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Who is Manikarnika? - The life of Rani Lakshmibai.

Manikarnika, better known as Rani Laxmibai, one of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and her resistance to the British Raj. She was a reluctant heroine of the Mutiny, who happened to be at the wrong place at the right time.

Early life

The Rani of Jhansi was born as Manikarnika in the city of Varanasi. Sadly, her mother died before her fourth birthday. Her father worked for a court Peshwa of Bithoor district. The Peshwa brought her up as his own child. He even called her Chhabili, meaning playful. She studied fencing, shooting and horse riding.

When she turned 14, she was married to the Maharajah of Jhansi and was called Lakshmibai. Manikarnika was married to the Maharaja of Jhansi, Raja Gangadhar Newalkar, in May 1842 and was afterwards called Lakshmibai (or Laxmibai) in honour of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi and according to the traditions. She gave birth to a boy, later named Damodar Rao, in 1851, who died after four months. The couple adopted the maharajah’s nephew.

Forced into rebellion

After her husband’s death, the East India Company applied the Doctrine of Lapse stating that an adopted son cannot be heir to the throne. 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. But the Rani was determined not to give up Jhansi at any cost The Rani went to a British lawyer and later filed an appeal in London, but all in vain. The English confiscated the state jewels and asked her to leave the fort after giving her a pension of Rs. 60,000. But Lakshmibai was keen on protecting the State of Jhansi.

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.She strengthened its defences and rallied a volunteer army of 14,000 rebels. It is believed the Rani included several women in her unit and gave them military training. Jhansi Rani set up a foundry to cast cannon to be used on the walls of the fort.

Rebellion of 1857

The First War of Independence began in 1857 and the chaotic time ensured the British were focussing their attention elsewhere, and so Lakshmibai was left alone. The Rani’s reluctance to take on the British ended when Sir Hugh Rose laid siege to Jhansi.

The war of independence that broke out in 1857 shook the foundation of the British rule in India. The British administration was crumbling all over the country and became very shaky in Jhansi also. In the wake of this upheaval, Rani's rule was reestablished in Jhansi and she continued to rule for about 9-10 months. Then the trouble started for the Rani when the British offensive against her got under way, in March 1858.

An equestrian statue of Manikarnika / Rani Laxmibai from Solapur, Maharashtra. Source:Wikimedia Commons.

Siege of Jhansi

On 20th March 1858 General Hugh Rose reached Jhansi with a huge army. The Rani put up a heroic resistance and battled hard against the enemy for 12 days. Ultimately, the superior forces forced her to flee Jhansi. The Rani decided not to surrender. With her son strapped to her back she escaped on horseback by night. Sir Hugh called her, “the most dangerous of all rebel leaders”. On 4 April at night, the Rani together with her 8 to 10 thousand troops left Jhansi and reached Kalpi. The very next day the fort of Jhansi was occupied by the British.

Flight to Gwalior

In the battle for Gwalior she donned warrior clothes and rode into battleground. At long last, the Rani rode out of the battlefield with some of her followers and female attendants. The British soldiers pursued the rani and continued to fire shots at her. As a result of her getting mortally wounded, she fell off her horse and breathed her last. The British pursuers also arrived there soon after but only to find her horse standing alone and learned that the last rites of the Rani had already been performed. She died in battle on June 18, 1858, aged barely 30.

When the Indian National Army started its first female unit, it was named after the valiant queen of Jhansi.

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We are proud to be an Indian because We have the freedom to speak, write and protest against evil doings. We have the right to stand up and fight when we see human cruelty.India will be celebrating its 70th Republic Day on January 26, 2019. Republic Day is celebrated to mark the day when the Indian Constitution came to force. New Delhi: India will be celebrating its 70th Republic Day on January 26, 2019. We are going post series of articles on Indian Constitution & It's Implementation.

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