Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi (19 November 1828 – 18 June 1858 was the queen of the Maratha-ruled princely state of Jhansi, situated in the north-central part of India. She was one of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and for Indian nationalists a symbol of resistance to the rule of the British East India Company in the subcontinent.
At birth she was named Manu. The young Manu, unfortunately she lost her mother when she was only four. The entire duty of bringing up the daughter fell on her father. Along with formal education she acquired the skill in sword fighting, horse riding and shooting. Manu later became the wife of Gangadhar Rao, Maharaj of Jhansi, in 1842. From then on she was known as Maharani Laksmi Bai of Jhansi.
In 1851 Maharani Lakshmi Bai bore a son but her fate was cruel and she lost her child within three months. The Maharaja passed away on the 21st November 1853. Although prior to this the Maharaja and Maharani adopted a boy the British government claimed they did not recognise the right of the adopted boy. Thus they tried to buy off the Rani however she stated: "No, impossible! I shall not surrender my Jhansi!"It did not take her long to realise how difficult it was for the small state of Jhansi to oppose the British when even the Peshwas and Kings of Delhi had bowed down to the British Demands. The Rani’s battle now was against the British who had cunningly taken her kingdom from her.
After the British took over her government her daily routine changed. Every morning from 4am to 8am were set apart for bathing, worship, meditation and prayer. From 8am to 11am she would go out for a horse ride, practise shooting, and practise swordmanship and shooting with the reins held on her teeth. Thereafter she would bathe again, feed the hungry, give alms to the poor and then have food; then rested for a while. After that she would chant the Ramanyan. She would then exercise lightly in the evening. Later she would go through some religious books and hear religious sermons. Then she worshipped her chosen deity and had supper. All things were done methodically, according to her strict timetable. Such a dedicated and devoted women!
All these disciplined and training patterns came in use during the Indian Mutiny in 1857. Many lives were lost and innocence people killed. Although Bharat did not gain independence the Rani did win back Jhansi and created the state to its former glory having a full treasury and army of women matching the army of men. However Sir Hugh Rose attacked Jhansi on 17th March 1858. The next day’s battle was the Rani’s last. Her death was heroic, her army had declined as they were out numbered by the opposition. The British Army had encircled her and her men. There was no escape blood was flowing, darkness was approaching. The British army was pursuing her. After a great struggle the Rani died muttering quotes from the Bhagvad Gita.
When she went to War and took up arms she was the very embodiment of the War Goddess Kali. She was beautiful and frail. But her radiance made men diffident. She was young in years, but her decisions were mature. Such an confident and dominant women! A lesson is to be learnt for us all from her experiences! The words of the British General Sir Hugh Rose who fought against the Maharani several times and was defeated time and time again stated: "Of the mutineers the bravest and the greatest commander was the Rani".