Lakshmibai was the queen of Jhansi, a princely state of North India in Utter Pradesh. She was a skilled fighter and was famous for defying the British Empire and raging a fitting battle against them in 1857. Manikarnika was her actual name.
Rani Lakshmibai was born on 19th November 1828 to a Marathi Brahmin family in Varanasi. She was named Manikarnika and was nicknamed Manu. When she was four years old, her mother Bhagirathi Sapre died.Her father was Moropant Tambe and he was a courtier and adviser to the Peshwa of Bithur. She spent her childhood in the palace of Bithur.
In the Bithur palace, Manikarnika learned to read and write. She also learned various forms of fighting skills like shooting, horsemanship, fencing, etc, with Nana Sahib and Tatya Tope.
Manikarnika got married to Gangadhar Rao Newalkar, Maharaja of Jhansi, in 1842. His first wife died before having a child. To give a successor to the throne he married Manikarnika. As per custom, after marriage, her name changed from Manikarnika to Lakshmibai.
After marriage, Lakshmibai gave birth to a boy, named him Damodar Rao, but who died after four months. The latter adopted a son named Anand Rao, from Gangadhar Rao’s extended family and renamed him, Damodar Rao.
In the presence of a British political officer, a letter was handed overstating the ownership of the throne. However, Governor-General Lord Dalhousie of British East India Company applied Doctrine of Lapse and refused to recognize Damodar Rao’s claim to the throne since being adopted.
This use of Doctrine of Lapse was a well-planned move by Lord Dalhousie. Under this, any princely state under their territory, which do not have any proper successor, gets attached to British East India Company.Rani Lakshmibai’s appeal against the Doctrine was rejected however she received a pension and allowed to stay in the city palace.
But this Doctrine of Lapse created fear and unrest among the other local rulers and was the major reason for the 1857 mutiny. In 1857, the sepoys in Jhansi mutinied and attacked British residents and killed sixty or them including women and children.
At this time Laxmibai was present in the palace but without any administrative powers. She didn’t know such incident had happened until very late. She was not involved in this massacre in any way, however, Britishers, later on, blamed her for it.
This incident enraged the British and a sense of punishing the guilty was on their mind. Crushing the rebellion would also prove their superiority and control over Indians. So in 1858, General Hugh Rose arrived leading his forces to Jhansi. Sensing that she has been falsely implicated Rani Lakshmibai decided to pick up arms against the British army.
Rani Lakshmibai fought very bravely with the British army along with forces of other rulers in Jhansi. But she has to escape from Jhansi on horseback. She later joined other rebels like Rao Sahib and Tatya Tope at Kalpi. They occupied the town of Kalpi and prepared themselves to defend it. Additional rebel forces joined them. But once again getting defeated, they had to flee.
Together they (Rani of Jhansi, Tantia Tope, the Nawab of Banda, Rao Sahib) reach Gwalior and join hands with Indian forces. During that time Gwalior fort was occupied by them. Jhansi Ki Rani Laksmibai tried to unite all the rebel forces because she can sense that General Rose will soon attack Gwalior. And she will require all the forces to defend it. But she failed to unite them.
In the final battle to defend Gwalior, the battle ofKotah-Ki-Sarai, Rani Lakshmibai got mortally wounded. As per records she was a very skillful fighter and fought very bravely in all the battles. What happened to her body is a question of debate.
Some say Rani Laxmibai’s body was never seen. As per General Rose, she was buried with great ceremony in Gwalior. According to another saying, she never wanted the Britishers to capture even her body, so she requested a hermit to burn it. After her death, some local people cremated her. Though her tomb is in the Phool Bagh area of Gwalior.
Jhansi Ki Rani, Lakshmibai will always be remembered as one of the torch bearers for the independent struggle movement to free India. She was one of the first female rebellion how showed the path to many to follow and placed her name in history as a free soul.
“Bundele Harbolo Ke Munh Humne Suni Kahani Thi,
Khoob Ladi Mardani Woh To Jhansi Wali Rani Thi.”
– Subhadra Kumari Chauhan