Jhansi ki Rani: A True Warrior-Queen: Review

Rani Laxmibai: Warrior-Queen of Jhansi

Author: Pratibha Ranade

Translated by: Sanjay Ranade

Publisher: Indus Source Books

Pages: 204

Price: Rs. 299

Jhansi ki Rani Laxmibai is one of the most well-known woman warriors in the history of India. She was a brave, courageous and has inspired millions of people. She had an independent personality. Her heart was always for the welfare, emancipation of the people of Jhansi. The history will not forget the way she fought British company. Her foes also admired her courage and smartness. The students are taught about Laxmibai in schools. The kids grew with the inspiring stories of her bravery.

Pratibha Ranade, is a well-known writer in Marathi with twenty five books to her credit. Dr. Sanjay Ranade translated her Marathi book on Jhansi ki Rani as Rani Laxmibai: Warrior-Queen of Jhansi. In true sense she was a warrior-Queen. At the same time, she was sagacious to the people of Jhansi and astute in dealing with her enemies. The book is the result of an extensive research. It also highlighted many unknown or little known aspects of her approach towards her people.

1857s War of Independence was first truly serious effort to oust Britishers from the Indian soil. Couple of historians used word “Mutiny” for the 1857 war. Their contention was Laxmibai and Nana Saheb had no nationalist feeling and they fought war for their own interest. V D Savarkar called it War of Independence. Laxmibai, Nana Saheb Peshwa and Tatya Tope were important leaders of the Independence War. Tatya Tope was Nana Saheb’s army chief. In 1851, after the death of Bajirao II, East India Company had stopped pension of his son Nana Saheb Peshwa. Jhansi had been annexed.

Laxmibai was born in Kashi. Her father Moropant Tambe and her mother Bhagirathi shifted to Brahmavarta after the death of Chimaji Appa. Bajirao hired him to perform religious duties. Laxmibai received the best of education along with children of Peshwas. She mastered horse riding, use of weapons, etc. It was said that only three people in Central India knew how to evaluate a horse and they were Nana Saheb, Jayaji Maharaj Scindia and Laxmibai.

Manu got married to Raja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar of Jhansi and became Rani Laxmibai. In 1851, a baby boy was born to Laxmibai but he died three months later. On 20 November 1853 they adopted a son Damodar Rao. On 21 December 1853 Gangadhar Rao died. Laxmibai also wrote to Governor General in which she pleaded that her adopted son be recognized as the heir. She mentioned that Hindu Dharmashastra recognise adopted son and had all the rights of a legitimate son. On 27 February 1854 Governor General Dalhousie announced decision to annex Jhansi. She made couple of application to revoke the decision but Dalhousie did not change decision. She had to leave her palace in the fort and shifted to Rani Mahal.

Laxmibai won the hearts of her people for her sagacious approach. She used to invite women from all caste for the celebrations like Sankranta, Chaitra Gauri. It was an important step towards social justice. Her heart was at the right place. Once going to temple with Gangadhar Rao she heard prisoners crying. She asked her husband why is it that the path going to the Temple of God and to the death is the same. She was sad and felt sorry for the prisoners who were being taken for the execution. Gangadhar Rao understood the meaning of it and promised her abolition of capital punishment. In that sense, she was instrumental in getting Capital punishment abolished in Jhansi. It was a most humanitarian and deserved thing. People started calling her ‘baisaheb’. It was a step which even in 21st century we are scared to take. Today around 120 countries have either totally abolished execution or not implementing execution.

The author rightly mentions that Rani fought battles in a planned, organized manner. Her sword always moved at a lightning speed. Britishers were amazed with her courage, bravery. She had told her colleagues that she will not fell into the hands of Britishers dead or alive. She had directed that in case of she dies while fighting, her body should be cremated immediately. She died fighting like a true warrior. She died but she inspired generations and she will continue to inspire future generations. She fought against the Britishers and social injustice. She was keen that womens get empowered. Her army had women fighters and it had soldiers from all communities. Even she had Afghan soldiers. When we talk about women’s power we should note that there was Tararani, the widow of Rajaram; Ahilyabai, the widowed daughter-in-law of Malhar Rao Holkar and Queen Chinnamma. She always led from the front and inspired her soldiers.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels keep track of The Indian War of Independence and thought highly of it. It was a truly War of Independence, which spread even into the interior parts of India. The common people stood with rebel sepoys. They never liked any Indian who worked for the British.

The book needs to read widely as it gives Rani Laxmibai’s historic role in a proper perspective. Her perspective was not confined to liberate Jhansi only. She was for the social justice and against capital punishment.

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