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Lakshmibai, The Rani (Queen) of Jhansi (c.19 November 1828 – 17 June 1858) (Hindi- झाँसी की रानी Marathi- झाशीची राणी), known as Jhansi Ki Rani, was the queen of the Maratha-ruled princely state of Jhansimarker, was one of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and a symbol of resistance to British rule in India. She has gone down in Indian history as a legendary figure, as India's "Joan of Arc."

Early life

Originally named Manikarnika at birth, she was born to a Maharashtrian Karhade Brahmin family on 19 November 1828 at Dwadashi, District Sataramarker. She lost her mother at the age of four. She was educated at home. Her father Moropant Tambey worked at the court of Peshwa Baji Rao II at Bithur and then travelled to the court of Raja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar, the Maharaja of Jhansi, when Manu was thirteen years old.{{fix
cat=}} She married Gangadhar Rao, the Raja of Jhansimarker, at the age of 14.


After her marriage, she was given the name Lakshmi Bai. Because of her father's influence at court, Rani Lakshmi Bai had more independence than most women, who were normally restricted to the zenana: she studied self defense, horsemanship, archery, and even formed her own army out of her female friends at court.

Rani Lakshmi Bai gave birth to a son in 1851, however this child died when he was about four months old. After the death of their son, the Raja and Rani of Jhansi adopted Damodar Rao. However, it is said that her husband the Raja never recovered from his son's death, and he died on 21 November 1853 of a broken heart.

Because Damodar Rao was adopted and not biologically related to the Raja, the East India Company, under Governor-General Lord Dalhousie, was able to install the Doctrine of Lapse, rejecting Rao's rightful claim to the throne. Dalhousie then annexed Jhansi, saying that the throne had become "lapsed" and thus put Jhansi under his "protection". In March 1854, the Rani was given a pension of 60,000 rupees and ordered to leave the palace at the Jhansi fort.

The Great Rebellion

Rani Jhansi was determined not to give up Jhansi. She strengthened its defences and assembled a volunteer army. Women were also given military training. Rani's forces were joined by warriors including Gulam Gaus Khan, Dost Khan, Khuda Baksh, Lala Bhau Bakshi, Moti Bai, Sunder-Mundar, Kashi Bai, Deewan Raghunath Singh and Deewan Jawahar Singh.

The Great Rebellion of 1857

The Rani donned in war gear
While this was happening in Jhansi, on May 10, 1857 the Sepoy (soldier) Mutiny of India started in Meerut. This would become the starting point for the unpresedented rebellion against the British. It began after rumours were put about that the new bullet casings for their Enfield rifles were coated with pork/beef fat, pigs being taboo to Muslims and cows sacred to Hindus and thus forbidden to eat. British commanders insisted on their use and started to discipline anyone who disobeyed. During this rebellion many British civilians, including women, andchildren were killed by the sepoys. The British wanted to end the rebellion quickly.

Meanwhile, unrest began to spread throughout India and in May of 1857, the First War of Indian Independence erupted in numerous pockets across the northern subcontinent. During this chaotic time, the British were forced to focus their attentions elsewhere, and Lakshmi Bai was essentially left to rule Jhansi alone. During this time, her qualities were repeatedly demonstrated as she was able swiftly and efficiently to lead her troops against skirmishes breaking out in Jhansi. Through this leadership Lakshmi Bai was able to keep Jhansi relatively calm and peaceful in the midst of the Empire’s unrest.

Up to this point, she had been hesitant to rebel against the British, and there is still some controversy over her role in the massacremarker of the British HEIC officials and their wives and children on the 8th June 1857 at Jokhan Bagh. Her hesitation finally ended when British troops arrived under Sir Hugh Rose and laid siege to Jhansi on 23rd March 1858. Rani Jhansi with her faithful warriors decided not to surrender. The fighting continued for about two weeks. Shelling on Jhansi was very fierce. In the Jhansi army women were also carrying ammunition and were supplying food to the soldiers. Rani Lakshmi Bai was very active. She herself was inspecting the defense of the city.She rallied her troops around her and fought fiercely against the British. An army of 20,000, headed by the rebel leader Tatya Tope, was sent to relieve Jhansi and to take Lakshmi Bai to freedom. However, the British, though numbering only 1,540 in the field so as not to break the siege, were better trained and disciplined than the “raw recruits,” and these inexperienced soldiers turned and fled shortly after the British began to attack on the 31st March. Lakshmi Bai’s forces could not hold out and three days later the British were able to breach the city walls and capture the city. Yet Lakshmi Bai escaped over the wall at night and fled from her city, surrounded by her guards, many of whom were from her women’s military.

