"Jhansi Ki Rani" redirects here. For the television series, see Jhansi Ki Rani (TV series).
Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi ( pronunciation (help·info); 19 November 1828 – 18 June 1858), was the queen of the princely state of Jhansi in North India currently present in Jhansi district in Uttar Pradesh, India. She was one of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and became a symbol of resistance to the British Raj for Indian nationalists.
Rani Lakshmibai was born on 19 November 1828 in the holy town of Varanasi into a MarathiBrahmin family.  She was named Manikarnika and was nicknamed Manu. Her father was Moropant Tambe  and her mother Bhagirathi Sapre (Bhagirathi Bai). Her parents came from Maharashtra and was cousin of Nana Sahib. Her mother died when she was four years old. Her father worked for a court Peshwa of Bithoor district who brought up Manikarnika like his own daughter. The Peshwa called her "Chhabili", which means "playful". She was educated at home and was more independent in her childhood than others of her age; her studies included shooting, horsemanship, fencing and Mallakhamba with her childhood friends Nana Sahib and Tatya Tope.
Manikarnika was married to the Maharaja of Jhansi, Raja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar, in May 1842 and was afterwards called Lakshmibai (or Laxmibai) in honour of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. She gave birth to a boy, later named Damodar Rao, in 1851, who died after four months. The Maharaja adopted a child called Anand Rao, the son of Gangadhar Rao's cousin, who was renamed Damodar Rao, on the day before the Maharaja died. The adoption was in the presence of the British political officer who was given a letter from the Maharaja instructing that the child be treated with respect and that the government of Jhansi should be given to his widow for her lifetime. After the death of the Maharaja in November 1853, because Damodar Rao (born Anand Rao) was adopted, the British East India Company, under Governor-General Lord Dalhousie, applied the Doctrine of Lapse, rejecting Damodar Rao's claim to the throne and annexing the state to its territories. When she was informed of this she cried out "I shall not surrender my Jhansi" (Mai meri Jhansi nahi doongi). In March 1854, Lakshmibai was given an annual pension of Rs. 60,000 and ordered to leave the palace and the fort. Rani Lakshmibai has been known to the British most commonly as "the Rani of Jhansi"; in Hindi she is often known as "Jhansi ki Rani".
Rani Lakshmibai was accustomed to riding on horseback accompanied by a small escort between the palace and the temple although sometimes she was carried by palanquin. Her horses included Sarangi, Pavan and Badal; according to tradition she rode Badal when escaping from the fort in 1858. The Rani Mahal, the palace of Rani Lakshmibai, has now been converted into a museum. It houses a collection of archaeological remains of the period between the 9th and 12th centuries AD.
According to a memoir purporting to be by Damodar Rao he was among his mother's troops and household at the battle of Gwalior; together with others who had survived the battle (some 60 retainers with 60 camels and 22 horses) he fled from the camp of Rao Sahib of Bithur and as the village people of Bundelkhand dared not aid them for fear of reprisals from the British they were forced to live in the forest and suffer many privations. After two years there were about 12 survivors and these together with another group of 24 they encountered sought the city of Jhalrapatan where there were yet more refugees from Jhansi. Damodar Rao surrendered himself to a British official and his memoir ends in May 1860 when he has been allowed a pension of Rs. 10,000, seven retainers only, and is in the guardianship of Munshi Dharmanarayan.
Indian Rebellion of 1857 to 1858
May 1857 – July 1857
A rumour that the cartridges' lining for the Enfield rifle supplied by the East India Company to the soldiers in its army contained pork or beef fat began to spread throughout India in the early months of 1857. On 10 May 1857 the Indian Rebellion started in Meerut; when news of this 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 Skene agreed to this. The city was relatively calm in the midst of unrest in the region but the Rani conducted a Haldi Kumkum ceremony with pomp in front of all the women of Jhansi to provide assurance to her subjects, in the summer of 1857 and to convince them that the British were cowards and not to be afraid of them.
