Saturday, 21 November 2015

Women Warriors - Lakshmi Bai

Lakshmi Bai was the Rani of Jhansi in India under the British Raj. When her husband the Maharajah died, he had no male heir. A boy had been adopted shortly before the maharajah's death, but the British would not accept him as the new maharajah, and annexed Jhansi, sending an official of the East India Company to deal with administrative matters. The Rani was only twenty two years old, but she refused to cede Jhansi to the British.
This was in 1854, and by 1857 the British had more to worry about than one small Indian state, as the Indian Mutiny had begun (with a rumour that the rounds of ammunition issued to the Indian troops were greased with beef and pig fat). Lakshmi Bai was proclaimed Regent of Jhansi, and asked the British official there for permission to raise troops for a bodyguard. Shortly after that, local Indian troops massacred their European officers - and Lakshmi Bai got written permission to manage the District for the British until a Superintendant arrived. Other forces which were rebelling against the British invaded Jhansi, but when she appealed to the British for help she got no reply, as by this time the British believed that she had been responsible for the massacre of the European officers.
So she set up a cannon foundry and prepared to defend the city herself.
When the British finally turned up, they found the city well defended, and the Rani refused to surrender to them.
After two weeks of fighting, the British took the city, but the Rani escaped and joined other rebel forces.
She remained with the rebel forces, though the campaign was by this time going badly for them. She died at Gwalior, in battle, dressed as a cavalry officer.

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