🏅How Manikarnika became Jhansi Ki Rani | History

How Manikarnika became Jhansi Ki Rani | History

This part of India suffers from the worst of Indian summer heat.

It lies between Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

It’s called Bundelkhand. The place where Jhansi is.

By the 1800s the British became much stronger in India.

They were no longer the bedazzled intimidated foreigner wanting permission to trade but now they were its superior white rulers in a land full of heathens.

Mughal power had been reduced from the days of Akbar and Shah Jahan, now the Mughal king Bahadur Shah Zafar was just the king of Delhi living on British pension.

Because the Mughal empire was now so weak and negligible, local chieftains rose around Delhi and made deals with the British.

The British took the land and trading revenues and gave military protection in return.

This alliance with India’s elite + military power + the English crown’s blessings made them extremely powerful.

Lord Dalhousie the Viceroy came up with the Doctrine of Lapse – according to which, any ruling Indian family that died without a legitimate male heir would now come under direct British rule.

He hated Indians.

With this Doctrine of Lapse, he could remove the elite and directly control the land, all its revenues, and resources, and military power.

In fact with the DoL, Punjab, Sikkim, Lower Burma, Awadh, Udaipur had already come under the direct control of the British and added 4 million pounds extra to their revenues.

So good deal!

How Manikarnika become Jhansi Ki Rani | History

  • 1817 – Jhansi also signed a similar treaty with the British in return for British military protection.
  • 1853 – Gangadhar Rao, Jhansi’s ruler died. Left behind was his wife – the 25-year-old brahmin girl Manikarnika.

She had taken the name Lakshmibai upon her marriage. 🙂

Gangadhar and Lakshmibai were childless.

The DoL now would apply to Jhansi as well.

That’s why before dying Gangadhar adopted a 5 yr old boy Damodar Rao as his heir.

Lakshmibai tried hard to convince the British to now apply the dol and promised they would remain loyal as always to the British government.

When Major Malcolm, a British officer, wrote to Lord Dalhousie with the news of Gangadhar’s death, etc, he was on Lakshmibai’s side.

He said in his letter that the Rani was ‘a woman highly respected and esteemed and…
fully capable of…
assuming the reins of government in Jhansi.’

But Lord Dalhousie didn’t care.

He was glad that Jhansi’s revenues would now come to the British.

Lakshmibai continued to try hard.

She hired an Australian lawyer, John Lang who had already won a case against the British.

With whose help she appealed to the British to let her remain the queen of Jhansi.

To impress John Lang that she was a good queen and that he should take up her case, she met him in true royal style.

Her chief minister went in a horse-drawn carriage to bring John Lang for his meeting with Lakshmibai.

In the same carriage was a butler with ice buckets of water, beer, and wine.

A servant stood outside the carriage all the while, fanning them all for the whole rise of more than 100 km.

The British completely ignored her appeal yet again and in May of 1854 Jhansi lapsed into the British authority.

Lakshmibai too was now on British pension.

At this time the British officers who met her described her as civil, intelligent, clever, polite, quite the lady.

And then came the year 1857 and with it came the 1857 Uprising.

How Manikarnika became Jhansi Ki Rani | History

Lakshmibai herself was vulnerable because she didn’t have an army and Jhansi was located at the junction of 4 important roads – Kanpur, Delhi, Agra, Lucknow.

The rebels threatened her that they would bring her relative Sadashiv Rao on Jhansi’s throne until she offered them money which she finally did.

The day the rebels left Jhansi, Lakshmibai requested British help in securing Jhansi against any future attacks by the rebels.

Major William Erskine, who was the commissioner of the area at this time, authorized Lakshmibai’s rule of Jhansi since the British were busy fighting the rebels.

Even Sir Robert Hamilton, a senior officer of the British East India Company, later wrote that there was no evidence that the Rani had colluded with the rebels against the British.

For the first time, Lakshmibai got the chance to rule Jhansi herself.

And according to all the records, she did a great job of it.

Meanwhile, the British had defeated the rebels and unthinkable carnage unfolded.

They killed every rebel and even innocent Indians.

Killing Indians turned into a sport for the British.

Charles Dickens went so far as to declare his intention to “exterminate the race from the face of the earth.

This also affected the British respect towards Lakshmibai.

January 1858 – William Erskine assured Robert Hamilton that Lakshmibai should be hanged when caught.

These are the same men who both favored and respected her initially but with this change in British attitude, they too shifted Coincidentally some rebels started entering Jhansi to run from the British.

Sir Hugh Rose and his army were all headed to Jhansi now.

Lakshmibai realized that the British are not her friend anymore and she prepared for war.

That woman raised her army from scratch because remember she didn’t have any before.

She started carrying a sword and 2 pistols in her belt at all times.

One account of a Brahmin priest who was in Jhansi at the time, who coincidentally was called Nathu Godse, later described “She looked like the avatar of a warrior goddess.”

She fortified Jhansi, prepared the cannons.

Manikarnika Jhansi Ki Rani  even thought ahead
  • – knowing that Indian summer was approaching
  • – she removed every tree from around her fort so when the British would lay siege
  • – they would not even get one respite in the shade from the unforgiving Indian summer heat.

But like so many other times in Indian history, it was Indians against each other that helped bring their own defeat.

When the British laid siege to Jhansi in the terrible heat, they were helped by Scindia, from Gwalior and the queen of Orchha.

How Manikarnika became Jhansi Ki Rani | History

Later British records tell us that Lakshmibai and her forces fought shot for a long time despite having older fashion cannons and guns.

But ultimately…

The British breached Jhansi’s walls, entered Jhansi, and massacred household after household.

The night of 3rd April 1858, Lakshmibai escaped Jhansi, right from under the noses of the British, on horseback with her soldiers For the next few weeks she continued fighting while living in the scorching countryside.

It was so hot that even the camels and elephants couldn’t take the heat.

They reached Gwalior where Scindia who earlier had helped the British against Lakshmibai, escaped his fort fearing her.

But all his own troops abandoned him and joined Lakshmibai and the rebels.

How Manikarnika became Jhansi Ki Rani | History

June 1858.

Her army met Hugh Rose’s men near Gwalior.

It was not a long battle.

Multiple eyewitness records of this battle tell of the moments when one warrior fought the British army until he was shot in the back but continued fighting relentlessly.

And then a sword was driven through him, killing him.

The records are describing Lakshmibai.

They didn’t realize at that moment that it was a woman, their leader, Lakshmibai.

With Lakshmibai’s death, her army was defeated.

Hugh Rose himself later wrote that “with her death, the rebels lost their bravest and best military leader.”

For a 26-year-old woman to take on the British army the way Lakshmibai did was truly exceptional for any culture of the time

  • – not just India but also for the British.

Her story became a war cry that fuelled entire India’s subsequent fights for independence from British rule.

 

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