India celebrated the 192nd birth anniversary of Rani Laxmi Bai, the fearless freedom fighter, who was born on November 19 in 1828 in Kashi, on Thursday. She went on to become the Queen of Jhansi and a leader of the Indian Mutiny of 1857–58.
Rani Laxmi Bai’s childhood was spent in the household of the Peshwa ruler Baji Rao II. With an unusual childhood for a girl in the nineteenth century, she grew up in the company of boys in the Peshwa’s court and was trained in sword fighting and horse-riding.
She married the maharaja of Jhansi, Gangadhar Rao, but was soon widowed. The Maharaja died before the couple could bear a surviving heir to the throne. However, before dying, the king followed the Hindu tradition, and adopted a boy as his heir.
Laxmi Bai was faced with another challenge when the British introduced the doctrine of lapse under which, heir to thrones should be related to the monarch by blood. Lord Dalhousie, the British governor-general of India, refused to recognize the adopted heir and annexed Jhansi in accordance with this doctrine. After the annexation, British posted an agent of the East India Company in the small kingdom to look after administrative matters.
However, the queen refused to cede Jhansi to the British. Soon after the beginning of the mutiny in Meerut in 1857, Lakshmi Bai was declared the regent of Jhansi, and she ruled on behalf of the minor heir. The fierce fighter joined the uprising against the British, and rapidly organized her troops and assumed charge of the rebels in the Bundelkhand region. Rebels from the neighbouring areas also headed toward Jhansi to offer her support. The queen fought with valour carrying her child on her back.
Even though she was killed in this fight against the British, who brutally suppressed the uprising against their rule, Laxmi Bai’s legacy of bravery remains intact.