Phoolan Devi: The Bandit Queen

Phoolan Devi on her surrender
Phoolan Devi on her surrender

Not many people outside India know who “Phoolan Devi” is but after reading about her and seeing the film “Bandit Queen” she is surely now a queen in my eyes. The name Phoolan Devi (born in 1963) means “goddess of flowers” in Hindi. She has been labeled as a murderer, kidnapper and self- fashioned desperado, and she was a living folk legend in India until she was assassinated outside her home in 2001.

Phoolan Devi was a remarkable character, undoubtedly who triumphed over obstacles bigger than most of us would ever face. Phoolan Devi was repeatedly raped by men of landlords and of socially upper classes at a young age. As her marriage brook down, she decided to avenge therefore turned to a life of law-breaking and transgression.

Phoolan Devi became the contemporary day Robin Hood of India, a superwoman to the economically and socially lower stratus of peoples of India. According to her, she symbolized people who very much like herself, were oppressed and molested. Eventually she killed 22 men in 1981 who allegedly had raped her. She voluntarily surrendered.

After 11 years in prison, justice prevailed and charges were dropped and finally freed. Phoolan Devi stood for election and even became a "Member of Parliament" from a town in Northern India. Numerous biographies have been written. One of the good ones includes of the author Mala Sen's Phoolan Devi. It is fantastic and an incredible read.

The tale of Phoolan Devi is mesmerizing but also upsetting. The film made about her is called the "Bandit Queen", portrays her in an incomplete and indecisive fashion. The movie is centered on Phoolan Devi. I don't know, conceivably the nature of Phoolan Devi was reprehensible: she was an outlaw, a brigand, a bandit, unattractive and poor. Although Phoolan Devi is depicted as a champion in the movie, she sternly disputed its accurateness and battled to get it restricted in India. Although it is violent, it is quiet a touching film.

The surrender of Phoolan Devi and her gang. She is in the middle
The surrender of Phoolan Devi and her gang. She is in the middle
Phoolan Devi, a drawing by sylvie LS on Fickr
Phoolan Devi, a drawing by sylvie LS on Fickr

Phoolan Devi was a famous female warrior and a rebel against the Indian social system. Therefore, the revolution of Phoolan Devi is an example set to better the social system of India. The misfortune and hard luck of the great Phoolan Devi is that she came from a poor backward background and that she was denied the dignity both in life and death. Her legacy is of a woman who suffered and someone who lost out in life. The ghost of Phoolan Devi will continue to haunt India for centuries to come.

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Comments 33 comments

Iðunn 8 years ago

OH thank you, so much, Rudra! This is the woman I imagined and the one I love and the one I love even more now. I truly appreciate the time and effort you went to to fulfill my request, that you listed a good book for resource and beyond that...

...that you too could see the beauty of her that I do, which I didn't require or expect. She didn't lose, even though it may seem like it. She remains the living hope, with other heroes, of everyone everywhere who believes in the right to of all human beings to live with dignity and justice.

Rudra, you are a wonder. Thank you again, very much.

Rudra profile image

Rudra 8 years ago Author

You are most welcome.

Actually there are 2 types of thinkers on her; one who loves her and others who hate her. Unfortunately she was gunned down by relatives of whom she had killed.

Actually it made me think as well...She was a champion for the down trodden...

Iðunn 8 years ago

John F Kennedy said "those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable." I'm not a pacifist.

I am in the group that finds Phoolan Devi to be a very human (and thus flawed) hero. I shall get the book you suggested my next Amazon order assuming I can find it.

MoralsEthics1960 profile image

MoralsEthics1960 8 years ago from Florida

Between the two of you I get so much knowledge.Thank you

SUNIL  7 years ago


Anilesh 7 years ago

Its important to remember that she killed 22 people who also had families. She took the law into her own hands and at the end of it paid the price for it. No matter what happens there can be no justification for any sort of crime.

Sam 7 years ago

If those 22 killed people were the same people who rapped her, so there is no crime being done. she has done what justice requires. She killed the rapists. While there was no law enforcing agency to rapists punish those rapists, whatever Phoolan did was the rightest thing to do. Should she wait forever and suffer?

