Monday, 6 June 2011

Jhansi Rani Lakshmi Bai


The great heroine of the First war of India Freedom. She lived for only twenty-two years. She became a widow in her eighteenth year. Jhansi, of which she was the queen, was in the grip of the cunning, cruel British. She was the embodiment of patriotism, self-respect and heroism. She was the queen of a small state, but the empress of a limitless empire of glory

Rani Lakshmi Bai was the queen of the princely state of Jhansi, which is located on the northern side of India. She was one of the most leading personalities of the first war of India's independence that started in 1857. In this article, we will present you with the biography of Rani Lakshmibai, who was an epitome of bravery and courage.

Early Life

She was born to a Maharashtrian family at Kashi (now Varanasi) in the year 1828. During her childhood, she was called by the name Manikarnika. Affectionately, her family members called her Manu. At a tender age of four, she lost her mother. As a result, the responsibility of raising her fell upon her father. While pursuing studies, she also took formal training in martial arts, which included horse riding, shooting and fencing. To know the complete life history of Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, read on.

In the year 1842, she got married to the Maharaja of Jhansi, Raja Gangadhar Rao Niwalkar. On getting married, she was given the name Lakshmi Bai. Her wedding ceremony was held at the Ganesh temple, located in the old city of Jhansi. In the year 1851, she gave birth to a son. Unfortunately, the child did not survive more than four months.

In the year 1853, Gangadhar Rao fell sick and became very weak. So, the couple decided to adopt a child. To ensure that the British do not raise an issue over the adoption, Lakshmibai got this adoption witnessed by the local British representatives. On 21st November 1853, Maharaja Gangadhar Rao died.


During that period, Lord Dalhousie was the Governor General of British India. The adopted child was named Damodar Rao. As per the Hindu tradition, he was their legal heir. However, the British rulers refused to accept him as the legal heir. As per the Doctrine of Lapse, Lord Dalhousie decided to seize the state of Jhansi. Rani Lakshmibai went to a British lawyer and consulted him. Thereafter, she filed an appeal for the hearing of her case in London. But, her plea was rejected. The British authorities confiscated the state jewels. Also, an order was passed asking the Rani to leave Jhansi fort and move to the Rani Mahal in Jhansi. Laxmibai was firm about protecting the state of Jhansi.

The war

Jhansi became the focal point of uprising. Rani of Jhansi began to strengthen her position. By seeking the support of others, she formed a volunteer army. The army not just consisted of the men folk, but the women were also actively involved. Women were also given military training to fight a battle. In the revolt, Rani Lakshmibai was accompanied by her generals.

From the period between Sep-Oct 1857, Rani defended Jhansi from being invaded by the armies of the neighboring rajas of Orchha and Datia. In January 1858, the British army headed it's away towards Jhansi. The conflict went on for two weeks. Finally, the Britishers succeeded in the annexation of the city. However, Rani Laksmi Bai managed to escape along with her son, in the guise of a man.

She took refuge in Kalpi, where she met Tatya Tope, a great warrior. She died on 17thJune, during the battle for Gwalior. It is believed that, when she was lying unconscious in the battle field, a Brahmin found her and brought her to an ashram, where she died. For her immense effort, she is referred to as the 'Icon of the Indian Nationalist Movement'. Throughout the uprising, the aim of Rani was to secure the throne for her adopted son Damodar. Her story became a beacon for the upcoming generations of freedom fighters.

Lot of literature has been written on the life history of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi. Heroic poems have been composed in her honor.

This is what the British had to say of her.

Her Character

" ..a very civil, polite and clever young lady.."
    -- Sir Robert Hamilton, Agent in Central India
" [The Rani] is a woman highly respected and esteemed, and I believe fully capable of doing justice to the charge [of governing Jhansi]"
    -- Major Malcolm, Political Agent He later seemingly changed his mind, refusing to forward an endorsement of the Rani's case from Major Ellis, the Political Agent at Jhansi.
" [The Rani comported herself as] a brave-minded woman had to do in her position, [being] quite capable of discussing her affairs with a Committee or government."
    -- 'Other witnesses' quoted in Fraser
" She is a wonderful woman, very brave and determined. It is fortunate for us that the men are not all like her."
    -- Cornet Combe, 3rd Bombay Light Cavalry Combe was one of those who intercepted her flight from Jhansi.
" In her death the rebels lost their bravest and best military leader."
    -- Regimental history of the 8th Hussars The 8th Hussars are most probably the unit responsible for her death.
" The Ranee was remarkable for her bravery, cleverness and perseverance; her generosity to her Subordinates was unbounded. These qualities, combined with her rank, rendered her the most dangerous of the rebel leaders."
    -- General Sir High Rose Officer commanding the force that took Jhansi and Gwalior.

Her Appearance

The portrait of the Rani on the is apparently from a contemporary portrait in the possession of the Tambe family in Nagpur. Another contemporary portrait is to be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
The oft-quoted description of John Lang's is derived from a brief glimpse he had when Damodar momentarily put aside the curtain separating him from her. She maintained purdah when dealing with the British though not otherwise.
" [The Rani was] a woman of about middle size .. [her face] must have been very handsome when she was younger and even now it had many charms .. The expression also was .. very intelligent. The eyes her particularly fine and the nose very delicately shaped. She was not very fair, though she was far from black .. her dress was plain white muslin, so fine in texture and drawn about her in such a way that the outline of her figure was plainly discernible - and a remarkably fine figure she had. What spoilt her was her voice. "

    -- John Lang, Lakshmibai's lawyer. He also described her as 'stout but not too stout'. The criticism of her voice may well be a cultural thing. Indian sources describe her voce as melodious. Certainly even my relatively sympathetic ears can find the female Indian accent to be harsh when an Indian will find it beautiful.
" .. she adopted a costume that symbolically combined the elements of a warrior with those of a queen: jodhpurs, a silk blouse with a low cut bodice, a red silk cap with a loose turban (or puggree) round it, She wore diamond bangles and large diamond rings on her small hands: but a short bejeweled sword and two silver pistols were stuck in her cummerbund. "
    -- John Lang / Antonia Fraser
" In appearance she was fair and handsome, with a noble presence and figure and a dignified and resolute, indeed stern, expression, which appeared to to have usurped the place of the peculiar softness which, when she was younger and had a good hope of a prosperous life, distinguished her. "
    -- Meadows Taylor (quoted in Smyth) Taylor's authority on her looks is not stated.

A more recent quote

" Interviewer: You've always said that your dream role has always been of portraying "Rani of Jhansi". Any similarity, Rani of Bollywood?
Rani: I've always dreamed of playing Rani of Jhansi. My father is from Uttar Pradesh, and when I was young he would narrate stories about the Rani. In fact, I've been to the fort where she lived and it's always inspired me. I hope I can portray the real Rani someday. Of Jhansi I mean. I am the real Rani Mukherjee anyway. "


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