Rani of Jhansi – The 19th century warrior queen

By Bhudeb Chakrabarti

Rani Jhansi poem

The extract from the poem ‘Jhansi Ki Rani‘ by Subhadrakumari Chauhan, is an ode to the valiant queen of Jhansi, who had challenged the British to defend her Kingdom and became a leading figure in India’s First War of Independence against the British rule.

Here’s a look into the life of the brave queen, a legendary figure  in India’s history, whose name is synonymous with patriotism and heroism.

Rani of Jhansi

Image Source : Wikipedia

Manikarnika was born into a Maratha family at Varanasi in 1828. After the early death of her mother, she was brought up by the Peshwa Baji Rao II of Bithoor (near Kanpur).

Lovingly called ‘Chhabili’, Manikarnika was educated at home and trained in archery, sword fighting, horsemanship and battle craft, along with Nana Sahib the adopted son of the Peshwa Baji Rao II, and Tatya Tope who was also brought up by the Peshwa .

At the age of fourteen, Manikarnika was married to the Raja of the Maratha Kingdom of Jhansi in the rugged Bundelkhand region of North Central India and renamed as Lakshmibai.

Raja met an untimely death in 1853, but before he died he adopted a son to be his successor. Rani Lakshmibai, a widow now, accepted the full responsibility to rule Jhansi till their adopted son became an adult.

Lord Dalhousie, however, had other designs.

He annexed the Jhansi State citing the ’Doctrine of Lapse’. Rani was just sanctioned a paltry pension, from which they also deducted the supposed debts of the Raja. With her Kingdom forcibly taken away, Rani felt humiliated, and she resolved to take on the British in the direct confrontation.

Jhansi was a very well maintained walled town with its Fort and the Palace on a hill. A Cantonment under the charge of Captain Dunlop was deployed by The British East India Company to keep law and order. When the news of revolt of the Indian soldiers of the British East India Company, in other parts of India reached Jhansi, the Indian troops of the Jhansi Cantonment also took up arms against the British, killing Captain Dunlop and his British troops.

Rani Lakshmibai ascended the throne of Jhansi in 1857 and regained her Kingdom. She made all necessary fortifications to defend her Kingdom, against the anticipated attack from the British, who held her responsible for the death of the British troops.

Sir Hugh Rose, the British General, reached Jhansi in March 1858 with a large force and launched fierce artillery fire on the walled town of Jhansi.

Jhansi Fort

Photograph of Fort of Jhansi, Image credit : Online British Library

Shelling out fireballs from strategically placed canons at the Jhansi Fort.  the troops of Rani Lakshmibai defended Jhansi. The women of Jhansi took active part in the heroic defence. The fighting continued for two weeks and Rani’s forces could not hold out against the British. Rani Lakshmibai lost a large number of her troops, and subsequently she left the Fort on her horse with a few follwers. The British Force occupied the Jhansi town and mercilessly killed the residents.

The British Cavalry under the command of Lieutenant Boucher was now on the hot chase of Rani Lakshmibai who raced toward the next destination. The British Cavalry was so thoroughly defeated by Rani Lakshmibai that they gave up the chase. Eventually Tatya Tope arrived there and guarded the Rani from further British assaults.

On Reaching Kunch, Rani Lakshmibai, Tatya Tope, and Rao Sahib the second adopted son of the Peshwa, marshalled troops to stall the British advance. Sir Hugh Rose reached there and immediately launched attack on Rani’s defence. In the face of the fierce British attack Rani retreated. Sir Hugh Rose swooned several times on his horseback where the Rani moved ahead with a lightning speed.

At last, Rani Lakshmibai reached Kalpi hoping to gain support of the Rajput kings, but they disappointed her. The combined British contingents attacked Kalpi making it difficult for her to hold the Fort.

Rani Lakshmibai moved along with Rao Sahib towards Gwalior. When she reached Gwalior, Scindia, who was a British ally, attacked them with his soldiers but they were defeated by the Rani’s force. Tatya Tope had also succeeded in winning over the people of Gwalior, who turned against the Scindia. Scindia, himself fled towards Agra. The Rani paid salary to the victorious troops from Scindia’s treasury and rewarded the residents of Gwalior.

When Sir Hugh Rose got the message about the fall of Gwalior to the Rani of Jhansi, he advanced with a large force to Gwalior. Making preparations to face the British Force in the open battlefield of Gwalior, the Rani clad in her battle armour on horseback went round the battle formations and motivated the soldiers.

In her final Battle of Gwalior, Rani led her troops from the front riding her steed and wielding her raised sword. The Rani’s soldiers could not cope up with the sustained attack of the numerically stronger enemy equipped with superior firepower and conceded defeat. The Rani of Jhansi was shot at and was also hit on the shoulder. The Rani of Jhansi fought gallantly despite the injuries  sustained by her till the last.

