Lakshmi Bai, daughter of Moropant Balwant Rao
Tambe and Bhagirathi Bai, was born at Kashi (Benares)
on 16 November 1835, according to D. B. Parasnis,
or possibly in 1827, according to S. N. Sen. She
came of a Karhada Brahmin family of Satara district
which had migrated to Kashi in 1819 with its patron
Chimanji Appa, brother of Peshwa Baji Rao II.
Her mother died during her infancy and her father
shifted to Bithur after the death of his patron.
There she grew up in the political atmosphere
of the Peshwa's household and came in close contact
with Nana Sahib, Rao Sahib and Tatya Tope. Her
original name was Manikarnika, but she was affectionately
called Manu by her parents and Chhabili by the
Peshwa. She received traditional education and
learnt horse-riding and wielding of small arms.
She was beautiful, highly intelligent, energetic
After the marriage in 1842 with Maharaja Gangadhar
Rao of Jhansi, Manikarnika was named Lakshmi Bai.
With her father she shifted to Jhansi where her
talents blossomed fully. She developed a magnetic
personality, high-spirited, resolute and domineering
demeanour, generous disposition and administrative
skill. Her only male child died in infancy and
her husband expired prematurely on 21 November
1853, nominating her as Regent of his adopted
son, Damodar Rao, aged five years.
As a widow, Lakshmi Bai became deeply religious
and led a very simple and austere life. By efficient
administration she endeared herself to her subjects.
Lord Dalhousie, however, annexed Jhansi on the
plea of lapse on 27 February 1854 despite her
remonstrances and resentment.
| The Rani's resolve
not to give up her Jhansi was of no avail. She
had to quit the fort palace and retire on a small
annual pension of Rs. 6000/-. Her appeals to the
Governor-General and the Court of Directors to
revoke the decision proved in-effective.
This unhappy treatment drove the Rani to rebellion
in 1857. After the massacre of the British at
Jokhan Bagh by the sepoys on 8 June and the departure
of the Sepoys for Delhi, she assumed the reins
of government, and met successfully by force the
challenge posed to her authority by an impostor
Sadashiv Rao and by the neighbouring pro-British
states of Datia, Pihari and Orchha.
On being attacked by Sir Hugh Rose on 20 March
1858, she offered very stiff resistance for two
weeks and ultimately escaped to Kalpi on horseback,
with her son tied on her back, to prepare for
another encounter in conjunction with Tatya Tope
and Rao Sahib.
The combined forces were, however, routed by General
Rose at the battles of Poonch and Kalpi. Lakshmi
Bai then reached Gwalior and established the Peshwa's
authority. At last, when Rose attacked Gwalior,
she fought strubbornly to the finish, sword in
both hands and the reins of the horse in her mouth,
and died a glorious death in the thick of battle
on 16 June. She was cremated in a nearby garden
where a memorial was erected after independence
in honour of her martyrdom.
By her matcheless heroic deeds Rani Lakshmi Bai
made a mark in history. General Rose considered
her as "the bravest and the best military leader
of the rebels". In the Indian freedom struggle
she has been compared with the British Boadicea
and the French Joan of Arc and remains immortalized