The female freedom fighters of Punjab have made history, and the women of the Sikh religion were no exception.
The female freedom fighters of Punjab were important in the Indian independence movement. Founded by Punjabi Indians living abroad, the Ghadar Party was a key element in the Quit India Movement.
Gulab Kaur was forced to quit her studies to take part in this movement, where she helped to broadcast the Ghadar Party’s secret radio station, Secret Congress Radio. She also joined protests and held the Indian flag high.
Read this article further to learn more about the female freedom fighters of Punjab and how they are involved in making our country Independent.
Female Freedom Fighters of Punjab
Very little is known about the life of Gulab Kaur, born in 1890 in Bakshiwala village, Sangrur district, Punjab. We do, however, know that she was the spouse of Mann Singh and that they eventually left for the Philippines in order to immigrate to the United States in order to flee their native country’s economic troubles.
They encountered members of the renowned Ghadar Party along the way, a revolutionary group created mostly by Punjabi Sikh immigrants who were keen to rid India of the British.
Mann Singh ultimately made the decision to travel to America, despite other sources claiming that the pair planned to return to India and fight the British. Gulab Kaur made the decision to part with her husband and join the Ghadar movement in the meanwhile.
Gulab Kaur became an active associate, stirring up the populace for armed revolution in cities like Kapurthala, Jalandhar, and Hoshiarpur.
She distributed struggle for freedom and independence literature and kept a close eye on their revolutionary printing press, among other things.
She not only participated in the anti-British sentiment in the public sphere but also delivered weapons and ammunition to Ghadar Party members while positioning herself as a journalist and persuading a large number of people to join the Ghadar Party.
Sadly, the British police found her and detained her on sedition-related charges. She was held at Lahore’s Shahi Qila for two years during which time she endured severe torture and abuse.
Her story is a fascinating one and her sacrifices deserve greater recognition than what they’ve received for their cause. There is no doubt that she made an incredible impact on the freedom struggle. But how many other Indian women have done the same?
Maharani Jind Kaur of Punjab
Maharani Jin Kaur was Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s youngest wife. He founded the Sikh kingdom, which at the time was a large nation spanning from the Khyber Pass to Kashmir.
She also gave birth to Maharaja Duleep Singh, the last emperor of the empire and a British child.
Maharani Jindan Kaur, one of the fiercest Indian freedom fighters, spent a significant portion of her life railing against the British empire for denying her access to Punjab.
Her revolution was sparked when the last Maharaja of Punjab (her husband), passed away in 1839 from a stroke and the British attempted to usurp the crown from her young son Duleep Singh.
While Maharani Jind Kaur was pregnant with Duleep Singh, she led Punjab to war with the British in 1845. The Dogras, who had seized the kingdom, were power-hungry parasites. As a result, Punjab descended into anarchy. After Maharaja’s death, the region suffered violent power struggles, suspected poisoning, two British invasions, and civil war. The province lost three Maharajas and countless aristocrats.
Jindan conducted two disastrous, fierce wars against the British while serving as regent, which resulted in the subjugation of Punjab.
Still in her early 20s and having no military experience, Jindan was a strong leader who made dangerous strategic decisions. Yet, she resisted the British and actively took control of Punjab.
She was characterized as “a serious obstacle” to India’s British rule. They started to defame her character, calling her the “Messalina of Punjab,” a seductress who was uncontrollably rebellious. The British were concerned that she would not cooperate and that her influence on her son, Duleep, could spark a rebellion among the people of Punjab.
Duleep, who was nine when he was sent to England, converted to Christianity while living the life of an average English gentleman. But the Maharani Jindan was dragged by her hair from the Lahore court and thrown into the Uttar Pradesh fortresses of Sheikhupura, followed by Uttar Pradesh’s Chunar Fort.
She managed to escape the fort by dressing as a servant after being imprisoned. She traveled 800 miles through the forest to find refuge in Nepal, where she boasted in a letter to the British that she had fled using “magic.” The kingdom was never won back for her son. But when they eventually crossed paths again years later, Duleep Singh made the decision to convert back to Sikhism.
According to Christy Campbell, author of The Maharajah’s Box, Jindan was “one of the most amazing personalities of 19th-century history, let alone Indian or Sikh history”.
Mai Bhago, a courageous woman born in Jhabal Kalan, was one of the first women to take up arms. Born into a Sikh family, she grew up with their faith and knew her way around a sword.
Mai Bhago wore battle outfits and battle armour of men and learned traditional Sikh martial arts from her father.
In 1705, Mai Bhago, aka Mata Bhag Kaur, led 40 Sikh men in a fierce battle against the Mughals. She is revered as a saint warrior by the Sikh Nation for having killed multiple enemies on the battlefield.
She was the one and only survivor of the Battle of Muktsar (also known as the Battle of Khidrana, fought on 29 December 1705).
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Sada Kaur, the matriarch of the Kanhaya misl, unquestionably had a significant part in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s rule, the founder of the Sikh Empire, expanding his authority.
Sada Kaur was the chief instigator of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s powerful ascension.
The wife of the Maharaja, this military mastermind helped her son win the battles and unite Punjab under one monarch. She was an important part of this, and her leadership and strategy were critical in helping Ranjit Singh achieve his goal of making Punjab a unified nation.
She led armies into battle and conducted negotiations at diplomatic tables to accomplish this. Under their direction, Punjab eventually became united; Ranjit Singh became the Maharaja (King), and she served as the Regent of Punjab.
Princess Sophia Duleep Kaur Singh
Princess Sophia Duleep Kaur Singh was the goddaughter of Queen Victoria and the granddaughter of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the last ruler of Punjab.
She joined the Women’s Tax Resistance League while residing in England and adamantly refused to pay taxes as a form of protest against the condition of women’s suffrage. She also held the position of President of the Suffragette Fellowship Committee.
Sophia Duleep Kaur Singh even participated in a riot in November 1910 as a result of her strong activism, co-leading a march to the Parliament that ended in a fight with the police.
The role of women freedom fighters was complex and varied, but they played a key role in the freedom movement of India.
Taking a moment to think about the brave women freedom fighters of India, Mahatma Gandhi once said: “Man can never be a woman’s equal in the spirit of selfless service with which nature has endowed her.”
The history of these brave female Indian independence activists is proof of that.