Rani Lakshmibai was born on 19 November 1828 in the holy town of Varanasi into a Marathi Karhade Brahmin family. She was named Manikarnika and was nicknamed Manu. Her father was Moropant Tambe and her mother Bhagirathi Sapre (Bhagirathi Bai). Her parents came from Maharashtra and was cousin of Nana Sahib. Her mother died when she was four years old. Her father worked for a court Peshwa of Bithoor district who brought up Manikarnika like his own daughter. The Peshwa called her "Chhabili", which means "playful". She was educated at home and was more independent in her childhood than others of her age; her studies included shooting, horsemanship, fencing and mallakhamba with her childhood friends Nana Sahib and Tatya Tope.
Annexation of Jhansi
Manikarnika was married to the Maharaja of Jhansi, Raja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar, in May 1842 and was afterwards called Lakshmibai (or Laxmibai) in honour of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. She gave birth to a boy, later named Damodar Rao, in 1851, who died after four months. The Maharaja adopted a child called Anand Rao, the son of Gangadhar Rao's cousin, who was renamed Damodar Rao, on the day before the Maharaja died. The adoption was in the presence of the British political officer who was given a letter from the Maharaja instructing that the child be treated with respect and that the government of Jhansi should be given to his widow for her lifetime. After the death of the Maharaja in November 1853, because Damodar Rao (born Anand Rao) was adopted, the British East India Company, under Governor-General Lord Dalhousie, applied the Doctrine of Lapse, rejecting Damodar Rao's claim to the throne and annexing the state to its territories. When she was informed of this she cried out "I shall not surrender my Jhansi" (Mein meri Jhansi nahi doongi). In March 1854, Lakshmibai was given an annual pension of Rs. 60,000 and ordered to leave the palace and the fort.Rani Lakshmibai has been known to the British most commonly as "the Rani of Jhansi"; in Hindi she is often known as "Jhansi ki Rani".
Rani Lakshmibai was accustomed to riding on horseback accompanied by a small escort between the palace and the temple although sometimes she was carried by palanquin.Her horses included Sarangi, Pavan and Badal; according to tradition she rode Badal when escaping from the fort in 1858. The Rani Mahal, the palace of Rani Lakshmibai, has now been converted into a museum. It houses
Beginning of the Rebellion
On 10 May 1857 the Indian Rebellion started in Meerut. When news of the fighting reached Jhansi, the Rani asked the British political officer, Captain Alexander Skene, for permission to raise a body of armed men for her own protection; Skene agreed to this.The city was relatively calm in the midst of the regional unrest, but the Rani conducted a Haldi Kumkum ceremony with pomp in front of all the women of Jhansi to provide assurance to her subjects, in the summer of 1857 and to convince them that the British were cowards and not to be afraid of them.
Until this point, Lakshmibai was reluctant to rebel against the British. In June 1857, rebels of the 12th Bengal Native Infantry seized the fort containing the treasure and magazine, and after persuading the British to lay down their arms by promising them no harm, broke their word and massacred 40 to 60 European officers of the garrison along with their wives and children. The Rani's involvement in this massacre is still a subject of debate. An army doctor, Thomas Lowe, wrote after the rebellion characterising her as the "Jezebel of India ... the young rani upon whose head rested the blood of the slain".
Siege of Jhansi
From August 1857 to January 1858 Jhansi under the Rani's rule was at peace. The British had announced that troops would be sent there to maintain control but the fact that none arrived strengthened the position of a party of her advisers who wanted independence from British rule. When the British forces finally arrived in March they found it well-defended and the fort had heavy guns which could fire over the town and nearby countryside. Sir Hugh Rose, commanding the British forces, demanded the surrender of the city; if this was refused it would be destroyed. After due deliberation the Rani issued a proclamation: "We fight for independence. In the words of Lord Krishna, we will if we are victorious, enjoy the fruits of victory, if defeated and killed on the field of battle, we shall surely earn eternal glory and salvation." She defended Jhansi against British troops when Sir Hugh Rose besieged Jhansi on 23 March 1858.
Damodar Rao Son of Laxmi bai
She adopted the son of the Maharaja’s cousin and renamed him Damodar Rao.
Born as Anand Rao to a cousin of Raja Gangadhar Rao, he was adopted by the maharaja after his own son died. The adoption of Anand Rao, who was renamed Damodar Rao, occurred on the day before the Maharaja died. The adoption was in the presence of the British political officer who was given a letter from the Maharaja instructing that the child be treated with respect and that the government of Jhansi should be given to his widow for her lifetime. After the death of the Maharaja in November 1853, because Damodar Rao (born Anand Rao) was adopted, the British East India Company, under Governor-General Lord Dalhousie, applied the Doctrine of Lapse, rejecting Damodar Rao's claim to the throne and annexing the state to its territories. When she was informed of this Rani Lakshmibai cried out "I shall not surrender my Jhansi" (Mai Jhansi ko nahi doongi). In March 1854, Rani Lakshmibai was given an annual pension of Rs. 60,000 and ordered to leave the palace and the fort.
In the queen's army, she quickly rose in the ranks and began commanding her own army. During the Rebellion of 1857, General Hugh Rose attacked Jhansi with a large army. The Queen valiantly faced the army with 4000 of her troops in her fort. She waited for relief from Peshwa Nana Sahib's army camping at Kalpi that did not come because Tatya Tope had already been defeated by General Rose. Meanwhile, Dulha Ju, in charge of one of the gates of the fort, had made a pact with English and opened the doors of Jhansi for the British forces. When the British rushed the fort, Laxmibai, on advice of her courtier, escaped through another gate amidst the chaos of heavy fighting and casualties. Upon hearing of Laxmibai's escape, Jhalkaribai set out for General Rose's camp in disguise and declared herself to be the Queen. This led to a confusion that continued for a whole day and gave the Rani's army renewed advantage.
While this act of sacrifice and courage is what she is most well known for another little acknowledged fact remains that she was a close confidante and advisor to the queen playing a key role she played in the analysis and strategizing of the battle itself, alongside Laxmibai.