Rani Lakshmi Bai was the queen of the princely state of Jhansi, which is located on the northern side of India in UP. She was one of the leading personalities of the first war of Independence that started in 1857. The name of Rani Lakshmi Bai will be immortal in the history of India. She was considered as the heroine of India’s war of Independence. Her struggle against the British is legendry. She was a true patriot and full of self-respect. She was born on the 19th of November 1835 in the town of Bithur. Her parents were Moropanth and Bhagirathibai. Manikarnika or Manu as she was named at birth, lost her mother at the age of four, Manu was brought up by her father. With education, she also learned skills like sword fighting, horse riding, and using a gun.
She was married to Gangadhar Rao, the king of Jhansi at the tender age of eight. Thus, she became the Rani of Jhansi. Jhansi is now the district in Uttar Pradesh. There was a treaty between the British and the Raja of Jhansi. One being that if the British needed any help then Jhansi would help them and the other being that the British decide who would be the ruler of Jhansi. On 21st November 1853, Lakshmi’s husband and the only son died. During that period, Lord Dalhousie was the Governor-General of British India. The adopted child was named Damodar Rao. As per the Hindu tradition, he was their legal heir. However, the British rulers refused to accept him as the legal heir. As per the Doctrine of Lapse, Lord Dalhousie decided to seize the state of Jhansi.
Rani Lakshmi Bai went to a British lawyer and consulted him. Thereafter, she filed an appeal for the hearing of her case in London. But, her plea was rejected. The British authorities confiscated the state jewels. Also, an order was passed asking the Rani to leave the Jhansi fort and move to the Rani Mahal in Jhansi. Lakshmi Bai was firm about protecting the state of Jhansi. Jhansi became the focal point of the uprising. Rani of Jhansi began to strengthen her position. By seeking the support of others, she formed a volunteer army. The army not just consisted of the menfolk, but the women were also actively involved. Women were also given military training to fight the battle. In the revolt, Rani Lakshmi Bai was accompanied by her generals.
Rani Lakshmi Bai prepared herself well for this fight for freedom. She used to set out on horseback, attired like a man with a metal helmet with a flowing turban, a protective plate bound to the chest, pyjamas, and a sash over them. With weapons like pistols and daggers, Rani was now ready for battle against the British. From the period between Sep-Oct 1857, Rani defended Jhansi from being invaded by the armies of the neighboring rajas of Orchha and Datia. In January 1858, the British army headed its way towards Jhansi. The conflict went for two weeks. Finally, the Britishers succeeded in the annexation of the city. However, rani Lakshmi Bai managed to escape along with her son, in the guise of a man.
She took refuge in Kalpi. She then attacked the Gwalior fort and the Raja later surrendered. The British army then attacked the fort of Gwalior. Rani and her army fought courageously but got defeated. Rani Lakshmi Bai sustained many injuries. She died on 17th June. It is believed that when she was lying unconscious on the battlefield, a Pandit found her and brought her to an ashram, where she died. For her immense effort, she is referred to as the ‘Icon of Indian Nationalist Movement’. Her story became a beacon for the upcoming generations of freedom fighters.
A lot of literature has been written on the life history of Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi. Heroic poems have been composed in her honor. Rani Lakshmi Bai became a national heroine and is a perfect example of female bravery. When the Indian National Army formed its first female unit, it named the Unit after her. Indian poetess Subhadra Kumari Chauhan wrote a poem in the Veer Ras style about her, while is still recited by children in schools all over India. The Rani of Jhansi was immortalized in bronze statues both at Jhansi and Gwalior.