The road to freedom was a lengthy and messy affair for India. The number of people who fought for our country’s independence from the British Raj is countless. We celebrate the efforts and sacrifices made by the most prominent of them. Here are 7 of some of the great women who stood their ground against the British and fought for india’s independence:
Rani Velu Nachiyar
Rani Velu Nachiyar was the first queen in India to fight against the East India Company. She was the queen of the Sivaganga estate. Her husband was killed by British forces on 25 June 1772 which forced her to become a fugitive. After 8 years of planning and help from many feudal lords, she fought against the British and reclaimed her husband’s kingdom, and proceeded to rule it for 10 more years. The people of Tamil Nadu call her Veeramangai (brave woman) in respect. The Indian Government released a commemorative postage stamp in her name in 2008.
Rani Lakshmibai is well-known among the young and old in India for her brave fight against the British who sieged her kingdom. She was named Manikarnika and took up the name Lakshmibai after her marriage to the Maharaja of Jhansi, Gangadhar Rao Newalker in May 1842. Rani of Jhansi was a leading figure in the Rebellion against British Raj in 1857. A proficient horse-rider and fencer, she fought in the battle on horseback, with her adopted son tied to her back. She fought valiantly, resisting the British for 7 days with her small army and until her last breath.
Begum Hazrat Mahal
Begum Hazrat Mahal was another important character in the Indian Rebellion of 1857. After her husband, Nawab of Awadh Wajid Ali Shah was exiled to Calcutta by the British and the Indian Rebellion began, her army of supporters rebelled against the British Forces under the leadership of Raja Jalal Singh and seized control of Lucknow. She became the regent of Awadh from 1857-1858, taking power as the guardian of her minor son, whom she had declared as the ruler of Awadh. Later, she was forced to retreat and found asylum in Nepal, where she died in 1979.
Madam Bhikaji Cama
Born in a Parsi Zoroastrian family, Madam Bhikaji Cama was an important figure in the Indian freedom struggle. Living in Paris, she co-founded the Paris Indian Society in 1905. She wrote, published, and distributed revolutionary literature for the Indian Independence movement in Netherlands and Switzerland. She presented the “Indian Flag of Independence” at the second Socialist Congress at Stuttgart, Germany on 22 August 1907, in her appeal for human rights, equality, and autonomy from Great Britain. This flag which was co-designed by Cama and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar would serve as the template from which the current national flag was designed.
Umabai Kundapur was a teacher and fearless political activist from Karnataka. She led the “Tilak Kanya Shala”, a school for girls started by her father-in-law Ananda Rao. She took part in protests and campaigns against the British and founded “Bhagini Samaj”, an NGO for women. She also led the women’s wing of the Hindustani Seva Dal and encouraged girls and women across the country to join the freedom movement. She provided a safe house for freedom fighters from the British. A selfless personality, she rejected several honors and awards given to her, living her life silently after independence.
Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay was a freedom activist who was a part of the seven-member lead team in the Salt Satyagraha. She was a social reformer who is most known for her efforts in encouraging the growth of Indian handicrafts, handlooms, and theatre in independent India. She was the first woman in India to contest in elections in the Madras constituency, even though she lost the elections. Post-independence, she set up the National School of Drama and also headed the Sangeet Nataka Akademi. She has been awarded both the Padma Bhushan (1955) and the Padma Vibhushan (1987) as well as the Ramon Magsaysay Award (1966).
Sarojini Naidu was known as “the nightingale of India”, a nickname coined by Mahatma Gandhi for her work in poetry. She was an important political activist who took part in the Indian Nationalist Movement. Having close ties with personalities like Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, and Gopal Krishna Gokhale, she participated in both the satyagraha movement and the Non-cooperation movement. She was appointed the President of the Indian National Congress in 1925 and later became the first woman to hold the office of Governor in the Union of India, as the Governor of the United Provinces in 1947.