Famous Indian women of steel and nerves - 01

One can see  marked improvements in women's status in India in the last  two decades;  however, still it is harder for  Indian women to breathe the fresh air  of freedom and be free from all evils. Though the society seriously talks about the gender gap, women's equality, women's rights, etc, there runs  a  streak of malice and loathing. Certain sections of society  have become more open to the idea of equality between the sexes, but, still  there remains a deep rooted misogyny in the country.  There have been numerous Indian women who have displayed unbelievable courage and will power to move forward in the face of cultural and social rejection. Definitely they have changed the gender landscape of India for the better.

Here are some Indian women who broke the norms at a time when it was a Herculean task for them to rebel against a society that had a deep routed conservatism and age old tradition.  In a way these

women were mavericks and daring trail blazers who never turned back and finally achieved their dream. They successfully braced themselves to face a demanding situation and established a name in their chosen field of activity.
01. Rani Velu Nachiyar: 

Rani Velu Nachiyar of Sivaganga, TN, earliest freedom fighter .  The Hindu

 Rani Velu Nachiyar (1730-1789?): was an 18th-century Indian queen of  Sivaganga kingdom, Tamil Nadu, S. India  and ruled the land under the able guidance of Maruthu Pandiyar, a patriot and a sworn enemy of the British. She was the first queen to have revolted against the mighty British and their oppressive rule and their poor treatment of native people right on their own soil. Her fight for freedom from the British  preceded the revolts by Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, Madhya Pradesh who boldly stood the ground  and fought against the British and their way of land grabbing under the garb of the ''doctrine of Lapse,'' introduced by Lord Dalhousie.

The British killed her husband and his first wife and Velunachiyar was forced to go in to exile. She  was in Dindukal, TN for several years  and secretly  organized a well trained military including a woman's wing. She was helped by Hyder Ali of Mysore and one Gopala Naicker during her exile.

In  1780 Rani Velu Nachiyar  attacked the British  settlements in a lightning speed with her well trained troops got her  kingdom back. She was the first woman to employ a human bomb that gave hell to the English troops. Velu Nachiyar is symbol of armed resistance to foreign rulers and she is a legend in Tamil Nadu, in particular, south Tamil Nadu. A commemorative postage stamp on  31 December 2008 was released by the Indian government in her honor.

02. Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi:

Jhansi Rani Lakshmibai. Pinterest

Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi (19 November 1828 to 18 June 1858), the queen of the Maratha-ruled Jhansi State, central part of India, was one of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 called Sepoy Mutiny. She was a symbol of  armed resistance to the British Raj and their unjust policies that toppled many kingdoms, using the trump card called the doctrine of lapse. Born into a Marathi Brahmin family of Varanasi, she  married the Maharaja of Jhansi, Raja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar in May 1842. Upon the ruler's death in 1853, Janshi Rani  ruled the kingdom as a Regent. As there was no legal heir to the throne, using the Doctrine of Lapse as a ruse, the  British took over the kingdom. Janshi Rani along with her associates fought ferociously against the E. I. Co  troops,  and it it was of no avail  and she was killed  at an young age of 22 in the battle. She became an embodiment of valor and courage and an inspirations to millions of women in India. She is a legend.

03. Begum Hazrat Mahal:
Begum Hazrat Mahal. Universal Booksellers

Born in 1820, Hazrat Mahal Begum (1820 – 7 April 1879) was trained to manage  various  affairs of  the state for Awadh, along with her husband. She played a major role in the Rebellion of 1857. 

Born as Muhammadi Khanum,  at Faizabad, Awadh (also Ouadh), India, she  was a courtesan by profession  and became close to the royal family of Awadh. Being intelligent and smart, she won the heart of the rich Nawob  became a begum after being accepted as a  wife of the King of Oudh. The title 'Hazrat Mahal' was bestowed on her after the birth of their son, Birjis Qadra.

Also known as Begum of Awadh, (OUDH) she  was the first wife of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah.  After her husband had been exiled to Calcutta, she took charge of the affairs in the state of Awadh and seized control of Lucknow. She  wanted her son, Prince Birjis Qadra  to become Wali (ruler) of Awadh; but, it was a futile attempt. She finally found asylum in Nepal where she died in 1879.
While in exile, she did not keep idle, instead she  protested against the demolition of places of worship - temples and mosques to make way for the construction of roads. Thus she turned the attention of the people and focused on the injustices done by the officials of E.I. Co.