Till this point, Lakshmibai was reluctant to rebel against the British. In June 1857, men of the 12th Bengal Native Infantry seized the fort containing the treasure and magazine, and, after persuading the British to lay down their arms by promising them no harm, broke their word and massacred 40 to 60 European officers of the garrison along with their wives and children. Her involvement in this massacre is still a subject of debate. An army doctor, Thomas Lowe, wrote after the rebellion characterising her as the "Jezebel of India ... the young rani upon whose head rested the blood of the slain". Four days 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.
August 1857 – June 1858
From August 1857 to January 1858 Jhansi under the Rani's rule was at peace. 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, commanding the British forces, demanded the surrender of the city; if this was refused it would be destroyed. After due deliberation the Rani issued a proclamation: "We fight for independence. In the words of Lord Krishna, we will if we are victorious, enjoy the fruits of victory, if defeated and killed on the field of battle, we shall surely earn eternal glory and salvation." She defended Jhansi against British troops when Sir Hugh Rose besieged Jhansi on 23 March 1858.
The bombardment began on 24 March but was met by heavy return fire and the damaged defences were repaired. The defenders sent appeals for help to Tantia Tope; an army of more than 20,000, headed by Tantia Tope, was sent to relieve Jhansi but they failed to do so when they fought the British on 31 March. During the battle with Tantia 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 defences 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. "No maudlin clemency was to mark the fall of the city" wrote Thomas Lowe. The Rani withdrew from the palace to the fort and after taking counsel decided that since resistance in the city was useless she must leave and join either Tantia Tope or Rao Sahib (Nana Sahib's nephew).
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 Tantia 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, Tantia 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 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 16 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 afterwards, as she sat bleeding by the roadside, she recognised 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 for India.'
Cultural depictions and statues
Statues of Lakshmibai are seen in many places of India, which show her and her son tied to her back. Lakshmibai National University of Physical Education in Gwalior, Laksmibai National College of Physical Education in Thiruvananthapuram, Maharani Laxmi Bai Medical College in Jhansi are named after her. Rani Lakshmi Bai Central Agricultural University in Jhansi was founded in 2013. The Rani Jhansi Marine National Park is located in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal. A women's unit of the Indian National Army was named the Rani of Jhansi Regiment. In 1957 two postage stamps were issued to commemorate the centenary of the rebellion. The Rani of Jhansi was also depicted in a variety of colonial stereotypes in Victorian novels, which often represented her as a bloodthirsty queen responsible for the massacre of British colonials or even scandalously as a promiscuous woman in relationships with British men. These depictions had more to do with a colonial desire to denigrate the "rebel queen" than with truth. On the other side, Indian representations in novels, poetry, and film tend towards an uncomplicated valorization of Rani Lakshmibai as an individual solely devoted to the cause of Indian independence.
Songs and poems
A number of patriotic songs have been written about the Rani. The most famous composition about Rani Lakshmi Bai is the Hindi poem Jhansi ki Rani written by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan. An emotionally charged description of the life of Rani Lakshmibai, it is often taught in schools in India. A popular stanza from it reads:बुंदेले हरबोलों के मुँह हमने सुनी कहानी थी, खूब लड़ी मर्दानी वह तो झाँसी वाली रानी थी।।
Translation: "From the bards of Bundela we have heard this story / She fought much valiantly, she was the queen of Jhansi. /"
- Flashman in the Great Game by George MacDonald Fraser, a historical fiction novel about the Indian Revolt describing several meetings between Flashman and the Rani.
- La femme sacrée, in French, by Michel de Grèce. A novel based on the Rani of Jhansi's life in which the author imagines an affair between the Rani and an English lawyer. Pocket, 1988, ISBN 978-2-266-02361-0
- La Reine des cipayes, in French, by Catherine Clément, Paris: Seuil, 2012, ISBN 978-2-021-02651-1
- Rani, a 2007 novel in English by Jaishree Misra.
