Biography of Gangadhar Rao (1814 - 1853): Fifth Raja of Jhansi

The ancestry of Gangadhar Rao is traceable to the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. During the period of Peshwa rule, a large number of people moved to the Khandesh region. These individuals were assigned important positions within the armies of the Peshwa and the Holkar, and they performed their duties to the best of their abilities. Due to Raghunath Hari Newalkar's dedication, the political regime of the Maratha in the Bundelkhand region was able to grow in strength. As the years passed and he began to age, he relinquished his role as leader of Jhansi and gave it to his younger brother Shiv Rao Bhau.

Biography of Gangadhar Rao (1814 - 1853): Fifth Raja of Jhansi

Biography of Gangadhar Rao (1814 - 1853): Fifth Raja of Jhansi

Also Read: Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (5th September 1888 - 17th April 1975

Maharaja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar was the fifth Raja of the historical city of Jhansi, situated in the northern region of India and which was then part of the Maratha Empire. He was a part of the Marathi Karhade Brahmin caste. Shiv Rao Bhau was Raghunath Hari Newalkar's son, who was the first Maratha Governor of Jhansi. Gangadhar Rao's family has its roots in a Brahmin family from Ratnagiri district in Maharashtra, which can be traced back in history.

When the Peshwa rule began, some of them moved to Khandesh and occupied important positions in the armies of both the Peshwa and Holkar. The Maratha polity in Bundelkhand flourished due to the tireless hard work and dedication of Raghunath Hari Newalkar. As time went by, he gave over the responsibility of Jhansi to his younger brother Shiv Rao Bhau, entrusting him with the task.

When Raghunath Rao III passed away in 1838, the British imperialists gave his brother Gangadhar Rao the right to become the Raja of Jhansi in 1843. His administrative skills were remarkable and he was able to bring about a considerable improvement in the financial state of Jhansi, which had been steadily decreasing under the rule of the previous ruler.

He implemented strategies and took corrective measures to ensure the town of Jhansi had the opportunity to progress and develop. Approximately five thousand troops were at his command. His knowledge and ability to navigate complex diplomatic scenarios were matched only by his deep and passionate appreciation for art and culture. Gangadhar Rao possessed a high level of sophistication and had studied a plethora of topics, making him exceptionally knowledgeable.


Marriage and Adoption of Damodar Rao

Ramabai was his first wife, but unfortunately, she passed away shortly after the marriage. Even though Gangadhar was given the title of Raja in 1843, Ramabai, unfortunately, never got the chance to become the queen consort of Jhansi. During the month of May in the year 1842, Gangadhar Rao was granted the honor of marrying the young and lovely Manikarnika Tambe, who would later be known to the world as the revered Rani Lakshmibai.

As soon as the union was formed, her regal title of Rani (Queen Consort) was bestowed upon her without any further delay. Over time, she rose to the rank of Queen of Jhansi and ultimately initiated a rebellion against the British. In September of 1851 she was blessed with a baby boy whom she named Damodar Rao; however, he sadly passed away within the time frame of 4 months following his birth. On the day before he passed away, Raja Gangadhar Rao took Anand Rao, the son of his cousin Vasudev Newalkar, under his protection and renamed him Damodar Rao.

During the adoption process, the British political officer was present when the Raja's letter was presented, which asked that the child be treated with kindness and that the government of Jhansi should be responsible for the widow's support for the rest of her life. In November 1853, the Raja's passing prompted the British East India Company, with Lord Dalhousie at the helm as Governor-General, to implement the Doctrine of Lapse, invalidating Damodar Rao's claim to the throne and consequently annexing the state to their territories.


Kingdom of Jhansi

Nestled between the rivers Pahunj and Betwa, the city of Jhansi is a reminder of bravery, courage, and self-respect. It has been documented in ancient times that Jhansi was once included in the Chedi Rashtra, Jejak Bhukit, Jajhoti, and Bundelkhand regions. The Chandela kings had a powerful stronghold in Jhansi, which was of tremendous importance to them. This place was initially referred to as Balwant Nagar when it was founded. Despite the fact that it almost seemed too late to have any chance of success.

Over the years, Jhansi's importance gradually diminished.  Under the Raja Bir Singh Deo's leadership during the 17th century, the town of Jhansi was able to reclaim its status and thrive once again. Raja Bir Singh Deo and the powerful Mughal Emperor Jehangir had a strong and harmonious relationship. Raja Bir Singh Deo was responsible for the construction of the Jhansi fort which was completed in 1613. The year 1627 marked the last breath of his life. When his father passed away, Jujhar Singh was determined to take on the responsibility and assume the reigns.

