The majestic Rani Lakshmi Bai, who reigned as the queen of the princely state of Jhansi situated on the northern region of India. She was a key participant in the first war of Indian independence that began in the year 1857. We will be introducing you to the inspiring story of Rani Lakshmibai, a notable example of bravery and courage, in this article. She was born on 19 November at Kashi Varanasi, originally given the name Manikarnika at birth but was more commonly known as Manu, to a Maharashtrian Karhade Brahmin family who hailed from Dwadashi, a district in Satara.
At the tender age of four, she was deprived of her mother's love due to her untimely death. She was privileged to have the opportunity to be educated at home rather than a school. Manu's father had the privilege of working at the court of Peshwa Baji Rao II at Bithur and when she was at the age of thirteen, Manu's father moved to the court of Raja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar, the Maharaja of Jhansi.
At the tender age of fourteen, the Raja of Jhansi, Gangadhar Rao, took her hand in marriage. As a result of her marriage, she was bestowed the name Lakshmi Bai. Rani Lakshmi Bai was fortunate to have a father who held a strong influence at court, allowing her to have more independence than other women, who were usually restricted to the domestic life. She utilized this privilege to learn self defense, horsemanship, archery and even formed her own army out of her female friends at court.
Rani Laxmi Bai (19th November 1828 - 18th June 1858)
Rani Lakshmi Bai experienced the joy of having a son in 1851, yet sadly, this baby was only able to live until he was four months old. After the heart-breaking death of their son, the Raja and Rani of Jhansi took Damodar Rao into their family and adopted him. Many say that her husband, the Raja, was never able to emotionally recover from the death of his son, leading to his eventual death on the 21st of November 1853.
When Lord Dalhousie was the Governor General of British India, it was during that period of time. The newly adopted son was given the name Damodar Rao. He was established as the legal heir in accordance with the Hindu tradition. Despite his rightful claim to the throne, the British rulers refused to acknowledge him as the legal heir. As per the Doctrine of Lapse, Lord Dalhousie selected to exercise his power and take possession of the state of Jhansi.
Rani Laxmi bai sought advice from a British lawyer so she could receive guidance. In the aftermath, she submitted an appeal to the court of London to ask for a hearing of her case. Even though she pleaded for it, her request was denied. The British authorities confiscated the state jewels. The Rani was asked to leave the Jhansi fort and to settle in the Rani Mahal located in Jhansi as per the order passed. Laxmi bai was resolute in her commitment to safeguarding the state of Jhansi.
The Uprising of Jhansi
Rani of Jhansi was resolute in her conviction to never surrender the Kingdom of Jhansi. She took steps to bolster the defences and gathered a group of volunteers to form an army. Women were given the opportunity to receive military training. Rani's army was strengthened by the enlistment of warriors such as Gulam Gaus Khan, Dost Khan, Khuda Baksh, Lala Bhau Bakshi, Moti Bai, Sunder-Mundar, Kashi Bai, Deewan Raghunath Singh and Deewan Jawahar Singh. The city of Jhansi emerged as the central point of the uprising.
Rani of Jhansi began to take steps to gain authority and consolidate her position. She was able to successfully rally a large volunteer army with the help of those who were willing to support her. Not only did the army include the men, but the women took an active role in their involvement as well. Women were provided with military training to equip them for the possibility of combat.
Revolt against the British Rule
During this time in Jhansi, the Sepoy Mutiny of India began its course on the 10th of May, 1857 in Meerut. This was the beginning of the revolt against the British rule and it would be the starting point for the uprising. When news got out that the new bullet casings for their Enfield rifles were covered with pork/beef fat, which was considered taboo to Muslims and cows were sacred to Hindus and thus not allowed to be eaten, the revolt began. The British commanders were adamant about the use of their orders and began to punish anyone who did not comply with them.
During this rebellion many British civilians, including women, and children were killed by the sepoys. The British wanted to end the rebellion quickly. Meanwhile, unrest began to spread throughout India and in May of 1857, the First War of Indian Independence erupted in numerous pockets across the northern subcontinent. The British were too preoccupied with other matters during this chaotic time to pay much attention to Jhansi, leaving Lakshmi Bai to rule the region by herself.
As skirmishes erupted in Jhansi, her skills were demonstrated multiple times as she was able to swiftly and successfully lead her forces into battle. By utilizing her leadership capabilities, Lakshmi Bai was able to maintain a state of tranquility in Jhansi, despite the general unrest of the Empire.
