A Fearsome National Heroine Who Fought British Colonialism
Lakshmi Bai, also known as the Rani of Jhansi (circa 1830 – 1858), was the rani, or queen, of the Indian princely state of Jhansi in northern India. She is best known as a leader of the Indian Mutiny against British rule in 1857 – 1858, in which she personally led troops in combat. Her exploits made her an Indian national heroine, a symbol of resistance to British rule, and a martyr for independence. Born and raised in an upper caste Brahman family, Lakshmi was raised different than most girls of her class.
Brought up among boys in a prince’s household, Lakshmi was taught to ride horses, and became proficient in martial arts such as swordsmanship and marksmanship. When she came of age, she was married to the maharaja, or princely ruler, of Jhansi. The couple did not have children, but her husband adopted a child as his heir. Upon her husband’s death, the British employed legal chicanery. They refused to recognize the adopted child as heir to Jhansi, which they annexed to the territory of the East India Company. Lakshmi vowed “I shall not surrender my Jhansi!” That became her war cry in the subsequent rebellion.