Portrait of Lakshmibai by Jhansi Ratan Kushwah (1850s). Image Credit: British Library.

By Catherine Capel

Lakshmibai was born on November 19th in Benares in the Kingdom of Kashi-Benares (present day Varanasi, India) and she received a varied education of horse riding, shooting and fencing as well as being educated in warfare.

In 1842, Likshmibai was married to Gangadhar Rao Newalker, Maharaja of Jhansi and a son was born in 1151, who sadly died aged only four months. After the death of their son, the Maharaja adopted the son of his cousin, who was renamed Damodar Rao.

The Indian Rebellion in 1857 saw Lakshmibai raise an army and she successfully defended Jhansi from the control of the British. This ended, however, in 1858 with the Siege of Jhansi when the Rani’s troops were only able to hold back the British for three days. She fled with her adopted son to Kalpi, where other rebel forces were stationed, but the Rani and rebel leaders were forced to flee again from the British in May to Gwalior. In the final battle of her life, Likshmibai donned a military uniform and led her forces in an attack against the British where she was fatally injured by a gunshot wound.   

Recommended Reading

Bhawan Singh Rana, Rani of Jhansi (New Delhi: Diamond Publishing, 2005)

Harleen Singh, The Rani of Jhansi: Gender, History and Fable in India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

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