LION LADY LAKSHMI BAI RANI OF JHANSI
Said Mahatma, “Women are not the weaker sex!” Perhaps he had read tales about many warrior women like, Razia Sultana, Rani Chennamma and Rani of Jhansi, Lakshmi Bai, who fought against the warped justice of the British.
Rani of Jhansi, Lakshmi Bai, formerly known as Manikarnika, fondly called as Manu, was born in 1830 in a wealthy Brahmin family. Apart from studies, at an early age she was trained in horse riding, fencing and other martial arts. At 17, she got married to the Maharaja of Jhansi, Raja Gangadhar Rao, aged 57 years, then. It was he who named her as Rani Lakshmi Bai. Years later, she gave birth to a male baby. But as fate would have it, the child died at the infant stage! Now the royal couple was deprived of an heir. However, they adopted a male child, or otherwise the greedy British would annex that land!
Meanwhile, the aged Maharaja died. Rani quickly arranged for the coronation of their adopted child. But the British declined her request based on, “Doctrine of Lapse.” It was a minor child and that too, not a direct descent of the royal couple.
They even refused to pay the annual pension of Rs. 60,000 to her as per the agreement!
This was too much to tolerate. Rani Lakshmi Bai vowed to fight back this British atrocity. She gathered a powerful army to hit back. Backed by her ministers, soldiers and the public alike, she strengthened her army. Meanwhile, in 1857, the great rising was gaining momentum. The rebellion Indian soldiers barged inside the fort of Jhansi and killed the British inmates there. It annoyed the British government. Suspecting Rani’s hand in it, they stormed into the fort!
A battle ensued in 1858. But it was a losing battle for the Rani. She had to abandon the kingdom and flee, carrying her adopted son on the horse back, tying behind her. She was followed by 200 loyal subjects. She reached a place called Kalpi. There she joined hands with the Nawab of Banda and together they fought the British.
This time, the British launched the attack from both sides. Hence, loosing this battle too, Rani was, once again, on the run. The British could not capture her. It was not that she was scared. She wanted to be alive to teach a lesson to the British and restore her own kingdom!
Once again, she teamed up with a like-minded man called, Tantia Tope who led the great rising. With some more leaders, Rani captured Gwalior fort. On hearing this, the British troops rushed there. A fierce battle broke out again. Under the guise of a man, Rani fought bravely. But the mighty British thrashed them soon.
Rani fought valiantly, but in vain. At last, they had to flee. It was when she and her aide Mandarbai were on the run on the horses’ back, Mandarbai was shot to death by a British soldier. Rani paused to help her ally and shot down the enemy when another soldier’s gun slain her! It happened on June 18, 1858.