Durga – She will tame and ride the lion

Our story begins in a small village just outside of the fort walls of Jhansi. The British troupes threatened to take over Jhansi. It is in the midst of the battle that ensued that we find our protagonists wandering through their thoughts and doing what they knew to be just, to be correct. 

Our story begins in a small village just outside of the fort walls of Jhansi. The British troupes threatened to take over Jhansi. It is in the midst of the battle that ensued that we find our protagonists wandering through their thoughts and doing what they knew to be just, to be correct. 

Durga lifted up the sari up to her knee, sat on the floor and lit fire to the stove with the pieces of wood her husband had gathered. Once she had prepared the morning tea she went up to him with two glasses and sat beside him. While they sipped on the tea, her husband turned to her and reminded her that the swords needed sharpening and that they needed to get ready for the day. Durga nodded not speaking a word and went into what had become their ‘practice room’ for the past couple of months. 

While she was away fetching the swords, Suraj began to think of their first meeting. How he had to choose a bride while he was still merely a child. Since he had no choice in the matter of marriage, he decided that he would at the least enjoy the choice of picking his future wife from the prospects his parents brought forth and he immediately chose her. He remembered first laying eyes upon her in her parent’s front yard, where she was playing with the other children and pretending to be Durga the destroyer of evil, Durga the goddess. He was happy that his parents had decided on this particular family. He knew right then that she would be a fighter and that’s exactly what he wanted, not a submissive girl but a brave soldier, his partner. He smiled when he realized she didn’t have to pretend to be Durga, Durga was who she always was and would be.

Durga emerged with two large shining swords after what seemed like an eternity to Suraj. She walked up right beside him and held out one of the swords smiling. He took the sword from her hand with an expressionless face, but Durga could see in his eyes that he was impressed by what she had done with the swords. The duo packed their belongings for the day and set out for the fort. 

Like every other day they would reach the fort and move in opposite directions. But today was special, today was war, today was going to be the real test. So, they waited together for their orders. 

The queen emerged from her chambers wearing a nine yard Nauvari (Maharashtrian saree). It was blood red, symbolic of the event that was to take place on this fateful day. She addressed the gathering of soldiers and motivated them to think first of their country and lay down their lives for the land of the brave, to never give up, to always be free, even in death. The queen then called upon her special force, which incidentally included Durga. 

Suraj was never jealous of Durga’s posting as one of the queen’s most special; she had proven herself on numerous occasions. However, today more than any other day he wished she was not even a part of the troupes. The very same brave Durga that he loved and admired, he was now afraid to let go of. He felt as though it was his duty to ensure her safety, but he could do nothing to change the queen’s mind. When he had requested, the queen had turned to him and said with a smiling face “when you survive her, your respect and pride in her will see you through life”. 

Suraj took a deep breath and clutched Durga’s hand; she turned to him and smiled. They parted ways and the preparations began. The men and women changed into their war attire and prepared for war.

Jhansi Rani Lakshmibai began with the Haldi Kumkum ceremony where women exchanged turmeric as a sign of the long life they wish for their husbands. She told her troupes that the British were cowards that there was no reason to fear them; instead the British were the ones who would fear the brave soldiers of Jhansi.

While the preparations were on Durga stood right by the queen and watched the troupes come together. She felt such pride not only in herself but in her people. Their queen, the Rani of Jhansi had given them the opportunity to serve their great nation. The past couple of months had been tough on everyone and yet, here they were ready to protect their land, ready to serve their brave queen. Durga almost felt like she was dreaming. Every woman there was Durga, her sisters. The loud sound of clashing swords brought her back to reality. Hours had past but to her they felt like mere seconds and now here it was the time of reckoning. She prayed for her husband’s life before charging at the opposing soldiers. 

The British force was large in numbers but the queen and her force were not going to give up, it was not even an option. The troupe fought the British for hours, bravely with great force. This force was indescribable, it is the kind that one is lucky to witness, when men and women fight side by side, they unleash a force a fury so violent and strong that it shakes the earth beneath it. 

Suraj saw some of his people falling, but he kept turning and glancing at the soldiers around the queen, Durga would be on one of the horses close to the queen. She was fine and so he continued to fight. He lashed out at the British soldiers who had made the mistake of shifting their attention away from him. He slashed their hands and heads with murderous fury. The thought of freedom of protecting what belonged to his people, kept him going. 

She had been wounded, he turned and looked in her direction and in that moment something hit him. The queen was bleeding and Suraj charged at the British soldiers who had wounded her. She rose again and continued to fight, Suraj realized what was happening. He swung his sword hard and ensured crippling impact. Durga was doing well and fighting bravely, trying to protect the queen. 

In the British report of the battle, many British were wounded and killed. Hugh Rose who was given charge of the Poona Battalion is said to have said about the Rani of Jhansi, “is personable, clever and beautiful” and she is “the most dangerous of all Indian leaders”.

The battle was far from over, but their queen had fallen. Suraj and Durga stayed with the troupes and fought on as hours turned to days. They had been defeated. But Suraj and Durga knew that their war was only the beginning. That from the ashes of the dead, more brave soldiers would rise and one day turn their dream into a reality.

 by Surkhraj Kaur

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