The brave Rani of Jhansi, Laxrni Bai was the heroine of Indian history who died fighting for the freedom of her country against the British in 1857. She has been regarded as the precursor of the freedom movement that ended only after the achievement of independence in I 47. Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, a poetess of Hindi has eulogised her in a touching poem: ‘Khub lari Mardani voh to Jhansi Wali Rani Thi, Bundele Harbolon ke Munh Hamne Suni Kahani Thi.’ (The brave Rani of Jhansi fought very heroically, we heard it from the mouths of Bundelas and Harbolas).
Laxmi bai was born on November 1, 1835 in a respectable Maharashtrian family at Benaras (now Varanasi). Her childhood name was Manu and she was the daughter of Moro Pant. She played with Nana Phadanvees in her childhood who treated her like his younger sister and called her ‘Chhabiii’ out of affection. Along with some formal education, she learnt horse-riding, sword-fight and other such manly games and exercises.
Laxmi Bai was married at an early age of perhaps 15 to Gangadhar Rao, the ruler of Jhansi. She made herself lovable and useful to her husband and popular with the people of Jhansi. She favoured giving military training to women and thus raised a brigade of women who were expert in horse-riding and sword-fight. Her husband also approved of her activities. Unfortunately Gangadhar Rao died suddenly without having any issue. The Rani adopted a small boy as her son. The British Governor General, Lord Dalhausi did not recognise and approve of this and annexed Jhansi.
The annexation of Jhansi made Laxmi Bai furious and she declared that she would not allow the annexation of Jhansi. She decided to oppose the British and started making preparations accordingly. She was brave and courageous. She was also a very good organiser. With her will and skill she repulsed many attacks of the British soldiers and defeated them many times. But she had to leave Jhansi in the end. Then she captured the fort of Gwalior. There she was surrounded by Sir Hue Rose, the Commander of the British army. She left the fort and escaped. Her bravery and lighting skill surprised the English commander. Her son tied on her hack, swords in both hands and reins of the horse in her mouth, she appeared to be Durga, the goddess of war. But unfortunately the horse could not jump over a nullah near Kalpi and fell. Five English soldiers attacked her. She was mortally wounded and one of her eyes came out of its socket. Even then she killed three soldiers and the remaining two fled away. She died fighting bravely in 1857 at the age of twenty two years.
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