(1830 - 1858)
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Lakshmi Bai, the Rani of a
principality called Jhansi in northern India, led an uprising against a takeover
of her homeland by the British. She became a heroine and a symbol of resistance
to the British rule.
Lakshmi Bai was born around 1830
into a wealthy, high-caste family. She was named Manukarnika, which is one of
the names of the holy river Ganges. As a young woman, she learned to read, write
and debate. She also learned horse riding and the use of weapons while playing
with her adopted brothers. She accepted the name Lakshmi Bai when she married
Gangadhar Rao, the maharajah of Jhansi and became the Rani of Jhansi.
Gangadhar Rao married Lakshmi Bai
at the age of about 40-45 years. This was his second marriage. His first wife
died without producing an heir. The new Rani of Jhansi gave birth to a son, but
he died when he was three months old. Subsequently, Damodar Rao, Gangadhar's
relative, became their adopted son. In 1853, Gangadhar Rao died.
The Governor-General of India, the
Marquess of Dalhousie, announced that since Gangadhar Rao left no heir, the
state of Jhansi would be annexed by the British Government. The British rejected
the claim that Damodar Rao was the legal heir. According to Hindu law, little
Damodar Rao was Gangadhar's heir and successor. In the Hindu religion, a
surviving son, either biological or adopted, had an obligation to perform
certain sacrifices after his father's death to prevent his father from being
condemned to punishment or hell. The refusal of the British to acknowledge the
legitimacy of Rajah's adopted son caused a serious consternation in the local
population. Rani appealed her case to London, but that appeal was turned down.
Not wishing to give up her
kingdom, Lakshmi Bai assembled a volunteer army of 14,000 rebels and ordered
that defenses of the city itself be strengthened. Jhansi was attacked by the
British in March 1858.
Shelling of Jhansi was fierce and the British were determined not to allow any
rebels to escape while Rani was determined not to surrender. The British noted
that the Indian soldiers fighting them showed more vigor than they ever had
while following British orders. Women were also seen working the batteries and
carrying ammunition, food and water to the soldiers. Rani, herself, was seen
constantly active in the defense of the city.
Jhansi, however, fell to the British forces after a two week siege. A priest
from Bombay who witnessed the British victory, said that what followed were four
days of fire, pillage, murder and looting without distinction. He said it was
difficult to breathe due to strong smell of burning flesh. British historians,
on the other hand, suggested that while four to five thousand people died in
battle, the civilians were spared.
The Rani managed to escape on
horseback under the cover of darkness and within twenty-four hours rode over one
hundred miles to the fortress of Kalpi. Several other Indian rulers joined the
rebel forces there. It is believed that the Rani was influential in convincing
the others to go on the offensive and seize the fortress of Gwalior. This
maneuver was successful and helped rally the rebel forces together.
It wasn't long, however, before
the British forces determined to win Gwalior back. A fierce battle ensued. Rani
was in charge of the eastern side of defense, however she lost her life on the
second day of fighting. The British won back Gwalior. Rani's body was given a
ceremonial cremation and burial by the faithful servants. Sir Hugh Rose, the
commander of the British force, wrote later, "The Rani was remarkable for her
bravery, cleverness and perseverance; her generocity to her Subordinates was
unbounded. These qualities, combined with her rank, rendered her the most
dangerous of all the rebel leaders."
Lakshmi Bai, the fiery Queen of Jhansi, also known as the Rani of Jhansi, one of
the great nationalist heroine of the first war of India freedom, a symbol of
resistance to the British rule in India was born on 19th November 1835 at Kashi
(Presently known as Varanasi). Her father Moropanth was a Brahmin and her mother
Bhagirathibai was a cultured, intelligent and God fearing lady. Mannikarnika
(Manu) was the name of Rani Lakshmi Bai in her childhood. Manu lost her
mother at the age of four. The Complete responsibility of the young girl fell on
the father. She completed her education and also learned horse riding, Sword
fighting and shooting on a target with a gun.
She was married to Raja Gangadhar Rao, the Maharaja of Jhansi
in 1842, and became the Rani of Jhansi. After the marriage She was given the
name Lakshmi Bai. The Marriage ceremony was perform in Ganesh Mandir, the temple
of Lord Ganesha situated in the city of Jhansi. Rani Lakshmi Bai gave birth to a
son in 1851, but unfortunately this child died when he was about four months
old. After this tragedy, Damodar Rao was adopted as son. Later on Maharaja
Gangadhar Rao also died on 21st November 1853. After the death of Maharaja
Gangadhar Rao, Rani Lakshmi Bai was left alone. At this time she was eighteen
years old. Rani Lakshmi Bai did not lost her courage, She always remembered her
At that time Lord Dalhousie was the Governor -General of
India. Though little Damodar Rao, adopted son of late Maharaja Gangadhar Rao and
Rani Lakshmi Bai was Maharaja's heir and successor as per the Hindu tradition,
but the British rulers rejected Rani's claim that Damodar Rao was their legal
heir. Loard Dalhousie decided to annexe the state of Jhansi as Maharaja
Gangadhar Rao had left no legal heir. This misfortune of Jhansi was used by the
Britishers to expand there Empire.
In March 1854 the British ruler announced 60,000 ( Sixty
Thousand) annual pension for Rani and also ordered to leave the Jhansi fort.
Jhansi was in humiliating condition but it was like a silent volcano before
eruption.Rani Jhansi was determined not to give up Jhansi. She was a symbol of
patriotism and self respect. Britishers were making every effort to destroy the
freedom of country whereas Rani was determined to get rid of Britishers.
Rani Lakshmi Bai strengthened the defense of Jhansi and she assembled a
volunteer army of rebellions. Women were also given Military training. Rani was
accompanied by her brave warriors, some of them were Gulam Gaus Khan, Dost Khan,
Khuda Baksh, Lala Bhau Bakshi, Moti Bai, Sunder-Mundar, Kashi Bai, Deewan
Raghunath singh and Deewan Jawahar Singh. Along with all these warriors the
local population of Jhansi irrespective of their religion or caste were always
determined to fight and give their lives with pleasure for the cause of
Independent and their beloved Rani.
The Britishers attacked Jhansi in March 1858. Rani Jhansi with her faithful
warriors decided not to surrender. The fighting continued for about two weeks.
Shelling on Jhansi was very fierce. In the Jhansi army women were also carrying
ammunition and were supplying food to the soldiers. Rani Lakshmi Bai was very
active. She herself was inspecting the defense of the city. However, after this
great war, Jhansi fell to the British forces.
On that black day, the British army entered the Jhansi City. Rani Lakshmi Bai,
still full of courage and deathless patriotism dressed as a man, took up arms,
her son Damodar Rao was strapped tightly to her back. She was holding the reins
of her horse in her mouth. In the fierce fighting she was using the sword with
both her hands. When the situation was not in control, Rani of Jhansi with some
of her warriors departed from Jhansi.
Rani Lakshmi Bai reched Kalpi. Many other rebellions force joined her. Tatia
Tope from Kalpi was also one of them, from Kalpi Rani departed to the Gwalior.
Again a fierce battle took place. Rani Jhansi fought with deathless patriotism
and martyrdom. However on the second day of fighting, the great heroine of the
first struggle for India freedom, at the age of 22 years, lost her life. That
unfortunate day was 18th June of 1858.
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Biography Posted By Swapnil Sinha - Data Posted By Mrityunjay