On the 161st death anniversary of Rani Lakshmibai, it is worth commemorating the iconic female warrior who bolstered the 1857 mutiny against the British rule. The colonial regime, then led by the East India Company, faced one of its most stringent contest in the princely state of Jhansi, where the Queen fought with all her might to save the empire from falling into colonial hands. Did You Know the Indian Rebellion of 1857 Was Started on May 10 by Mangal Pandey?
Who Was Rani Lakshmibai?
Born as Manikarnika Tambe on November 19, 1828 in Varanasi, she was the daughter of Moropant Tambe and his wife Bhagirathi Sapre. The latter died while Manikarnika was merely four years old. It was Moropant, an adviser in the Court of Peshwa, who raised her up.
Living with her father allowed Lakshmibai to learn horsemanship, archery, self-defense, and shooting from a very early age. At the age of 14, she got married to Gangadhar Rao Newalkar, the Maharaja of Jhansi. Following her wedding, she was awarded the title of 'Rani Lakshmibai'.
In 1851, the couple gave birth to a boy -- considered to be the heir-apparent to the kingdom of Jhansi. The child, however, died within four months of being born.
Considering the necessity of a heir to Gangadhar, Rani Lakshmibai adopted his cousin's son Anand Rai, and named him Damodar.
Soon thereafter, in 1853, Gangadhar died leaving Jhansi without a king. While Damodar was appointed as the next ruler, the East India Company applied the the Doctrine of Lapse, which allowed the colonial regime to annex princely states where rulers had died without his own male offspring.
The Britishers took over Jhansi and gave Lakshmibai a pension of Rs 60,000. Although she left the kingdom at the moment, the Rani of Jhansi had planned to regroup the loyal commanders and soldiers of the erstwhile empire.
In 1858, months after the mutiny against East India Company had broke out, Lakshmibai with support of Tantia Tope and Nana Sahib launched an attack on the British forces in Jhansi region.
The valour which she fought has earned her the recognition of the "brave queen" of Jhansi. Although she fall short of reclaiming the empire, her rebellion sent a strong message to the colonial powers.
Lakshmibai, to this day, serves as an inspiration as she died fighting the oppressive regime rather than fleeing the battlefield. Despite facing a certain death, she put a resilient fight. She was finally killed on June 18, 1858 in Gwalior.