Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi

सिंहासन हिल उठे राजवंशों ने भृकुटी तानी थी,
बूढ़े भारत में  भी आयी फिर से नयी जवानी थी,
गुमी हुई आज़ादी की कीमत सबने पहचानी थी,
दूर फिरंगी को करने की सबने मन में ठानी थी।

चमक उठी सन सत्तावन में, वह तलवार पुरानी थी,
बुंदेले हरबोलों के मुँह हमने सुनी कहानी थी,
खूब लड़ी मर्दानी वह तो झाँसी वाली रानी थी।।

  -सुभद्रा कुमारी चौहान

By the middle of the 19th century, the British had firmly established their rule in India. However, there was wide-spread discontent among the local rulers, the common people, the intellectuals as well as among the soldiers.

This resulted in the War for Freedom in 1857. The British called it the the Indian Mutiny of 1857.

Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi was one of the leading figures in this war against British Colonialism.

Rani Laxmibai was merely eighteen years old when her husband, Gangadhar Rao, the Raja of Jhansi, died. Before his death they had adopted a son, Damodar Rao, after their own son died.  However, after Gangadhar Rao’s death, Governor-General Lord Dalhousie rejected Damodar Rao’s claim to the throne. In March, 1854, he annexed Jhansi and gave Rani Laxmibai a pension of 60,ooo Rupees. She was ordered to vacate the palace at Jhansi fort.

Most of us have read about how Rani Laxmibai declared- “Meri Jhansi Nahi Doongi!”-“I shall not surrender my Jhansi!” We have read about her courage, her determination and her conviction. We have read about how she gave military training to women. It is said that she herself went out to battle with her son tied to her back, and carrying two swords, one in each hand, to cut down the enemy. 

Meanwhile the Soldiers’ Revolt against the British started in May, 1857. Unrest began to spread throughout the country. Revolt broke out against the British at various places and they were forced to concentrate on supressing it. Taking advantage of this situation Rani Laxmibai re-established herself as ruler of Jhansi. She enlisted and trained troops, and prepared for war.

British troops laid seige to Jhansi on March 23, 1858. Rani Laxmibai refused to surrender and the fighting continued for two long weeks. Finally, though, the British gained control of Jhansi. Rani Laxmibai, along with a few of her guards was able to get away. With her adopted son, she escaped to Kalpi, where she joined other Freedom fighters, notably Tatya Tope.

The combined forces advanced into Gwalior, but on 18 June 1858, during the Battle for Gwalior, the Rani was killed. At the young age of 22 years, she died, trying to defend her country from the British oppressors. In the midst of the dark night of slavery, she appeared like a flash of lightning, only to vanish almost immediately.

But her sacrifice was not in vain. Rani Laxmibai was to inspire later generations of freedom fighters. She became an icon of the Indian Independence Movement. The Women’s Regiment of the Indian National Army was named the Rani of Jhansi Regiment.

On this day, her 152nd Death Anniversary, let us remember Rani Laxmibai with admiration and gratitude. Let us remember the freedom fighters of the Great War for Freedom of 1857 and all those those who lived and died for this our country in the turbulent decades afterwards. It is because of the sacrifices they made, that we are able to live in an independent India today.

Let us vow not to squander this freedom, nor slip back into slavery. Let us work to remain independent- not just physically but mentally also. Independent in thought.  Let us look at our country, our history, our philosophy, our heritage- not through the eyes of others, but with our own. Let us stand tall- with pride in ourselves, not always seeking to imitate others. I think that will be a fitting tribute to the memory of freedom fighters like Rani Laxmibai.

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23 thoughts on “Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi”

  1. and most of all Laxmibhai did not look around for who will lead her land. She became the leader.
    She risked social conventions, approvals and “decent” behavior of princely woman of times .
    She did not think mainstream. ( rarely women went out and lead from the front)
    she thought alternatively.
    she did not seek approval.
    She was a stand out than a stand in.

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  2. That was such an apt post for today’s time, when we are have almost squandered away our freedom to corruption, and baseless politics..

    We as a nation come across as a timid follower rather than the leader that we have the potential to be.

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  3. Its about time somebody who thinks like Jhansi ki Rani to free us all from the corrupt society we live ie any where in the world.

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  4. I remember this poem from childhood, the last two lines. Very inspiring. Gets the goose pimples.

    What a time that was and how things have changed. Then an Indian queen fought for dignity and freedom, today Indian ‘princes’ have traded theirs and happily wear bangles in both wrists to please a woman who has taken control of this country like no leader has in free India.

