Born in 1830, in Bhojla village near Jhansi, Jhalkari Bai grew up to become a soldier and one of Rani Lakshmibai’s trusted advisors. It is believed that she learnt horse riding and the art of weaponry at a very young age. She also learnt archery, wrestling and shooting from her husband, Puran Kori, who was a soldier in the army of Raja Gangadhar Rao the husband of Rani Lakshmibai.
Her acts of bravery landed her career as a low-ranking soldier in Queen Lakshmibai of Jhansi’s army. However, she quickly rose to be one of the Queen’s trusted advisors. She also earned herself a position in Rani Lakshmibai’s women’s army called the Durga Dal and often made important decisions on behalf of the queen.
At the height of the battle, she disguised herself as the queen, risking her life for her, fighting in place of her and allowing the queen herself to discreetly exit out of harm’s way. This is what she is most well known for. However, what is little acknowledged is what a key role she played in the analysis and strategising of the battle itself, alongside Lakshmibai.
This story of Jhalkari Bai forms a part of the popular memory of the people of Bundelkhand. To date, her memory is alive in people’s minds and her brave feats resurface in folklore. Many Dalit communities of the region look up to her as an incarnation of God and also celebrate Jhalkaribai Jayanti every year in her honour.