04. Justice Anna Chandy:

Jutice Anna chandy Geni

Justice Anna Chandy (1904 - 1996), born in 1905 in Trivandrum in an orthodox  Christian family was the first woman to get law degree (1926) in her state. While practicing as a  lawyer in 1929, she  took a keen role  in matters related to women's rights, their social status, remarriage, etc. She started a  magazine  called Shrimati to promote the cause of women and she became its editor.  In 1959, she was appointed as a judge in the Kerala High Court, a position she held for 9  successive years. The then Dewan of Travancore Sir. C. P. Ramaswamy Iyer, who himself was a legal luminary  and one of the best legal brains in India, recognized Anna Chandy's  remarkable legal knowledge and its application in legal matters promptly promoted her in 1937 as the Munsif of the Travamcore court in the princely state. Later she became a district judge. She became the first female judge in an Indian court when she was appointed to the Kerala High court in February 1959 and  held the job with dedication till April 1967. She got a name for herself in the legal circle for her methodical court judgement and verdicts. She served on the law commission of India and died in July 1996 at the age of 92.  

www.Navrangindia blog

05. Kittur Rani Chenamma:

Kittur Chennamma Rani chennamma Alchetron

 Kittur Rani Chenamma  (23 October 1778 – 21 February 1829), the Queen of Kittur, a princely state in Karnataka is credited with being one of the earliest  woman freedom fighters in India. Being daring and committed  she led the  first   armed rebellion against the British East India Company in 1824. 

She was the queen of her native kingdom and married Raja Mallasarja, of the Desai family. Having lost her son in 1824, she   adopted Shivalingappa, and made him the legal heir to the throne. The British East India Company, using a policy of paramountcy and complete authority (doctrine of lapse officially codified between 1848 and 1856 by Lord Dalhousie), was keen to  seize her kingdom. The did not accept adoption in succession matters. Chennamma defied the order  and  fought valiantly with the aid of her lieutenant, Sangolli Rayanna. She was no match for the mighty British army and was  ultimately captured and imprisoned at Bailhongal Fort, where she died on 21 February 1829. Chennamma was well supported by  her lieutenant Gurusiddappa in the war against British.

She became a symbol of  armed resistance against the oppressive foreign rule. She is a celebrity in the state of  Karnataka  along with Abbakka Rani, Keladi Chennamma and Onake Obavva, as the foremost women warriors and patriots. She was a woman of extraordinary prowess, vision and determination.

06. Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit

Vijayalakshmi pandit. en.wikipedia.org

 Vijaya Lakshmi Nehru Pandit (18 August 1900 – 1 December 1990)  an Indian diplomat and politician,  was the sister of Jawaharlal Nehru, first PM of independent India  and the aunt of Indira Gandhi. Being the first woman President of the U.N. General Assembly in 1953, she won laurels for her forth right views.  In 1953. She was a stalwart and an inspiration in the human rights movement worldwide.

Her husband was  Ranjit Sitaram Pandit (1893-1944), a successful Maharashtrian barrister from Kathiawad and classical scholar who  was arrested for his support of Indian independence and died in Lucknow prison jail in 1944.  Vijayalakshmi  took the honor of being  the first Indian woman to hold a cabinet post. In 1937 she was elected to the provincial legislature of the United Provinces and  became  a  minister of local self-government and public health. She held the latter post until 1939 and again from 1946 to 1947. In 1946 she was elected to the Constituent Assembly from the United Provinces. Later she served as ambassador to Russia (1947 to 1949), USA and  Mexico (1949 to 1951), Ireland (1955 to 1961) and during that period she concurrently  held the post of   High commissioner to the UK  and Spain between 1958 to 1961.  Between 1962 to 1964, she was the Governor of Maharastra.
She died in  1990 at the age 90 on December 01  in Dehradun, UP., after a long successful diplomatic and political career. For a woman of her generation, it was a mammoth achievement.


07. Savitribai Jyotirao Phule:

Dr. BR Ambedkar's Caravan
 Savitribai Jyotirao Phule (3 January 1831 to 10 March 1897), an Indian social reformer and poet is considered an important personality of  the  of  the Social Reform Movement in Maharashtra. At that time women  when were confined to their hearth and  home and  never stepped out of their family living space, Savitribai  was the  first female teachers for girls in India.she emphasized the values of women's education and improving women's rights in India during British rule. Savitribai  along with her husband started  the first women's school at Bhide Wada in Pune in 1848, despite severe criticism, nasty, obscene  verbal abuses, etc while running the institution. in those days women's education was an anathema. Born in 1831 in Naigaon, Maharashtra, Saviribhai, as a teacher, continued to teach the girls and at the same time she worked hard to improve the conditions of widows such as remarriage, public participation, etc., and untouchables.

Savitribai Phule was honored by the British government for her contribution to education. When the bubonic  plague struck India  in 1897, in Pune Savaitribai  helped the affected people along with her adopted son and in the process contracted the dreadful disease and died on 10 March 1897. she was regarded as "Rashtramata" in the state of Maharastra. Her clarion  call against injustice to women slowly changed the  social scenario of the Indian women in the later decades.

08. Kamaladevi Chattopadhya:
Freedom fighter and arts advocate Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay connected with African American activists  Black Desi Secret History

Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay (3 April 1903 – 29 October 1988)  was not only  played an active role in the struggle for  freedom of our country, but also  paid serious attention to our ancient arts and culture that were on the brink facing gradual decline. Kamaladevi was instrumental in the revival  of as well as the revival of arts and culture in India from their near extinction.