Rani Lakshmibai, the brave Queen of Jhansi, laid down her life on the battle field of Gwalior on 17 June 1858, fighting for the freedom of her kingdom.

The patriotic queen became a national symbol of resistance to British rule.

Rani of Jhansi poem

 

Inspiration :

  1. Jhansir Rani(Prose) –Rabindranath Tagore
  2. Jhansi Ki Rani ( Poetry) –Subhadrakumari Chauhan

 

This article is contributed by Bhudeb Chakrabarti, Dy IG (Retd) CRPF. He has commanded several Operational and Administrative functions in the force and has imparted training to gazetted officers of CRPF and other central & state police forces.

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Readers Comments (71)

  1. Love the poem by Subhadrakumari. Had been fascinated with the poem when I first read in school, decades ago and the fascination continues.

    Reply
  2. Jhansi ki Rani name represents the power of woman .thanks for sharing so nice info Somali

    Reply
  3. It is fascinating to read about Rani Laxmibai every single time. Read about her so many times out of inspiration in my younger days 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  4. That poem of Subhadrakumari Chouhan is immortal. A great tribute to this great patriot of India…

    Reply
  5. Jhansi ki Rani has always been our inspiration, an unparalleled historical figure, an epitome of valour and confidence! History will forever be indebted to her for rising to the occasion and igniting the flame of patriotism in the hearts of millions! What a befitting tribute to her on the occasion of our Independence Day! I wish the leaders of today could learn from such freedom fighters.

    Reply
    • bhudeb chakrabarti August 12, 2015 @ 2:46 pm

      Jhansi ki Rani at the very crucial period of the history of India led from the front in India’s First War of Independence and fought for the freedom of the Motherland till her last breath .
      Many thanks for your very valuable comments .

      Reply
  6. It’s nostalgic. It reminds me of my school days. Anyway… She is indeed an inspiration in the field bravery & intelligence for coming generations too. “Lakshmi thi ya Durga thi, wo swayam virta ki avatar.” Thanks, Bhudeb Sahab, for this wonderful post before Independence Day. 🙂

    Reply
    • bhudeb chakrabarti August 12, 2015 @ 2:34 pm

      Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi inspired us since our childhood .She will continue to inspire the future generations by her great patriotism .her love for her people, remarkable courage and supreme sacrifice for the Motherland .Many thanks for your valuable comments .

      Reply
  7. Amazing personality who inspires and stirs up a wonderful feeling within me, each time I read about her. From childhood till now. Incidentally just this morning I passed by Rani Lakshmibai’s awesome statue on J M Road, Pune. Thank you Somali for this great post.

    Reply
  8. bhudeb chakrabarti August 12, 2015 @ 6:53 pm

    The heroic story of Rani of Jhansi will be told and retold from generation to generation with same reverence and gratitude .Rani of Jhansi will remain in our hearts and minds for ever .

    Reply
  9. Wonderful post. I enjoyed getting to know this heroic Rani of Jhansi. Thanks!

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  10. Nice post again…got nostalgic remembering school days…that poem is a masterpiece. Thanks

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  11. Whoa, nice post Somali. People these days are so occupied with other things that hardly ever anyone remembers those great people from India who gave British some tough time. And, Rani Laxmibai is one of the most important figures of them all, despite being a Woman she fought hard to save her kingdom and people. She truly represents woman empowerment and people can really take inspiration from her.

    Reply
  12. Indeed the take of a woman of substance and an inspiration for all. Thanks for sharing dear 🙂

    Reply
  13. I love the poem! Rani of Jhansi serves to remind everyone the courage of a woman. Great information, Somali. 🙂

    Reply
  14. I can never get tired of reading her story. Very inspiring. Thank you Somali for the post.

    Reply
  15. The story of Rani of Jhansi will be remembered by people for ever .
    The patriotism of Rani Lakshmibai will inspire all coming generations .

    Reply
  16. bhudeb chakrabarti August 14, 2015 @ 10:37 am

    Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi will inspire coming generations .

    Reply
  17. The poem and story of Rani Laxmibai has been my favorite since childhood. Thank you for reviving those memories.

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  18. She sure is a great inspiration and will be for ages to come. Proud to be in a land of people like this 🙂

    Reply
  19. A historical post , very beautifully written . Rani Jhansi is a role model and she will always be in Hearts in a common Indian . you gave Hindi poems in this respect , these words are written by Subhadra Kumari chauhan and these words are those that are recited in my childhood to speak up at dias. Jay Hind !!

