Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi has been inspirational to several freedom fighters since ages. Several poems have been written to highlight her bravery during the Revolt of 1857. A number of patriotic songs have been written about the Rani of Jhansi, the most famous one penned by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan.
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Manikarnika Tambe was born to Moropant Tambe and Bhagirathibai on November 19, 1835 in Varanasi. Having lost her mother at the age of four, she was raised by her father and learnt the skill of warfare from him. In 1842, Manikarnika was married to Raja Gangadhar Rao, and became the Queen of Jhansi and changed her name to Laxmibai. She gave birth to a son in 1851 who died soon after completing four months. The couple later adopted a son named Damodar Rao. Tragedy struck when Maharaja Gangadhar Rao died in 1853 and Laxmibai was left alone. But the 18-year-old queen did not lose her courage and continued to rule over Jhansi and take care of her son at the same time.
At that time, Lord Dalhousie was the Governor General of India. The British did not recognise Damodar Rao as Laxmibai’s heir to the throne and decided to annexe Jhansi. In 1854, Dalhousie announced an annual pension of Rs 60,000 and asked her to leave the Jhansi fort. But the Rani was determined not to give up Jhansi at any cost.
Sensing that war was the only option, the resilient gathered an army and women were trained for warfare. The people of Jhansi lent their support in the fight against the kingdom’s independence from the British. The East India Company forces attacked Jhansi in 1858, only to face a stiff resistance by the Rani Laxmibai-led army. The fighting went on for more than two weeks before the kingdom fell.
When the British army reached Jhansi, Rani Laxmibai strapped son Damodar Rao on her back and led charge. Holding two swords in both the hands, the queen did not give in and killed several enemy soldiers on her way to the fortress of Kalpi wherein she aligned with fellow rebels Tantiya Tope and Rao Saheb. The trio managed to capture Gwalior fort and posed a great challenge to the marauding British army. While fighting, Laxmibai attained martyrdom at Kotah-Ki-Sarai and her death marked the virtual end of the revolt.
According to The Indian Express, British army commander General Hugh Rose heaped praises on Rani Laxmibai after the war.” The Indian Mutiny has produced but one man and that man was a woman,” he said.
As India celebrates 70 years of independence, we bring you stories of women who were part of the Indian Independence Struggle. You might have heard about some of them but most do not find a mention in our history books or popular memory. These were ordinary women from all walks of life who managed to make extraordinary contributions to the cause of freedom. This series is our tribute to these women and their exemplary work. We bring you 70 stories of courage and valour over the next one week leading up to 15th August 2017. Write to us, if you have any names to add to this list. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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