Born on 3 April 1903 in Mangalore, Karnataka in a rich family, Kamaladevi was an accomplished  freedom fighter and a social worker. She was married when she was barely 14 years of age and two years later  she became a widow. She studied at Queen Mary's college, Chennai, TN., and  later fell in love with one Harindranath  Chattopadhyay, a talented  person and  married him. She also acted in a few films in those days!  Later, she moved over to London  where she got a diploma in sociology  and there she got a chance to  learn about Gandhiji's non-cooperation movements and returned to India. In 1930 she became the only woman in a seven member lead team for his satayagraha movement. She was the first woman to be arrested for selling contraband salt at the Bombay Exchange. She was keenly interested in  women equality, their rights and improvement of their appealing condition in our society.  Unmindful of severe criticism and protests from certain conservative quarters, she never stepped backward and fought the obstructions with more vigor and commitment. The National School of Drama, Sangeet Natak Akademi, Central Cottage Industries Emporium and the Crafts Council of India and the Indian cooperative movement  owe her a debt of gratitude for her pioneering work and in building such institutions / organizations of national importance.


09. Captain Prem Mathur

India's first commercial pilot half century ago.Prem Mathur. the hindu

She took the credit of obtaining  her commercial pilot's license in 1947 from Allahabad Flying Club. At that time, it was unheard of for a woman to be a pilot in India as it required  a lot of guts, hard work  and above all support from the family. Seeing an Indian  girl in the cockpit of an aircraft and meddling with the joy stick was just unthinkable  about 50 years ago. Prem Mathur  broke the ground and sent the message across India that women were capable of handling aircraft and they should look skyward. 

After long deliberation, she was accepted by the Deccan Airways in Hyderabad, and even passed the interview with merit. However, at that point of time, the public was against women flying the aircraft, and it was based on the fact that the women were not as competent as men were to deal with real-life emergency situation when the air-craft developed some malfunctioning or poor weather condition while flying.  she was forced to fly for private airlines. Ultimately she got a chance to fly for the Indian Airlines. 

10. Sucheta Kriplani:
Sucheta KriplaniGoogle+

Born in Ambala, Punjab (now in Haryana) to a Bengali Brahmo family, she  studied at  Indraprastha College  and  later at Panjab University. She had brief stint as a  Professor of Constitutional History at Banaras Hindu University.  Married  to Acharya Kriplani (in 1936), an important  leader of the Indian National Congress, despite protests from many sides because her husband was twenty years her senior, Sucheta became a celebrated freedom fighter on merit and was a close associate of  Gandhi during the height of the Quit India Movement. During that period women were reluctant to  associate themselves with the public office because it was considered a male domain. She removed the manacles fixed on the women and impressed on them that if they had the courage and vision, they could serve the people, in particular women by holding public offices. She  had the honor of becoming one of the few women elected to the Constituent Assembly. This gave her  an ample scope to show her talents in drafting  the Indian Constitution during a time when women in public office was  a rare thing and  she was one of a few women to help draft the Indian Constitution. She was also the founder of All India Mahilla Congress, established in 1940. She goes down in the History of India by becoming 
the first woman Chief Minister of  an Indian  State (U.P.  in October 1963)
Kriplani with (from left to right).en.wikipedia.org

Above image: Kriplani with (from left to right) Ulla LindströmBarbara CastleCairine Wilson and Eleanor Roosevelt in 1949.........................................

between 1963-67. An exciting and memorable event in her life was during the Independence Session of the Constituent Assembly, a few minutes before Nehru delivered his famous "Tryst with Destiny" speech on 14 August 1947, she sang Vande Mataram with great patriotic zeal. Having retired from polities in 1971, she lived in seclusion till her death in 1974.


11. Durgabai Deshmukh:

durgabai Deshmukh. Sites - Google

 Durgabai Deshmukh (15 July 1909 – 9 May 1981) born in 1909 in Andhra Pradesh, she was an Indian freedom fighter, lawyer, social worker and politician.

She was was married off at the  young age of 8. Subsequently she left her husband  in order to  pursue her passion and interest in public life. Being ambitious to free India from  the British rule, she joined the INC and got a chance to work with Gandhiji and his famous  Satyagraha activities. she married C.D. Deshmukh, the first Indian governor of the Reserve Bank of India and Finance Minister in India's Central Cabinet during the years 1950-1956.
She promoted several welfare laws and  vigorously fought hard for women's rights and drafted a national policy on social welfare while she was a member of the Planning Commission.  She was  also a member of the Constituent Assembly of India  and in 1937 being a  public activist for women's emancipation, she started Andhra Mahilla Sabha to  take care of women's welfare and their equal rights. She died in Narasannapeta, Srikakulam dist., A.P. and had no issues.