Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi

Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi

Lakshmibai was the Rani of Jhansi in India. She lived from 1828—1858 CE. She was born in Varanasi to an upper class Brahmin family. Her mother died when she was four, but her father ensured that she was educated in many different fields such as archery, horsemanship, self-defense, as well as the academic fields that she would have learned as an aristocrat. In 1842 she married Maharaja, King of Jhansi, becoming its queen. In 1851, she gave birth to a baby boy, but it died in infancy. To ensure the continuation of the line, they adopted a child. Her husband wrote a letter to the British saying that the son should be treated with kindness, but all political power over Jhansi should go to Lakshmibai. As this was illegal in British law, the will was ignored. Lakshmibai was given a pension of 60,000 and asked to leave forever.

India was ripe for rebellion against the British. On the 10th of May in 1857, the rebellion commenced in Meerut. Lakshmibai asked a British officer if she could raise troops to protect her from the rebellion, feigning fear. The officer agreed, and Lakshmibai performed a ceremony in front of all the women, showing the cowardice of the British, and saying that they should not be afraid of them. In June 1857 a massacre against the British was drawn out by Indian insurgents. It is unknown of Lakshimibai was actually involved, or if the British just used her as a scapegoat. She was called the “Jezebel of India” by an army doctor. In August of 1857, her own army turned mutinous as they made to try and seize Jhansi for themselves. When she called to the British for aid, she received no answer, as it was now widely believed that she took some part in the massacre. She stopped her own rebellion.

Jhansi was thrown into a brief state of peace, in which she and her advisers could stock up on weapons and fortify the city. Although the British promised to send people to oversee the city, none had come, giving hope to those who wanted independence from the British Empire. When Sir Hugh Rose arrived to lay siege to Jhansi in 1858, Lakshmibai held out for days. When Sir Hugh did infiltrate the walls, no mercy was shown to inhabitants. Per tradition, Lakshmibai leapt onto a horse with her son on her back and evacuated, surrounded by guards. They survived their flight.

A series of battles against the British by Indian rebel forces followed. During battle, Lakshmibai was gravely injured by a cavalryman’s sabre, before being killed by a fatal gunshot.

Legacy: Although British forces have twisted her intentions and image, she is remembered in India as a symbol of freedom and independence, much like other female insurgents (Boudicca, the Trung Sisters, etc.)