Sunday, July 12, 2009

Uprising of 1857/Rani of jhansi

Originally named Manikarnika at birth, she was born to a Maharashtrian Karhade Brahmin family on 19 November 1835 at gola(Presently known as Varanasi). Manu lost her mother at the age of four. She was educated at home. Her father Moropant Tambey travelled to the court of Raja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar, the Maharaja of Jhansi, when Manu was thirteen years old.[ambiguous] She married Gangadhar Rao, the Raja of jhansi, at the age of 14.

After her marriage, she was given the name Lakshmi Bai. The Marriage ceremony was performed in Ganesh Mandir, the temple of Lord Ganesha situated in the city of Jhansi. Because of her father's influence at court, Rani Lakshmi Bai had more independence than most women, who were normally restricted to the zenana: she studied self defense, horsemanship, archery, and even formed her own army out of her female friends at court. They became her bodyguards.

Rani Lakshmi Bai gave birth to a son in 1851, but unfortunately this child died when he was about four months old. After the death of their son, the Raja and Rani of Jhansi adopted Anand Rao. However, it is said that her husband the Raja never recovered from his son's death, and he died on 21 November 1853 of a broken heart. The Rani was eighteen years old.

Because Anand Rao was adopted and not biologically related to the Raja, the East India Company, under Governor-General Lord Dalhousie, was able to install the doctrine of lapse, rejecting Rao's rightful claim to the throne. Dalhousie then annexed Jhansi, saying that the throne had become "lapsed" and thus put Jhansi under his "protection". In March 1854, the Rani was given a pension of 60,000 rupees and ordered to leave the palace at the Jhansi fort. Lakshmi Bai was furious, and she spent the next few years passionately protesting, but she only received the “most perfunctory refusals by British officers. The second blow came shortly after when the British allowed the slaughtering of cows, which was a vile abomination to Hindu culture. Lakshmi Bai continued to protest, hoping that she would get some compassion from the British, but her efforts remained unsuccessful. When her appeals left her empty-handed, she hired a British attorney to fight for her against the Company’s unjust rule. She at least made small headway, receiving a pension and permission to stay in the palace.

The Great Rebellion
Meanwhile, unrest began to spread throughout India, and in May of 1857, the First War of Indian Independence erupted in numerous pockets across the subcontinent. During this chaotic time, the British were forced to focus their attentions elsewhere, and Lakshmi Bai was essentially left to rule Jhansi alone. During this time, Lakshmi Bai’s qualities were repeatedly demonstrated as she was able to swiftly and efficiently lead her troops against skirmishes that broke out in Jhansi. Through this leadership Lakshmi Bai was able to keep Jhansi relatively calm and peaceful in the midst of the Empire’s unrest. In fact, as turmoil broke loose all over India, even English families retreated to the Jhansi fort for refuge.

Then, rebel forces tricked the English families into leaving the safety of Jhansi's walls, promising them safe passage. Instead, the rebels appallingly massacred the English. All eyes in the East India Company were turned on Rani Lakshmi Bai, blaming her for the deaths. However, Lakshmi Bai appealed to a British officer she knew, explaining her true position as an unwilling participant who had been “forced to supply them with money, guns, and elephants.”[11] Fortunately for the Rani, the British became preoccupied with uprisings all over India, and they left her alone to rule Jhansi. Rani Lakshmi Bai worked to maintain peace in Jhansi. During this time, Rani Lakshmi Bai was able to demonstrate her ability to effectively rule for almost a year before the British sent troops to take over Jhansi and to capture Rani Lakshmi Bai.

Up to this point, Rani Lakshmi Bai had been hesitant to rebel against the British. However, when the troops arrived and laid siege to Jhansi in March 1858, her hesitation vanished. She rallied her troops around her and her army fought passionately against the British. An army of 20,000, headed by the rebel leader Tantia Tope, was sent to relieve Jhansi and to take Lakshmi Bai to freedom. However, the British were better trained and disciplined than the “raw recruits,” and these inexperienced and incapable soldiers turned and fled shortly after the British began to fight them. Lakshmi Bai’s people could not hold out; the British were able to breach the city and were working to break the fort wall. Yet Lakshmi Bai was stubborn and brave: she would not be taken, and much to Indian pride and British dismay, Lakshmi Bai made a fantastic escape over the wall at night and fled from her city, surrounded by her guards, many of whom were from her women’s military.

Along with the young Damodar Rao, the Rani decamped to Kalpi along with her forces where she joined hands with other rebel forces, including those of Tantia Tope. The Rani and Tantia Tope moved on to Gwalior. At Gwalior, the combined rebel forces defeated the army of the Maharaja of Gwalior when his armies deserted to the rebel forces and they occupied the strategic fort at Gwalior. However on the second day of fighting, on 18 June 1858, the Rani died.

Rani died on 17 June, 1858 during the [Central India Campaign (1858)|battle for Gwalior] battle with 8th Hussars that took place in Kotah-Ki-Serai near Phool Bagh area of Gwalior. She donned warrior's clothes and rode into battle to save Gwalior Fort, about 120 miles west of Lucknow in what is now the state of Madhya Pradesh. The British captured Gwalior three days later. In the report of the battle for Gwalior, General Sir Hugh Rose commented that the rani "remarkable for her beauty, cleverness and perseverance" had been "the most dangerous of all the rebel leaders"

However, the lack of any corpse to be convincingly identified as Rani convinced Captain Rheese of the so called "bravest" regiment that Rani had not actually perished in the battle for Gwalior, stating publicly that:" Queen of Jhansi is alive!" . It is believed the funeral for Rani was arranged on same day in the nearby spot where she was wounded. One of the Rani's maid servant who survived helped with the arrangement of quick funeral.

Because of her bravery, courage, and wisdom and her progressive views on women's empowerment in 19th century India, and due to her sacrifices, she became an icon of Indian independence movement. The Rani was memorialized in bronze statues at both Jhansi and Gwalior, both of which portray her in equestrian style.
Her father, Moropant Tambey, was captured and hanged a few days after the fall of Jhansi. Her adopted son, Damodar Rao, was given a pension by the British Raj, although he never received his inheritance.

Rani Lakshmi Bai became a national heroine and was seen as the epitome of female bravery in India. When the Indian National Army created its first female unit, it was named after her.

Indian poetess Subhadra Kumari Chauhan wrote a poem in the Veer Das style about her, which is still recited by children in schools of contemporary India.


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