Updated June 2, 2023
Rani Lakshmi Bai – The Freedom Fighter
Rani Laxmi Bai, also known as the Rani of Jhansi, was a significant figure in the 1857 Indian Revolt. Rani Lakshmi Bai was born in Varanasi on November 19, 1828. She is also known as one of India’s greatest freedom fighters. After marriage, she was named Manikarnika Tambe, also known as Manu.
Early Life of Rani Lakshmi Bai
Manikarnika also known as Rani Lakshmibai was born on November 19, 1828, in Kashi, Maharashtra, to a Maharashtrian family (now Varanasi). Manikarnika Tambe was her given name, and she was known as Manu. Her father, Moropant Tambe, used to call her Chhabili, which means playful. Her parents were from Tambe village in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district’s Guhagar taluka. While studying, she also received formal martial arts training in horseback riding, shooting, fencing, and mallakhamb. She was more self-sufficient as a child than others her age.
In May 1842, Manikarnika wedded Gangadhar Rao Newalkar, the Maharaja of Jhansi and was later called Lakshmibai (or Laxmibai) in honor of the Hindu deity Devi Lakshmi and following the Maharashtrian tradition of giving women a new name after marriage.
Son and Adopted Son
Rani Lakshmibai gave birth to a son named Damodar Rao in 1851. Due to a chronic illness, the child died within four months. Gangadhar Rao adopted Anand Rao, a child born to his cousin. Damodar Rao was another name for this child. Gangadhar Rao died in 1853, leaving only his wife and adopted son behind. Rani Lakshmibai assumed control of the kingdom.
Meri Jhansi Nahi Dungi
The British had already annexed many Indian states and desired to seize Jhansi. The Governor General of British India at the time was Lord Dalhousie. He issued notices to Rani Lakshmibai, rejecting Damodar Rao’s claim to the throne. They claimed that because Damodar Rao was not Gangadhar Rao’s biological son, he could not claim the throne and that the state of Jhansi now belonged to the British. Against this backdrop, Rani Lakshmibai has to vacate the palace at the Jhansi Fort.
Rani Lakshmibai, on the other hand, was not about to give up easily. She fortified her defenses and expanded her army by recruiting many warriors of the time, including Ghulam Gaus Khan, Khuda Baksh, and Dost Khan. “Meri Jhansi Nahi Dungi,” which means “I will not give up my Jhansi,” was her famous slogan.
First War of Independence
The first War of Independence broke out across the country in 1857, causing widespread unrest. The British diverted their focus from Jhansi to other parts of the country. Rani Lakshmibai used this opportunity to mobilize her forces further.
In 1858, British forces led by Hugh Rose decided to lay siege to Jhansi in the aftermath of the First War of Independence. Rani Lakshmibai and her army were ready to confront the British. On May 23, 1858, Jhansi forces and British troops engaged in a fierce battle. Rani Lakshmibai led from the front and gave the British a hard time in a two-week war. Tatya Tope’s army also joined her forces.
However, her army could not hold out against the British troops, more experienced in battle, and the British captured the Jhansi fort.
Death of Jhansi Ki Rani
On June 17, 1858, Lakshmibai led a fierce battle in Kotah-ki-Serai, near Gwalior’s Phool Bagh, against a squadron of the 8th (King’s Royal Irish) Hussars directed by Captain Heneage. According to some sources, Lakshmibai, dressed in a sawar’s uniform, was killed when a soldier “dispatched the young lady with his carbine.” Other sources claim that the Rani, dressed as a cavalry leader, engaged in a fierce battle. After being injured, Rani Lakshmibai requested to burn her body to prevent the British from capturing it. After she died, several residents of the area cremated her body. Rose declared that Lakshmibai’s ashes were buried “with great ceremony” underneath a tamarind tree at the foot of the Rock of Gibraltar.
- Rani Lakshmi Bai became the ruler of Jhansi at the age of 18. She was given a new name in honor of Goddess Lakshmi.
- In 1942, the Rani Jhansi Regiment was a women’s unit of the Indian National Army.
- Rani Lakshmi Bai’s former residence has been converted into a museum to preserve memory from generation to generation.
- The museum is known as Rani Mahal. Archaeological artworks and sculptures date back to the 9th and 12th centuries.
- Two postage stamps were issued, in 1957, to honor the birth of the rebellion.
- Her tomb is in Gwalior’s Phool Bagh area.
Final Thoughts – Rani Lakshmi Bai
In Indian history, there has never been a woman warrior as brave and mighty as Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi. She died as a martyr in the struggle for Swaraj and the liberation of India from British rule. Rani Lakshmi Bai exemplifies patriotism and national pride.
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