Subhadra Kumari Chauhan: Firebrand Poet Of ‘Khoob Ladi Mardani’

Did you know Subhadra Kumari Chauhan is the firebrand poet who wrote the poem on Rani of Jhansi taught to every child in school today?

Google doodle celebrated the 117th birth anniversary of firebrand Hindi poetess Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, whose poem on Rani of Jhansi is known to every child who has learnt Hindi.

Today’s Google doodle features an image of Indian poetess Subhadra Kumari Chauhan penning a verse. On the occasion of her 117th birthday, this Google doodle was designed by New Zealand-based artist Prabha Mallya, to honour the life of the legendary poetess.

In the doodle, we get to see Subhadra Kumari Chauhan in a white saree holding a pen and paper. While the background depicts scenes from her poem – on the left side Rani Lakshmibai is seen riding a horse, and on the right side it features images of individuals marching for the Indian Independence.

Subhadra Kumari Chauhan Google doodle

Born on August 16, the poetess has also penned “Jallianwala Bagh mein Vasant,” “Senani Ka Swagat” “Vijaya Dashmi”, “Vyathit Hridya” “Veeron Ka Kaisa Ho Basant,” ““Rakhi Ki Chunauti,” and Vida,” providing India’s freedom struggle a distinct voice.

Besides her efforts in the independence struggle, Subhadra relentlessly campaigned for women’s rights, and her poetry addressed issues affecting Indian women in a pre-colonial India where they were oppressed and abused.

Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, the rebel who opposed regressive ideals

Subhadra Kumari Chauhan was regarded as the firebrand poetess of Hindi literature. She was born in 1904, in Nihalpur village, Uttar Pradesh, and studied at the Crosthwaite Girls’ School in Prayagraj. At the age of 16, she was married to Thakur Laxman Singh Chauhan of Khandwa.

Despite the fact that she was born into an orthodox household where the practice of chhooa-chhooi (untouchability) was prominent, she despised such traditions, and would reprimand her mother for discriminating against her lower caste neighbours. She would often help her domestic workers with chores.

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Women in her family were forced to be covered in a ghoonghat, but she opposed such regressive practices and gave up wearing the ghoonghat after her marriage. While this did upset several people in her parental family who were bound to traditional norms, she persisted, and her desire to fight for the oppressed and against the oppressor was a huge part of her personality.

Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, the freedom fighter

Later in the year 1921 Subhadra and Laxman Singh Chauhan actively participated in the non-cooperation movement, and two years later they led the Jhanda Satyagraha in Jabalpur.

Subhadra was imprisoned for the first time in 1923. At that time, she was pregnant with her first child, and yet she did not bow down in front of anyone. She could’ve chosen an easy way out, but she decided to choose her nation’s independence over the wellbeing of her family.

 After the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, she felt so disheartened and in her poem “Jallianwala Bagh mein Vasant,” she observes that no matter how horrific the event turns out to be, time and the seasons waits for none. Her words, stir emotions of the struggles associated with the Indian Independence.

She writes: “Yaha Sab Karna Kintu, Bahut Dhire Se Aana, (Do all that you need to do, but walk in quietly).

Later again she was arrested in 1942 after participating in Quit India movement. Even in prison, she fought for the rights of her fellow women prisoners. The ward in which she was imprisoned at Central Jail in Jabalpur was later renamed as Subhadra Kumari Chauhan Ward for Women.

A dear friend and inspiration of Mahadevi Verma

Subhadra Kumari Chauhan was also an influence for numerous women writers of her time, including Mahadevi Verma, the literary genius, who studied at the same school as her, Crosthwaite Girls’ School. Chauhan was her senior, roommate, and a dear friend.

In her memoir, Mahadevi Verma writes: “While others play outside, me and Subhadra used to sit on a tree and let our creative thoughts flow together.”

Between classes, both would exchange poems, which further developed into a bond of friendship and a sisterhood, that lasted until Subhadra Kumari Chauhan’s death at the age of 44.

Mahadevi Verma has portrayed a powerful picture of Subhadra Kumari among various other writers fighting for women’s liberation in her book Path ke Saathi.

Firebrand poet who echoed liberation

In addition to her fight for Indian Independence, she also wrote nearly 100 poems and 50 short stories during her difficult years. She opposed the cruel practice of the dowry system, and she inspired several women and fought for what was right.

Her most famous poem Jhansi Ki Rani is an inspiration to every woman fighting their battles in this patriarchal society.

Here are a few lines from the poem:

Chamak uthi san sattavan mein, yeh talwar purani thi,
Bundeley Harbolon key munh hamney suni kahani thi,
Khoob ladi mardani woh to Jhansi wali Rani thi.

Her poems were reinforced in post-independence India when classical soprano Shubha Mudgal performed it in India’s Parliament on May 10, 2001, as part of the 50th centenary observance of the 1857 British revolt.

Personal stand against caste based discrimination

At the time when caste-based discrimination was so prevalent, she opposed such caste-based prejudices. In one instance Subhadra supported her daughter Sudha’s decision to marry Amrit Rai, the son of the famous literary figure Munshi Premchand, despite the disapproval of certain family members as it was against their caste. Subhadra stood by her daughter throughout.

Subhadra Kumari Chauhan was a persistent advocate for women’s freedom during a time when women’s opinions weren’t even considered or valued. She dedicated her entire life to the cause of gender equality, whether via writing, poetry, or through her political activism.

She passed away in February 1948, after she had seen her India become independent.

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Image source: YouTube and By India Post, Government of India – [1] [2], GODL-India

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