Born Manikarnika 19 November 1828 Kashi,(Varanasi), India
Died 17 June 1858 (aged 29) Gwalior, India
Other names Manu, Chhabili
Title Rani of Jhansi
The maiden name of Maharani Lakshmi Bai was Manikarnika. Her nickname was Manu. She was born on 19 November 1835 at Kashi (previously known as Banaras and now as Varanasi) to a Maharashtrian Karhade Brahmin family. Her father Moropant Tambey was from Dwadashi, District Satara of Maharashtra and worked at the court of Peshwa Baji Rao II at Bithur. Manikarnika lost her mother at the age of four and was educated at home by her father. She was a brave girl since her childhood and practiced horse riding, archery, sword fighting which normally being taught to the boys only. Baji Rao was extremely affectionate to this valiant girl and considered her as one of his children.
At the age of 14 she was married to Maharaja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar , The King of Jhansi. Her father was then given the position of a minister in the court of Raja Bai Gangadhar Rao.
After her marriage, she was given the name Lakshmi Bai. Because of her father's influence at court, Rani Lakshmi Bai enjoyed more independence than most women of that time. She formed her own army out of her female friends at court and from nearby villages.
Rani Lakshmi Bai gave birth to a son in 1851, however this child died when he was about four months old. After the death of their son, the queen and the king of Jhansi adopted a boy named Damodar Rao. However, it is said that her husband the Raja never recovered from his son's death, and he died on 21 November 1853 of a broken heart.
Because Damodar Rao was adopted and not biologically related to the Raja, the East India Company, under Governor-General Lord Dalhousie rejected Damodar Rao's rightful claim to the throne. Dalhousie then annexed Jhansi, saying that the throne had become "lapsed" and thus put Jhansi under his "protection". In March 1854, the Rani was given a pension of 60,000 rupees and ordered to leave the palace at the Jhansi fort. But Lakshmi Bai was determined not to give Jhansi to the hand of East India Company. She started to strengthen her army. Meanwhile on May 10, 1857 the Sepoy (soldier) Mutiny of India started in Meerut. Unrest began to spread throughout India and in May of 1857, the First War of Indian Independence erupted in numerous pockets across the northern subcontinent. East India Company was forced to focus its attentions elsewhere, and Lakshmi Bai was essentially left to rule Jhansi alone. During this time, she proved her qualities and shown her efficiency to lead her troops against skirmishes breaking out in Jhansi. The leadership Lakshmi Bai was able to keep Jhansi relatively calm and peaceful in the midst of the Empire’s unrest.
But those peaceful days were ended when the British troops arrived under Sir Hugh Rose and laid cordon to Jhansi on 23rd March 1858. Maharani Lakshmi Bai decided not to surrender. The fierce fighting continued for about two weeks. Shelling on Jhansi was very severe. The women of Jhansi were also involved in the war by carrying ammunition and supplying foodstuff to the soldiers. Maharani herself was very active. She was keeping her personal vigil on the defense of the city, rallied her troops around her and fought fiercely against the British. A large army of 20,000, headed by the rebel leader Tatya Tope was sent to rescue Jhansi. But before they could reach Jhansi, the well trained and disciplined British army of only 1,540 intensified the attack and Lakshmi Bai was forced to flee away from Jhansi. Rani along with the young Damodar Rao and some of her warrior follower reached Kalpi and joined other rebel forces, including those of Tatya Tope. The Rani and Tatya Tope moved on to Gwalior, where the combined rebel forces defeated the army of the Maharaja of Gwalior after his armies deserted to the rebel forces. They then occupied the strategic fort at Gwalior. However on the second day of fighting, on 18 June 1858, the sole of Maharani Lakshmi was departed from her mortal body while she was fighting with the British in disguise of an ordinary warrior. Her body was not found by the British soldiers and it was believed that a quick funeral was done secretly as per her standing instructions to her close followers. And thus the glorious life of this legendary heroine as well as the glorious era of the Indian rebellion history came to an end.
Actual Photograph of Maharani Lakshmi Bai