Sam 7 years ago

If those 22 killed people were the same people who rapped her, so there is no crime being done. she has done what justice requires. She killed the rapists. While there was no law enforcing agency to rapists punish those rapists, whatever Phoolan did was the rightest thing to do. Should she wait forever and suffer?

prashant 7 years ago

is she mad or she do forkilling purpose

Baljinder kaler 7 years ago

bai ji maa di lun wade thaakuran di eh janani rani jhansi c bruaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

asram 7 years ago

Phoolan devi -goddess of flowers , really memorable and history maker in India.

Sarina 7 years ago

Regardless of the way Phoolan died, she was a remarkable young woman.

Fighting for herself and other woman like herself.

I admire the strength she had, for it more then made up for her size.

Truly a freedom fighter.


vennela 7 years ago

phoolan -she was an inspiring lady

we must learn how to dare for all things from her

sometimes voilence plays a kneen role PHOOLAN A RIGHT WOMAN IN ALL ASPECTS BUT WRONG IN HER JUDGEMENT(killing 22 people )

rebel 7 years ago

I think what ever she did SHE WAS RIGHT

Iðunn 6 years ago

I had to come back and re-read this. I love this Hub. So nice to read the support for her memory by others also now.

I was thinking of Constance Markeweicz recently (an Irish woman revolutionary from the 1916 Easter Rising) because I got some new photos on her the other day, delightfully donated to me by a new Hubber and once reminded of my famous women heroes, I came back here to read this again.

phoola ram 6 years ago

kutiya saali

Vishwa Mehta 6 years ago

I have read her autobiography and I dont think I have ever read anything more thought provoking in my life. The torchure that this woman has endured is unimaginable. Its sad but its true, in India a stray dog might receive more respect than a down trodden low caste woman. When the law favours only the rich, you are left with no option but to take law in your own hands or be left to live your life in complete submission.

Easar 6 years ago

I think she was an example to all human kind in the world to stand against voilence. She was a great, strong and clear leader.

Raja Faheem Anwar 6 years ago

Surely what ever happen with her is a real picture of the culture in sub continent. Where law is only protecting rich people or who have power yet there are a lot of bad experiences happen with this girl starting from her age of 9.

Humiliation did by rich people and then rape, judicial trial and all was really a main factor what she did in her life.

I think she died early as she need to do a much for them who spoiled her life even they have families or not but they did a much bad with her life although she also has a family and life.


vishal.rossi profile image

vishal.rossi 6 years ago from Helsinki, Finland

nice work

roshni 6 years ago

Thanks for the information rudra. :)

Deepa shanmugam 5 years ago

We need more guys like her to change this country, hats off for the great work she has done, unfortunately we lost her

dakuuuu 5 years ago

for first time i am a devotee of daku

rajesh 5 years ago

undoubtedly phoolen devi was a great freedom fighter against injustcice.i am saluting her courage and braveness.though our country has got independndentness that independendness is only for the polticians and rich persons untill now a lots poor peoples are exploited by these politicians and rich people.actually phoolan devi has just unveiled the faces of these people.dear friends phoolan devi life is a massage to all of us that our country needs another independentness which should be free from hyprocracy politics.

samir 5 years ago

A Grand Salute for Great Lady

Roger Fullilove 5 years ago


Come hither and listen while I retell a story,

the legend of the Bandit Queen

A reincarnation of the Goddess Shakti,

a beauty in every Hindu man's dreams

Her youth was a torment of rapings and beatings,

but her spirit rose up to rebel

Struck out at those men who'd suppress and deny her,

though underneath just an innocent girl

Born in a hamlet by the Yamuna River,

in a region called Uttar Pradesh

Her family were Mullahs, a lowly fisherman's caste,

so she'd always be poor and repressed

When barely eleven she was sold into marriage,

the price just a bike and a cow

Three-fold her age, he was brutal and he beat her,

but she never succumbed to his power


The Bandit Queen, Phoolan Devi,

is riding again tonight

In her khaki and denims, and bright red bandana,

she's spoiling once more for a fight

Her gang are all Mullahs and low-castes,

poor peasants in need of a meal

You high-caste Thakurs better lock up your doors,

or Didi's bullets will make you squeal

She finally broke free and trod a hard road,

through the mountains to be with her kin

But her family felt shame, couldn't welcome her back,

seemed that being at home was a sin

On the fringe of society, outcast and lonely,

drawn into a lawless furl

Looting and thieving, just barely surviving,

what a life for an innocent girl?

