The Rani of Jhansi


Almost all Indians, without exception, have studied Subhadra Kumari Chauhan’s famous poem titled Jhansi Ki Rani in their Hindi classes. The first stanza goes:

सिंहासन हिल उठे राजवंशों ने भृकुटी तानी थी,
बूढ़े भारत में आई फिर से नयी जवानी थी,
गुमी हुई आज़ादी की कीमत सबने पहचानी थी,
दूर फिरंगी को करने की सबने मन में ठानी थी।
चमक उठी सन सत्तावन में, वह तलवार पुरानी थी,
बुंदेले हरबोलों के मुँह हमने सुनी कहानी थी,
खूब लड़ी मर्दानी वह तो झाँसी वाली रानी थी।।

Rough English Translation:

The thrones shook and royalties scowled
Ageing India was re-invigorated with fresh youth
People cherished the value of lost freedom
Determined to throw the foreigners out
he old sword glistened in ’57
This story we heard from the mouths of Bundel bards
She was a man at war, the Queen of Jhansi

By 1857, the oppression by the British East India Company had reached new heights. The protest against the Britishers, at this phase of the freedom struggle had been termed the First War of Indian Independence. One of the most recognizable faces in this movement was the valor of the young Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi. Even as a child, she was unattracted to dolls and girly games. She was more interested in becoming a warrior. She played with swords, shields, guns and soldiers. She mastered the art of combat. She probably already saw glimpses of her destiny.

Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi, was married to the Raja of Jhansi at a very young age of about 13. Widowed and pregnant at 23, she took on the responsibilities of ruling over her kingdom, until the child was born. According to Lord Dalhousie’s Doctrine of Lapse, a kingdom without a heir can be taken over by the British Crown. Unfortunately, the baby was stillborn. Though, the Rani adopted a male child,the British Queen would not accept this exception to their rigid Doctrine. Jhansi was just about to be annexed. In return for the kingdom, the Rani was offered large sums of money as pension, but she refused. She despised the idea that her nation was being ruled by a bunch of foreigners. She courageously vowed to fight back and protect her people.

Her childhood friends, Nana Saheb and Tatya Tope supported her and fought with her in the battle against the British. In this battle, the Rani’s horse was wounded and it fled away, but the Rani continued to fight. She was disarmed, yet she defended herself with her shield. Ultimately, a sword was passed through her, and she had to be carried away farther from the battlefield by her soldiers, because they saw her dying. Jhansi was taken over by the British following her death, but she is still remembered and worshipped by us as the fearless tigress who died protecting her people.

She was 23 when she died. At such a young age, she had achieved and contributed far more than what we modern Indians do in a lifetime. How can we ever forget her sacrifice?

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