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Remember the Ladies: Lakshmibai

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Lakshmi bai, The Rani (Queen) of Jhansi (c.19 November 1828 – 17 June 1858), known as Jhansi Ki Rani, the queen of the Jhansi, was one of the leading figures of the First Freedom Struggle of India, and a symbol of resistance to British rule in India. She has gone down in Indian history as a legendary figure, the firebrand who began the Indian Revolution against British Colonialism and for Indian independence. [Wikipedia]

A popular Indian ballad said,

How valiantly like a man fought she,
The Rani of Jhansi
On every parapet a gun she set
Raining fire of hell,
How well like a man fought the Rani of Jhansi
How valiantly and well!

For some unspecified reason, she was allowed to do everything girls didn’t do. She ran races, wrestled, fenced, jumped, flew kites, learned to read and write, and even studied horsemanship and martial arts. Absolutely fearless, she was charged at the age of seven by a panicked elephant rampaging through the city streets. She waited for it to draw closer, leaped onto its trunk, climbed onto a tusk, and calmed it.

When she was only eight years old she married the raja of Jhansi amid fireworks, pomp, and assurances from astrologers that she would be gifted with wealth, valor, and wisdom. It was at this time she took the name Lakshmibai. Although the marriage was not consummated for six years, the traditional confinement of purdah, in which women were secluded from the outside world, was imposed immediately. Her husband proved to be arbitrary, extravagant, and ill-tempered, and he had little patience with her wish to continue her riding and swordplay.

In 1853, her husband died, and by all rights Lakshmibai should have succeeded to the throne as rani and gained at last the freedom she wanted. But the reverse happened. The English seized Jhansi, and although they considered Lakshmibai intelligent, decisive, eloquent, and an exceptional judge of horses, they did not feel she could rule. She was enraged, and for four years she suffered one indignity after another at British hands. Finally she found an opportunity to avenge her wrongs. Indian soldiers working for the British had begun what the Indians called the Great Rebellion and what the British called the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. Lakshmibai joined forces with the rebels, training an army of women and defending the fortress of Jhansi against the English. Although she was forced to abandon Jhansi, she escaped with most of her troops.

The rebel leaders praised, but ignored her, and she failed to impress upon them the seriousness of their situation, they refused to believe they were in danger while she inspected the troops and prepared for battle. When battle came, as she had feared, she was killed. She is a national heroine in India and a patriotic symbol.

Author: barenose

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