Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi


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Obtaining out of print books

Amazon list some out of print books and have a service to obtain them, possibly other online bookshops run a similar service. I have obtained a number of books through Bibliofind but since their takeover by Amazon a search for 'jhansi' brings no results. look to be more useful.


Of the fictional biographies, there is Jaishree Misra's Rani (2007) and Lebra-Chapman's Durga's Sword.

In the non-fiction there is Rainer Jerosch's Rani of Jhansi - Rebel against Will, and Lebra Chapman's The Rani of Jhansi, A study in Female Heroism in India though it is out of print.

More usefully in print is Tapti Roy's Raj of the Rani which also puts the events in Jhansi into the context wider of the politics of Bundelkhand.

Also there is Mahasweti Devi's The Queen of Jhansi. Although first published in 1956, is available now in English translation. It tends to be adulatory, does not attribute sources, is rather disjointed but is full of wonderful detail from oral sources as well as the written. However it is difficult to distinguish hard fact from 'soft'.

Another fictional biograhy to be considered is Vrindavan Lal Varma's Lakshmi Bai, The Rani of Jhansi, now available in English translation. Varma was born in 1889 near Jhansi, writing his book in 1946. This proximity in time and space has to lend the facts of his account some credibility, though given that it is fictionalised, determining which are facts and which not is another matter.


