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Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi


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The rather formidable young woman pictured is Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi. She died in 1858 fighting the British in what was the last major action in the Great Indian Rebellion which had started the year before.

Her story first caught my attention in a book in which she only rated a couple of paragraphs. Not surprisingly since in the scope of the Rebellion in particular, or Indian history in general it is just one episode among many, a footnote. Indeed in some works on Indian history the whole episode is not mentioned.

She was cheated twice by the British. Firstly, in 1854 when they annexed Jhansi on the death of her husband, the Raja. Secondly, when they unjustly accused her of complicity in the mutiny and massacre that occurred in Jhansi 3 years later. As a result of the actions of the British, and others, she was catapulted from being a 'housewife' to the leader of an army and the most important leader of the Indian Rebellion in the space of less than a year. Her death on June 17th 1858, effectively ending the Indian resistance.

It could be said the British tried to cheat her a third time with their attempts to blacken her name and reputation. Within India they failed, and there are suggestions that not everyone was convinced in the British camp as well. Nonetheless even today those claims continue to cast a shadow. See here (shadow.html) for an example.

Today her name is commonplace throughout India, renowned as a leader of the Rebellion, but she was more than a martial leader. In her brief time she cast aside many conventions to unite peoples of all castes and religions in her cause. She put aside purdah, which she only observed with respect to the British in any case, encouraged other women to do the same and trained them to fight and support the main army; Lakshmibai was not the only Jhansi woman to die fighting the British. She cut across the social norms of the time, refusing to accept her fate 'as a woman'. She cared for all her people, and consulted with them at crucial times, and carried them with her.

This is, I suppose, my homage to a remarkable woman and to all the other Lakshmibai's the world over, those women who have had to fight, whether with words or swords, to protect themselves, their families, their homes, and, sadly, still are fighting. Perhaps the biggest fight for women right now is that faced by the women of Afghanistan ( faced as they were by a mysogonistic and psychotic leadership and whose struggles continue.

This site includes:-

All of these are shown in a panel on the left of each page - all you have to do is click! Finally, this site is generated using XML and XSLT, and details of that is also linked in the same panel.

I would be delighted to receive any comments, and especially any corrections, opinions and so forth from anyone 'out there'. Talk to me! Even to agree with me, that I could do better :)

I would be even more delighted for any information anyone may have on these events and/or the people who participated in them. Perhaps you have studied and researched these times you may have something to add; maybe an ancestor was in Jhansi and there are family stories; and so on. Write to me.

Allen Copsey (allenc at copsey-family dot org)


i) The usual image of Lakshmibai to be found looks to be a copy derived from the one above. It has the unfortunate effect of giving her a cloven hoof for a right hand. The copyist confusing her hand and her hand guard. That her sword and hand should be so mistakenly combined is somehow symbolic of her story.

ii) Her name is also written as 2 words, Lakshmi Bai. I have chosen to use what I think is the more modern usage. '-bai' is an honorific implying respect for a woman. It is applied to both women of Lakshmibai's status and to female servants to show respect for them also. It is like the suffix '-ji' which also shows respect for the person. Gandhi, for example, is often referred to as Gandhiji.

iii) Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of fortune and wealth. Lakshmibai has been likened to the goddess, Durga, who was created by the three principal gods, Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu to force the demons out of heaven. She is portrayed as a beautiful woman, but one that rides a tiger. She is a mother figure, kind and benevolent, and protective, so beware the tiger should you threaten her family.

iv) Rani means queen, as Raja means king. The prefix 'maha-' implies 'great'. There is a hierarchy of monarchs. (The 'maha-' prefix also appears, for example, in the name, Mahatma, given to Gandhi. Maha-atma means great spirit.)

v) The rendition of Indian words into Roman script varies and has changed since 1857. Usually there should be no problem with identification, e.g. Rani was then rendered as Ranee. Also today's letter 'a' was then rendered as 'u' (as in 'under') as in the example of 'sati' and 'suttee'. Lakshmi has been written as Lukshmie. This is because the Indian sound being rendered by 'a' is actually somewhere between the English 'a' and 'u' sounds. The same process has given English the words 'Punjab' from 'Panjab' and 'pundit' from 'pandit'.

vi) The Victorian British referred to the events of 1857-1858 as The Great Indian Mutiny, but it also became known as the Indian Rebellion, since it not only involved mutinous soldiers, but also civilians. Some Indians, at least, call it the First War of Independence. I've chosen to refer to it as a rebellion. I don't think it quite qualifies as a war of independence.

vii) Copyrights. I think I've given credit where credit is due. I've used images from the books and should I be in breach of copyright I will be happy to acknowledge so - if the original artist or photographer should contact me.


It is apparent to me that Lakshmibai was an innocent victim of the brutal British suppression of the revolt; none of the modern authors I've read give much credence to the accusations made against her. However she is also the victim of an unholy alliance of the worst of the British Imperialists who wanted her to be a rebel to justify their actions, and Indian Nationalists who wanted her to be a rebel to be an inspiration for their cause. At least the latter had right on their side. It is sad to see modern Indian writers repeating the slanders of the British, albeit with a nationalist tinge. It is over 40 years after the publication of Dr S. N. Sen's book, 1857, which effectively repudiated those claims. I have always found the truth to be far more fascinating and wonderful than legend. Lakshmibai the woman is many more times the hero than Lakshmibai the legend.

A search on the WWW reveals a handful of sites which retold her story but much of it is about Lakshmibai the icon, the legend, not about the woman, and historical accuracy was not always the first imperative. I was fortunate in finding The Warrior Queens by Antonia Fraser which devoted a whole chapter, 25 pages, to the Valiant Rani. Subsequently I came across The Great Mutiny by Cristopher Hibbert which provided another though shorter perspective of her story, and a longer one on the Rebellion itself. John Keay's History of India also provides a short account. Since then my Lakshmibai library (biblio.html) has grown.

During my perambulations on the web I found what could be a personal link with the Rebellion. On the Family History in India ( site is a list of all the British troops who received the Indian Mutiny Campaign medal. One of them is a Thomas Copsey who served with the 54th Foot (West Norfolk). Since Copsey is not a common name and my paternal family come from West Norfolk, Thomas Copsey is quite possibly a relation. Further my maternal family name is Doel, also an uncommon name, and there are two men listed, Aaron and Joseph Doel, who served with the same regiment, 1st Battalion, 13th Foot, and were presumably brothers, and also possible ancestors. Neither the 13th Foot nor the 54th Foot were involved in the Central India Campaign.

