Recently, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister has announced that the Jhansi Railway Station in Uttar Pradesh will be known as Veerangana Lakshmibai Railway Station.
About Rani Lakshmibai
Rani Laxmibai also called the Rani of Jhansi was a pivotal figure in the Indian Revolt of 1857. She is also regarded as one of the greatest freedom fighters of India.
Rani Lakshmibai was born on 19 November 1828 in the town of Varanasi. She was named Manikarnika Tambe and was nicknamed Manu. Her father was Moropant Tambe and her mother Bhagirathi Sapre (Bhagirathi Bai) who hailed from modern-day Maharashtra. At four years old her mother passed away. Her father was the Commander of War under Peshwa Baji Rao II of Bithorr District. She was educated at home, able to read and write, and was more independent in her childhood than others of her age; her studies included shooting, horsemanship, fencing which was in contrast to the cultural expectations for women in Indian society at the time.
- At the age of 14, she was married to the Maharaja of Jhansi, Gangadhar Rao in 1842.
- After her marriage, she was called Laxmibai.
- Her son Damodar Rao was born in 1851. But he died after four months.
- Gangadhar Rao died in 1853. Before he died, he had adopted his cousin’s son Anand Rao, who was renamed, Damodar Rao.
Rani Lakshmi Bai and Doctrine of Lapse
- The Doctrine of Lapse was a policy introduced by Governor-General Lord Dalhousie.
- According to this policy, the adopted son of any Indian ruler had the right to inherit only the private property of the ruler and not the state.
- British had the ultimate power to decide on whether to bestow the state to the adopted son or to bring it under British rule.
- It was mandatory for the ruler to seek permission from the British officers to adopt an heir.
- Since the son of Rani Lakshmi Bai died, Gangadhar Rao adopted his cousin’s son Anand Rao and renamed him as Damodar Rao.
- After the death of Gangadhar Rao, Lord Dalhousie applied Doctrine of Lapse policy on Jhansi and denied Damodar Rao the right to inherit the throne.
- The Rani of Jhansi was given an annual pension of Rs.60000 and was asked to leave the fort.
Rani Lakshmibai: The 1857 Rebellion
On May 10, 1857, the Indian Rebellion started in Meerut. When this news reached Jhansi, Lakshmibai increased her protection and conducted a Haldi Kumkum ceremony to convince her people that the British were cowards and there’s no need to fear them.
In June 1857, the 12th Bengal Native Infantry seized the Star Fort of Jhansi, persuaded British to lay their arms and promised no harm to them, but the Infantry broke their word and massacred the British officers. However, Lakshmibai’s involvement in this incident is still a matter of debate.
Sepoys threatened Lakshmibai to blow up the palace, obtained huge money from Jhansi and left the place after 4 days of this incident.
Orchia and Datia kingdoms tried to invade and divide Jhansi amongst them. Lakshmibai appealed the British government for help but received no reply as the British officials believed that she was responsible for the massacre.
On March 23, 1858, Sir Hugh Rose, the commanding officer of the British forces demanded Rani to surrender the city and warned that if she refused, the city will be destroyed. To this, Lakshmibai refused and proclaimed, ‘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.’
On March 24, 1858, the British forces bombarded the Jhansi. The defenders of Jhansi sent an appeal to Lakshmibai’s childhood friend Tatya Tope. Tatya Tope responded to this request and sent more than 20,000 soldiers to fight against the British Army. However, the soldiers failed to relieve Jhansi. As the destruction continued, Rani Lakshmibai with her son escaped from the fort on her horse Badal. Badal died but the two of them survived.
During this time, she was escorted by her guards– 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 left to Kapli secretly with a handful of guards and joined the additional rebel forces, including Tatya Tope. On May 22, 1858, British forces attacked Kapli and Lakshmibai was defeated.
Rani Lakshmibai, Tatya Tope and Rao Sahib fled from Kapli to Gwalior. The three of them joined the Indian forced defending the city. They wanted to occupy the Gwalior Fort due to its strategic importance. The rebel forces occupied the city without facing any opposition and proclaimed Nana Sahib as Peshwa of Maratha dominion and Rao Sahib as his governor. Lakshmibai was not able to persuade other rebel leaders to defend the force and on June 16, 1858, British forces made a successful attack on Gwalior.
Rani Lakshmibai: Death
On June 17, in Kotah-ki-Serai near the Phool Bagh of Gwalior, the British forces charged the Indian forces commanded by Rani Lakshmibai. The British Army killed 5,000 Indian soldiers. Rani Lakshmibai was unhorsed and was wounded. There are two views on her death: Some people say that she was bleeding on the roadside and upon recognising the soldier fired at him. She was dispatched with his carbine. However, another view is that she was dressed as a cavalry leader and was badly wounded. Rani did not want the British forces to capture her body and told hermit to burn it. Rani Lakshmibai died on June 18, 1858.
- Sir Hugh Rose has commented, “Remarkable for her beauty, cleverness and perseverance, she had been the most dangerous of all the rebel leaders. The best and bravest of all.”
- Rani Laxmibai became a symbol of resistance against British rule for later nationalists in India.
- She will always be remembered as a great martyr who laid down her life for the cause of freedom. She is a symbol of courage, heroism and woman power