Along with the young Damodar Rao, the Rani decamped to Kalpimarker along with her forces where she joined other rebel forces, including those of Tatya Tope. The Rani and Tatya Tope moved on to Gwalior, where the combined rebel forces defeated the army of the Maharaja of Gwalior after his armies deserted to the rebel forces. They then occupied the strategic fort at Gwalior. However on the second day of fighting, on 18 June 1858, the Rani died.


She died on 18 June, 1858 during the battle for Gwalior with 8th Hussars that took place in Kotah-Ki-Serai near Phool Bagh area of Gwalior. She donned warrior's clothes and rode into battle to save Gwalior Fortmarker, about 120 miles west of Lucknowmarker in what is now the state of Uttar Pradeshmarker. The British captured Gwaliormarker three days later. In the report of the battle for Gwalior, General Sir Hugh Rose commented that the rani "remarkable for her beauty, cleverness and perseverance" had been "the most dangerous of all the rebel leaders".

However, the lack of a corpse to be convincingly identified as the Rani convinced Captain Rheese of the so called "bravest" regiment that she had not actually perished in the battle for Gwalior, stating publicly that:"[the] Queen of Jhansi is alive!" . It is believed her funeral was arranged on same day near the spot where she was wounded. One of the her maidservants helped with the arrangement of quick funeral.

Because of her bravery, courage, and wisdom, and her progressive views on women's empowerment in 19th century India, and due to her sacrifices, she became an icon of Indian independence movement. The Rani was memorialized in bronze statues at both Jhansi and Gwalior, both of which portray her on horseback.

Her father, Moropant Tambey, was captured and hanged a few days after the fall of Jhansi. Her adopted son, Damodar Rao, was given a pension by the British Raj and cared for, although he never received his inheritance.


Rani Lakshmi Bai became a national heroine and was seen as the epitome of female bravery in India. When the Indian National Army created its first female unit, it was named after her.

Indian poetess Subhadra Kumari Chauhan wrote a poem in the Veer Ras style about her, which is still recited by children in schools of contemporary India.

In a prophetic statement in the 1878 book The History of the Indian Mutiny, Colonel Malleson said "...her countrymen will always believe that she was driven by ill-treatment into rebellion; that her cause was a righteous cause; ..... To them she will always be a heroine."

In fiction

  • La femme sacrée, in French, by Michel de Grèce. A novel based on the Rani of Jhansi's life in which the author imagines an affair between the Rani and an English lawyer.

  • Nightrunners of Bengal by John Masters provides a fictional account of the relationship between a British officer, Rodney Savage, and a rani based on Lakshmi Bai. It was the American Literary Guild's Book of the Month on publication in January 1951, but faced some criticism for perceived political views. It is part of a series of historical novels about a fictional British family serving in India.

  • The Queen of Jhansi, the English translation of Jhansir Rani by Mahashweta Devi. This book is fictional reconstruction of life of Rani Lakshmi Bai and was originally published in Bengali in 1956. ISBN 81-7046-175-8

In film

  • The Tiger and the Flame (1953) was the first technicolor film released in India, directed and produced by Indian filmmaker Sohrab Modi.

The next project is planned as "Zansi ki Rani Laxmibai" to be performed by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.

See also

External links


  1. Barbara N. Ramusack, review of The Rani of Jhansi: A Study in Female Heroism in India, by Joyce Lebra-Chapman, The Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 46, no. 2, (May 1987), 437.
  2. David E Jones, Women Warriors: a History (Brassey’s, 2005), 46.
  3. Rani of Jhansi, Rebel against will by Rainer Jerosch, published by Aakar Books 2007, chapters 5 and 6
  4. Ibid.
  5. David, Saul (2003), The Indian Mutiny: 1857, Penguin, London p367
  6. Ashcroft, Nigel(2009), Queen of Jhansi, Bollywood publishing ltd, Mumbai p.1

Maza Pravas: 1857 cya Bandaci Hakikat (marathi "My journey: the truth about the 1857 rebellion") by Vishnu Bhatt Godse.Amar Balidani by Janki Sharan VermaZila Vikas Pustika, 1996–97, JhansiMeyer, Karl E. and Shareen Blair Brysac. Tournament of Shadows. Washington D.C.: Counterpoint, 1999.

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