I don't have the resources to examine and investigate the original material and all I can do is retell in my own poor fashion what these have told me. I have tried to present as facts only those of which I am reasonably certain are facts. Where I have repeated something which is apocryphal or uncertain I have flagged it so. I have not suppressed any awkward facts. My opinions are scattered throughout is flagged as such and I hope will not be confused with fact. Where possible and sensible I have used direct quotations Mistakes and opinions are my own.

Allen Copsey ( (


One of the things that investigating Lakshmibai's story has driven home is the sheer difficulty of knowing what to believe. There are some stories which are obvious nonsense, but others are more difficult to gauge. Take the example of her death. There are two principle and incompatible versions of it. They have two elements in common, that her companion, Mandar, was killed at the same time that Lakshmibai was mortally wounded with Lakshmibai surviving for a while afterwards.Otherwise the stories could be about two entirely different people.

The written evidence has to be treated with some degree of scepticism since the author will be presenting certain facts that support their case, and possibly suppressing others. They may be making assumptions of knowledge on the part of the reader to which we are not privy. Intelligence reports are decidedly murky, and have the added twist that if the person spied on knows about the spy, then they may present the spy with false, or misleading, information.

At least with written evidence we can be certain that the words we read today are the same words that were written then. This is not the case with verbal evidence. Mahasweta Devi mentions that from family history that Lakshmibai's stepmother claimed that after the peace treaty between Jhansi and Orchha that the two Rani's embraced like sisters, perhaps, but hostilities continued between the two 'sisters' right up until the British arrived. So what did she really say, and mean?

Then there is a problem with introduced facts. Also in Devi's book she rejects Mrs Mutlow's testimony because Mutlow claims to have hidden in a Hindu memorial in the Jokan Bagh and there are no such structures in the Bagh. However the photograph (jhansi.jpeg) of the site of the massacre, ie of Jokan Bagh, taken shortly afterwards, shows what, to me, look like Hindu structures of some sort but perhaps I am wrong.

Nonetheless by looking at what the British wrote about her, we can be reasonably certain that if there is a bias it will not be in her favour and that any favourable conclusions we draw from it should be at minimally true. The actual truth could be even better.


I have adopted a date of 1828 for Lakshmibai's birth. For the reasoning behind this see the page on her Early Life (early.html) . Others claim it was later in 1835, say.

1828 She is born to Bhagirathi in Varanasi (Benares). Bhagirathi is believed to have died about 2 years later leaving Manu to be raised by her father Moropant Tambe. When she was about 4 years old he moves to Bithur where they remain for her childhood.
May 1842 Manikarnika becomes Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi, at the age of 14. She is his second wife, the first having died childless. It is said that Lakshmibai gave birth to a son but that he died after 3 months.
1853 Nov 19 On the day before his death he is persuaded to adopt a son, Damodar, to be his heir. This is in accordance with custom and to ensure that the British understand this the two senior BRitish officers are invited to attend the ceremony.
1853 Nov 21
1854 Feb 27
1854 Lakshmibai is obliged to surrender Jhansi to the British and takes up residence in the Rani Mahal and is granted a pension. The people of Jhansi have several causes for grievance under British rule including loss of income from the dissolution of the court and the British permitting cows to be slaughtered in Jhansi and so offending Hindu sensibilities.
1857 May 10
1857 Jun 5 The mutineers take control of the Star Fort which was outside the city. The British and Eurasians take shelter in the fort in the town where they hold out for a few days.
1857 Jun 8 The British officers agree to leave the fort under a promise of safety from the rebels. Instead they are taken to Jokan Bagh and killed.
1857 Jun 11 They head for Delhi which was serving as the rallying point for the rebels. Before leaving they force Lakshmibai to supply them with money and supplies threatening both her life and to replace her with another claimant to the throne.
1857 Jun 12 She writes to explain what has happened and asks for help.
1857 Jun 13 Sadishev Rao launches a coup against Lakshmibai. She quickly suppresses it and imprisons him.
1857 Jun 14
1857 Jul 2 Erskine replies to Lakshmibai in a letter which asks her to manage Jhansi for the interim. Shortly after is reprimanded for this and this is the only time the British contact Lakshmibai.
1857 Oct 3 - 22 After the mutiny in Jhansi the neighbouring states of Datia and especially Orchha encroach on Jhansi territory culminating in Orchha laying seige to Jhansi.
1858 Jan 1 She writes to Sir Robert Hamilton seeking clarification of Jhansi's status. Hamilton does not reply.
1858 Jan 6 General Sir Hugh Rose starts his operation to suppress the rebellion in Bundelkand, including Jhansi.
1858 Jan-Mar She recruits more into her army, lays in stores, has more cannon and munitions built and contacts the rebels at Kalpi. Nonetheless she does not seem to have given up hope of a peaceful outcome.
1858 Mar 21 Rose's force arrives outside Jhansi, surrounds the town, starting to fire on the town 2 days later on the 23rd. Although the resistance is fierce the British are able to wear down the rebel's artillery and then concentrate thier fire to create a breach in the walls.
1858 Mar 31 Tantia Topi arrives with a large but largely poor quality force in an attempt to relieve Jhansi. Rose splits his force to maintain the siege and to face Tantia Topi's force. Topi is defeated with high losses.
1858 Apr 3 The British finally launch an assault on the Jhansi and are able to force an entry into the town. Although the Fort is still intact Lakshmibai flees during the night and joins the rebels at Kalpi. During and after the battle for Jhansi several thousand are killed. Lakshmibai's father is captured and hung. Over three days the British plunder Jhansi.
1858 May 6 Rose defeats the rebels.
1858 May 22 Again Rose defeats the rebels in what he believes is the final battle.
1858 Jun 1 After the defeat at Kalpi, the British had thought the rebels were finished, however they marched to Gwalior where they were faced by the Raja of Scindia. Thanks to his army changing sides at the start of the battle he was forced to retire leaving Gwalior in the hands of the rebels.
1858 Jun 17 Lakshmibai was most probably killed, or mortally wounded, during an action at Kotah-ki-Serai near Gwalior. The exact circumstances are unclear as several differing and incompatible accounts exist.

Early Life


Lakshmibai started life as Manikarnika, nicknamed Manu, born in Varanasi (Benares) the daughter of Bhagirathi and Moropant Tambe in 1827 or 1828. There is some confusion over her birthdate so see Questions and Answers (qanda.html) for more details.