Andrew Ward - Our Bones Are Scattered (John Murray Publishers, UK, 1996 ISBN: 0-7195-6410-7)
A detailed and very readable account of the events and massacre at Cawnpore and the retribution that followed. It also looks at the lives, and deaths, of many of those involved on all sides. Many footnotes and references.
Devi, Mahasweta - The Queen of Jhansi (Seagull Books, 2000 ISBN 81 7046 175 6) (Originally published as Jhansir Rani, 1956, written in Bangla)
A personal history of the Rani, including source material as well as imaginative reconstruction. Devi also drew on oral history; when writing this in the mid-1950's Devi was able to talk with the son of Damodar Rao and the grandson of Lakshmibai's stepmother. He had made Lakshmibai his lifelong mission, as well the ordinary people of Jhansi and others. I can't comment on the accuracy of it all but full of detail and original source material.
Duberly, Frances Isabella - Campaigning Experiences in Rajpootana and Central India ( Elibron Classics 2005 ISBN 1-4021-8911-7 Smith, ELder and Co, London 1859 )
Not much to do with the Rani except for a few paragraaphs on her death but an insight into what it was for the British as they campaigned to put down the rebellion. Duberly was the wife of an officer in the 8th Hussars and was no delicate flower, indeed, as others have mentioned, she and the Rani would seem to have had a lot in common. The irony is that it is most likely that it was her husband's unit that was responsible for the Rani's death.
Fisher, Michael H. - The Politics of British Annexation of India - 1757-1857 (Oxford, 1996 ISBN 0 1956 392 00)
Includes Jhansi of course, but whilst others talk about the other annexations, Jhansi is represented by Lakshmibai herself in the form of her first three letters to Dalhousie.
Forrest, George W, (ed) - Selections from the Letters, Despatches and Other State Papers preserved in the Military Department of the Government of India 1857-1858 Volume IV Jhansi, Calpee, Gwalior ( First published 1912, Asian Educational Services, New Delhi, 2001 ISBN 81 296 1350 3)
Not the snappiest of titles. Presumably not intended for the mass market. In his 172 page Introduction, Forrest reiterates the semi-official British view of her character - 'proud and unyielding .. indulging in the stern passions of anger and revenge' - charging her with fomenting the mutiny in Jhansi, and shortly after writes that she was unable to help the British because of threats to her life from the mutineers. He doesn't bother to resolve this contradiction. Apart from the Introduction, actually Forrest's own summary of events, it is verbatim reports from the British officers commanding the Central India Campaign including Rose's account of the siege of Jhansi. The appendices include other reports, of particular interest the statements supposedly implicating Lakshmibai in the massacre.
Fraser, Antonia - Warrior Queens (originally entitled Boadicea's Chariot) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London 1988 ISBN: 0 297 79486 8)
A study of women leaders, their lives and how they are perceived. Apart from Lakshmibai (The Valiant Rani) it includes Boadicea, Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi among others.
Godse, Vishnu Bhat/Pande Mrindal - 1857: The Real Story of the Great Uprising (Harper Perennial, 2011)
Godse was a Brahmin who found himself in Jhansi in 1857/1858. He became acquainted with the Rani and was in Jhansi during the siege by the British forces. He wrote his account soem 20-30 years later but it was not published until after his death. Elsewhere there are extracts cobbled together to give an account but this is his entire story. One has to be a bit careful as regards its accuracy as it was written down sometime afterwards and he was not a witness to everything he writes about. Nonetheless, the only eye-witness acount to any of it from someone who was there and on the Indian side.
Jerosch, Rainer - The Rani of Jhansi, Rebel against Will (Aakar, Delhi 2007)
Quite probably the best of the Rani books. Jerosch was a lawyer and applies his forensic training to the all too many 'mysteries' of the Rani's life, in particular her role in the massacre. Recommended. Originally published in German as 'Rani von Jhansi - Rebellin wider Willen'.
Keays, John - A History of India (2000)
An excellent history of the sub-continent from the earliest times to the present day but not much on Lakshmibai.
Lang, John - Wanderings in India (1859)
Includes Lang's account of his meeting with the Rani. Available in full, and free, on Google Books.
Lebra-Chapman, Dr. Joyce - The Rani of Jhansi, a Study in Female Heroism in India (Honolulu, 1986 - out of print ISBN: 0-8248-0984-X)
A good account of the Rani's life, sympathetic but not adulatory; it traces the development of the legend in its various forms (images, poetry, song, folklore, and so on). Usefully, sources are properly attibuted.
Lebra-Chapman, Dr. Joyce - Durga's Sword (Harper Collins, 1995 ISBN 81 7223 195 4)
A fictional biography. Fact and fiction blend mostly seamlessly.
Malleson G.B. - The Indian Mutiny of 1857 (London 1891 - out of print)
A potted version of the 3 volume History started by Kaye and completed by himself. Attests to Lakshmibai's high character but also that the 'hand of the despoiler [the British] had lashed her into a fury which was not to be governed'. Asserts that she was one of those who planned the Mutiny, was involved in the massacre, and so on. His imperialism is hard to stomach, but he does at least criticise those who ride roughshod over things Indian, and renders Kanpur as Khanpur, and similarly for other names.
