Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Consort Profile: Queen Lakshmibai of Jhansi
The Rani was not anxious for trouble and had no desire to see bloodshed in her country but all the same she came to be viewed as an enemy of the British early on after a group of mutineers massacred those at a British post, including the women and children, for which the Rani was assumed to be responsible (though this was a mistaken assumption as she actually had nothing to do with it). Further complicating things was the fact that some of the mutineers tried to take advantage of the war to seize control of Jhansi for themselves. This was not an uncommon problem in the course of this early conflict which had begun spontaneously with no central leader or strategy. However, Rani Lakshmibai was able to overcome them, Jhansi was won back and the Rani restored it to some of its former glory and even assembled an army of women warriors to fight alongside the male army. Given that, it should not be considered shocking that she had first presented herself as an ally of the British because of how the rebels had treated her and her country but the British rejected her hand of friendship due to the misplaced blame placed on her for the earlier massacre.
“We fight for independence. In the words of Lord Krishna, we will if we are victorious, enjoy the fruits of victory, if defeated and killed on the field of battle, we shall surely earn eternal glory and salvation”. Enduring a siege, bombardment and final attack, she and her forces offered heroic and determined resistance to the British onslaught before the fight became clearly hopeless. As her forces were being overrun the Rani finally determined that she would have to escape the palace and attempt to join with other rebel groups to continue the struggle. Wearing a disguise, she took her son and a few guards and slipped out on horseback in a harrowing escape. She managed to find other compatriots and they made their next stand at Kalpi where the Rani again played a leading role in the defense of the place before again being overcome by the attacking British army. Still, once again, she and the other leaders managed to escape again and regrouped at Gwalior. However, while the other leaders concerned themselves with politics they ignored the urging of Rani Lakshmibai to prepare to defend the place from the inexorable advance of the British. Finally determined to leave the area, the Rani was in the process of leaving when the British caught up with her, including the cavalry of the Eighth King‘s Royal Irish Hussars. She dressed as a sowar and charged the enemy, going down fighting on June 18, 1858.