Remembering the Brave Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi on Her Punyatithi

Tribute to Rani Lakshmi Bai on her Punyatithi. She attained Veergati this day, the 18th of June in 1858 in Gwalior. 

Motherless at 4, marriage at 14, mother at 23, widow at 25, defender of Jhansi at 29, battlefield warrior against British forces at 30, and martyrdom at 30! That was the brave Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi who was an inspiration for all freedom fighters. She continues to inspire us and will continue to inspire future generations till eternity.

In August 1857, allies of the British attacked Jhansi. Rani Lakshmi Bai set up a foundry to cast cannons within the premises of the Jhansi fort. Fire from the cannons were directed at the enemy forces from the walls of the fort. The queen defeated the allied forces. One cannon worth mentioning here is the Kadak Bijli, which created havoc on the enemy soldiers when fired.

Towards the third week of March 1858, the British forces, under Commander Hugh Rose, marched towards Jhansi. The Rani and her forces laid a strong defence for 10 days until a traitor of Jhansi secretly opened a gate, letting in the British forces. Rani Lakshmi Bai jumped down several feet on her horse Badal with adopted son Damodar tied to her back. She fled so that she could gather forces and fight the British again. 

It was Jhalkaribai who misled the British army and facilitated Lakshmi Bai 's safe escape from the fort. How Rani Lakshmi Bai met Jhalkaribai, her lookalike? Rani Lakshmi Bai invited the women of the villages of Jhansi to attend Gauri (Maa Shakti) puja at the Jhansi Fort. Jhalkaribai, wife of Pooran Kori, a soldier of the Jhansi army, was among the ladies who accompanied other village ladies to Jhansi fort to be part of the puja. Lakshmi Bai’s eyes fell on Jhalkaribai. The Rani was struck by Jhalkaribai’s uncanny resemblance with her. 

Lakshmi Bai enquired about her lookalike. The Rani had lost her mother when she was 4 years old. Jhalkaribai too lost her mother at a very young age. Besides, Jhalkaribai killed a leopard with her herding stick while tending cattle. She was also involved in other brave exploits. 

Lakshmi Bai immediately inducted Jhalkaribai into the women contingent of the Jhansi Army called Durga Dal. Later, during battle with British, on the 10th day, a traitor opened the gate of Jhansi fort for the British to enter. It was Jhalkaribai who disguised as the Rani and misled the British army and facilitated Lakshmi Bai 's safe escape from the fort. Jhalkaribai attained martyrdom at the hands of British.

At Kalpi Fort Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi took part in deliberations with Tantya Tope and Rao Saheb (nephew of Peshwa Nana Saheb) to jointly wage war against the British at Kalpi. It was the month of April in 1858.

The Rani laid a proposal of taking the initiative, the lead role of steering the war from the front. But the supreme commandership was allotted to Tantya Tope. Yet Rani Lakshmi Bai, despite the obstacles and differing opinions of other chiefs, gave her 100% in the battlefield. Not following the strategy suggested by the Rani and lack of unity amongst the chiefs led to the defeat of the Hindu army against British in the battles of Kunch and Kalpi. 

Manoshi Sinha is a Dharmic nationalist and a Best-selling author of the Series Safford Swords. She is also founder of My India My Glory.