- Nightrunners of Bengal, a 1951 novel in English by John Masters.
- Manu (ISBN 072788073X) and Queen of Glory (ISBN 0727881213), (2011 & 2012) by Christopher Nicole, two novels about Lakshmibai from the time of her marriage until her death during the 'Indian Revolt' as seen and experienced by an English woman companion.
- Rebel Queen: A Novel by Michelle Moran "A Touchstone Book" New York: Simon and Schuster, March 2015
- Seeta: This mutiny novel written by Philip Meadows Taylor in 1872 is showing the admiration of Taylor for the Rani.
- Lachmi Bai, Rani of Jhansi: The Jeanne D’Arc of India: This novel written by Michael White in 1901 depicts the Rani in a romanticised way.
- The Rane: A legend of the Indian Mutiny: In this novel written by Gillean, a British military officer, in 1887 the Rani is shown as an unscrupulous and cruel woman.
- The Queen's Desire: This novel written by Hume Nisbet in 1893 focuses on the Rani's sexuality. However, she does not want to use her sexuality to manipulate the British, but she cannot resist a British officer and consequently falls in love with him.
Film and television
- The Order: 1886, a single-player third-person shooter video game features a fictional version of Rani Lakshmi Bai. In the game, she is the rebel leader fighting the United India Company plotting to rule the world with unethical force.
- The Queen of Jhansi, by Mahasweta Devi (translated by Sagaree and Mandira Sengupta). This book is a reconstruction of the life of Rani Lakshmi Bai from extensive research of both historical documents (collected mostly by G. C. Tambe, grandson of the Queen) and folk tales, poetry and oral tradition; the original in Bengali was published in 1956; the English translation by Seagull Books, Calcutta, 2000, ISBN 8170461758.
- The Rebellious Rani, 1966; by Sir John George Smyth, 1st Baronet.
- "The Rani of Jhansi: Gender, History, and Fable in India," by Harleen Singh (Cambridge University Press, 2014. The book is a study of the many representations of Rani Lakshmibai in British novels, Hindi novels, poetry, and film.
- ^Meyer, Karl E. & Brysac, Shareen Blair (1999) Tournament of Shadows. Washington, DC: Counterpoint; p. 138--"The Rani of Jhansi ... known to history as Lakshmi Bai, she was possibly only twelve in 1842 when she married the .. Rajah of Jhansi ..."
- ^Though the day of the month is regarded as certain historians disagree about the year: among those suggested are 1827 and 1835.
- ^"Who is Manikarnika?".
- ^ abMeyer, Karl E. & Brysac, Shareen Blair (1999) Tournament of Shadows. Washington, DC: Counterpoint; p. 138--"The Rani of Jhansi ... known to history as Lakshmi Bai, she was possibly only fourteen in 1842 when she married the .. Rajah of Jhansi ..."
- ^The 177th anniversary of the Rani's birth according to the Hindu calendar was celebrated at Varanasi in November 2012: "Lakshmi Bai birth anniversary celebrated". Times of India. World News. 13 November 2012. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
- ^Copsey, Allen. "When was she born?". Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi. Retrieved 2014-06-28.
- ^The Forts of Bundelkhand – Page 39 by Rita Sharma and Vijay Sharma
- ^David, Saul (2002) The Indian Mutiny, 1857. London: Viking; p. 350
- ^Allen Copsey (23 September 2005). "Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi – Early Life". Copsey-family.org. Retrieved 7 July 2012. (gives date of birth as 19 November 1835)
- ^Edwardes (1975), p. 115
- ^Later in his life Moropant Tambe was a councillor in the court of Jhansi under his daughter's rule; he was executed as a rebel after the capture of the city."Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi; Victims". Allen Copsey. Retrieved 17 May 2013.
- ^David (2002), p. 350
- ^N.B. Tambe and Sapre are clan names; "Bai" or "-bai" is honorific as is "-ji" the masculine equivalent. A Peshwa in a Maratha state is the chief minister.
