Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi (19 November 1828 – 18 June 1858), was the queen of the princely state of
Jhansi in North India currently present in Jhansi district in Uttar Pradesh, India.
She was one of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857
and became a symbol of resistance to the British Rajfor Indian nationalists.
Rani Lakshmibai was born on 19 November 1828 in the holy town of Varanasi into a Marathi Brahmin family.
She was named Manikarnika and was nicknamed Manu. Her father was Moropant Tambe and her mother Bhagirathi Sapre
(Bhagirathi Bai). Her parents came from Maharashtra and was cousin of Nana Sahib.
Her mother died when she was four years old.
Her father worked for a court Peshwa of Bithoor district who brought up Manikarnika like his own daughter.
The Peshwa called her "Chhabili", which means "playful".
She was educated at home and was more independent in her childhood than others of her age; her studies included shooting,
horsemanship, fencing and mallakhamba with her childhood friends Nana Sahib and Tatya Tope.
Manikarnika was married to the Maharaja of Jhansi, Raja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar, in May 1842
and was afterwards called Lakshmibai (or Laxmibai) in honour of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi.
She gave birth to a boy, later named Damodar Rao, in 1851, who died after four months.
The Maharaja adopted a child called Anand Rao, the son of Gangadhar Rao's cousin, who was renamed Damodar Rao
After the death of the Maharaja in November 1853, because Damodar Rao (born Anand Rao) was adopted,
the British East India Company, under Governor-General Lord Dalhousie, applied the Doctrine of Lapse,
rejecting Damodar Rao's claim to the throne and annexing the state to its territories.
When she was informed of this she cried out "I shall not surrender my Jhansi" (Mein meri Jhansi nahi doongi).
In March 1854, Lakshmibai was given an annual pension of Rs. 60,000 and ordered to leave the palace and the fort.
Rani Lakshmibai has been known to the
British most commonly as "the Rani of Jhansi"; in Hindi she is often known as "Jhansi ki Rani.
Rani Lakshmibai was accustomed to riding on horseback accompanied by a small escort between the
palace and the temple although sometimes she was carried by palanquin.
Her horses included Sarangi, Pavan and Badal; according to tradition she rode Badal when escaping from the fort in
1858. The Rani Mahal, the palace of Rani Lakshmibai, has now been converted into a museum.
It houses a collection of archaeological remains of the period between the 9th and 12th centuries AD.
Beginning of the Rebellion
On 10 May 1857 the Indian Rebellion started in Meerut.
When news of the fighting reached Jhansi, the Rani asked the British political officer, Captain Alexander Skene,
for permission to raise a body of armed men for her own protection; Skene agreed to this.
The city was relatively calm in the midst of the regional unrest, but the Rani conducted a Haldi Kumkum ceremony
with pomp in front of all the women of Jhansi to provide assurance to her subjects,
in the summer of 1857 and to convince them that the British were cowards and not to be afraid of them.
Siege of Jhansi
From August 1857 to January 1858 Jhansi under the Rani's rule was at peace.
The British had announced that troops would be sent there to maintain control but the fact that none
arrived strengthened the position of a party of her advisers who wanted independence from British rule.
When the British forces finally arrived in March they found it well-defended and the fort had heavy guns which
could fire over the town and nearby countryside. Sir Hugh Rose, commanding the British forces,
demanded the surrender of the city; if this was refused it would be destroyed.
After due deliberation the Rani issued a proclamation: "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."
She defended Jhansi against British troops when Sir Hugh Rose besieged Jhansi on 23 March 1858.
Flight to Gwalior
The leaders (the Rani of Jhansi, Tantia Tope, the Nawab of Banda, and Rao Sahib) fled once more.
They came to Gwalior and joined the Indian forces who now held the city (Maharaja Scindia having fled to Agra
from the battlefield at Morar). They moved on to Gwalior intending to occupy the strategic Gwalior Fort and
the rebel forces occupied the city without opposition. The rebels proclaimed Nana Sahib as Peshwa of a revived
Maratha dominion with Rao Sahib as his governor (subedar) in Gwalior. The Rani was unsuccessful in trying to persuade
the other rebel leaders to prepare to defend Gwalior against a British attack which she expected would come soon.
General Rose's forces took Morar on 16 June and then made a successful attack on the city.
On 17 June in Kotah-ki-Serai near the Phool Bagh of Gwalior, a squadron of the 8th (King's Royal Irish)
Hussars, under Captain Heneage, fought the large Indian force commanded by Rani Lakshmibai which was trying to leave
the area. The 8th Hussars charged into the Indian force, slaughtering 5,000 Indian soldiers, including any Indian
"over the age of 16". They took two guns and continued the charge right through the Phool Bagh encampment.
In this engagement, according to an eyewitness account, Rani Lakshmibai put on a sowar's uniform and attacked one
of the hussars; she was unhorsed and also wounded, probably by his sabre. Shortly afterwards, as she sat bleeding by
the roadside, she recognised the soldier and fired at him with a pistol, whereupon he "dispatched the young lady with
According to another tradition Rani Lakshmibai, the Queen of Jhansi, dressed as a cavalry leader, w
as badly wounded; not wishing the British to capture her body,
she told a hermit to burn it. After her death a few local people cremated her body.