Luxmi Bai – Rani of Khansi

luxmibai

1.Birth of Manikarnika
She is born in the year 1827 to Bhagirathi in Varanasi. Manikarnika is the name of the Varanasi’s principle cremation ghat. Her nick name was Manu. Bhagirathi was died when Manikarnika was about 2 years old. After her death, her father Moropant Tambe takes care of her.

2.Shifted to Bithur when ahe was about four
They moved to Bithur When she was about 4 years old. They remain there for her childhood. Manikarnika also means something like “mistress of the jewels” and is associated with the earrings that the Goddess Parvati hid at the ghat.Moropant Tambe was an advisor to Chimnaji Appa, brother to Baji Rao II who was the last of the Maratha Peshwas. Chimnaji Appa died when Manikarnika was about three and her father moved to Bithur and became a member of the court of Baji Rao. As a result of her father’s position she spent her childhood in the palace.

3.Childhood
As a child she seems to have been something of a tomboy. Her father was disappointed that his only child was a girl. She try to compensate and be the son he wanted. She is said to have had Nana Sahib, Tatya Tope among her playmates. However it should be noted that Nana Sahib was at least 7 or 8 years older, being born about 1820, and Tatya Tope, who was born about 1813, was about 14 years her senior, and this at an age when even a single year can make a big difference. One story has it that when denied a ride on his elephant by Nana Sahib, she declared that one day she would have 10 elephants to everyone of his. If this story is true it could either be childish bravado or may have occurred in the period between betrothal and her marriage. It is also said that her father educated her to be a queen. As her father traveled with her to Jhansi and was employed by Gangadhar Rao it is likely that this education occurred after her marriage.

4.Married Life
With her marriage, Manikarnika changed her name to Lakshmi. As the change of name being the Indian royalty custom for , not dissimilar to the change of name when British royalty ascend the throne.We can not know what life was like for her in Jhansi, or what her married life was like – some have suggested that the Raja was a homosexual, others that he had at least one mistress, in either case not exactly a devoted husband. And this is before we consider their age difference. She was married to Gangadhar Rao, Raja of Jhansi, when she was about 14 in May 1842. An entry in the Jhansi accounts shows that a sum of 40,000 rupees was allocated for the celebrations. This entry confirms the oral history noted by Lebra for this date and that the marriage was celebrated with fireworks and cannon firing a salute. Lakshmibai was Gangadhar Rao’s second wife, the first having died, and without bearing a child.

5.Keen Interest in Horse riding and weapons

Lakshmibai was an excellent horse rider, and was also said to have been a good judge of horses. It is known that she exercised and practiced with weapons, and famously at some point, drilled and trained a ‘regiment’ of women. This may not have been quite so unusual as it appears. The zenana (women’s quarters) was often guarded by armed women, and these occasionally took part in battles. What was unusual was for the Rani to be in charge of their training.

6.Children

It is said that she had a son in 1851 but that it died after 3 months. Whether or not this is true, when Gangadhar died in 1853 they were childless. When he fell ill and his death was anticipated they tried to persuade him to adopt a son, he relented only the day before his death. They adopted the 5 year old Damodar Rao, a member of Gangadhar’s extended family. To ensure that the British understood that the adoption was proper the local British officials, the Political Agent, Major Ellis, and a Captain Martin, were called to witness the event.

7.Death of Gangadhar Rao

Gangadhar Rao died on the 21st November 1853.Note that the will precludes that Lakshmibai would become a sati, some would have it that she declined that ‘honour’. The practice of sati had been outlawed by the British in 1829. It is unlikely that Gangadhar Rao, even if he approved of the practice (many didn’t), would expect his wife to break that law. In fact Lashmibai limited her official mourning activities to the minimum, she stayed inside for the minimum period expected, 13 days, did not shave her head, break her bangles, or dress in the widow’s white.

8.British attack on jhansi
On 6 jan 1858 General Sir Hugh Rose starts his operation to suppress the rebellion in Bundelkand, including Jhansi.Lakshmibai prepares the defence of Jhansi.She recruits more into her army, lays in stores, has more cannon and munitions built and contacts the rebels at Kalpi. Nonetheless she does not seem to have given up hope of a peaceful outcome. On 21 march British arrive at Jhansi.Rose’s force arrives outside Jhansi, surrounds the town, starting to fire on the town 2 days later on the 23rd. Although the resistance is fierce the British are able to wear down the rebel’s artillery and then concentrate their fire to create a breach in the walls.

9.Tantya Tope helps Luxmi Bai with his forces
Tantya Tope arrives with a large but largely poor quality force in an attempt to relieve Jhansi. Rose splits his force toMaintain the siege and to face Tantya Tope’s force. Tope is defeated with high losses.1858 Apr 3      Capture of Jhansi The British finally launch an assault on the Jhansi and are able to force an entry into the town. Although the Fort is still intact Lakshmibai flees during the night and joins the rebels at Kalpi. During and after the battle for Jhansi several thousand are killed. Lakshmibai’s father is captured and hung. Over three days the British plunder Jhansi.

10.Rose defeats the rebels

Again Rose defeats the rebels in what he believes is the final battle. The rebels take Gwalior after the defeat at Kalpi, the British had thought the rebels were finished, however they marched to Gwalior where they were faced by the Raja of Scindia. Thanks to his army changing sides at the start of the battle he was forced to retire leaving Gwalior in the hands of the rebels.

11.Death of Lakshmibai
Lakshmibai was said to be died on 1858 Jun 17. She was most probably killed, or mortally wounded, during an action at Kotah-ki-Serai near Gwalior. The exact circumstances are unclear as several differing and incompatible accounts exist.

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