Manikarnika's mother died when she was small, possibly when she was about two years old.

Moropant Tambe was an advisor to Chimnaji Appa, brother to Baji Rao II who was the last of the Maratha peshwas. Chimnaji Appa died when Manikarnika was about three and her father moved to Bithur and became a member of the court of Baji Rao. As a result of her father's position she spent her childhood in the palace.


As a child she seems to have been something of a tomboy. Was her father disappointed that his only child (so far as we know), was a girl? Did she try to compensate and be the son he wanted?

She is said to have had Nana Sahib, Tatya Tope among her playmates. However it should be noted that Nana Sahib was at least 7 or 8 years older, being born about 1820, and Tatya Tope, who was born about 1813, was about 14 years her senior, and this at an age when even a single year can make a big difference.

One story has it that when denied a ride on his elephant by Nana Sahib, she declared that one day she would have 10 elephants to everyone of his. If this story is true it could either be childish bravado or may have occurred in the period between betrothal and her marriage.

It is also said that her father educated her to be a queen. As her father travelled with her to Jhansi and was employed by Gangadhar Rao it is likely that this education occurred after her marriage.

She was married to Gangadhar Rao, Raja of Jhansi, when she was about 14 in May 1842. An entry in the Jhansi accounts shows that a sum of 40,000 rupees was allocated for the celebrations. This entry confirms the oral history noted by Lebra for this date and that the marriage was celebrated with fireworks and cannon firing a salute. Lakshmibai was Gangadhar Rao's second wife, the first having died, and without bearing a child.

Married Life

With her marriage, Manikarnika changed her name to Lakshmi. The change of name being the custom for Indian royalty, not dissimilar to the change of name when British royalty (or the Pope) ascend the throne.

We can not know what life was like for her in Jhansi, or what her married life was like - some have suggested that the Raja was a homosexual, others that he had at least one mistress, in either case not exactly a devoted husband. And this is before we consider their age difference.

Lakshmibai was an excellent horse rider, and was also said to have been a good judge of horses. It is known that she exercised and practiced with weapons, and famously at some point, drilled and trained a 'regiment' of women. This may not have been quite so unusual as it appears. The zenana (women's quarters) was often guarded by armed women, and these occassionally took part in battles. What was unusual was for the Rani to be in charge of their training.

It is said that she had a son in 1851 but that it died after 3 months. Whether or not this is true, when Gangadhar died in 1853 they were childless. When he fell ill and his death was anticipated they tried to persuade him to adopt a son, he relented only the day before his death. They adopted the 5 year old Damodar Rao, a member of Gangadhar's extended family. To ensure that the British understood that the adoption was proper the local British officials, the Political Agent, Major Ellis, and a Captain Martin, were called to witness the event.

At the same time, a will was prepared requesting the British to treat Damodar as the true son of Gangadhar and that Lakshmibai should be Regent. The will was read to Major Ellis, and repeated in a letter to the Political Agent for Gwalior and Bundelkhand, a Major Malcolm.

Gangadhar's grandfather had signed a treaty with the British which granted him and his heirs and successors title to Jhansi in perpetuity. The history of the succession had been complicated by previous childless successions, British interventions in the running of the state, and additional treaties. Nonetheless, the rulers of Jhansi had been pro-British since that time of the initial treaty and it was not anticipated that there would be a problem with the succession.

Gangadhar Rao died on the 21st November 1853.

Note that the will precludes that Lakshmibai would become a sati, some would have it that she declined that 'honour'. The practice of sati had been outlawed by the British in 1829. It is unlikely that Gangadhar Rao, even if he approved of the practice (many didn't), would expect his wife to break that law. In fact Lashmibai limited her official mourning activities to the minimum, she stayed inside for the minimum period expected, 13 days, did not shave her head, break her bangles, or dress in the widow's white.


i) 'Manikarnika' is the name of a bathing ghat in Benaras. The name literally means 'Ear Jewel' - tradition has it that one of goddess Annapurna's earstuds dropped at this place. My thanks to B.S.V. Prasad for this information, and for correcting my spelling of the name, and other corrections.

ii) In "Our Bones Are Scattered", Andrew Ward notes that in Bithur there is a legend that Manikarnika and Nana Sahib had fallen in love but that Baji Rao forbade the marriage. If true this suggests how Manikarnika came to the notice of Gangadhar Rao; what better way for Baji Rao to be rid of a troublesome relationship? It also indirectly confirms the later age of Manikarnika as this would not have happened if she had been 8 years old, but at 13 or 14 it is somewhat more likely.

iii) sati refers to the practice of a widow immolating herself on her husbands funeral pyre. sati actually means 'virtuous woman', in dying this way she becomes a virtuous woman. It was far from being a universal practice either by caste or by region. Many Indians disapproved of it. I read sonewhere that the first British governor of Calcutta married a woman rescued from her husband's funeral pyre. In the great classic, the Ramayana, Rams's wife, Sita, walks through a fire to prove her virtue. As is usual, it is the woman who is required to prove her virtue, not for the man to prove his. However when Ram asks her to do it a second time, Sita leaves him.


Relevant source documents:-

In 1853 the governance of India was still in the hands of the East India Company. The Governor General of India being the Marquess of Dalhousie. The many principalities that made up India were each dealt with individually. Jhansi was one of those that were ruled not by the British but by its own monarch, the Raja. The Raja of Jhansi had maintained a pro-British stance throughout his reign. Jhansi had been pro-British ever since his grandfather had signed a treaty with the British in 1817 granting Jhansi to his heirs and successors in perpetuity. Gangadhar Rao made explicit reference to his loyalty and that of his predecessors in his will.

The British had a policy of 'lapse' whereby when an Indian ruler died without an heir the principality would be annexed and come under direct British administration. Under Dalhousie adopted children were not considered as heirs.

This latter point had more than a simple legal consequence. Indian custom was that an adopted child was the equal of a child by birth. Further there are certain rites which the eldest son is required to perform on the death of his father to save the fathers soul from hell. This is roughly equivalent to the Roman Catholic ritual of Last Rites. In denying the legitimacy of an adopted son they offended Indian sensibilities.

The Raja of Jhansi's dying request was refused, and the annexation of Jhansi was declared.

The annexation does not appear to have been due to the Rani's sex; it was not unusual for a woman to rule a state in India, or England for that matter. Nor was it because there were doubts as to her ability to govern. The British Political Agent, Major Malcolm, wrote that the Rani was 'highly respected and esteemed, and I believe fully capable of doing justice to such a charge.' He was not alone in that opinion and, as later events were to show, it was wholly justified. It can only have been due to, in essence, greed.