    For this generation the Rani who matters, the one they will look up to, is the one who has defeated everyone without even looking at a sword; there are no mards to challenge her.

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    1. Anrosh– Yes, truly she was a stand out rather than a stand in! In fact I read that she was much more capable a ruler than her husband had been.

      Smitha– It does seem, doesn’t it, that we do not value our freedom- the freedom that so many died to protect!

      Lakshmi– A Jhansi ki Rani must come from amongst us only. Every one has the potential within them, I think- though only a very few know how to realize it!

      Vinodji– Yes, a very inspiring poem!
      Unfortunately, so very true- what you have written about the situation in our country today!

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  5. Oh Rani Lakshmi bai and that poem were the good things we learnt about at school… !!!! 1857 and this heroine from that age had captured our imagination… every brave girl was supposed to be Jhansi ki Rani !!! 🙂

    A lovely post… aptly put ! 🙂

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  6. Manju, if only we had people like this. In fact, we do not want our elected members of parliament to show courage like Rani Laxmibai. We only want them to do their duty. Sincerely and honestly. That’s it. Is that too much to ask for?

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  7. I read about Jhansi Rani Lakshmi Bai in my school, in Kannada. Later on, I saw the Kannada movie on this subject. She was the true leader. When women were not coming out without male escorts, Lakshmi Bai trained the army and fought with the mighty English.

    I didn’t know that now, is her 152nd anniversary. We have nearly forgotten her but hail our corrupt political leaders now.

    ‘The Women’s Regiment of the Indian National Army was named the Rani of Jhansi Regiment.’ I did not know about this too, Manju. Thank you!

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  8. hitchwriter– Yes, the stories about the freedom fighters of 1857, and particularly about Rani Laxmibai, do capture the imagination!

    Radha– Certainly not too much to ask for, but they seem to think that it is!

    Anil– Lovely way to describe it- stirs the soul!

    Roshni– Yes, I liked Anrosh’s comment, too!

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  9. Sandhya– I first read about Rani Laxmibai at school, too. Later I read her biography in and loved it. As you say, we have nearly forgotten her nowadays!

    Pradip Kumar Biswas– I’m glad to see your comment after such a long time. The biography of Rani Laxmibai I have read is in Marathi, but if you google her name there are many sites with information about her.
    The picture of Rani Laxmibai on this post links to a Wikipedia article about her- click on it to go to the article.

    Nimmy– Hi! Good to see you. I’m sorry to not have visited your blog lately. Will do so soon. 🙂

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  10. Thank you Manju,

    I am an admirer of the Rani.
    Please ask your readers to read the book on her by Mahashweta Devi.

    Young women especially nowadays should not waste their time
    with cosmetics and looking like dolls,
    but make their bodies and minds strong like the Rani.

    When people forget Jhansi ki Rani,
    it becomes easy for companies like Union Carbide
    to get away with the chemical genocide in Bhopal.

    Thank you, Manju, for a timely post.

    Like

  11. A poem that as Vinod Sir says still gives one goose pimples.

    Reminds me of this Dushyant Kumar poem

    हो गई है पीर पर्वत-सी पिघलनी चाहिए
    इस हिमालय से कोई गंगा निकलनी चाहिए

    आज यह दीवार, परदों की तरह हिलने लगी,
    शर्त लेकिन थी कि ये बुनियाद हिलनी चाहिए

    हर सड़क पर, हर गली में, हर नगर, हर गाँव में
    हाथ लहराते हुए हर लाश चलनी चाहिए

    सिर्फ हंगामा खड़ा करना मेरा मकसद नहीं,
    सारी कोशिश है कि ये सूरत बदलनी चाहिए

    मेरे सीने में नहीं तो तेरे सीने में सही
    हो कहीं भी आग, लेकिन आग जलनी चाहिए।

    Words if used right can be so powerful…as is evident in the poem by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan written decades back and as evident in your words particularly the last para…

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  12. Thanking you for reminding us about the wonderful Rani.. yes.. how easily we have forgotten the pain and sacrifice that is behind the freedom that we enjoy now.. nd how complacent we have become…

    nd Anrosh’s comment reminds me that the real Indian Woman is far from what we see in and around us… we have become meek too…

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  13. Dear Manju Ji,

    In times of mere tokenism on her name, I thank you for remembering her. But the history is unfairly classified till date. I will give you a clue so you may please understand. In 1880’s, most of the stalwarts of Indian politics used to live in her paternal house at Shanwarpeth, Pune. Search for “Tambe’s Wada” in Google books. It is a gender biased History that we read today. People have not been told about this only because the Ideals of Gandhi would have been difficult to explain in the light of these facts.

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