Updated | June 4, 2017 16:00 IST
Lakshmibai, Queen of Jhansi, was one of the greatest warrior queens in the history of India who fought against British. She ruled Jhansi, a Maratha state situated in northern part of India. She became one of the leading figures of Indian Rebellion of 1857 against British and became an iconic symbol to Indians.
Birth and Marriage:
Rani Lakshmibai was born in a Maratha Brahmin family in the holy town of Varanasi on 19th November 1828. She was named as ‘Manikarnina’ and called her with love as ‘Manu’ with a nickname. Her father was Moropant Tambe and mother was Bhagirathi Sapre. Her mother died when she was at the age of four.
Manikarnika was brought by court Peshwa of Bitthoor district like his own daughter and called her as ‘Chabbili’, where her father worked under the Peshwa. The Peshwa was given her education including horsemanship, fencing, and shooting. She was called Lakshmibai after her marriage with the King of Jhansi, Raja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar in May 1842.
Jhansibai who was given birth to a baby boy and he was named as Damodar. Sadly he wasn’t survived in the world after four months.
The Maharaja adopted a child, Anand Rao, son of Gangadhar’ cousin and re-named him as Damodhar after his late son’ name, a day before the death of him. The adoption process was done in the presence of British Political officer and he was given a letter from Maharaja stating that the adopted child was treated with utmost respect as his heir and the Jhansi would be given to his wife, Lakshmibhai for life time.
After the death of the King, the whole scenario was changed all of sudden. The British who offered a yearly pension of 60,000 to widow, Jhansibai and wanted her to leave the fort by giving to the British. Jhansi turned against the British and joined with rebellion troops to fight against them.
She had horses which named Badal, Sarangi, and Pavan. There were several rumors about Lakshmibai in supporting and joining the rebel troops of India against British.
Here was another story, the cartridges supplied by the East India Company to the soldiers in its army contained pork or beef fat where the news began to spread throughout India in the early months of 1857. On 10 May 1857, the Indian Rebellion started in Meerut against the British. When this news reached Jhansi, the Rani asked the British political officer, Captain Alexander Skene, for permission to raise a body of armed men for her own protection and the officer who agreed to this had done.
The Rani who was reluctant to rebel against the British had taken this as the opportunity and performed Haldi KumKum ceremony in the midst of unrest in the region to unfold that Britishers were cowards and no need to afraid of them.
In June 1857, men of the 12th Bengal Native Infantry which seized the fort containing the treasure and magazine and massacred nearly 60 European officers of the garrison along with their children and wives by breaking their word of not to do any harm to them after they lay down down their arms. Her involvement in this massacre is still a subject of debate and no substantial evidence.
After the massacre, the sepoys left Jhansi having obtained a large sum of money from the Rani, and having threatened to blow up the palace where she lived. Following this as the only source of authority in the city the Rani felt obliged to assume the administration and wrote to Major Erskine, commissioner of the Saugor division, explaining the events which had led her to do so.
On 2 July Erskine wrote in reply that he requested her to manage the District for the British Government" until the arrival of a British Superintendent. The Rani's forces defeated an attempt by the mutineers to assert the claim to the throne of a rival prince who was captured and imprisoned. There was then an invasion of Jhansi by the forces of Company allies Orchha and Datia, their intention, however, was to divide Jhansi between themselves.
The Rani appealed to the British for aid but it was now believed by the governor-general that she was responsible for the massacre and no reply was received. She set up a foundry to cast cannon to be used on the walls of the fort and assembled forces including some from former feudatories of Jhansi and elements of the mutineers which were able to defeat the invaders in August 1857. Her intention at this time was still to hold Jhansi on behalf of the British.
The Rani’s reign was peaceful from 1857 August-January 1858. The British had announced that troops would be sent there to maintain control but the fact that none arrived strengthened the position of a party of her advisers who wanted independence from British rule. When the British forces finally arrived in March they found it well defended and the fort had heavy guns which could fire over the town and nearby countryside.
Sir Hugh Rose, who commanding the British forces was demanded to surrender the city. Otherwise warned to destroy. Instead of submission, she decided to die on the battlefield with eternal glory and if succeeds against the British love to enjoy the victorious fruits. The British Officer, Sir Hugh Rose besieged Jhansi on 23rd March 1858.
