing brave among brave men. Lieutenant Walker went there and ventured into the army of the brave. Rani drew her sword, drums began to beat in the heavens. Walker fled from the battlefield for Rani had wounded him. He was amazed by Rani’s quickness.
Rani advanced and reached Kalpi After a difficult journey of hundreds of miles. The horse was tired, it, fell to the ground And the rider (Walker) also fell down too . In the Yamuna field Rani again defeated the British. The victorious Rani advanced and captured Gawalior. The British fled Vsindia. Their rule was over in Gawalior.
The freedom fighters had won. But the British army organized itself again. Now under the command of General smith, But he too was brought down by the brave freedom fighters.
Kána and Mandra were also accompanying the queen in the war zone. They fought with fury. fighting furiously. The British commander Hughrose ame from behind to help his soldiers – Alas! These soldiers surrounded the Rani from all sides. Though deeply wounded, the queen still fought. She even succeeded in reaching the British camp. Rani was fighting and had managed to get through the British army. But she got stuck because a sewerage canal was there on the other end and she was in deep trouble, Her horse got stuck there – the horse was untrained, in the mean time, the British soldiers, riding on their horses reached there. Rani was all alone while enemies were numerous who were attacking her with their sword from all sides,
Rani, who was fighting like a lioness, succumbed to the wounds and fell down. She had to achieve a glorious death in war.
Rani was martyred in the battlefield. Her departed soul was then riding a divine vehicle, moving towards heavens The Light of her divine soul met with the divine light in the heavens, she was the real heir of divinity, She was only thirty years of age. She was not a human; rather she was divine spirit (a holy being), Who did come, in the gesture of a female freedom fighter, to give us a respectable life of light and freedom , She showed us the path of freedom, and taught us the lesson of courage, she taught us what we might have learned.
The people of India will remember their debt to you, O Rani Laxmaibai! May you be blessed, dear Rani, Your sacrifice will awaken the indestructible spirit of freedom. History will be rendered silent if truth is hanged or killed, or if the oppressors become victorious or if they destroy jhansi with cannon balls. You, by yourself are the memorial of Rani of Jhansi because you had been an eternal symbol of courage. From the mouths of the Bandelas and the religious singers of Bandelkhand, we heard the tale of the courage of the Queen of Jhansi relating how gallantly she fought like a man against the British intruders: such was the Queen of Jhansi.
February 8, 2011