- ^Rani Lakshmibai, by Deepa Agarwal, Puffin Books
- ^"Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi; Timeline". Retrieved 3 June 2015.
- ^"Jhansi Lakshmi Bai".
- ^Edwardes, Michael (1975) Red Year. London: Sphere Books, pp. 113–14
- ^N.B. Rao only means "prince"; the maharaja was Gangadhar Newalkar of the Newalkar clan.
- ^Godse, Vishnu Bhatt. "Godse's account". Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi. Allen Copsey. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
- ^The whole memoir was published in Marathi in Kelkar, Y. N. (1959) Itihasachya Sahali ("Voyages in History"). It is likely that this text is a written version based on tales of the prince's life in oral circulation and what actually happened to him remains unknown.
- ^Edwardes, Michael (1975) Red Year. London: Sphere Books, pp. 22–23
- ^Edwardes, Michael (1975) Red Year. London: Sphere Books, p. 115
- ^David E. Jones, Women Warriors: a History (Brassey's, 2005), p. 46.
- ^Vishnubhat Godse Maja Pravas
- ^David, Saul (2002) The Indian Mutiny 1857, London: Penguin, p. 368
- ^"One Indian source [Vishnubhat Godse] alleges that the day before the sepoys mutinied, Skene went to the Rani and asked her to 'take charge of the state'. But there is no supporting evidence. Nor is there any real basis for the assertion that she was involved in conspiracy with the sepoys before they mutinied."--Edwardes Red Year, p. 115
- ^Lowe, Thomas (1860) Central India during the Rebellion, cited in Edwardes, Michael (1975) Red Year. London: Sphere Books, p. 117
- ^Edwardes, Michael (1975) Red Year. London: Sphere Books, p. 118
- ^ abEdwardes, Michael (1975) Red Year. London: Sphere Books, p. 119
- ^Edwardes, Michael (1975) Red Year. London: Sphere Books. p. 117
- ^Edwardes, Michael (1975) Red Year. London: Sphere Books, pp. 117–19
- ^Edwardes, Michael (1975) Red Year. London: Sphere Books, p. 119, citing Vishnubhat GodseMajha Pravas, Poona, 1948, in Marathi; p. 67
- ^Edwardes, Michael (1975) Red Year. London: Sphere Books, pp. 120–21
- ^ abEdwardes, Michael (1975) Red Year. London: Sphere Books, p. 121
- ^The English version of the notice reads: "Rani Jhansi jumped from this place on horseback with her adopted son"
- ^"Jhansi". Remarkable India. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
- ^Rani of Jhansi, Rebel against will by Rainer Jerosch, published by Aakar Books 2007; chapters 5 and 6
- ^Edwardes, Michael (1975) Red Year. London: Sphere Books, pp. 124–25
- ^Gold, Claudia, (2015) "Women Who Ruled: History's 50 Most Remarkable Women" ISBN 978-1784290863 p. 253
- ^David (2006), pp. 351–362
- ^Allen Copsey. "Brigadier M W Smith Jun 25th 1858 to Gen. Hugh Rose". Copsey-family.org. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
- ^David, Saul (2003), The Indian Mutiny: 1857, London: Penguin; p. 367
- ^Ashcroft, Nigel (2009), Queen of Jhansi, Mumbai: Hollywood Publishing; p. 1
- ^Meyer Tournament; p. 145
- ^"The British believed they had found some of her bones at the place where she was said to have been hurriedly cremated by her followers, but this too is open to doubt."--Edwardes Red Year, p. 125
- ^Edwardes Red Year: one of two quotations to begin pt. 5, ch. 1 (p. 111); History of the Indian Mutiny was begun by John Kaye but Malleson both rewrote parts of it and completed the work.
