Husband: Bhagwati Charan Vohra
Age: 92 Years
Some Lesser Known Facts About Durgawati Devi
- Durgawati Devi was an Indian revolutionary freedom fighter. She fought against British rule in India and participated in various armed revolutionary movements during India’s freedom struggle. She is best known for helping Bhagat Singh to escape police arrest after the killing of John P. Saunders. She accompanied him in disguise on the train journey. Her husband, Bhagwati Charan Vohra, was an active member of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA). So, she was called ‘Bhabhi’ by the other members of the HSRA and became popular among other revolutionary groups with the name Durga Bhabhi.’
- The mother of Durgawati Devi died when she was very young. She was brought up by her aunt. Her father took Sannyas after the death of her mother.
- At the age of eleven, she got married to Bhagwati Charan Vohra. In 1925, she gave birth to a son named Sachinanda. She continued teaching at a girls’ college in Lahore until 1929.
- Durgawati Devi was an active participant in the Naujawan Bharat Sabha. Durgawati Devi initiated the funeral procession of well-known freedom fighter Jatin Das, who died in Lahore jail after protesting for 63 days hunger strike. The funeral procession was followed by a huge crowd from Lahore to Calcutta.
- Durgawati Devi was well known for procuring weapons for the party. The editor of the Hindustan Times, JN Sahni spotted her in a secret meeting in Delhi in 1930 along with the pistols that she received from the North-Western Frontier Province that she hid under her clothes.
- In 1929, Durgawati Devi attempted to kill Lord Hailey soon after Bhagat Singh surrendered under the charges of the Assembly bomb-throwing incident. Her attempt failed, but many of Lord Hailey’s companions died. Soon, she was arrested by the British police and was awarded three years imprisonment. Durgawati also sold her jewellery worth rupees 3000 to rescue Bhagat Singh and his companions when there were appearing for trials in courts.
- Durgawati Devi and her husband were involved in helping Vimal Prasad Jain, who was an HSRA member, to run a bomb manufacturing factory ‘Himalayan Toilets,’ which was situated at Qutub Road, Delhi. The elements such as picric acid, nitroglycerine, and fulminate of mercury were held by them to manufacture the bombs.
- Bhagat Singh and Shivaram Rajguru were helped by her to escape the police arrest soon after the killing of John P. Saunders, who killed the renowned Indian freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai in a lathi charge on the command of James Scott. John P. Saunders was killed by Bhagat Singh and Rajguru on 19 December 1928. Soon after the killing, Rajguru called Durgawati Devi for help. Bhagat Singh, Durgawati Devi, and Rajguru boarded a train from Lahore to Bathinda. Durgawati Devi posed as the wife of Bhagat Singh and she took her son ‘Sachinanda’ along with her, while Rajguru posed as their servant and pick their luggage. Bhagat Singh transformed his physical appearance by cutting his long hair, clean shaving his beard and wearing the western suit. He was so transformed that initially he was not even recognised by Durgawati Devi. Sukhdev asked her that he was Bhagat Singh. He said,
If Devi could not recognise Singh in his changed clean-shaved appearance despite knowing him well, surely the police would also not recognize him as they would be looking for a bearded Sikh.”
- During the train journey, three of them concealed their identity and two first-class tickets were purchased by Durgawati Devi and one third-class ticket was purchased by Rajguru. Bhagat and Rajguru both were travelling with the loaded revolvers with them. On reaching Lucknow, Bhagat Singh and Durgawati Devi moved to Howrah and Rajguru left for Benares. A few days later, Devi came back to Lahore along with her infant child.
- In 1935, Durgawati Devi opened a school for underprivileged children in Lucknow.
- She was also known as the ‘The Agni of India’ for fighting against the British police and threatening them during India’s struggle for freedom.
- Professor Bhagwati Charan Vohra, the husband of Durgawati Devi, died when he was testing the bomb on the banks of the river Ravi while planning to free Bhagat Singh from Lahore jail. He was a member of the HSRA organisation.
- In 2006, in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s film Rang De Basanti, a small reference of her character was portrayed by Indian actress Soha Ali Khan.
- In 2014, in a television series titled Adrishya, the character of Durgawati Devi was portrayed in its seventh episode. It was an Indian Epic television anthology.