19 November 1828
Rani Laxmibai was born.
On 19 November 1828, the Queen of Jhansi, Rani Laxmibai was born in Varanasi. The Rani of Jhansi was an important part of the Revolt of 1857 and hence, it is necessary to read about her life and role in the Revolt for the UPSC exam modern history segment.
- Rani Laxmibai was born to Marathi parents Moropant Tambe and Bhagirathi Bai. She was named Manikarnika.
- Her father worked for the Peshwa in Bithoor. Her mother passed away when she was just four. Her upbringing was entirely on her father’s shoulders. Even the Peshwa took an interest in her welfare.
- As a child, she was taught horse riding and archery.
- She was married to the Maratha ruler of Jhansi (a princely state in the Bundelkhand region of modern Uttar Pradesh), Raja Gangadhar Rao, when she was 14 years old. Manikarnika was renamed Laxmibai after her marriage.
- The couple had a son in 1851 who was named Damodar Rao. He, however, died after 4 months.
- Gangadhar Rao, before his death, adopted a relative’s son Anand Rao and renamed him Damodar Rao.
- He also sent a letter to the British requesting for the fair treatment of his son and the Rani after his demise. He also stated in the letter that the administration of the state be handed over to Laxmibai.
- But the British used the infamous Doctrine of Lapse and sought to annex Jhansi after Gangadhar Rao’s death in 1853. They stated that as per the doctrine, since the ruler did not have a natural heir, the company would get Jhansi. They rejected the adopted son’s right to the throne.
- In March 1854, the Rani was granted an annual pension of Rs.60000 and ordered to relinquish the palace and the fort.
- The Revolt of 1857 catapulted Rani Laxmibai into the forefront of all action. During this time, she had written a letter to a British official asking permission to have a force of armed men for her protection. This was agreed to by the official, Captain Skene.
- In June 1857, a mutinying infantry stationed at the Jhansi Fort seized the Fort and massacred about 60 Europeans and their families. After this, Rani Laxmibai assumed the administration of Jhansi as there was no other authority.
- She wrote a letter to Major Erskine expressing her regret at the killing of British civilians.
- She requested help from the British when the forces of Orchha and Datia invaded Jhansi.
- Help did not arrive and the Rani prepared for battle by setting up a foundry to cast cannon and also gathered more forces.
- British arrived at Jhansi on March 24, 1858 with the intention of capturing it.
- The British commander Sir Hugh Rose demanded that the city surrender to them.
- Rani Laxmibai decided to stay put and fight to get rid of British control. She 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”.
- There was fierce fighting between the forces of Jhansi and the English. Despite getting help from Tantya Tope and his men, the British forces overtook the queen’s army. The city fell on 2 April. The British took revenge for the 60 people killed earlier by massacring about 5000 people of the city, most of whom had nothing to do with the massacre.
- According to tradition, the Rani tied her infant son on her back and jumped from the fort on her horse Badal.
- She and a few guards escaped to Kalpi where she was joined by Tantia Tope. The British attacked Kalpi on 22 May, and the city was defended by the Rani herself. The British, however, managed to capture it. Laxmibai along with Tope and others had to leave for Gwalior. They occupied the Gwalior Fort unopposed.
- But on 17 June 1858, a troop of the 8th Hussars engaged the Indian contingent commanded by Rani Laxmibai at Kotah-ki-Serai in Gwalior.
- Here, the valiant young queen dressed up as a sowar and attacked the enemy soldiers. On 18 June 1858, amidst the fighting, she was dismounted and wounded when a soldier killed her with his carbine.
- Rani Laxmibai, martyred at 30 years of age, is remembered as a symbol of Indian resistance to British rule and also of courage and bravery. Rani of Jhansi inspired many later national leaders in their struggle for independence.
- Sir Hugh Rose had remarked in his report of the battle that the Rani was ‘personable, clever and beautiful’, and also ‘the most dangerous of all Indian leaders’.
- Colonel Malleson in his ‘The History of the Indian Mutiny’ published in 1878 wrote, ‘Whatever her faults in British eyes may have been, her countrymen will ever remember that she was driven by ill-treatment into rebellion, and that she lived and died for her country, We cannot forget her contribution for India.’
Also on This Day
1917: Birth of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. 2001: The first World Toilet Day officially declared by the UN.
See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.