The Indian Freedom Struggle is a glorious account of different philosophies, people, cultures, and religions, from all walks of life, coming together to fight the oppressor. Who says fighting is only something that men can do? Many people have given their lives for independence. We all know many names for the same but there are still many forgotten names. One such name is – Azizun Bai of Kanpur
We bring you the story of a woman who was a part of the Indian Independence Struggle. This is one of the most fascinating stories of the courtesan Azizun Bai of Kanpur, a fighter who chose martyrdom over slavery.
Azizun Bai (Azizan Bai) was a courtesan in Kanpur, which was a theatre of conflict between Nana Sahib and Tatya Tope on one side, and the British on the other. Her house became a meeting point for the rebel soldiers, and she made a gun battery her headquarters to collect and distribute arms and ammunition to the soldiers. She is also said to have ridden into battle in male attire.
Born in 1832 to a courtesan, Azizan’s mother died when she was very young. As a young courtesan, Azizun Bai lived in the Lurkee Mahil, under the refuge of Umrao Begum in Kanpur. Azizan became a famous dancing girl in Kanpur.
Azizun Bai did not take part in any battle but she was inspired by Nana Sahib.
Her house was not only the meeting point of the sepoys but also arms and ammunition were kept. During the siege, she dressed soldiers’ wounds, cheered for Indian soldiers and distributed arms and ammunition to them.
Colonial and Indian historians have mentioned Azizan’s role during the battles of Kanpur. She had personally nothing to gain and no personal grudges, unlike many of the other women who had joined in the uprising. She was simply inspired by Nana Sahib.
Azizun declined the offer to be freed, and opted for martyrdom instead!
During the uprising of 1857, her home became a meeting point for sepoys. She formed her own group of women to support the revolt, who rallied for the armed men, tended to their wounds and distributed arms and ammunition. Azizun dressed in a male attire and fought using pistols as she rode her horse. She trained other women too. Her headquarters started firing shots at the Britishers, right from the first day of the battle and helped Nana Sahib emerge victorious in Kanpur. She was later captured as a key schemer of the revolt and taken to General Havelock. On being told to confess to her crimes, she declined the offer to be freed, and opted for martyrdom instead.
Her memory is still alive among the people of Kanpur.
She dressed in male attire like Lakshmibai and rode on horseback with the soldiers, armed with a brace of pistols. She was part of the procession the day the flag was raised in Kanpur to celebrate the initial victory of Nana Sahib.
Lata Singh writes in her article “Making the ‘Margin’ Visible” that Azizun was a favourite among the sepoys of the 2nd cavalry posted in Kanpur, and was particularly close to one of the soldiers, Shamsuddin. Her house was a meeting point of the sepoys. She also formed a group of women, who went around fearlessly cheering the men in arms, attended to their wounds, and distributed arms and ammunition. She made one of the gun batteries her headquarters for this work. During the entire period of the siege of Kanpur, she was with the soldiers, who she considered her friends, and she was always armed with pistols herself.
Sources- Internet, Author’s books!
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