This Day in History (18-Jun-1858) – Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi Dies While Fighting the British Troops near Gwalior

On the death of Maharaja of Jhansi Raja Gangadhar Rao, British officers refused to accept the adopted child as the legal heir and seized the state jewels of Jhansi and, in 1854, gave Lakshmibai a pension of Rs.60,000 and ordered her to leave her palace and the fort. She moved into a place called Rani Mahal.  After being expelled from her palace, she began securing her position and formed an army of both men and women who were given military training in fighting a battle. During 1857 uprising, right till January 1858, Jhansi was at peace. When the British finally arrived in Jhansi they discovered that the Jhansi Fort had been well guarded. Lakshmibai refused to surrender and went on to defend Jhansi from the British. The British bombarded the fort on March 24th, but were met with heavy fire in return. Jhansi sent a request to Tatya Tope for help. Fighting continued and, when Lakshmibai realized that resistance in Jhansi by her army was not resulting in anything, she decided to leave Jhansi.

Lakshmibai, along with her son Damodar Rao, escaped from Jhansi one night and reached Kalpi where she joined forces with Tatya Tope. Here, they occupied the town and prepared to defend it. The British attacked Kalpi on May 22nd and Lakshmibai and Tatya Tope were defeated. The leaders of this resistance, Lakshmibai, Tatya Tope, Rao Sahib and the Nawab of Banda fled to Gwalior.  On June 17th of the same year, near Phool Bagh in Gwalior, British troops under Captain Heneage fought Indian forces being commanded by Lakshmibai as they were trying to leave the area. Lakshmibai dressed as a man in a Sowar’s uniform, completely armed on horseback, with her infant son tied to her back, began attacking the British troops. The British attacked back and Lakshmibai was grievously wounded. Since she did not want her body to be captured by the British she told a hermit to cremate her.  In the report of the battle for Gwalior, General Sir Hugh Rose commented that the Rani “remarkable for her beauty, cleverness and perseverance” had been “the most dangerous of all the rebel leaders”.



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