When the Rani appealed against the decision as she did on the December 3rd 1853 the local Political Agent, Major Ellis, wrote a letter in support of her case, Malcolm, perhaps getting a hint of the political wind did not forward it. A second appeal followed on February 16th 1854. The appeals were refused.

Lakshmibai then consulted with a British counsel, John Lang, who was in India and had had some success against the Company in the courts. This consultation is recounted by Lang in his book "Wanderings in India". During this consultation the Rani uttered the famous "Mera Jhansi nahin dengee". Lang's account is worth reading as it gives virtually the only indication of the character of the Rani, what the person was like.

According to Lang, the Rani had been advised to consult him by "a gentleman of the Civil Service, who had once been a Resident, or Governor General's agent, ... who in common with many other officials of rank in India regarded the annexation ... as not only impolitic, but unjust and without excuse". So even at the time Dalhousie's decision was controversial among the British.

Her third appeal dated April 22nd 1854 was drafted with regard to Lang's advice. There followed an appeal to the Court of Directors in London, at considerable cost, but it also failed.

The Rani maintained her petitions into 1856, her persistence is said to have irritated Dalhousie.

The comment of Sir John Kaye, the British military historian who worked for both the East India Company and the India, was that is 'so ungenerous, and being so ungenerous, so unwise'. Others who have examined the case tend to agree the annexation was unjust in that it went against the treaty of 1817 and that Dalhousie's case was incorrect. The East India Company did not have to answer to any proper court of law. The only limit on its powers were political considerations of what was possible. With the policy of lapse and its implementation it unwittingly overstepped the mark as it contributed to the 1857 Rebellion.

The Rani was forced into retirement, she was granted a monthly pension of 5,000 rupees, the palace now known as the Rani Mahal, state jewels and funds.

British Administration

With the annexation, the British replaced Ellis and possibly Martin with Captain Alexander Skene and Captain Dunlop. These men were considered to be relatively inexperienced in Indian affairs and less immediately sympathetic to the Rani.

In his book, The Rebellious Rani, Smyth has it that over the next three years the Rani "was steadily endearing heself to her people and fanning their resentment against the British". As she had been Rani of Jhansi for over 10 years she was already well known to her people, and as for the latter charge, she didn't need to do anything as the British worked on this for themselves.

Sinha lists more than a few grievances:-

The Rani in Retirement

Although much is made of her resentment at being denied Jhansi, and at having to pay her husbands debts, there is no evidence of this resentment. Apart from being advised by some British, she also 'much impressed the Political Agent, Captain Alexander Skene, with the force and charm of her personality and with her evident wish to remain on friendly terms with her British masters' (Hibbert).

It is difficult for me to judge what her life style may have been. As a high caste Hindu woman she would have been expected to observe purdah but with the death of her husband she cast that aside. Both as the Rani and as one of the richest people, if not the richest person, in Jhansi she would have had to conduct business both with the British and with local dignitaries. Also as Rani, she appears to have been accorded the respect of that office, at least by the Indian people, and to be called upon to exercise the duties of that office. Skene's account above suggests that the British also observed the proprieties.

She was said to have been meticulous in her religious observances. She practised rifle and pistol shooting, horse riding and physical exercise every day. Antonia Fraser mentions one Turab Ali who lived to be 113 and who died in 1943. He recalled watching the Rani practise horse riding with the reins held in her teeth with a sword in each hand. An image which is the popular one of her as she rode into battle for the last time.

And so the situation remained until 1857.


i) In the 1850's a rupee was worth about one tenth of a pound, giving her an annual pension of 6,000 of the 1850 pounds. Even today, Rs 60,000 will pay the wages of several servants. This sum can be compared with the stipend of just under Rs 10,000 per month (Rs 120,00 per annum) granted to the 'Jhansi Family' during the British administration of Jhansi in 1842.

ii) Should anyone think that these events are too distant, I was born only 8 years after Turab Ali died. The eyes of the 27 year old that looked on Lakshmibai as she practiced her riding came very close to looking on the sweet baby that I once was. There are people alive today, in 2001, who spoke with him.


In 1857, 4 years after the death of Gangadhar Rao, mutiny broke out among some sepoys of the Army. The mutiny was limited to the north of India, mainly the Gangetic Plain. It broke out first in Meerut on 10th May.

There were several instances of mutineers turning on their prisoners and the European women and children. There were many atrocities. Some British escaped with the aid of local people, often at no little risk to themselves.

Mutiny at Jhansi

Relevant source documents

When news of the mutiny in Meerut reached Jhansi, the Rani asked permission to raise a small bodyguard for her own protection, a measure to which Captain Skene readily agreed. Skene and the other British officers failed to take the Rani's lead to protect theselves against a possible mutiny.

On June 5th, some time after the mutiny broke out elsewhere, members of the Jhansi garrison mutinied, took the more important of the two forts in the town, killing two of the British officers and wounding another. They plundered the town, and released the prisoners from the gaol. The remaining British and Eurasians sheltered in the other fort, the Town Fort. There were 61 people, over half of them women and children. One or two others sheltered in the town and were able to escape with the aid of local people. The survivors in the Town Fort appealed to the Rani for help.

It is not obvious what she could do, she had a limited military force, the small bodyguard granted by the British at the outset of the mutiny, at her disposal, and no obvious political influence over the mutineers. They owed no allegiance to the Rani.

Her actual response is unknown, there are several versions. Antonia Fraser's favoured version is 'What can I do? ... If you wish to save yourself, abandon the fort, no-one will injure you'. I assume that at the time the mutineers were not acting against the fort, and that she was stating that the people of Jhansi would not harm them. In this respect she could grant them the implied safe conduct, but whatever she replied they choose to stay put.

(skene.html) On the 7th June, the Town Fort was besieged by the mutineers and the fort surrendered. Safe passage was granted by the mutineers, but just outside Jhansi, in the Jokan Bagh, one of the rebel leaders ordered their deaths.

The Rani gave the mutineers money, by her own admission, but only under the threat of deposing her in favour of a relative of Gangadhar Rao's, Sadasheo Rao Narain, and, possibly, her own death. A Mr Thornton, the Deputy Collector of Jhansi, reported that she had given the money as payment for the massacre which had been entirely at her instigation. (Some British historians, subsequently pushed this further, or at least misinterpreted it, and made her responsible for the mutiny itself.) Thornton can at best have been reporting hearsay as he could not possibly have been a witness.