Abducted and taken with her lover Vikran,

by some Thakurs who stole in by night

They beat her and raped her, murdered her lover,

high-caste thugs think such things are their right

Violated, distraught, yet came through it stronger,

as ring-leader soon she was crowned

In the Cambal Ravines, the beautiful bandit,

was sung, notorious and renowned

Repeat chorus

One Saint Valentine's day, her gang hit Behmai,

planned as nowt but a routine raid

But seeing there those who had beaten and raped her,

her revenge echoed way past Bombay

Twenty two high-castes were taken that evening,

dragged from their homes through the grime

Their pleads were not harkened, their screams went unanswered,

they all paid with their lives for that crime

What an outrage that raised, a huge possé assembled,

like Uttar Pradesh had never seen

Didi knew the terrain like the back of her hand,

so they never caught up with the queen

She grew weary of running, each day testing her cunning,

broke cover and brokered a deal

After years on the run, 'neath a poster of Gandhi,

she surrendered, but never did kneel

Solo (over chorus)

Banged-up in a black hole, for a decade or more,

never once charged with a crime

A sad destiny for a victim of high-caste,

to rot there and serve out her time

When at last they released her, boasted her infamy,

campaigned for the rights of the poor

With the votes of the Mullahs, the beautiful bandit,

set out to strike the heart of their core

Her message was simple, it struck many a-chord,

revealing the source of their pain

"Why is it my destiny to always be poor?

They're no different, the same blood in their veins

So lend your support, help me complete this triumph,

over gender, caste and poverty"

Once the ballots were counted, aghast stood the Thakurs,

as Didi was elected MP

Repeat chorus

Over five very long years, such a thorn in their side,

as she faced down their system of class

But you could tell by her anger, impatience and passion,

one day she'd catch up with her past

The Thakurs still held sweet revenge in their hearts,

for the dead men lost down that ravine

An ambush one morning, a bullet clean through her head,

put an end to the brave Bandit Queen

Phoolan Devi was a portrait of courage,

who denied and refuted her fate

Rose high, high above those beaters and rapers,

was the focus and curse of their hate

To her critics a murderer, a notorious bandit

and a puppet of corrupt demigods

To her followers a hero, an innocent, a legend,

who overcame such incredible odds

Repeat chorus


On the day she was mourned, all were out on the streets,

to grieve or just bid her adieu

Her low-casts supporters were all pushed aside,

by the New Delhi Star's TV crew

A strike was proclaimed for that saddest of days,

so many could witness that scene

The passing of a legend, the new Goddess Shakti,

the beautiful and bold Bandit Queen

Repeat chorus

Final chorus

Phoolan Devi, the beautiful bandit,

is riding in Cambal tonight

In her khaki and denims, and bright red bandana,

she's spoiling again for a fight

Her gang are all low-castes and peasants,

but still ruling the hills and ravines

Flying so high, you can hear them all singing,

The Ballad of the Bandit Queen

…repeat first chorus ad-lib to fade

© R.W.Fullilove 2001

Amit 4 years ago

u hate her or u love her.. but u can ignore her..

yo yo honey singh 4 years ago

twadiiiiii bhen di ...

ankit 4 years ago

she was a good lady.....and a example for other ladies in india who belongs to a poor family.

blablabla 4 years ago

i think she was a good lady... and a exaple for other ladies in india who belongs to a poor family? do you don't think the same?

sachin 4 years ago

aap to maa hai

Mark Saulys 4 years ago

I have not seen the movie but I have read Phoolan Devi's autobiography and I do NOT accept that she was "denied dignity in life and in death". She was very dignified through her defiance. She did not accept what was conferred upon her. She did, in fact, TRIUMPH over her adversity. She went from an untouchable peasant to a ministry of parliament being an invincible rebel who set her own terms for her life in between.

I also don't accept that she was "unattractive" as the author of this article also wrote. She was quite beautiful and it was, unfortunately, her scourge. She was a very attractive woman from a very powerless station of life and society and therefore was, quite predictably, repeatedly and constantly ravaged by men of more powerful stations.

The author of this article seems to have an upper caste paternalistic condescension toward lower caste persons such as Devi.

RP Verma 2 years ago

Great Star Of the world

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