Rani Lakshmi Bai was undoubtedly one of the bravest leaders in the history of India. Back in her time, she was one of the leaders who did everything they could to fight for the independence of India. Her struggle to defend her territory from the British marauder has earned her the epithet “the brave Rani of Jhansi”.
The life of Queen of Jhansi was surrounded with honor, devotion, and patriotism. Even the British General, who was in command while her territory was being attacked, praised her for her bravery and intelligence.
Two major events mark the glorious life of Rani Lakshmibai and have earned her a name in the history of India. They are:
- Her activities during the Rebellion of 1857
- Her struggle to protect her territory from British invasion
The Early life of Rani Lakshmi Bai
Rani Lakshmibai was born to a Marathi Brahmin family in Varanasi on November 19, 1828. It’s quite interesting that her real name was not Lakshmibai but was Manikarnika. She was also known among her family and acquaintances as Manu.
It’s quite intriguing to know that Lakshmi Bai was actually educated at home. She learned fencing, shooting, horsemanship other sports that demanded a lot of physical strength. Her mother passed away when she was just four years old and her father brought her up solely.
Lakshmi Bai’s father, Moropant Tambe was from Maharashtra and worked at the court of Peshwa in the district of Bithoor.
The Journey from Manikarnika to Rani Lakshmibai
The story of the conversion of Manikarnika to Rani Lakshmibai was a result of her popularity and the influence that she had on the people of Jhansi. She was married to the Maharaja of the province in 1842, Sri. Gangadhar Rao. As soon as she came to Jhansi, people started respecting her as “Lakshmibai”, which was done in the honor of a Hindu Goddess “Lakshmi”.
Death of Raja Gangadhar Rao
Raja Gangadhar Rao and Rani Lakshmibai had a son in 1851, whom they named as Damodar Rao. However, this child died when he was just four months old, leaving behind his parents dejected.
The couple then adopted Anand Rao, who was the son of the Raja’s cousin and renamed him Damodar Rao after their own son. The adoption ceremony was done legally, in the presence of British political officers. The Raja even sent a letter to the government officials, asking them to treat Damodar Rao with respect and consider him as the heir of Lakshmibai.
However, at the backdrop of all this, Raja Gangadhar Rao had taken to illness and his health deteriorated over time. He could not accept the death of his four months old son. Being unable to recover from this, he too breathed his last in 1953 and had Rani Lakshmibai distraught.
Lakshmibai Takes over the Responsibility
The contemporary Governor-General of India, Lord Dalhousie took advantage of this situation in Jhansi and did everything he could to capture it. Raja Gangadhar’s plea to respect Damodar Rao as the legal heir was rejected. He also passed the Doctrine of Lapse, under which he claimed that if the ruler of any Indian state died without a legal heir, the kingdom would be dissolved. However, the brave Rani of Jhansi did not surrender to this new doctrine and pledged that she would not surrender Jhansi at any cost.
A year later in 1854, Rani Lakshmibai received an annual pension amount of Rs. 60,000 and was asked to leave the Jhansi fort and the position immediately.
Rebellion of 1857
The Rani of Jhansi did not have any involvement in the Rebellion of 1857 initially and the province continued to be a calm place. She, however, wrote a letter to Captain Alexander Skene, the British Political Officer and asked for a permission to raise armed men, though this would only be for the security of Jhansi.
Captain Alexander agreed to it and the army was raised. However, even up to that point in time, the Rani of Jhansi had not shown any interest in taking part in the Rebellion of 1857.
Defeat of Jhansi
Even though the Rebellion of 1857 was at its peak, Jhansi remained in peace under Rani Lakshmibai. But even as all this went by, she worked towards setting up a foundry that casted canons to be used in the walls around the fort of Jhansi and also assembled some troops which would help her to get rid of the invaders as she still wanted to retain Jhansi and did not want to hand it over to the British.
In 1858, when the British troops finally arrived to take control over Jhansi, they found that it was well armed and guarded by guns and canons all around the walls. The British general commanded the queen to surrender the province to them which was turned down by the Rani. She even said that they would fight for independence with the best spirit and if the battle is won, they will enjoy the fruits of independence and victory. However, if they lost, they would have already earned respect, salvation and eternal glory. While the battle was still going Rani Lakshmibai realized winning was difficult and she left the battleground with her young son tied to her back. She left the battlefield to return with more power and retaliate.
Jhalkari Bai (a skilled warrior from Lakshmi Bai’s army) then dressed up herself as the Rani of Jhansi and took the charge of the state army in her own hands to give the queen a chance to escape from the fort.
Battle at Kalpi
After Rani Lakshmibai fled from Jhansi, she joined hands with Tantia Tope and other leaders and prepared to defend Kalpi. The forces were commanded by Rani. However, once the British attacked, the resilience could not last long and the troops were defeated. She fled on being defeated, just to take the attack to the next province.
Not only Rani Lakshmibai fled from Kalpi, Tantia Tope and Rao Sahib also accompanied her and joined the Indian forces at Gwalior. However, she was unable to persuade other rebel leaders in setting up Gwalior as a fortress to defend against the British attack.
Rani Lakshmibai, along with her large Indian force, was looking to retaliate from the area when the British troops showed up and fought the forces. Over 5,000 of the defenders, which included everyone over the age of 16 were brutally slaughtered by the British army. And it was in this battle that Rani Lakshmibai was brutally injured and breathed her last.
The life of Rani Lakshmibai has been a constant battle to defend India from coming under the British rule. She started by defending her own territory after the Doctrine of Lapse was passed. But upon losing Jhansi, she escaped but formed an alliance with the neighborhood rulers to defend their territory from getting under their hands.
Her bravery and quest, along with her willingness to do anything for her motherland and make India free from the British, get her a permanent place in the history and also recognition as “the brave Rani of Jhansi”.