Of Jhansi ki Rani, the Woman Who Rewrote Indian History
Today, 159 years after the beloved Jhansi ki Rani died in battle, her memory deserves to be revived.
The Indian struggle against the colonial British powers created heroes; men and women who have definitively re-written histories. The Rani of Jhansi – Rani Lakshmi Bai – was one such hero.
Born in 1828, her bravery, patriotism and martial prowess has inspired folklore and she has been remembered in history as a devoted mother and a relentless warrior.
Mainstream history books remember her as one of the leading figures of the Revolution of 1857 and a symbol of resistance to the British Raj. She and her army led a rebellion against General Hugh Rose’s Central India Field Force. Legend has it that dressed as a sowar (soldier in the cavalry), she took on an enemy soldier with her infant son on her back. She was unhorsed and wounded in the encounter. In another version of the legend, a hurt and bleeding Lakshmi Bai shot at an enemy soldier before he shot her.
History is rarely objective ‘truth.’ Histories are perspectives and therefore, multiple. Whatever the facts, Lakshmi Bai has gone down in history as the woman who made her mark in a traditionally male space. Popular narrative has made it convenient for her to negotiate gender boundaries — she is both valorous on the battlefield and the mother of a son, destined to be king. She is Bharat Mata, the manifestation of she who fights for the ‘sons of her soil’ and she whose ‘modesty and virtue’ must never be outraged.
On her death anniversary, let us remember a woman who chose to take destiny into her own hands and died for a cause she believed in.
(This article is being republished from The Quint’s archives to mark Rani Lakshmi Bai’s death annaiversary. It was originally published on 17 June 2016.)