(Last Updated on : 26/03/2011)
Lakshmi Bai was the Rani or Queen of Maratha-ruled princely state of Jhansi which is situated on the northern part of India. She was born on 19th November 1835, and died on 17th June 1858. She was considered to be a great barrio before the increasing British rule in India and is respected all over the country as a legendary figure even today. She fought bravely against the British and died in the battle fighting for the cause of freedom of her motherland and her subjects. She was also regarded as one of the most prominent personalities who took part in the first war of independence of India which was started in the year 1857.
Early life of Lakshmi Bai
Lakshmi Bai was born on the 19th of November 1835, at Kasi
to a Maharashtrian Karhade Brahmin
family. The name of her father was Moropant Tabme, who was a court advisor, and her mother was Bhagirathi, who was a scholarly woman. From her childhood, Lakshmi Bai was called Manikarnika and her family members affectionately called her Manu. When she was only four years old, she lost her mother and thus, the sole responsibility of bringing her up fell upon her father. Her father worked in the court of Peshwa Baji Rao II
at Bithur and then he moved to Raja Bai Gangadhar Rao Newalkar`s court at Jhansi
. Raja Bai Gangadhar Rao Newalkar was the Maharaja of Jhansi and Lakshmi Bai`s father moved to his court when she was thirteen years old. Manu got her education at home. Manu was raised by her father in a very unconventional manner by training her to ride horses and elephants and the use of deadly weapons. Manu grew up along with Tantia Tope
and Nana Saheb who also formed a part of the first war of independence.
Marriage of Lakshmi Bai
In the year 1842, Manu or Manikarnika, as Lakshmi Bai was called, got married to the Raja of Jhansi, Gangadhar Rao, when she was just fourteen years old. After marriage, Manu was given the name of Lakshmi Bai. The wedding ceremony of Manu with Gangadhar Rao was held at the Ganesh temple, situated in the old Jhansi city. In the year 1851, she gave birth to a son, however, the child of Lakshmi Bai died when it was only four months old. With the death of the son, Maharaja Gangadhar Rao fell very sick and became weak and thus he along with Lakshmi Bai decided to adopt a child who would be the heir to the throne of Jhansi. They thus adopted Damodar Rao as their son and thus the successor to the throne of Jhansi
. In order to make sure that the British do not object to the authenticity of the adoption, Lakshmi Bai made the adoption ceremony in front of the local British representatives. However, Maharaja Gangadhar Rao never recovered from the trauma of the death of his four month old son and he died on 21st November 1853. At the time of death of Gangadhar Rao, Rani Lakshmi Bai was only 18 years old, but she was very brave and accepted all her responsibilities.
Annexation of Jhansi by the British
With the death of Gangadhar Rao, there was no one to be the successor of the throne of Jhansi except the adopted son Damodar Rao. According to the tradition of the Hindus, Damodar Rao was the rightful heir to the throne of Jhansi, but it was not accepted by the British. Since Damodar Rao was not born to the Maharaja and Maharani of Jhansi, the British East India Company
, under the rule of the then Governor General Lord Dalhousie
, installed the Doctrine of Lapse
over Jhansi and rejected Damodar Rao`s right to the throne. However, Lakshmi Bai approached a British lawyer and took counsel from him and filed a petition to hear her case in London. But the request of the Queen of Jhansi was rejected and the authorities of the British confiscated the state jewels. Then, the Governor General annexed Jhansi and declared that the throne lapsed due to no successor and then kept Jhansi under his rule. In the month of March 1854, Rani Lakshmi Bai was offered a pension of 60,000 rupees and was asked to vacate the palace at the Jhansi fort and was told to live in the Rani Mahal at Jhansi.
Revolt of Lakshmi Bai against the British
The British authorities offered Rani Lakshmi Bai a pension of sixty thousand rupees and asked her to leave the fort of Jhansi after they annexed the kingdom of Jhansi according to the Doctrine of Lapse. As a patriotic woman, the Maharani of Jhansi was determined not to give up her dominion to the British and thus called for an armed force. She was very successful in assembling an army of rebellions including women because of her great leadership quality and patriotic feeling and was supported by several freedom fighters in the form of Khuda Baksh, Dost Khan, Lala Bhau Bakshi, Gulam Gaus Khan, Moti Bai, Kashi Bai, Deewan Raghunath Singh, Deewan Jawahar Singh and Sunder-Mundar. Lakshmi Bai assembled fourteen thousand rebels and formed an army to defend Jhansi from the British.
In the month of March 1858, the British army attacked Jhansi and in order to defend the kingdom of Jhansi the forces of Rani Lakshmi Bai fought back. The fierce war between the patriotic freedom fighters and the British continued for two weeks and Lakshmi Bai tied her son to her back and fought very bravely with two swords in both her hands but unfortunately the Britishers became fortunate to extend their empire. The Rani thus escaped to the fortress of Kalpi
in utter darkness, and in the guise of a man, along with her son Damodar Rao. The rebellious army of the Rani went to Gwalior and there a fierce battle was fought in order to defend the Gwalior Fort
. On the second day of war in Gwalior, the great Rani of Jhansi died in the battle field bravely fighting against the British on the eighteenth of June, 1858. Thus, Lakshmi Bai, the Rani of Jhansi, became great personality and also regarded as the epitome of the bravery of a female in India. There are several poems and stories written on this great freedom fighter and her tale is still proudly narrated in the country.