Maharani Laxmi Bai- Icon of Women Empowerment
Puran Chand Sharma
The history of our struggle for Independence from the steely clutches of invincible British Empire is replete with such numerous precedents wherein the fearless freedom fighters and true patriots fought with indomitable courage and laid down their lives for protection and liberation of sacred land of Bharat Mata. Maharani Laxmi Bai is the towering Icon of Indian national movement and Women Empowerment in real sense of the term. The illustrious Queen, outstanding warrior who never succumbed to the highhandedness of British Rulers during the course of first war of Independence fought in 1857-58 which has also been dubbed as mere Gadaar or Rebellion against British but In reality it was a mighty blitzkrieg of Indian masses which laid rock solid foundation for the upcoming generation to carry on the struggle with due diligence and unrelenting national resolve till the comprehensive freedom is attained transcending the powerful shackles and barriers of alien rule. Nation as a whole is deeply indebted to all those Heroes and martyrs. They are the perennial source of our inspiration to live and die for the country. Our real heroes sacrificed all their worldly dreams and comforts for the sake of our happiness and well being. Our progeny must know the history of our persistent struggle and profound saga of phenomenal sacrifices apart from mere slavery and subjugation. No sovereign country can afford to be oblivious of their colossal contribution. They are our lifeline for being independent and powerful in the world. Let us pause a while to pay our heartfelt homage to Maharani Laxmi Bai popularly known as Jhansi Ki Rani on her 187th Birth Day by virtue of sweet remembrance and brief narration of her phenomenal life story.
Maharani Laxmi Bai’s real name was Manikarnika alias Manu born to Moropant Tambe (Father) & Bhagrathi Sapre (Mother) in Maratha Brahmin Family at Kashi on November 19, 1835 and got martyred in Battle Field donned in soldier’s combat uniform and daringly fighting till the end with the top brass of Imperial forces disproportionately higher in number at a place called as Kotah-ki-Sarai near Gwalior. As if everything in her life was a divinely preordained plan of creation, her upbringing unusually happened for a Brahmin Girl in the royal family of Peshwa Ruler Baji Rao-2. She grew up in the company of Boys in the Court of Peshwa. She was trained in Martial Arts and horse riding to perfection. She also gained exceptional proficiency in sword fighting and riding in the shortest possible time and transformed herself into an accomplished warrior at a very young age.
In conformity with her natural traits coupled with exemplary fighting skills and by virtue of powerful driving force of destiny Manikarnika Tambe happened to tie the nuptial knot to Maharaja Gangadhar Rao Niwalkar of Jhansi state at the age of 14 years. As soon as she entered into the periphery of Jhansi as consort and queen of Maharaja Gangadhar Rao, Princely state of Jhansi started experiencing the divine ecstasy together with profuse prosperity in terms of materialistic possessions, wealth and revenue pouring in torrents. One and all experienced a unique spiritual energy as if Goddess Laxmi had incarnated in Jhansi accompanied with her infinite divine treasures. Accordingly Manikarnika or Manu was unanimously and lovingly addressed as Maharani Laxmi Bai which made her too endeared and popular in the course of times ahead. Accordingly Jhansi got immersed in deep sea of heavenly pleasures fully secured from worldly fears and her borders were fully protected from hostile invasions. Things were moving perfectly well and their princely state was flourishing by leaps and bounds. But shortly her destiny took a horrible turn.
Young Queen gave birth to a son in year 1851 but he did not survive more than four months. Maharaja Gangadhar Rao could not reconcile with this heartbreaking misfortune and left for heavenly abode after prolonged sickness in year 1853 and Maharani Laxmi Bai got widowed without bearing a surviving heir to the throne. Prior to the demise of Maharaja, the royal couple had adopted a son namely Damodar Rao as per Indian traditions but Lord Dalhousie, then British Governor General did not give his acceptance to this arrangement and forcefully applied his Doctrine of Lapse which authorized East India Company to take over a Princely State sans a real surviving heir to the state. Lord Dalhousie annexed Jhansi in accordance with Doctrine of Lapse, posted an agent of East India Company to look after the administrative matters. However, 22 years young Rani ruthlessly refused to cede her state to British. Soon after the Mutiny broke out in Meerut, Rani was proclaimed Regent of Jhansi and she kept on ruling the state on behalf of minor Heir, Damodar Rao. Joining the uprising against British, she rapidly organized her troops and raised a powerful Regiment of women folk. Jhalkari and Munder were her brilliant female Generals, assumed charge of Rebels in the Bundelkhand Region. Mutineers from the neighbouring areas also offered support to her. Meanwhile East India Company had launched a counter offensive against Rebels under the command of General Hugh Rose. After initial victories the British troops laid a siege of Jhansi and a fierce Battle ensued. Rani offered stiff resistance to the invading forces and did not surrender even after her troops had been overwhelmed. Rani Laxmi Bai managed to escape from the fort with a small force of palace Guards and headed Eastward wherein other Rebels joined her. Subsequently Laxmi Bai together with Tantia Tope, her mentor and fighter captured city fortress of Gwalior. After this victory fearless Rani confronted the final British counter attack led by Gen. Rose, fought a fierce battle and was killed in combat. On seeing her fighting skills and war strategy, Gen Rose had said, “Queen was the bravest and the most dangerous of all the Indian Rebels who fought against us.” At the time of death she was muttering Shalokas of Gita and her last words were, “Vasudeva I bow to you.” Shat Shat Naman.