The bombardment began on 24 March but was met by heavy return fire and the damaged defenses were repaired. The defenders sent appeals to Tatya Tope for an army of more than 20,000 to help, but they failed to do so when they fought the British on 31 March. During the battle with Tatya Tope's forces part of the British forces continued the siege and by 2 April it was decided to launch an assault by a breach in the walls.
Four columns assaulted the defenses at different points and those attempting to scale the walls came under heavy fire. Two other columns had already entered the city and were approaching the palace together. Determined resistance was encountered in every street and in every room of the palace. Street fighting continued into the following day and no quarter was given, even to women and children. Later, Rani who felt fighting in the city was useless was decided to join either Tatya Tope or Rao Sahib.
According to tradition with Damodar Rao on her back, she jumped on her horse Badal from the fort; they survived but the horse died. The Rani escaped in the night with her son, surrounded by guards.
The escort included the warriors Khuda Bakhsh Basharat Ali (commandant), Gulam Gaus Khan, Dost Khan, Lala Bhau Bakshi, Moti Bai, Sunder-Mundar, Kashi Bai, Deewan Raghunath Singh and Deewan Jawahar Singh.She decamped to Kalpi with a few guards, where she joined additional rebel forces, including Tatya Tope. They occupied the town of Kalpi and prepared to defend it. On 22 May British forces attacked Kalpi; the Indian forces were commanded by the Rani herself and were again defeated.
The leaders (the Rani of Jhansi, Tatya Tope, the Nawab of Banda, and Rao Sahib) fled once more. They came to Gwalior and joined the Indian forces who now held the city (Maharaja Scindia having fled to Agra from the battlefield at Morar). They moved on to Gwalior and intending to occupy the strategic Gwalior Fort and the rebel forces occupied the city without opposition. The rebels proclaimed Nana Sahib as Peshwa of a revived Maratha dominion with Rao Sahib as his governor (subedar) in Gwalior.
The Rani was unsuccessful in trying to persuade the other rebel leaders to prepare to defend Gwalior against a British attack which she expected would come soon. General Rose's forces took Morar on 16th June and then made a successful attack on the city.
On 17 June in Kotah-ki-Serai near the Phool Bagh of Gwalior, a squadron of the 8th (King's Royal Irish) Hussars, under Captain Heneage, fought the large Indian force commanded by Rani Lakshmibai which was trying to leave the area. The 8th Hussars charged into the Indian force, slaughtering 5,000 Indian soldiers, including any Indian over the age of 16.
They took two guns and continued the charge right through the Phool Bagh encampment. In this engagement, according to an eyewitness account, Rani Lakshmibai put on a sowar's uniform and attacked one of the hussars; she was unhorsed and also wounded, probably by his sabre.
Shortly afterward, as she sat bleeding by the roadside, she recognized the soldier and fired at him with a pistol, whereupon he "dispatched the young lady with his carbine. According to another tradition Rani Lakshmibai, the Queen of Jhansi, dressed as a cavalry leader, was badly wounded; not wishing the British to capture her body, she told a hermit to burn it.
After her death, a few local people cremated her body. The British captured the city of Gwalior after three days. In the British report of this battle, Hugh Rose commented that Rani Lakshmibai is "personable, clever and beautiful" and she is "the most dangerous of all Indian leaders.
Rose reported that she had been buried with great ceremony under a tamarind tree under the Rock of Gwalior, where I saw her bones and ashes. Her tomb is in the Phool Bagh area of Gwalior. Twenty years after her death Colonel Malleson wrote in the ‘History of the Indian Mutiny; vol. 3; London, 1878’. 'Whatever her faults in British eyes may have been, her countrymen will ever remember that she was driven by ill-treatment into rebellion and that she lived and died for her country, We cannot forget her contribution to India.
After witnessing the great valor of Jhansi Ki Rani, the British Officials saluted to one of the greatest warrior Kings, who fought to free India from the chains of British slavery and power.
She was an inspiration to many at that times and an icon for the Indian Rebels. Especially, Women who taught her stories to their children worshiped as the goddess. She was the power of Wome, Mahashakti. Her story later served to generations in the form of poems, stories, and songs. Her memoirs and statues were there in honor of her, which depicts her courage.
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