Lakshmibai, the queen of Maratha-lead princely state of Jhansi is a legendary figure who was one among the major leaders of the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
She was a great freedom fighter and the heroine of the first war of Indian Freedom. She is known for her stern resistance to British rule.
Lakshmibai was born on 19th November 1828 in Varanasi into a Brahmin family and was named Manirkarna or Manu (nickname) .Her parents, Moropant Tambe(father) and Bhagirathibai Tambe(mother) came from Maharashtra. Her mother died when she was four and her father worked for a court in Peshawar of Bithoor district.
Later on he moved to the court of Raja Gangadhar Rao, the Maharaja of Jhansi, when Manu was 13. A year later, she was married to Gangadhar Rao at the age of 14 and was named Lakshmibai.
Lakshmibai’s child died at 4 months and Damodar Rao was the adopted child, but the British rulers failed to accept them as legal heir. On consultation of a British lawyer, Lakhsmibai filed an appeal for hearing of the case but the plea was rejected and the state jewels confiscated. An order was passed asking Rani to leave Jhansi fort and move to the Rani Mahal in Jhansi, but Lakshmibai was firm about protecting the state.
Lakhsmibai studied self defense, horsemanship, archery, and even formed her own army out of her female friends at court. Lakshmibai’s husband Raja Rao died on 21 November 1853 unable to recover from the death of their own son.
A major unrest began to spread throughout the country and the First war of Indian Independence erupted in May 1857. While British focused on other parts of the northern subcontinent with chaos all around, Lakshmibai got the opportunity to rule Jhansi alone.
Lakshmibai led her troops swiftly and efficiently against skirmishes breaking out in Jhansi and was able to keep a peaceful state in Jhansi in the environment of unrest.
The Rani of Jhansi has also sometimes been called the “Joan of Arc” of the Indian independence struggle. Her hesitation to rebel against the British finally ended when British troops arrived under Sir Hugh Rose and tried to capture Jhansi on 23rd March 1858. Rani Jhansi accompanied by her faithful warriors decided not to surrender. She rallied her troops around her and fought fiercely against the British. The rebel leader Tatya Tope, heading an army of 20000 was sent to relieve Jhansi and to free Lakshmibai. British soldiers were better trained and equipped and just 3 days after the attack, British captured the city and Lakshmibai fled from her city.
Rani and Tantya also defeated the army of the Maharaja of Gwalior with their combined rebel forces. On 18 June 1858, the Rani died after jumping her horse from a point on the wall to the ground known as the Jumping point. She donned warrior’s clothes and rode into battle to save Gwalior Fort. The British captured Gwalior three days later.