    Reply
  20. This post is extra special for me as we hail from Jhansi… 🙂 Thanks for sharing Somali.. 🙂

    Reply
  21. The poem is a famous one, almost synonymous to the valour of Rani Lakshmi Bai. Great write-up by Bhudeb Sir…. The story of Jhansi ki Rani is really inspirational. It reminded me of the schooldays… 🙂

    Reply
    • bhudeb chakrabarti August 15, 2015 @ 11:14 am

      Grateful thanks for your valuable comments .We pay our homage to Rani of Jhansi .Happy Independence day .

      Reply
  22. Yes all of us were inspired by her from our school days. It is her courage and valour which immortalises her. Thanks for the share Somali.

    Reply
  23. We have visited the Fort of Jhansi Rani in 1971.. The remains truly remind the Heroic fight of the Queen with the British Raj.. A Great Post!

    Reply
  24. Brave Queen of Jhansi has no one in past and present India who can match her bravery and courage.

    Reply
  25. A detailed post on the inspiring Rani Lakshmibai who left a rich legacy this Independence Day. A fitting tribute:)

    Reply
    • bhudeb chakrabarti August 17, 2015 @ 12:11 pm

      Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi left an enduring legacy for the people of India .I am giving my English translation of the concluding lines of Subhadrakumari Chauhan’s poem on Rani of Jhansi .

                                   Jhansi Rani showed us the way .
                                    She taught us what she had to say .
                                    The Bundela bards cheerful and free
                                     From village to village sang her story .
                                    How valiantly like a man fought she .
                                    She was none other than the Rani of Jhansi .
      

      Many thanks for your valuable comments .

      Reply
  26. I feel like she did alone what not even men these days do. I respect her, Tipu Sultan and Bhagat Singh the most (maybe because i saw serial or documentaries on them some time in life). But the sacrifice of others also from that age can not be underestimated.

    Thank you for this detailed account of Rani Ji.

    Reply
    • bhudeb chakrabarti August 17, 2015 @ 12:24 pm

      Rani Laksmibai of Jhansi was the leading light in India’s First War of Independence. We pay tribute to her for her courage ,conviction ,love for the nation and her supreme sacrifice for the Motherland ..Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose named the Women’s Regiment of the Indian National Army as Rani Jhansi Brigade in the Great historic War against the British for the freedom of the Nation .

      Reply
  27. Very informative.. An impressive lady no doubt, wonder how many of the current generation actually read about her.

    Reply
    • Thanks for stopping by Rajesh. That’s true. Unless these stories are included in the syllabus, children will hardly get to know about such great people who ignited the flame for India’s freedom.

      Reply
    • bhudeb chakrabarti August 19, 2015 @ 1:15 pm

      Thanks for reblogging the post on “Rani of Jhansi” on the ”Society of Leadership”. Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi led from the front .Her example will inspire the coming generations .

      .

      Reply
  28. Very inspiring.Her bravery and tenacity gave me goosebumps.If only OTHER KINGDOMS HAD UNITED WITH HER WE WOULD HAVE BEEN FREE EARLIER.

    Reply
  29. This is my favorite poem .. I always get teary eyed listening to this poem or even reading this poem…. Thanks so much fro bringing back the fond memories …

    Reply
  30. Respect for this Brave soul!

    Reply
  31. The poem is synonymous with my childhood Somali. It had a lasting imprint on my mind along with Subhadra Kumari Chauhan’s other poems and it was my introduction to The Brave Queen …. Starting and ending with these timeless words,its an excellent writeup .

    Reply
  32. bhudeb chakrabarti August 19, 2015 @ 1:20 pm

    Grateful for your valuable comments.

    Reply
  33. It reminds me of my school days and never fails to inspire us till now. The meaningful lyrics and the perfect rhyme and meter, well I always used to sing it out aloud and did so today.
    A great article that sums up life of the one and only Rani of Jhansi.

    Reply
    • Thank you Alka. I can completely relate with what you have written, as I too always liked to recite this poem aloud and now I find that many of us did. Kudos to the poetess who penned it so beautifully.

      Reply
  34. The Rani of Jhansi would remain an inspiration for generations to come. She was immortalised in this poem by Subhadra Kumari Chouhan which I guess almost every kid our generation studied memorised recited and imbibed what the Rani stood for. I remember my days in Xaviers Delhi where whoever recited this poem in the Elocution contest got top honours.

    Reply
    • bhudeb chakrabarti August 21, 2015 @ 1:38 pm

      We read about Rani of Jhansi in the History books in our student days .Later we had the opportunity to listen to the great poem on Rani of Jhansi by Subhadrakumari Chauhan set to song which infused patriotism in us.

      Reply
  35. Although I have read it in school many time but after a long time felt a boost of energy toward our duties to nation.

    Reply

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