In a world filled with male rulers, characters, and other figures it is a very unique and distinctive thing to read about a woman who single-handedly and bravely fought for her kingdom, self-respect, husband and the People of her kingdom. She was born into a Marathi Brahmin family and her nickname was Manu. Her parents came from Maharashtra and had their linkage with Nana Sahib and it is said that they both were cousins. Her father Moro Pant Tambe vault in the court of Bithoor district for the Peshwa of Bithoor. Peshwa was an honest man and he brought up Manikarnika like his own daughter, given her gleeful, jovial, playful and notorious personality the Peshwa called her Chabeli, which means playful in English.
Just like others she was educated at home, during that time education was scarce and schools only allowed male participants so it became very hard for a girl child to obtain education in any manner but given Lakshmibai's background and the acceptance level of her parents, they were very supportive of her education. Manu was more independent in her childhood than any other child of that age, it is fascinating to know that her studies included activities such as shooting, horsemanship, fencing and Mala Khamba and she practised it with childhood friends Nana Sahib and Tantia Tope. Manikarnika had a very bold upbringing because her mother died when she was of four years and her father was left with a fierce child-like Manikarnika.
Manikarnika's own life has been very disruptive and filled with ups and downs, she was married to the maharaja of Jhansi, Raja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar in May 1842. She gave birth to a baby boy who was named Damodar Rao in 1851 but sadly he died four months after his birth, the maharaja then decided to adopt a child called Anand Rao who was the son of Gangadhar Rao's cousin, he was renamed Damodar Rao one day before the maharaja died. This period was a very crucial time because Damodar was adopted so the British East India Company, which during that time was under Governor-General Lord Dalhousie, applied the doctrine of lapse which basically rejected Damodar Rao’s claim to the throne and annexing the state to its territories, when this news reached Lakshmibai she swore that she will not surrender Jhansi at any cost, her exact words were “I shall not surrender my Jhansi'' (Main meri Jhansi nahi doongi). The Rani Mahal, the palace of Rani Lakshmibai which is now converted into a museum, houses a collection of archaeological remains of the period between the 9th and 12th centuries AD.
About Rani Lakshmi Bai
Rani Lakshmibai, 19 November 1835 – 17 June 1858, popular as Jhansi Ki Rani, was the queen of the Maratha-ruled lordly state of Jhansi, one of the prominent figures of the Indian Revolt of 1857, and an icon of resistance to British India. Jhansi Rani's original name was Manikarnika Tambe but, in Indian history as a legendary figure, as the Indian 'Joan of Arc.' Her name was Manikarnika. Lovingly, her family members called her Manu. At the young age of 4, she lost her mother. As a result, her father was responsible for raising her. Although completing her studies, she also received training in martial arts, including horse riding, shooting.
Life of Lakshmi Bai
Lakshmi Bai, raised in the family of the Peshwa Baji Rao II, had an unusual childhood for a Brahman child. Growing up with the boys in the Peshwa court, she was educated in martial arts and became an expert in sword fighting and riding. She got married to the Maharaja of Jhansi, Gangadhar Rao, but she was widowed without a surviving heir to the throne. Following the existing Hindu tradition, the Maharaja adopted a boy as his heir just before his death. Lord Dalhousie, the British governor-general of India, declined to acknowledge the adopted heir and annexed Jhansi in compliance with the doctrine of lapse. The East India Company representative was placed in the small kingdom to take care of administrative duties.
Rule & Revolt of Lakshmi Bai
The 22-year-old queen refused to hand over Jhansi to the British. Shortly after the start of the rebellion in 1857, which erupted out in Meerut, Lakshmi Bai was declared ruler of Jhansi and became Jhansi ki rani Lakshmi bai. She ruled on behalf of a minor heir. Leading the British rebellion, she quickly organized her troops and took command of the Bundelkhand area rebels. Mutineers in the nearby areas moved towards Jhansi to give their support.
With Gen. Hugh Rose, the East India Company had begun its counter-offensive in Bundelkhand by January 1858. Moving forward from Mhow, Rose caught Saugor (now Sagar) in February and then shifted to Jhansi in March. The forces of the company surrounded the fort of Jhansi, and a furious war raged. Offering tough resistance to the invaders, Queen of Jhansi didn’t give up even after her forces were outnumbered. The rescue army of Tantia Tope, another rebel leader, was beaten in the Battle of Betwa. With a small force of palace guards, Lakshmi Bai managed to flee from the fort and went east, where other rebels joined her.
Death of Rani Lakshmi Bai
Tantia Tope and Lakshmi Bai launched a successful attack on the city fortress of Gwalior. The treasury and arsenal were confiscated, and Nana Sahib, a popular chief, was proclaimed the Peshwa (ruler). After taking Gwalior, Lakshmi Bai marched east to Morar to face a British counterattack led by Rose. Dressed as a man, she fought a furious battle and was killed in battle. It is assumed that her funeral was held on the same day near the place where she was injured. One of her maids helped to organize a fast funeral. Her father, Moropant Tambey, was hanged a few days after Jhansi's fall. Her adopted son, Damodar Rao, received a grant from the British Raj and was provided for, although he never got his inheritance.
Because of her strength, courage, and intelligence, her progressive vision of the liberation of women in India in the 19th century, and her sacrifices, she became a symbol of the Indian independence movement. The Rani was commemorated in bronze sculptures in both Jhansi and Gwalior, both portraying her on horseback.
In contemporary social norms struggling with illiberal conceptions of gender inequality, Rani was inventively educated as a woman who can read the scriptures and handle a sword of equal strength as a man. In opposing the British Rule of Lapse, she did more than fight for Jhansi at first, tentatively and finally unbendingly. She fought for the right of an adopted child, the right of a woman to rule the kingdom while her chosen heir was a minor, the right of women to wear uniforms in war, the freedom to live and rule instead of becoming sati, the right of each and every 'citizen' of her empire, female or male, Muslim or Hindu, or otherwise, to participate in the battle for independence. Her dedication to a national agenda that only came together and was seeded beyond her dominion; for heading her army of men and women with exemplary courage; for giving rise to a triumphant feminist ideology; for mobilizing her army with unity. She's going to stay forever in the History of the National Movement.
Other lesser-known facts
She was excellent at horseback riding and had full training.
It is said that not wishing the British to capture her body she asked somebody else to cremate her or bury her body by the locals of that area.
In her early childhood, she was very notorious and playful hence the name Chabili was given to her by Peshwa of Bithoor.
Lakshmibai's palace which is famously known as the Rani Mahal has been turned into a museum so that it is easily accessible by people from all across to fitness the most legendary woman of all times.
Two postage stamps were introduced or issued in 1957 to honour the birthday of the rebellion.