Misra, Jaishree - Rani (Penguin India 2007)
Misra gives us a flesh and blood woman rather than the 2 dimensional caricatures we so often see. Her facts aren't always entirely accurate but then I regard this as an adaption of reality in the same way that a film is an adaption of a book, say. She also uses the relationship of the Rani with the British in Jhansi as an allegory of the historical relationship between the two countries ending it on a poignantly hopeful note. This book has fallen foul of the petty minded and been banned in Uttar Pradesh, an absurd and shameful act, unbecoming of the principles of India and, I think, the Rani herself. Jaishree Misra's web-site
Pathak, Dr S.P. - Jhansi during the British Rule (Ramanand Vidya Bhawan, Delhi, 1987 - out of print)
An economic study of Jhansi from 1857 to 1947. He contends that the British deliberately kept Jhansi and the surrounding area economically backward.
Paul, E Jaiwant - Rani of Jhansi, Lakshmi Bai (Roli Books, New Delhi, 1997 ISBN: 81 7436032 8)
A biography with lots of detail, though not all of it sourced. With dramatisations and invented dialogue. No bibliography.
Rana, Dr. Bhwan Singh Rana - Rani of Jhansi (Diamond Books, Delhi 2004 ISBN 81-288-0875-3)
This is not a book I can recommend, there are too many inaccuracies, British names in particular suffer - Hugh Rose is rendered as Hughrose, Skene becomes Screen among others and there is a reference to an eminent historian "K", who I think is actually meant to be Kaye. Maybe Rana is getting some revenge for the mangling of Indian names by the British, maybe a historian should be more concerned with accuracy.
Renick, DR. M. S. - A New Light upon the History of Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi (Agam Kala Prakashan, Delhi 2004 ISBN 81-7320-060-2)
The new light is the influence the Rani's father, Moropant Tambe, may have had on her. Renick postulates that Tambe had a far greater influence than is generally recognised. However there are no new facts and while Renick's basic idea has some merit I think he pushes it too far on slim evidence.
Robson, Brian (ed) - Sir Hugh Rose and the Central India Campaign ( Sutton Publishing Ltd for the Army Records Society, UK, 2000 ISBN 0-7509-2541-8 )
A collection of documents, both official and private, from the the principals like Rose and Hamilton and others writing to their families.
Roy, Tapti - Raj of the Rani (Penguin India 2006)
A good popular account of the Rani's life with references and a bibliography, except that Roy retells stories from the Rani's childhood for which we have no sources.
Roy, Tapti - The Polititics of a Popular Uprising - Bundelkhand in 1857 (Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1994 ISBN 0 19 563612 0 - out of print)
An academic look at the uprising in Bundelkhand with the view, as the title suggests, that it was more an uprising of the people than a mutiny and limited rebellion. Roy examines the inter-clan and dynastical rivalries as well social conditions and attitudes of the people. For this purpose she sets the actions of Lakshmibai in context.
Sen S. N. - 1857 (Ministry of Information, Government of India, New Delhi, 1957 ISBN: 81 230 0093 6)
Originally published in 1957 and commissioned by the Indian Government to commemorate the Centenary of the Great Rebellion. Well considered though criticised in its own introduction to the 1995 reprint for over reliance on British sources, 'but as a scholarly monograph Sen's 1857 remains unsurpassed'. Unfortunately poorly printed with many typographical errors.
Smyth, Sir John, - The Rebellious Rani (London 1966 - out of print)
Smyth though contending that the Rani was innocent of complicity in the massacre and the mutiny, is of the opinion that she nonetheless used events to her own purpose.
Tahmankar, D.V. - The Ranee of Jhansi (London 1958 - out of print)
Taylor, P.J.O - What Really Happened During the Mutiny (Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1997 ISBN: 019 565113 8)
An ambitious title with a more accurate sub-title - 'A Day-by-Day Account of the Major Events of 1857-1859 in India'. It has an extensive and annotated bibliography listing some 1007 items, including plays and novels, dealing with the events of this period.
Varma, Vrindavan Lal - Lakshmi Bai, The Rani of Jhansi (Ocean Books Ltd, Delhi 2001 ISBN 81-87100-54-0)
This is the English translation of Varma's original 1946 work. Born in 1889 near Jhansi, Varma was as close as any to the events of 1857/8 and this lends his account some credibility but as ever with fictionalisd accounts, what is fact what isn't?
White, Michael - Lachmi Bai, Rani of Jhansi (Taylor and Co. New York, 1901)
A fictional biography. I assume the author is American since it was published in New York and the British talk of dollars, not something the Victorian British of all people would have done. Sympathetic to the Rani, he has her planning the mutiny and rebellion at Jhansi, but the massacre of the British happened against her wishes. Not totally accurate, in fact not accurate at all, but demonstrates that even then there were doubts about the official version of events.