Maharaja Chattrasal Bundela of Panna was a celebrated and highly esteemed ruler, whose great administrative proficiency, bravery, and courage on the battlefield were renowned. In a move that would forever change the landscape of the region, Mohammed Khan Bangash launched an assault on Chattrasal in 1729. Peshwa Baji Rao (I) offered his assistance to Maharaja Chattrasal and achieved a triumphant victory against the Mughal army. Maharaja Chattrasal wanted to show his appreciation and gratitude to Maratha Peshwa Baji Rao(I), so he gave him a portion of his state as a sign of his thanks.

Jhansi was encompassed within this region and Naroshanker was granted the title of subedar of the city in 1742. Throughout the fifteen years that he held office, the Jhansi fort saw a significant expansion, in addition to the construction of many other buildings. The name Shankergarh is given to the area that encompasses the area around the fort. The Peshwa requested Naroshanker in the year 1757 to return to his court. In the same manner as Madhav Govind Kakirde, Babulal Kanahai was chosen to assume the responsibility of subedar for the city of Jhansi.

In the year 1766, Vishwas Rao Laxman was appointed to the position of subedar of Jhansi. For a period of three years, from 1766 to 1769, his reign was in effect. After Raghunath Rao (II) Newalkar was appointed, another subedar was selected to take over the position of Jhansi. His managerial skills were extraordinary, which made him a perfect choice for the role of administrator. His proactive efforts had a substantial and positive effect on the state's revenue, as it was increased.

He was the one who was tasked to construct both the MahaLakshmi Temple and the Raghunath Temple. With the purpose of having his own residence, he had a magnificent building constructed in the city, which he called Rani Mahal. In the year 1796, Raghunath Rao made the decision to give the subedari to his brother ShivRao Hari.

In 1803 a treaty was signed between East India company and Maratha. Following Shiv Rao's death, his grandson Ramchandra Rao was bestowed the title of subedar of Jhansi. His management of the role as an administrator did not live up to the expectations of the job. On a sad note, Ramchandra Rao succumbed to death in 1835. After his death Raghunath Rao (III) was made his successor. In 1838 Raghunath Rao (III) also died. The British rulers then accepted Gangadhar Rao as the Raja of Jhansi.

Due to the poor leadership of Raghunath Rao (III) the financial situation in Jhansi became increasingly dire. Raja Gangadhar Rao was an incredibly talented administrator who had a great ability to effectively handle public affairs. His generosity was accompanied by a great deal of sympathy and understanding. With great aptitude and ability, he administered Jhansi, giving the people a remarkable service. During the period of his rule, the people of Jhansi experienced a level of satisfaction and contentment.

In the year 1842, Raja Gangadhar Rao and Mannikarnika joined in holy matrimony and formed a union of marriage. Following her marriage, Mannikarnika was given the new name Lakshmi Bai and she took on the difficult challenge of being the commander of her troops against the British in 1857. She committed her life to the notion of Indian Independence and was willing to give her life for the cause in 1858.

In the year of 1861, the British Government made the choice to give JiyajiRao Scindia the fort and city of Jhansi. Subsequently, the city of Jhansi was annexed and became a part of the Gwalior state. In 1886, the British Empire was able to regain control of Jhansi from the Gwalior state after a period of disruption. Upon India's declaration of independence, Jhansi was included in the boundaries of the state of Uttar Pradesh. At the present moment, the Divisional Commissioner's Headquarter is located in Jhansi and encompasses the districts of Jhansi, Lalitpur, and Jalaun.



Gangadhar Rao was an immensely important figure in history who played a vital part in the fight for India's independence. Despite the many difficulties and adversities that he faced during his reign as the last ruler of the Maratha Empire, he stayed determined to his people and his nation's cause.

Gangadhar Rao showed tremendous courage, leadership and persistence in the face of difficult situations throughout his lifetime. His faithfulness to the Indian independence cause was unshakeable and it motivated numerous people to take part in the battle for their liberties and autonomy against colonialism.

One of the most important contributions of Gangadhar Rao to Indian history was his involvement in the Indian Rebellion of 1857 that challenged the British colonialism. He was able to create a sense of unity among the different factions and communities in their battle against the British, and his leadership and vision played a major part in the successful beginning of the rebellion.

Despite its ultimate lack of success, the legacy of Gangadhar Rao as a courageous and far-sighted leader has been remembered up to the present day. His life serves as a powerful demonstration of the strength and courage of the Indian people, and his legacy continues to be an inspiration to millions as they fight for justice, equality, and freedom.

To sum up, Gangadhar Rao was an outstanding individual, and his life and accomplishments continue to serve as an inspiration to people all over the world. His fearlessness, his capacity to lead and his unyielding dedication to the cause of Indian independence make him a true hero and a source of inspiration and strength for generations ahead.

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