The mutineers then left for Agra and Delhi to join up with the main body of the rebellion on the 11th June.

The Rani Takes Control

Relevant source documents

On the 12th June the Rani wrote a letter to the British giving an account of what had happened, the steps she has taken to stabilise the situation and asking for help. To me this letter is quite emotional, showing an agitated state of mind. But notwithstanding that she is already taking control of the situation.

She wrote a second letter on the 14th June with a similar theme. She reported on the status of Jhansi, again asked the British for help and for orders. This letter is calmer and more business like and shows that she had been very busy in establishing a new administration in Jhansi.

The letters were sent to a Major Erskine, who was Commissioner at Sagar. He forwarded them to Calcutta with a note that the account given 'agreed with what I have heard from other sources'. On the 2nd July he replied asking her to manage Jhansi until a new superintendent could be sent. Erskine's initiative was not well received by Canning and he was sent a letter saying that the Governor General did not blame him for believing the Rani's account but that she would not be protected if her account was found to be false. Major Ellis had reported in a telegram that she had been forced to help the mutineers with guns, men and money. Despite evidence, other than the Rani's account, that the assistance had been extracted from her under duress, this view of her willing assistance seems to have coloured the official British view of her from thence forward.

Could it be that the word 'forced' in Ellis' telegram was misread or misreported at the British HQ? Without that word the telegram would suggest the Rani's complicity. The British would have no reason to refer back to it and correct the mistake. Could it be that all that followed pivoted on the one missing word?

The Rani took Erskine's request seriously, forming a government which included her father and stabilising the situation. Tapti Roy mentions that she wrote to Datia urging all chiefs 'to check the disturbances' and told representatives of both Datia and Orchha that 'measures should be taken at Jhansi that no disturbances would occur'.

Almost immediately she had to deal with a rival claimant to the Raja's throne, and estate. Shortly after the mutineers left Jhansi, Sadasheo Rao Narain attempted a coup, but was easily foiled, and taken prisoner. He was taken by the British and sent in to exile and his property confiscated after they retook Jhansi (not executed as some say), and released in about 1877.

She defended Jhansi against attacks by Orchha and Datia. The forces of Orchha laid siege to Jhansi between the 3rd and 22nd of October whilst claiming to be acting for the British. The British ignored her pleas for help in defending Jhansi.

As a consequence of these actions against Jhansi, Lakshmibai was learning the art of generalship and improving the army and defences of Jhansi. It also obliged her to have contact with the rebels who were the only force who could provide her with the military aid she needed. Events were preparing her for the final confrontation with the British, and, it seems, both unwittingly and unwillingly.

Away from the battlefield and court, she restored the library of her late husband and encouraged plays at the court, the theatre having been her late husband's prime interest.

The British Return

Relevant source documents

By the end of 1857 the British had dealt with the bigger problems of Delhi and Oudh enabling them to turn their attention on the smaller ones, like Jhansi. The Rani had received no further communications from the British. On the 1 January 1858 she wrote to Sir Robert Hamilton to clarify the position of Jhansi. He made no reply to this communication either.

On the 6th of January, a British force under Sir Hugh Rose, accompanied by Hamilton, marched northwards towards Jhansi, mopping up as they went. Having received no clarification, and knowing of this force advancing towards her, the Rani could only assume, and prepare for, the worst.

The force approaching Jhansi was not doing so with the intention of simply replacing the murdered officials. The inhabitants would have known of how other towns and cities like Delhi and Lucknow had been treated by the British, not to mention the many anonymous villages on their path. They had been executing all the mutineers they had captured, as well as anyone they so much as suspected of being a rebel. Trials, if they were held, were cursory. Many others had simply been murdered out of hand. Plundering had been extensive, even at times taking precedence, for some at least, over military and humane necessity; British wounded being left to die while plunder was taken. Any who objected to this behaviour were ignored. Those objecting included Lord Canning, the Governor General, and Queen Victoria. Dr Thomas Lowe who was the Medical Officer with Rose's force at Jhansi dismissed such considerations as 'mawkish sentimentality'. Lowe's opinion of Lakshmibai was typical of many British, she was 'the Jezebel of India ... the young, energetic, proud, uncompromising Ranee, and upon her head rested the blood of the [British] slain, and a punishment as awful awaited her'. (Even Lowe couldn't help but testify to her character.)

Rose's policy towards the rebels is illustrated by this comment by a Lt. J Bonus in a letter to his parents dated Saugor 13th Feb 1858:-

"I see by the home papers that people think Canning too lenient, we too think so, but there is no leniency here. Sir Hugh knows no native language so pays little heed to what a prisoner says. His first question is 'Was this man taken with arms in his hands?' If the answer is 'yes', 'Then shoot him' says Sir Hugh."

Hugh Rose was dogged for a while by controversy over the trial and subsequent execution of 149 mutineers at Sehore. About 650 men had mutinied but had returned to barracks. They were disarmed and the 149 taken for trial. The trial itself was summary and the men were almost immediately executed by being lined up and shot by a firing squad of 150. Some shots failed to kill outright, others missed, requiring survivors to be killed by further shootings and by sabre.

Lakshmibai, whatever her previous position had been, had little choice but to prepare for the worst. She raised a force of 14,000 volunteers from the population and 1,500 sepoys, made contact with the rebels, strengthened the defences and otherwise prepared for the arrival of the British. An intelligence report (quoting from Paul) dated the 7th Feb 1858 from Sir Robert Hamilton says that:-

Although the Rani proposes not to fight the British government yet she makes every hostile arrangement. Six new large guns have been manufactured, carriages for these and old guns are in the course of construction. About 200 maunds of saltpetre being purchased in the Gwalior district had been bought into the fort. Gunpowder is daily made within the fort. Eight gunners from the Moorar rebels were sent from Kalpi and have been taken into service. They superintend the manufacturing of brass balls...

It should be noted that even without the approaching British force, the Rani had every reason to prepare Jhansi's defences not against the British, but against Jhansi's more aggressive neighbours, Orchha in particular.

On Feb 14th a proclamation was issued in the Rani's name calling on Raja's of both Hindu and Moslem faiths to rebel against the British. If this was authorised by the Rani, and it seems doubtful, then this is the first definite statement of rebellion from her. However according to British intelligence reports she had not made up her mind to definitely oppose them as late as the 15th March. Her advisors were split, significantly her own father was for resisting the British force, but she hesitated.

