Throughout history, we have come across the names of women who played extremely important roles in shaping the dynamics of Indian history. These women of substance were not only fearless but compassionate too. They were strong women who possessed skills that inspired generations of women and will keep on inspiring us all till the end of time. These are the women who made us believe that the role of women is not only confined to household chores, but to other areas as well by continuously fighting the patriarchal mindset. Since women’s day is approaching soon, we thought to revisit the golden pages of Indian history where these bold personalities gave neck-to-neck fight to their male counterparts and paved way for women empowerment. Here are 5 strong women in Indian History who keep on inspiring us even today.
Daughter of Sultan IItutmish, Razia Sultan possessed the quality of good soldiers being tough, fearless and intelligent. IItutmish saw huge potential in her and eventually crowned her as queen in 13th century. She was the first and the last queen to reign over Delhi. Razia Sultan was known to be a bold personality whose thinking was way ahead of time. She used to hold an open court and dressed like a man since it was quite difficult to control and manage Purdah thereby challenging the patriarchal mindset of nobles at that time. Not only this, she was a lady who rode at the frontline in battle and wrote poetry at the same time. This shows how capable she was in every role she took. Even though her reign lasted barely for four years, but her legacy continues to inspire women today.
Who doesn’t know about the fierce warrior queen who gave a tough fight to the British forces when the British government threatened to annex her kingdom? Rani Laxmibai was a force to reckon with. Her strong personality, mellow nature earned the trust of people who played an important role in the Indian freedom struggle. Married at the delicate age of 14 years to the king of Jhansi ‘Gangadhar Roa Newalkar’, she was named Rani Laxmibai from Manikarnika. She was different from queens at that time as she formed and trained her own army out of her female friends at court and encouraged women to involve in activities that made them happy.
When ‘doctrine of lapse’ was approved by the British government who planned to annex her kingdom, Rani Laxmibai fought bravely and breathed her last breath on 18 June 1857. She was such a vivid personality that General Huge Rose commented about her ‘remarkable for her beauty, cleverness and perseverance had been the most dangerous of all the rebel leaders. The best and bravest of all.’ Her courage, valor and pride give women an inspiration to fight injustice even today.
While some people might argue that ‘Indira Gandhi’ shouldn’t be put in this list of 5 women who changed the dynamics of Indian history, no one can argue about the fact that her personality indeed was of a male disguised in a female’s body. Such was the aura of Indira Gandhi that people used to shiver by only hearing her name. Being the first and female prime minister of India whose life was always surrounded by controversies, Indian Gandhi was a strong-willed, disciplines and ruthless leader who was loved, hated and admired by all.
Being a member of the powerful Nehru family, she understood the power dynamics in India and took bold decisions that no one could ever think of. No matter the amount of hatred she received, the legacy Indira Gandhi left behind still continues to motivate people. Indira Gandhi is a name that is inked with gold in Indian history. The iron lady of Indian politics inspires women of today to get actively involved in affairs concerning the nation and challenge those who think that politics is only meant for men.
Popularly known as the first female teacher of India, Savitribai Phule was a social reformer who worked for the upliftment of women and untouchables and changed the face of education in India. Talk about ending social evils and prejudices against women and untouchables, one cannot deny the prominent role Savitribai Phule played in eliminating inequality. She understood that education was the only way to end the evil of inequality, so she embarked on a journey of social emancipation to lift up the downtrodden.
Being a staunch feminist, Savitribai Phule dedicated her life in raising awareness about women’s rights and urged communities to break free from oppression by getting proper education. All educated Indian women owe her for her efforts and contributions, as they can now get a proper education, choose a career and live life the way they want.
Kalpana Chawla created history when she became the first Indian woman to travel in space. Born in Karnal district, India, Kalpana Chawla was always interested in space. She obtained a degree in aeronautical engineering from Punjab Engineering College before immigrating to the United States to pursue her dream of becoming an astronaut. In 2000, she was selected for her second voyage into space serving as a mission specialist on STS-107.
The space shuttle was scheduled to return to earth on February 1, 2003, intending to land at Kennedy Space Center. Unfortunately, as the shuttle passed through the earth’s atmosphere, a piece of insulation got broke and damaged the thermal protection system of the space shuttle. As a result, the shuttle got depressurized and broke over Texan and Louisiana before plunging into the ground. All seven astronauts onboard died in the crash.
The crash was called the second major space shuttle disaster followed by the infamous Challenger disaster. Today, Kalpana Chawla inspires women to achieve their goals with a lot of hard work despite sufferings.
These are some of the female trailblazers who broke the social chains and fought stigmas to become pioneers in their respective fields. The mark they have left for themselves will keep on inspiring generations to come.