One of the greatest freedom fighters of the country, Rani Laxmi Bai, also known as ‘Jhansi ki Rani’, is an icon for women empowerment. She has gone down in Indian history as a legendary figure and her grit and determination were second to none. Popularly known as India’s ‘Joan of Arc’, she was renowned as one of the leading personalities of the India’s first war of Independence. Laxmibai fought valiantly against the British and left a path-breaking impact on Indian history.
Here is a compilation of some facts about the first woman martyr of India that every patriot must know.
1. Born on 19 November, 1828 in Varanasi into a Marathi Karhade Brahmin family
The exact date of birth of Lakshmi Bai is still a topic of debate.
2. Her parents called her ‘Manikarnika’
She was named Manikarnika Tamba and was fondly called ‘Manu’. Her mother was Bhagirathi Sapre and her father Moropant Tambe worked in the court of Bajirao II, the Peshwa of Bithoor.
3. Manikarnika lost her mother when she was only four years old.
4. Rani Lakshmibai parents were cousin of Nana Sahib.
5. Brought up in the Palace of the Peshwa
Peshwa Bajirao II treated her as his own daughter and fondly called her “Chabbili”, which means ‘playful one’.
6. A very unusual upbringing for a Brahmin Girl
Growing up with Nana Sahib and Tatya Tope, she got training in martial arts, sword fighting and horse riding and became proficient in them. She was more independent than other girls of her age, due to her unconventional upbringing.
7. She was very accustomed to riding horses
Even while moving in between the Palace and the Temple, she preferred riding a horse than using a Palki.
8. Her horses included Sarangi, Pavan and Baadal
In 1858 she rode Badal to escape from the fort.
9. It was after her marriage, that she got her new name ‘Lakshmi Bai’.
At the age of 14, in May 1842, she got married to the Raja of Jhansi, Gangadhar Newalkar. Her name was changed in honor of Goddess Lakshmi.
10. Her first born could not survive his infancy
In 1851, Lakshmi Bai gave birth to a boy who was named Damodar Rao. When he was just four months old, he unfortunately passed away.
11. Adopted Anand Rao, the son of Gangadhar Rao’s cousin
Two years later she adopted Anand Rao, son of Gangadhar Rao’s cousin, as her own son. A day before the demise of Raja Gangadhar Rao, he was renamed Damodar Rao.
12. Did not accept the British ‘Doctrine of Lapse’
The then British Governor General of India, Lord Dalhousie, did not recognize her adopted son as the heir and enforced the Doctrine of Lapse to annex Jhansi. Rani Lakshmi Bai revolted against this and cried out “Main Meri Jhansi Nahi Dungi” (I will not surrender my Jhansi). She took reins of Jhansi in her own hands and protected the city.
13. Declared war against the British to defend Jhansi
Determined not to give up the dominion of Jhansi, she gave a tough fight to the British during the two weeks siege of the city. She strapped her little son Damodar Rao, on her back and fought with swords in both her hands.
14. Commander of the British force Hugh Rose remarked that the “she is the most dangerous of all Indian leaders”
He also described Lakshmi Bai as “Queen is personable, clever and beautiful”.
15. Fought like a soldier and died like one
On June 17, 1858, while bravely fighting the British squadron in Gwalior, Rani Lakshmi Bai attained martyrdom in the battlefield. Dressed as a cavalry leader, she was badly wounded during the battle.
16. Asked a hermit to burn her body
It is said that she did not want the British to capture her body and hence asked a hermit to burn her body. A few locals cremated her body in Phool Bagh.
17. Praised even by the British, for her bravery
Twenty years after her death, Colonel George Bruce Malleson, a British officer and author praised her patriotism and bravery. In his book ‘History Of The Indian Mutiny’ volume 3, 1878, he 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.”
18. Commemorating the Brave Queen
Her heroic deeds inspired many generations in the coming times. In 1942 a women’s unit of Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauj) was named ‘Rani Jhansi Regiment’. In 1957 two postage stamps were also issued to commemorate the centenary of the rebellion.
19. Rani Lakshmi Bai’s palace has been converted to a Museum
Rani Mahal, as it is called, now houses archaeological artworks and sculptures of the period between 9th and 12th century.
20. Cultural depictions and statues
Statues of Rani Lakshmibai can be seen in many places of India. Maharani Laxmi Bai Medical College in Jhansi, Lakshmibai National University of Physical Education in Gwalior, Laksmibai National College of Physical Education in Thiruvananthapuram are named after her.
21. Biographical Film on The Rani
A Bollywood movie titled ‘Manikarnika : The Queen of Jhansi’ is released in January 2019. The film stars Kangana Ranaut in the title role.
On 23 March 1858, though Sir Hugh Rose may have forced Jhansi to surrender but the spirit of courageous ruler and a gallant fighter, Rani Lakshmi Bai would always be a symbol of women liberation and courage.