Rani Lakshmi Bai was one of the leading warriors of the India’s first struggle for independence. A symbol of bravery, patriotism and honour, Rani Lakshmi Bai was born on 19 November 1828 at Poona. Her actual name was Manikarnika. Her father Moropant Tabme was a court advisor, and mother Bhagirathi was a scholarly woman. At a very early age she lost her mother. Her father raised her in an unconventional way and supported her to learn to ride elephants and horses and also to use weapons effectively. She grew up with Nana Sahib and Tatya Tope, who were active participants in the first revolt of independence.
In 1842, Rani Lakshmi Bai got married to Raja Gangadhar Rao who was the Maharaja of Jhansi. After her marriage, she came to be known as Lakshmi Bai. In 1851, she gave birth to a son but unfortunately he died in his fourth month. After this tragic incident, Damodar Rao was adopted by the Maharaja of Jhansi as his son. Moved by the death of his son and his poor health, Maharaja Gangadhar Rao also died on 21 November 1853. When the Maharaja died, Rani Lakshmi Bai was just eighteen years old, but she didn’t lose her courage and took up her responsibility. Lord Dalhousie, the Governor-General of India at that time, was a very shrewd person who tried to take advantage of the misfortune of Jhansi to expand the British Empire. The British rulers did not accept little Damodar Rao, as the legal heir of late Maharaja Gangadhar Rao and Rani Lakshmi Bai. Their plan was to annex Jhansi on the ground that it did not have any legal heir. In March 1854, Rani of Jhansi was granted an annual pension of 60,000 and was ordered to leave the Jhansi fort. She was firm on the decision not to give up the dominion of Jhansi to the British.
For strengthening the defence of Jhansi, Rani Lakshmi Bai assembled an army of rebellions, which also included women. For this great cause she was supported by brave warriors like Gulam Gaus Khan, Dost Khan, Khuda Baksh, Sunder-Mundar, Kashi Bai, Lala Bhau Bakshi, Moti Bai, Deewan Raghunath Singh and Deewan Jawahar Singh. She assembled 14,000 rebels and organised an army for the defence of the city.
In March 1858, when the British attacked Jhansi, Rani Lakshmi Bai’s army decided to fight and the war continued for about two weeks. The army fought very bravely, even though Jhansi lost to the British forces. After a fierce war when the British army entered Jhansi, Rani Lakshmi Bai, tied her son Damodar Rao to her back and fought bravely using two swords in both her hands. She escaped to the fortress of Kalpi under the cover of darkness and was accompanied by many other rebellions. She departed to Gwalior and a fierce battle was fought between the British and the Rani’s army. On the unfortunate day of 17 June of 1858, this great warrior martyred her life for India’s freedom. *
– Femcylopaedia by Kirthi Jayakumar
* Source: Rani Lakshmi Bai