So, irrespective of her own feelings, Lakshmibai was at the nexus of a set of forces propelling her to rebellion:-

She had little choice.

The Siege of Jhansi

Relevant source documents

On 21 March 1858 the British forces started the siege of Jhansi. See Rose's account of the siege, also Godse's account. The town was given the opportunity to surrender but Lakshmibai had little choice and with the support of the people, refused. The sepoys she had recruited were mutineers and would have been executed. It is likely that so would Lakshmibai and anyone else considered to be a rebel by the British. Further, the people had gained confidence from the defeat of the siege of the city in October of the year before, and would have looked forward to aid from the rebels.

There is a suggestion of negotiations from two sources. Godse mentions a letter that was sent to the Rani requiring that she and her principal ministers should go to meet 'the Captain' (presumable Rose) unarmed and unaccompanied. Not unreasonably the Rani declined offering instead to send the Prime Minister with an armed escort. From the other side the Aide de Camp to General Rose, a Lieutenant (later General) Lyster mentions negotiations between the Rani and Sir Robert Hamilton for the surrender of Jhansi and that Rose was dissatisfied with progress. If there were such negotiations, and it would be surprising if there were not, the British left no record of them.

The level of support for Lakshmibai is shown by the number of volunteers, 14,000, from a population of 250,000. When one considers the number of families involved, say dividing by six to give a figure of 42,000, there was a volunteer from at least one in three families. She also organised the women to keep the troops supplied at the front line; there must have been many casualties among them. The British officers observed an enthusiasm and energy in the defending troops that they had never been able to obtain from their own native soldiers. Sadly, enthusiasm is no substitute for training, discipline, weaponry and leadership in the form of qualified officers. Numerically the British were greatly outnumbered, but militarily they had the advantage.

For 10 days the British bombarded Jhansi with artillery and maintained a constant fire from the infantry. The bombardment is said to have been intense, as was the return fire. In actions prior to this one, the rebels had been able to make good their escape and Rose was determined that that should not happen this time and had entirely surrounded Jhansi.

(betwa.html) On the 30th March a breach was forced in the town wall, but before the British could enter the town, a rebel force of 20,000 under the command of Tatya Tope arrived. Rose split his forces and met and defeated the rebel force at the Betwa river a few miles east of Jhansi and north of Orchha. The rebels lost hundreds, the British less than one hundred. It was said by a British officer that the rebels neither asked for quarter nor given quarter. I suspect more the latter than the former. The rebels would know that the British if they took prisoners, it was only to execute them, and I doubt that the British were taking prisoners in any case.

A question arises here as to why Lakshmibai did not order a sally from the fort and so attack the weakened British besiegers. Although by splitting his force Rose faced Tope with a weakened force it meant he was able to maintain the siege and also lauched a feint on the north of the city. In a letter to his wife by Major Gall who was in charge of the feint attack gives this brief account:

"I was not involved in this action [against Tope], being occupied from daybreak until seven o'clock in attacking with a nine pounder and a howitzer that part of the city wall opposite my post, and driving back into the city a party that seemed disposed to come out."

Rose also took the precaution of withdrawing the forces to meet Tope under cover of darkness. The defenders of Jhansi may not have even realised they had gone.

With the defeat of rebel relief force Rose was able turn his attention back to Jhansi by the 2nd April. At 3am the next morning, the 3rd April, British troops stormed into Jhansi. The fighting is said to have been intense with the Rani in the thick of it, as she had been during the siege when she, with her ladies, was often visible to the British, directing and encouraging the resistance. At some point she decided to leave Jhansi. Despite Rose's precautions, during the night of the 3rd and 4th April she was able to make her escape with a small party which included her father. Legend has it that she rode with Damodar tied to her back. How she and her party managed to get through the British lines is uncertain. Some have it that it was a deliberate ploy by Rose (she was a bigger danger inside the fort than out), treachery by some of the Indian soldiers employed by the British, negligence by the British soldiers who had left their post to loot, sheer audaciousness on the part of Lakshmibai (she pretended to be leading a party British cavalry and simply rode past them).

Another audacious young woman, Jhalkari Korin, is said to have masqueraded as the Rani and was captured as such by the British. She was unmasked only when she was bought before Rose. Her fate is uncertain. Devi has it that Rose ordered her execution, whilst Lebra-Chapman makes no comment on it. More happily in the notes in the appendix to his fictionalised biography of the Rani, Vrindavan Lal Varma writes:-

Rafael Waldburg-Zeil has pointed out that the strength of the defence of Jhansi may be measured by the number of Victoria Crosses awarded. The highest British award for valour, seven were won at Jhansi, six of them on the 3rd April when the town was stormed. The Chapter One Victoria Cross site ( shows the following awards:-

A total of 14 out of 1354 awarded to date. Note that this does not include any that may have been awarded in other actions of the Central India Campaign.

To quote a private correspondence from Rafael: "the assault of the city was not a weekend-walk as we say here and I think it honors well the heroism of the people of Jhansi and their desperate fight." In effect, one can judge the quality of a people by the deeds of their enemy.

The Real Jhansi Massacre

In Jhansi, the slaughter continued. All the next day the street fighting, looting, destruction and murder continued, the British soldiers "eagerly exceeding their orders'' (Hibbert). A Hindu priest, Vishnu Godse, who was there and wrote of his experiences, 'recalled four days of fire, pillage, murder and looting without distinction' (Fraser). Rose had instructed his troops to 'spare no one over sixteen - except women of course'. Some of those who could not escape threw themselves with their wives and children down the wells of the town. Some to be dragged out again to be bayoneted. In the words of Godse:

[After the massacre and looting had finished] In the squares of the city ... hundreds of corpses [were collected] in large heaps and covered with wood, floorboards and anything that came handy and set on fire. Now every square blazed with burning bodies and the city looked like one vast burning ground ... It became difficult to breathe as the air stank with the odour of burning human flesh and the stench of rotting animals in the streets.

And according to Dr Lowe they were killed 'in their puffed up thousands ... such was the retribution meted out to this Jezebel Ranee and her people'. Unfortunately the crime for which this retribution was so enthusiastically meted out, the massacre of nearly a year previous, had been committed by a handful of men who had left Jhansi almost immediately, men who had nothing to do with Jhansi other than that they had been stationed there by the British. Apart from the 1500 sepoys recruited to help defend the town, none of those 'punished' had actually committed a crime against the British. In return for the murder of 61 by, say, a dozen mutineers, the British murdered, according to their own figures, 4-5,000. Whilst the British claim that they died in battle, it is worth comparing that figure with the number of British casualties for the siege, storming and capture of Jhansi - about 100 killed and 250 wounded.