- ^The Rani of Jhansi: Gender, History, and Fable in India (Harleen Singh, Cambridge University Press, 2014)
- ^"Poems of Bundelkhand". www.bundelkhand.in. Bundelkhand.In. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
- ^Chauhan, Subhadra Kumari. "Jhansi ki rani". www.poemhunter.com. Poem hunter. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
- ^Sen, Indrani (2007). "Inscribing the Rani of Jhansi in Colonial 'Mutiny' Fiction". Economic and Political Weekly. 42: 1756.
- ^Sen, Indrani (2007). "Inscribing the Rani of Jhansi in Colonial 'Mutiny' Fiction". Economic and Political Weekly. 42: 1759.
- ^Sen, Indrani (2007). "Inscribing the Rani of Jhansi in Colonial 'Mutiny' Fiction". Economic and Political Weekly. 42: 1757–1758.
- ^Sen, Indrani (2007). "Inscribing the Rani of Jhansi in Colonial 'Mutiny' Fiction". Economic and Political Weekly. 42: 1758–1759.
- Vishnu Bhatt Godse.Maza Pravas: 1857 cya Bandaci Hakikat (Marathi "My journey: the truth about the 1857 rebellion")
- Meyer, Karl E. & Brysac, Shareen Blair. Tournament of Shadows Washington D.C.: Counterpoint, 1999; pp. 138–45.
- Verma, Janki Sharan Amar Balidani
- Zila Vikas Pustika, 1996–97, Jhansi
- Jerinic, Maria (1997). "How we lost the empire: retelling the stories of the Rani of Jhansi and Queen Victoria". In Homans, Margaret; Munich, Adrienne. Remaking Queen Victoria. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521574853.
On June 18th 1858, Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi, one of the most important figures of India's First War of Independence, died while fighting against the British in Gwalior.
India’s freedom struggle had seen many freedom fighters over the years, but the name of Rani Lakshmibai (also known as Laxmibai) stands out among them. Lakshmibai, the Rani of the princely state of Jhansi, was a brave and fearless woman who fought courageously against the British and eventually lost her life in battle on June 18th 1858 in Gwalior.
Lakshmibai was born on November 19th 1828 in Varanasi to Maharashtrian parents, Morapant Tambe and Bhagirath Bai. Lakshmibai was initially named Manikarnika and affectionately called Manu by her parents. Manikarnika lost her mother at the age of four and was raised by her father who worked for a court Peshwa. The Peshwa was very fond of little Manikarnika and used to call her “Chhabili”, which meant playful. As a child, Manikarnika was educated at home and was an incredibly independent child as compared to other children her age. Along with academics, Manikarnika trained in horse rising, shooting at targets using a gun, self defense and archery.
In 1842, Manikarnika was married to the Maharaja of Jhansi Raja Gangadhar Rao and was thereafter named Lakshmibai, a name which would go down in history and earn great respect. In 1851, the couple had a baby boy who they named Damodar Rao, but unfortunately the baby died when he was only four months old. Following the death of their infant son, the Raja and Lakshmibai adopted the son of Gangadhar Rao’s cousin, named Anand Rao (who was renamed Damodar Rao). This adoption was witnessed by a British political officer. Raja Gangadhar Rao also gave a letter to the British officer requesting them to give Lakshmibai the government of Jhansi for the rest of her life.
The Raja died in November 1853 and the British, under Governor General, Lord Dalhousie applied the Doctrine of Lapse, stating that they would not recognize the adopted child as the legal heir of the Raja and would hence annex Jhansi to British territory. In reaction of the unfairness on the part of the British regarding her territory, Lakshmibai consulted a British lawyer and appealed for the hearing of her case in London. This appeal was turned down. The British seized the state jewels of Jhansi and, in 1854, gave Lakshmibai a pension of Rs.60,000 and ordered her to leave her palace and the fort. She moved into a place called Rani Mahal, which has now been converted into a museum.
After being expelled from her palace, Lakshmibai was firm about protecting Jhansi from British annexation. Lakshmibai began securing her position and formed an army of both men and women who were given military training in fighting a battle.