She had been reluctant to rebel against the British until this point and there is still a great deal of debate about her role in the killings of the British HEIC officials and their wives and children at Jokhan Bagh on 8th June 1857. Following a period of hesitancy, Jhansi was finally besieged by British troops led by Sir Hugh Rose on the 23rd of March 1858. Rani Jhansi, along with her devoted and loyal warriors, made the decision not to surrender. For a period of two weeks, the fighting did not cease. There was an intense shelling of Jhansi which caused great destruction.
Women in the Jhansi army had the important responsibility of carrying ammunition and making sure that the soldiers had food. Rani Lakshmi Bai was always actively participating in various activities. She took it upon herself to inspect the city's defense for its own protection. She bravely mustered her troops and put up a fierce fight against the British forces.
In an attempt to bring freedom to Lakshmi Bai, Tatya Tope, the leader of the rebels, organized an army of twenty thousand to go to Jhansi and relieve it. Despite being vastly outnumbered by the “raw recruits”, the British troops numbered only 1,540 yet they were well trained and disciplined and the inexperienced soldiers were unable to withstand their attack on the 31st March, resulting in the inexperienced soldiers turning and fleeing shortly after the attack began.
Despite Lakshmi Bai's forces putting up a valiant effort, the British were successful in breaching the city walls and capturing the city after three days of fighting. Despite being surrounded by her city, Lakshmi Bai managed to make a daring escape over the wall during the night, accompanied by many of her female military guards. After their escape from Kapli, Rani Lakshmibai, Tatya Tope, and Rao Sahib were able to make their way to Gwalior. The trio combined forces with the Indian army to protect the city. The Gwalior Fort provided strategic advantages which they sought to take advantage of by occupying it.
The rebel forces managed to gain control of the city without any opposition, subsequently crowning Nana Sahib as the Peshwa of Maratha dominion and appointing Rao Sahib as his governor. Unfortunately, Lakshmibai was not able to convince other rebel leaders to come to the aid of her force, and on June 16, 1858, the British forces were able to carry out a successful attack on Gwalior.
On the 17th of June, an 8th (King's Royal Irish) Hussars squadron led by Captain Heneage encountered a sizeable Indian military unit commanded by the Rani Lakshmibai not far from Kotah-ki-Serai, located close to the Phool Bagh of Gwalior. The Rani was attempting to flee from the region when the two forces encountered one another in a battle. The 8th Hussars charged the Indian army with no remorse or mercy, killing 5,000 soldiers, regardless of age, with no one older than 16 spared. Two guns in hand, they fearlessly marched straight into the Phool Bagh encampment.
An eyewitness account reported that during the battle, Rani Laxmi bai wore a soldier's uniform and fearlessly advanced towards one of the hussars. In the moments that followed, the young lady, sitting there with her wounds, recognised the soldier and shot at him with her pistol, to which the soldier retaliated by ending her life with his carbine.
According to local stories, Rani Laxmi bai, the Queen of Jhansi, went into battle dressed as a cavalry leader and was badly wounded. She wanted to make sure her body was not accessible to the British, so she requested a hermit to cremate her. In the wake of her death, a few people from the local area cremated her body as a final farewell.
Following a three day long struggle, the British forces were triumphant in taking the city of Gwalior. Hugh Rose from Britain wrote a report of the battle and commented that Rani Laxmi bai is an individual of great charm, intelligence, and beauty, and is the most formidable leader among all of the Indian leaders.
Rani Laxmi Bai was an inspirational leader in Indian history, renowned for her bravery, love for her country, and selfless commitment to the cause of Indian independence. She was a key participant in the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and faced the British forces bravely, which resulted in her gaining the respect of both her allies and enemies.
Laxmi Bai was a leader with a strong vision, and she worked with relentless dedication to safeguard the rights and preserve the dignity of the people under her rule. She was a powerful champion for the empowerment and education of women, and she took it upon herself to set up schools specifically for girls in her own kingdom.
The legacy of Laxmi Bai still lives on and she continues to be a source of inspiration for people all over India and around the globe. She is a shining example of courage, determination, and selflessness that will continue to inspire future generations. To this day, she stands as a symbol of India's continual struggle for independence and her strong resistance against all forms of oppression and injustice.
To summarize, Rani Laxmi Bai was a remarkable person whose dedication to the freedom of India and female empowerment is unparalleled. She will remain an inspiration to those who seek for a just and equitable society and be remembered as a hero for her actions.