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The Brave Rani of Jhansi
"Khub ladi Mardani Wo to Jhansi wali Rani thi".
We all have heard about the brave Laxmibai, Rani of Jhansi. Inspite of being a woman she dared to participate in the most manly of events, which is WAR. She was the most daring and capable of the leaders of the rebellion. Gangadhar Rao, the Maharaja of Jhansi had died leaving behind a six-year old adopted son. Under the Doctrine of lapse, the British did not accept an adopted son as heir to any throne. Thus Lord Dalhousie refused to accept the adopted son as the prince. So, in 1854, Lord Dalhousie sent Major Ellis to bring Jhansi under British rule.
Major Ellis appeared at the court and read out an announcement declaring that the East India Company would now rule them. The 17 - year old Rani would now receive a pension and would be allowed to live in the palace. Even as the announcement was being read out the Rani had shouted, `Meri Jhansi nahim dung'' (I'll never give up my Jhansi).
But, during the next three years Rani Laxmibai was forced to live quietly in the palace on the pension she received from the British. In June 1857 the soldiers of Jhansi rose in revolt. They captured the fort and killed the British officers.
In March 1858 the British attacked Jhansi. The Rani herself was in charge of defending the fort. As the soldiers fired the guns, the women worked at repairing the walls hit by enemy cannon balls. When the ammunition ran out in the fort, they hurtled stones and logs at the enemy below. At last, the British captured the fort and killed the people inside.
However, the queen, dressed like a man, slipped out of the fort during the night. She had with her a small band of soldiers and her adopted son. She rode all through the night covering a distance of 34 kms. In the morning the British horsemen caught up with her. While her soldiers engaged them in hand-to-hand fighting, the Rani escaped.
Meanwhile, after his defeat at Kanpur, Tantia Tope had decided to join Rani Laxmibai. But before he could reach Jhansi, his forces were defeated. He now met the Rani and their combined forces challenged the British but were defeated once again. With this defeat the rebels seemed to have been completely crushed.
Rani Laxmibai and Tantia Tope marched to Gwalior. There they won over the personal troops of Scindia, the ruler of Gwalior, and seized the fortress. The British army rushed towards Gwalior, for the ruler there was their ally. On their way to Gwalior on 17 June 1858 they found Rani Laxmibai, leading a small band of soldiers, on horseback.
The Rani and her soldiers were all dressed alike in blue uniforms and white turbans. Close to the Rani rode Mandarbai, a Muslim girl, her close friend. The British soldiers immediately joined the battle. It was a hot day and the Rani had been fighting for ten hours at a stretch. At one stage, being pursued by the soldiers, she urged her horse towards a narrow stream between steep rocks but when she was about to cross the stream she heard a cry from behind. She turned round and saw a British soldier in the act of killing Mandarbai. In a flash she was back at the soldier, killing him with one stroke of her sword.
In the meantime, another soldier had crept up from behind her and struck her on head. With blood streaming down her face, she urged her horse to jump the stream but the frightened horse would not move. At this moment a British soldier shot her in the chest and she fell face forward across her horse. The horse now leaped across the stream and took her to the spot where her soldiers were.
`Don't let the British touch my dead body,' she whispered.
Her soldiers laid her on a haystack and as she breathed her last, set fire to it. When the British arrived they found only the ashes. Thus a great and brave lady met her end in a very courageous manner. But she left a legacy for others to follow, and that was, not to give in till you breathe your last.
Questions to be answered:
1. Why is Rani of Jhansi considered to be very brave?
2. What was the name of Rani of Jhansi?
3. What was the name of the husband of Rani of Jhansi?
4. Why did Rani of Jhansi revolt?
5. Who was her companion?
6. Which rulers helped her?
7. How did Rani of Jhansi escape?
8. How did she meet her end?
9. What were her last words?
10. `Meri Jhansi nahin dungi' (I'll never give up my Jhansi). Explain.
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