Rani (Queen) Lakshmi Bai – this brave, young queen of the Kingdom of Jhansi stood up to the British after her husband died and refused to hand them her kingdom. Her brave words, “Main Jhansi nahi dungee,” – “I will not give you Jhansi,” to the British still reverberate with the people of India who revere her as a Goddess.
She was born on November 19, 1828 and married the ruler of Jhansi in 1842. After her husband’s death she became Queen Regent to an adopted son. At the same time the British East India company was expanding its territory in India, and annexing kingdoms without natural born heirs. Rani Lakshmi Bai was having none of that, and when her attempts at negotiations failed, she took up arms against the British and led the people of Jhansi in the Indian Rebellion of 1857 which was the first battle for independence – 90 years before the country finally gained independence in 1947. She died fighting the British in June 1858 at the young age of 29.
Her bravery has reached mythic proportions and Indian school children recite poems written about her bravery. John Latimer, a member of the British Central India Field Force, wrote a letter on 24 June 1858 to his Uncle in which he speaks of her courage and bravery:
“Proud and impetuous, she required but little persuasion, she girded on her father’s sword raised the standard of her ancestors and entered the palace of Jhansi at the head of the troops. Her life has been a brief and eventful one and gives to the revolt – its only romantic tinge. Whatever opinion the world may entertain regarding her cruelty, her courage shines pre-eminent and can only be equaled, but not eclipsed by that of Joan of Arc. She played for a high game, and even when she found out she had losing cards did not despair, but looked defiant to the last.”