In May 1857, Indian soldiers were livid when they found out that the cartridges supplied to them by the East India Company were being greased with pork and beef fat to keep them dry. Soldiers were required to bite off the paper cartridge containing the gunpowder to load into their rifles. Since pigs are taboo for Muslims and cows sacred to Hindus, the soldiers were extremely unhappy with the East India Company. This eventually led to India’s First War of Independence breaking out on May 10th 1857. This war is also known as the Great Rebellion, the Sepoy Mutiny and the Uprising of 1857, among other names.
When Lakshmibai heard of this uprising, she asked British political officer Alexander Skene if she could arrange for herself a group of armed men for her protection. Skene agreed to Lakshmibai’s demand. Compared to the unrest in the region, Jhansi was comparatively calm. Lakshmibai assured her subjects that all was well and asked them not to fear the British.
Right till January 1858, Jhansi was at peace. When the British finally arrived in Jhansi they discovered that the Jhansi Fort had been well guarded. Sir Hugh Rose, who was commanding the British army, asked for the city to be surrendered with the threat that it would be destroyed. Lakshmibai refused to surrender and went on to defend Jhansi from the British.
The British bombarded the fort on March 24th, but were met with heavy fire in return. Jhansi sent a request to Tatya Tope (a famous Maratha leader in the First War of Independence) for help. An army of 20,000 soldiers headed by Tatya Tope reached Jhansi, but were unable to match up to the British forces. Fighting continued and, when Lakshmibai realized that resistance in Jhansi by her army was not resulting in anything, she decided to leave Jhansi and join forces with Tatya Tope and Rao Sahib (nephew of Nana Sahib, a Maratha aristocrat who led the First War of Independence).
Lakshmibai, along with her son Damodar Rao, escaped from Jhansi one night and reached Kalpi where she joined forces with Tatya Tope. Here, they occupied the town and prepared to defend it. The British attacked Kalpi on May 22nd 1858 and Lakshmibai and Tatya Tope were defeated. The leaders of this resistance, Lakshmibai, Tatya Tope, Rao Sahib and the Nawab of Banda fled to Gwalior where they joined the Indian forces who were guarding the city. Lakshmibai and her team wanted to occupy the Gwalior Fort for its strategic location, but Lakshmibai was unsuccessful in trying to convince the rebel leaders in the area to protect Gwalior against the British.
On June 16th 1858, General Rose’s forces annexed Morar. On June 17th of the same year, near Phool Bagh in Gwalior, British troops under Captain Heneage fought Indian forces being commanded by Lakshmibai as they were trying to leave the area. Lakshmibai dressed as a man in a Sowar’s uniform, completely armed on horseback, with her infant son tied to her back, began attacking the British troops. The British attacked back and Lakshmibai was grievously wounded. Since she did not want her body to be captured by the British she told a hermit to cremate her. Upon her death on June 18th 1858, her body was cremated as per her wishes. Three days after the death of Lakshmibai, the British captured the Fort of Gwalior.
Lakshmibai’s tomb is in the Phool Bagh area of Gwalior. She continues to remain an inspiration to generations of Indians and is remembered for her fearlessness and determination. Even British officer Hugh Rose who had wanted to annex Jhansi described Lakshmibai as “clever and beautiful” and as the “most dangerous of all Indian leaders.”
Lakshmibai's name lives on right till this day and a medical college in Jhansi, the Maharani Laxmi Bai Medical College is named after her. Apart from that, a women’s unit of the Indian Army has been named the Rani of Jhansi Regiment. Lakshmibai has also inspired generations of poets, writers and film makers who have tried to capture the essence of who Lakshmibai really was. The most famous poem composed on the Rani remains the one written by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, titled “Jhansi ki Rani”, which is an extremely moving account of Lakshmibai’s life and her demonstration of courage and how she fought valiantly till the very end.
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