Whilst Godse's account corroborates the British claim that they killed only the men, the deaths of women occuring more or less accidentally in general, he reports four days of indiscriminate slaughter of the men and systematic looting.

(The original mutineers of Jhansi, the 12th Bengal Native Infantry, were actually in Lohari which part of Rose's force took on the 2nd May. All were killed defending the fort.)

The Rani's Escape

In the meanwhile, the Rani's escape was not without incident.

I have two accounts of British encounters with the Rani during her flight. The more famous is that of Lieutenant Dowker who by his own account pursued her until a shot, possibly fired by the Rani herself, disabled him. Other, Indian, sources have him wounded in a sword fight with the Rani at a village called Bhander. The second account, from Cornet Combe is set in the village of Banda which I assume is Combe's spelling of Bhander:-

'We sent all over the country in pursuit [of the Rani] and one of our troops overtook her at a placed called Banda, 20 miles off. Her escort made a hard fight of it, and though our fellows did their utmost and killed every man she got away, her smart saddle falling into our hands."

She rode the 100 miles to Kalpi in 24 hours and was given a parade of honour on her arrival.

Her father, among others, was not so fortunate, he was wounded leaving Jhansi, managed to reach Datia but there he was handed over to the British and hanged in Jokhan Bagh.

The Final Acts of the Rebellion and the Death of a Rani

Relevant source documents

A rebel force under Tatya Tope went to Koonch where Rose, after a delay of 3 weeks to re-supply, went on to meet and defeat them on 6th May. Rose then advanced on Kalpi. The rebels there were at a low ebb, but were heartened by the arrival of the Nawab of Banda, and the nephew of Nana Sahib, Rao Sahib. Encouraged by the reinforcements and Lakshmibai's promise to fight with them to the end, on the 22nd of May they attacked the British. Despite being considerably weakened by the heat and having to fight under the midday sun, the British were able to defeat the rebels who were forced to retreat again. This time they went to Godalpur outside of Gwalior. There, rather than disbanding as the British expected they audaciously decided to take Gwalior. The fort at Gwalior was considered to be the strongest in India and virtually impregnable. The ruler, the Maharaja Sindia had maintained a pro-British stance throughout the Rebellion. If successful the hope of the rebels was that this would encourage others to throw in their lot with them.

The rebels advanced on Gwalior with 11,000 men and were met at Morar by Maharaja Sindia. After the first shots were fired, the bulk of the Maharaja's army defected to the rebels, and the Maharaja left for the safety of Agra. Rao Sahib was crowned at Gwalior and Lakshmibai was famously given a priceless pearl necklace from the Gwalior Treasury.

Rose now took his force towards Gwalior. Lakshmibai was given command of the eastern flank, the most difficult to defend, and met the British at Kotah-ki-Serai on the 17th June. She 'dressed as a man', that is she dressed as someone going into battle, but not totally, she also wore her bangles and the pearl necklace. To me this is a wonderful gesture: to wear a pearl necklace into battle, no wonder her troops loved her. How she dies, and where, and when, is uncertain - there are several accounts. Some have her killed on the parapets of Gwalior in a hail of gunfire at the beginning of the siege, others at Kotah-ki-Serai. Lord Canning gave the following account in his papers, and this seems to be considered the most credible:-

Ranee of Jhansi. Killed by a trooper of the 8th Hussars who was never discovered. Shot in the back, her horse baulked. She then fired at the man, and he passed his sword through her. She used to dress like a man (with a turban) and rode like one ... Not pretty, & pockmarked with smallpox, but beautiful eyes and figure. She used to wear gold anklets, and Sindia's pearl necklace, plundered from Gwalior (Sindia says its value is untold). These when dying she distributed among the soldiery when taken to die under the mango clump... The infantry attacked the cavalry for allowing her to be killed. The cavalry said she rode too far in front. Her tent was very coquettish.... Two maids of honour rode with her. One was killed, and in her agony stripped off her clothes. Said to have been most beautiful. ... The army mourned [the Rani] for two days.

[With respect to the dead maid of honour see Hamilton's account below.

Another similar version by J. Henry Sylvester, who was at Gwalior, says 'the gallant Queen of Jhansi fell from a carbine wound, and was carried to the rear, where she expired, and was burnt according to the custom of the Hindoos'.

Saul David in his Indian Mutiny 1857 draws on the diary of Edward Grey, Veterinary Surgeon, 8th Hussars, for this account:-

The Rani was on horseback ... when the British cavalry [8th Hussars] made their surprise appearance, causing her escort to scatter ... she boldly 'attacked one of the 8th in their advance, was unhorsed and wounded', possibly by a sabre cut. A short while later as the British retired ... she recognised her former assailant as she sat bleeding by the roadside and fired at him with her pistol. Unfortunately she missed and he 'dispatched the young lady with his carbine'. But because she was 'dressed as a sowar', the trooper never realised 'that he had cut off one of the mainstays of the mutiny, tht there was a reward of a lac [lakh] on his victim's head, or that at that moment she was wearing jewels worth a crore of rupees'.

Whilst this account is similar to others and it is entirely possible for Grey to have been aware of the Rani's identity, it is not obvious how he knew that she was wearing 'jewels worth a crore of rupees'. Perhaps in that detail he was repeating rumour.

On the other hand, Sir Robert Hamilton gives this account of her death in a letter to Sir John Kaye dated 27th Aug 1860:-

She was killed at Gwalior in the corner of the Parade in the [missing], whereon a cluster of [missing] were seen. I had always desired that the Enfield Rifle might fire at them. In this way, a group came on the Parade, at a Tukeeah whilst the battle was raging but quite out of shot, however some rifles let drive at them and they dispersed; two shots had taken effect, one on the Ranee the other on her attendant. The Ranee died almost before she was put on a Palkee and hurried off to a Mundil on the other side of the town ... I went to the spot with Dr. Christison and collected bits of bone from the ashes - which he preserved, the attendant was a Masalmanee, and I had her exhumed, both were shot in the breast and fatal wounds.

Then there is another account given by a Mr Martin, quite possibly taken from the remembrances of Damodar Rao, in these extracts from some letters written in 1897.