Books for Children

Dasgupta, Shahana - Rani Lakshmibai: The Indian Heroine (Rupa & Company, Calcutta (ND),Aug 2002 ISBN: 8171678572)
I've been informed that this book is intended for children/early teens
Raajgopal, Rajshri - Mani (Discover the power within) (Indidoll Mimitra Enterprises, Bangalore ISBN: 978-93-5104-795-7)
This book accompanies a doll of Mani; Mani is a village girl who idolises the new Rani of Jhansi, realises her dream of meeting the Rani and is inspired by her. See Indidoll for more details. (Indidoll gifted me a copy of their book.)
Taylor, P.J.O. - The Rani of Jhansi (HarperCollins Delhi 1995 ISBN 81 7223 200 4)
A biography for children

Original Source Material

- Jhansi Treasury Accounts British Library, Oriental and India Office MSS EUR 239/33 ()
In particular covers 1842.
Sturt, John Venables - His recollections of his escape from rebels during the mutiny. British Library, Oriental and India Office MSS EUR/C 195 ()
His account merely mentions Jhansi at one point but includes extracts from 3 letters written to him by a Mr Martin in 1897 regarding the Rani.

Other Sources

This list has been mostly culled from Taylor's work mentioned above. It lists any items that make a more than passing reference to Lakshmibai. Few will be still in print.
Annand, A McKenzie, ed. - Cavalry Surgeon: the Recollections of J.H. Sylvester (London, 1971)
Sylvester served under Rose during the Bundelkhand campaign
Chaterbhuj - The Rani of Jhansi (-)
Duberley, Mrs Frances - Campaigning in Rajputana and Central India during the suppression of the Mutiny (London 1859)
Mrs Duberley's husband was an officer in the 8th Hussars and is said to have 'been present when the Rani of Jhansi was killed by a Hussar of her husband's regiment.'
Mathew Wilson - The Land of War Elephants: Travels in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India (Nomad Press, 2003, ISBN: 0965925897)
To quote from the blurb: "Of particular interest is his quest to retrace the final journey of Lakshmibai, the warrior Princess of Jhansi, who made a noble, albeit futile, stand against the British in 1858."
Mishra, J.P. - The Bundela Rebellion (Delhi 1982)
Of which Jhansi was a part.
Sinha, Shyam Narain - Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi (Allahabad 1980)
I actually held this book in my hands, in Delhi Public Library, and had to leave it behind.
Sinha, Shyam, Narain - The Revolt of 1857 in Bundelkhand (Lucknow 1982)
Including the story of Lakshmibai.
Sylvester, J.H. - Recollections of the campaign in Malwa and Central India (Bombay 1860)
The original source for Annand.
Taimuri M.H.R. - Some unpublished Documents on the death of the Rani of Jhansi and the Mutiny in Central India, in Indian Historical Records Commission Proceedings 1953 ()

Indian Language

Amrit Lal Nagar - Aankhon Dekha Ghadar (Vision/Rajpal 1998 ISBN 81-7028-250-0 Hindi.)
A Hindi translation of "Majha Pravas" by Vishnu Bhatt Godshe (see below) Is there an English translation?
Bhattacharya, Mahashweta - Jhansir Rani (1956 Bengali)
Kailash Madavaiya - Bundelkhand Ka Vismrat vaibhav: Banpur (Manish Prakashan 1978 Hindi(?))
Contains reproductions of at least two letters written by Lakshmibai to the Raja of Banpur.
Parasnis, D.B. - Maharani Lakshmi Bai Saheb, Hyanche Charita (1894 Marathi)
Singh, Kalyan - Lakshmi Bai ka Raso (no date Hindi)
Tagore, Jyotirindranath - Jhansir Rani (1900 Bengali)
Verma, Bindraban Lal - Maharani Lakshmi Bai (1946 Hindi)
From Hans-Dieter Mueller of Koln, Germany: Actually the author's name is written VRINDAVALANLAL VARMA) The translation of this novel into English is from 2001 but the book is actually written in 1946, the author is born in 1890 and lived in or close to Jhansi (310 Pages) I believe the 1952 movie [Jhansi ki rani] was based on this novel.
Vishnu Bhatt Godshe - Majha Pravas (no date, but 19C Marathi)
Godshe was a Brahmin who was in Jhansi before and during the siege, he survived, wrote this account and published it some 50 years later.

Other Languages

Jerosch, Rainer - Die Rani von Jhansi - Rebellin wider Willen (Peter Lang 2004 ISBN 3-631-50648-1 (German))
Having read an English translation of this book, I can thoroughly recommend it. Jerosch has done some extensive research and has applied his legal training to an analysis of the key events, the events surrounding the mutiny in Jhansi in particular. He has done an excellent job. The English translation is being published in India by Penguin, and hopefully at some time in the UK.


Interestingly of the 875 English language books listed by Taylor only 6, less than 1%, deal directly with the Rani, whereas of the 26 Indian language books, 5, nearly 20% deal with her.

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Last modified: 2008-03-21 08:28:49.000000000