Rani Lakshmibai or Jhansi ki Rani, the queen of Jhansi was one of the leading figures of the Rebellion of 1857. For Indian nationalists, she became an icon for the freedom struggle against the British Raj for Indian.

Who was Rani Lakshmibai?

  • Rani Lakshmibai, one of the warriors of India’s struggle for Independence, was born as Manikarnika Tambe in 1828 in Varanasi
  • She lost her mother at the age of four and was raised in an unconventional way by her father who worked as an advisor in the court of Peshwa
  • He supported her in learning horsemanship, archery, self-defense, and shooting
  • In 1842, Lakshmibai got married to Gangadhar Rao Newalkar, the Maharaja of Jhansi and got the name of Rani Lakshmibai. Few years after marriage, in 1851, Manikarnika gave birth to a boy but he couldn’t survive and died after four months
  • Then Lakshmibai and Gangadhar Rao adopted Rao’s cousin’s son, Anand Rao, who was later renamed as Damodar
  • Soon after they adopted Anand, Maharaja died due to an illness in 1853. Rani Lakshmibai was just 18 at that time.

What was the Doctrine of Lapse?

The Doctrine of Lapse was an annexation policy followed widely by Lord Dalhousie when he was India’s Governor-General from 1848 to 1856.

  • According to this, any princely state under the direct or indirect (as a vassal) control of the East India Company where the ruler did not have a legal male heir would be annexed by the company
  • As per this, any adopted son of the Indian ruler could not be proclaimed as heir to the kingdom. This challenged the Indian ruler’s long-held authority to appoint an heir of their choice.

So, due to the Doctrine of Lapse, Britishers did not accept Damodar Rao as the legal heir.

Displeased by the injustice, Rani Lakshmibai even appealed to a court in London which discarded her case.

The plan of the Britishers was to annex Jhansi. They seized the state jewels, granted her an annual pension of Rs 60,000 and asked her to leave the fort forever.

1. Many factors led to the revolt of 1857 but the main factor was the introduction of greased cartridges by the East India Company.

2. The sepoys had to bite the cartridge of the new Enfield rifle by their teeth. This was unacceptable to the soldiers as the cartridges were greased with beef and pork. Shocked at the Britishers’ attempt to taint their religion, the soldiers joined hands in the collective mutiny.

3. It is believed that prior to sepoy mutiny, Lakshmibai was unwilling to rebel against the British but changed her mind in 1858 when commanding officer of the British forces, Sir Hugh Rose, demanded the surrender of Jhansi.

4. Rani Lakshmibai was determined to not give up on the Dominion of Jhansi and hence started assembling an army of rebellions, including women. She was supported by Tantia Tope and Nana Sahib.

5. Lakshmibai gave a great fight to the British as the siege of Jhansi lasted for about two weeks.

6. After a fierce war, when the British army entered Jhansi, Rani Lakshmibai, tied her son Damodar Rao to her back and fought bravely using two swords in both her hands.

7. She escaped to Kalpi and was accompanied by other rebellions. She then departed to Gwalior and a fierce battle was fought between the British and Lakshmibai’s army.

8. She died on June 17, 1958, martyring her life for India’s freedom.