Brave Rani Rashmoni, W. Bengal who challenged the British

Rani Rasmoni's home, venue of Durga puja, Kolkata. Indiablooms
Though  Indian women in the 18th and 19th centuries led  cloistered lives, and got  stuck to home and hearth   because of societal restrictions, etc., some women rose to the occasion and proved  their courage of conviction and hidden ability to fight out the injustice  done to them either by the people around  them or the ruling class. They never gave up their struggle until they had accomplished their mission. Rani Rashmoni ( 1793-1861) of  Kolkata was one such a woman whose fighting qualities put  her in good stride when facing adverse situations in her eventful life. 

Born on 28 September 1793 into a  Zamindar family in Kona village, in present-day North 24 Parganas, she was brought up with love and care by her family Her father was  Zamindar  Harekrishna Das of Mahishya family.  When she was  just eleven years old, as it was a custom in those days among the Hindus,  her father gave her in marriage to one Babu Rajachandra Das of Janbazar, Kolkata, another  wealthy Zamindar family. When she was into the  prime of life, misfortune had struck the family and unexpectedly her husband died at an young age. In a short time, her happy and care-free life became strenuous, mournful and gloomy.

Firmly determined to take charge of her family welfare and business, she learned the various aspects of Zamindai system, her family's holdings and business. In no less time, she proved herself to be a natural and committed leader.  Her upbringing was such that Rashmoni had been pious and god-fearing since her childhood and never failed to distinguish herself by her piety and  austerity of her life. She became a popular figure in Kolkata known for her courage, piety and charity. Since she had an astonishing aura about her, people used to call her Rani.

She also made her foray into the social life of  Bengalies  and played  an active role in fighting out social issues that affected the poor people. During the colonial time the British imposed tax on fishing in the Hoogley  river at the mouth of the Ganges  river and innumerable impoverished fishermen were very much affected by the tax.  She devised a way to teach a lesson to the British.  Her successful  blocking  of  the shipping trade  in the Ganges  with support from the public after getting fishing rights from the British  forced them  to abolish the tax imposed on fishing in the river.  Thus Rani Rashmoni  removed the bottleneck that  threatened the livelihood of poor fishermen.  As part of Durga puja, etc., in those days it was common to conduct  puja processions  on the street. The British stopped the religious procession on the ground of  disturbing the peace. In the face of arrest, imprisonment, etc, she boldly defied  the orders and finally made the British  withdraw the penalty imposed on her in the face of public opposition and rioting in her support.
Rani Rashmoni,W.Bengal. iStampGallery.Com
Rani Rashmoni was also a woman of charitable disposition  and to her credit she was involved in several charitable works such as laying of a road from Subarnarekha river to Puri for pilgrims, construction of ghats such as Babughat (in memory of her husband), Ahiritola Ghat and Nimtala Ghat for the daily bathers in the Ganges, liberal donation   the then Imperial Library (now the National Library of India) and Hindu College (now Presidency College), etc.
Rani Rashmoni temple, Kol;kata. Wikimapia
 Rani Rashmoni was instrumental in converting part of the marshy lands (Sunderbans) in 24 Parganas district,  comprising places like Santoshpur, etc into fisheries so that fishermen  could make a comfortable living. Surrounding water bodies  were  later turned into large rich bheris. Earlier the entire area was under the occupation of thugs and later these people were reformed and converted into fishermen. Thus, these directionless people gave up their traditional plundering and looting profession and began to make money honestly. Indeed,  it was a monumental social work done by a daring, humane woman during the colonial period. She considered every obstacle a stepping stone and move forward and there was no turning back on the past life.

 Driven by a divine  revelation,  Rani Rashmoni in 1855 founded  the famous temple Dakshineswar Kali Temple complex on the banks of the Ganges at Dakshineswar in the North 24 Parganas.  It was here Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa (then known as Gadadhar) was appointed as its head priest under her patronage. She remained closely associated with Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa and the Ramakrishna Mission.  She was pious through out her life  and her house at Janbazar was well-known for the yearly Durga puja during the Navaratri festival.

On the premises of Dakshineswar Kali Temple, there is a shrine dedicated to Rani Rashmoni.  She died on 19 February 1861 and the Department of Post of Government of India issued a postage stamp on the occasion of  the bicentennial of Rani Rashmoni in 1993.  There are many memorials in Kolkata in her honor. She has made a permanent mark in the history of  social life  of Bengal. Lokamata Rani Rashmoni Mission is today at Nimpith, South 24 Parganas, West Bengal. A remarkable wealthy women who dedicated her life to the cause of other people in the lower strata of the society in Bengal in those days. She never aspired for materialistic life and became its slave. Instead, she found solace in being charitable and religious till the end of her life.