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Holding the horse’s reins in her teeth, flashing the sword with both the hands, the valiant firebrand, legendary heroine, the Goddess of war, and the epitome of female bravery in India, Maharani Lakshmi Bai had been riding away through the ocean of British solders, as if Goddess Durga herself arrived on the earth to demolish the brigade of Demons’. This is not a mare day dream of the patriot Indians, but this was how she fled away from the Gwalior fort when the fort was captured by company regiment. Rani Lakshmi Bai has been established as the icon of Indian independence movement and she is considered to be one of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. She is considered as the embodiment of patriotism. Lakshmi Bai was the queen of a small state, but the empress of a limitless empire of glory. Knowing the thrilling story of womanliness, courage, adventure, deathless patriotism and martyrdom, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, another unforgettable legendary hero of Indian rebellion history, created women brigade of his Indian National Army (INA) and it was named after her ‘The Rani Of Jhansi Regiment’.  Lakshmi Bai lived for only 22 years and seven months; she flashed and disappeared like lightning on a dark night.
Queen of Jhansi in warrior costume
Queen of Jhansi in warrior costume
Painting of Lakshmi the Queen of Jhansi
Painting of Lakshmi the Queen of Jhansi

The History

The maiden name of Maharani Lakshmi Bai was Manikarnika. Her nickname was Manu. She was born on 19 November 1835 at Kashi (previously known as Banaras and now as Varanasi) to a Maharashtrian Karhade Brahmin family. Her father Moropant Tambey was from Dwadashi, District Satara of Maharashtra and worked at the court of Peshwa Baji Rao II at Bithur. Manikarnika lost her mother at the age of four and was educated at home by her father. She was a brave girl since her childhood and practiced horse riding, archery, sword fighting which normally being taught to the boys only. Baji Rao was extremely affectionate to this valiant girl and considered her as one of his children.
At the age of 14 she was married to Maharaja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar , The King of Jhansi. Her father was then given the position of a minister in the court of Raja Bai Gangadhar Rao.
After her marriage, she was given the name Lakshmi Bai. Because of her father's influence at court, Rani Lakshmi Bai enjoyed more independence than most women of that time. She formed her own army out of her female friends at court and from nearby villages.
Rani Lakshmi Bai gave birth to a son in 1851, however this child died when he was about four months old. After the death of their son, the queen and the king of Jhansi adopted a boy named Damodar Rao. However, it is said that her husband the Raja never recovered from his son's death, and he died on 21 November 1853 of a broken heart.
Because Damodar Rao was adopted and not biologically related to the Raja, the East India Company, under Governor-General Lord Dalhousie rejected Damodar Rao's rightful claim to the throne. Dalhousie then annexed Jhansi, saying that the throne had become "lapsed" and thus put Jhansi under his "protection". In March 1854, the Rani was given a pension of 60,000 rupees and ordered to leave the palace at the Jhansi fort. But Lakshmi Bai was determined not to give Jhansi to the hand of East India Company. She started to strengthen her army. Meanwhile on May 10, 1857 the Sepoy (soldier) Mutiny of India started in Meerut. Unrest began to spread throughout India and in May of 1857, the First War of Indian Independence erupted in numerous pockets across the northern subcontinent. East India Company was forced to focus its attentions elsewhere, and Lakshmi Bai was essentially left to rule Jhansi alone. During this time, she proved her qualities and shown her efficiency to lead her troops against skirmishes breaking out in Jhansi. The leadership Lakshmi Bai was able to keep Jhansi relatively calm and peaceful in the midst of the Empire’s unrest.
But those peaceful days were ended when the British troops arrived under Sir Hugh Rose and laid cordon to Jhansi on 23rd March 1858. Maharani Lakshmi Bai decided not to surrender. The fierce fighting continued for about two weeks. Shelling on Jhansi was very severe. The women of Jhansi were also involved in the war by carrying ammunition and supplying foodstuff to the soldiers. Maharani herself was very active. She was keeping her personal vigil on the defense of the city, rallied her troops around her and fought fiercely against the British. A large army of 20,000, headed by the rebel leader Tatya Tope was sent to rescue Jhansi. But before they could reach Jhansi, the well trained and disciplined British army of only 1,540 intensified the attack and Lakshmi Bai was forced to flee away from Jhansi. Rani along with the young Damodar Rao and some of her warrior follower reached Kalpi and joined other rebel forces, including those of Tatya Tope. The Rani and Tatya Tope moved on to Gwalior, where the combined rebel forces defeated the army of the Maharaja of Gwalior after his armies deserted to the rebel forces. They then occupied the strategic fort at Gwalior. However on the second day of fighting, on 18 June 1858, the sole of Maharani Lakshmi was departed from her mortal body while she was fighting with the British in disguise of an ordinary warrior. Her body was not found by the British soldiers and it was believed that a quick funeral was done secretly as per her standing instructions to her close followers. And thus the glorious life of this legendary heroine as well as the glorious era of the Indian rebellion history came to an end.

The TV Serial - Jhansi Ki Rani

Recent trend in the Indian TV serial to glorify the negative characters and exhibition of their repeated victory had made me sick and I was about to take the resolution of not watching any more of those shows. And then incidentally my attention was caught by a show on the name of the great queen of Jhansi. Although the story was not a cent per cent reflection of the history, I found most of the historical characters were portrayed as per their image projected in the Indian history. I became immediately a fan of this show ‘Jhansi Ki Rani’ aired by the TV channel Zee TV.

Ulka Gupta - The Budding Star

It was amazing to watch the role of Manikarnika, the heroine of this show. Ulka Gupta in her early teen is playing this role and each time I watch this show I think that it is not Ulka but Manikarnika herself arrived here from the page of the glorious history book to perform this role. It has been known that she has been trained in horsemanship, archery and sword fighting to play this role in the serial. I respect her dedication and enthusiasm towards the perfection in playing this historical character. I have collected some pictures of Ulka Gupta in the costume of ‘Jhansi Ki Rani’ which I am sharing with all. If anybody can help me in supplying more information and pictures I will be glad to incorporate those in my hub.

Letters of Maharani Lakshmi Bai

Disclaimer

The information, documents and pictures of Maharani Lakshmi Bai have been collected from different books and web sites. Although I personally feel that popularizing the information and documents regarding this great rebellion heroine are the duty of all patriot Indians, I would also respect any views, objection raised by anyone regarding any matter of my hub. 

Actual Photograph of Maharani Lakshmi Bai

Actual Photograph of Maharani Lakshmi Bai
Actual Photograph of Maharani Lakshmi Bai

Ulka Gupta in the costume of Jhansi Ki rani







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