Mahasweti Devi reports the brief remembrances of Damodar who was a 10 year old child at the time. One in particular tells of how one 'evening in Gwalior came back to his mind over and over again when a loving glance from a pair of enormous eyes seemed to reach out towards him and then move far off - it was as if his mother was going far away, where one could no longer touch her.'

Understandably the Rani's funeral was carried out very quickly after her death since none could guarantee that she would be dealt with proper respect if they delayed. In Sir Hugh Rose's report he mentions her funeral and that she was buried 'with great ceremony under a tamarind tree under the Rock of Gwalior where I saw her bones and ashes'.

Lakshmibai had two 'maids of honour' who accompanied her from Jhansi; we know little more than their names, Mandar and Kashi Kumbin. Mandar is said to have been a childhood friend of Lakshmibai and was killed in the same incident in which Lakshmibai was fatally wounded, whilst Kashi had stayed behind to look after Damodar. It was Kashi, according to Devi, who prepared the Rani for her funeral pyre and who with another close attendant of the Rani's looked after Damodar for two years before surrendering him to the British with the promise of safety. She then disappears from history. One has to be impressed by their loyalty and courage. But then there were many such people even more anonymous, their acts unknown to history. We can only acknowledge the deeds of a few, and they must also stand for all these others.

Two days later the rebels left Gwalior making no attempt to hold what was a virtually impregnable position. The death of Lakshmibai seems to have utterly demoralised them. The 'impregnable' fort of Gwalior was easily retaken by the British. To all intents and purposes the rebellion was over.

Her name is so sacred we sing it only in the early hours of dawn.

(From a song sung by Nagpuri women and quoted by Joyce Lebra.)


Moropant Tambe, Lakshmibai's father, was captured and hanged a few days after the fall of Jhansi.

Damodar Rao, the adopted son, was granted a pension by the British and lived a somewhat more peaceful life. He never did receive his inheritance.

Dalhousie left India in 1856 and was replaced by Lord Canning. History has judged that the roots of the Mutiny lay in Dalhousie's policies and the manner of their execution. He wrote to a confidante that he 'detested the country and many of the people in it'. He said his feelings must have shown on his face. He did not survive long after leaving India. He died in 1860.

Canning, amongst other measures designed to heal the rift between rulers and ruled, recognised the right of the adopted son to inherit the throne. He died in 1862, like Dalhousie it was shortly after leaving India.

The British Government took over the administration of India away from the East India Company.

The British withdrew from the sub-continent in 1947, creating India and a divided Pakistan, later to become Pakistan and Bangla Desh. The loss of India heralded the start of the dismantling of the Empire.

Sir Hugh Rose was made Lord Strathnairn and Jhansi by a grateful Queen, though not by a popular vote of the people of Jhansi I think.

Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi, became a legend, a figure of inspiration to those trying to free India of the British, whilst her enemies are largely forgotten. Statues of her are to be found all over India, inevitably on her horse wielding a sword; buildings, streets, housing colonies are named after her, even a cricket tournament; a womens regiment of the India National Army who fought against the British in WWII was also named after her; school children are taught her story. In a sense she acheived what she desired; her name and that of Jhansi are inextricably linked, Jhansi will be 'hers', forever - Mera Jhansi nihin denge!


In Jhansi alone there were several thousand killed, we do not know how many, nor do we know more than the merest handful of names. If anyone knows any other names then write to me with the details and as much of the history as possible and I will happily add them to the list:-

For the British dead we have a complete list:-

Killed at Jhansi on 7th June 1857 (taken from Smyth's Rebellious Rani)

A total of 66 people of which 20 were children and 16 women.

Of the whole party, one person managed to evade death. Mrs Mutlow, wife of the Clerk Mutlow, was Eurasian and managed to mingle with the crowd and escape. Her statement about these events is included on this site.

I have had a communication from a descendant, the great great grandson, of Mr A Scott. Until recently he, and his parents before him, had been residents of Jhansi.

Seige of Jhansi

In the siege and capture of Jhansi the British forces sustained 38 dead, British and Indian soldiers, and 215 wounded. Of the wounded 22 were mortally wounded and died, giving a total of 60 dead and 215 wounded. Of the wounded 22 were mortally wounded and died, giving a total of 60 dead. This does not include casualties sustained at the Battle of Betwa.

Myths and Other Nonsense

There are any number of myths and legends about and surrounding the Rani. Some are based on fact, some are simply not true.

The Rani was born in 1835. She was 22 when she died.
The Rani's husband, Gangadhar Rao, fought the British.
The Rani went into battle with her son tied to her back.
The Rani fought wielding a sword in each hand and controlling her horse with the reins between her teeth.
The Rani escaped from Jhansi by jumping her horse from the wall of the Fort.
The Rani fought the British to prevent the annexation of Jhansi.
The Rani rebelled to regain Jhansi.

The Rani was born in 1835. She was 22 when she died.

Not true. This is dealt with in more detail in the Q & A page (qanda.html) . In all probability she was born round about 1828, making her 30-ish when she died.

The Rani's husband, Gangadhar Rao, fought the British.

Not true. He died in November 1853, three and a half years before the Great Rebellion broke out. In fact he, and his predecessors had cooperated with the British.

The Rani went into battle with her son tied to her back.

What sort of mother is it that would take her 10 year old son into the middle of a battle? What sort of soldier is it that would hamper herself with a 10 year old child tied to her back? The Rani may have had her faults but she was not stupid.

Nonetheless there is a kernel of truth in this one. When the Rani fled Jhansi she is said to have tied her son to her back for his safety. Now this makes sense.

The Rani fought wielding a sword in each hand and controlling her horse with the reins between her teeth.

Not true. This sort of extravagant display would only have resulted in an even earlier death. She did practice riding like this. One young man who witnessed this lived to be over 100 and testified to it.

The Rani escaped from Jhansi by jumping her horse from the wall of the Fort.

Not true. The western wall of the fort coincides with the city wall and so someone could escape from Jhansi by that route. However any horse making that jump would have been killed, the landing area is rock and slopes away from the wall very rapidly. Not possible. even if she had a miraculous horse capable of it, what of those who left with her?

At the time of her escape the British had broken through the city wall in the south and were fighting through the city. they had not, and were not able at that time to surround the Fort. She could have left by the gate.

The Rani fought the British to prevent the annexation of Jhansi.

Not true. The annexation of Jhansi and the mutiny and rebellion were entirely separate events over 3 years apart. The mutiny in Jhansi had nothing to do with the annexation other than the simple fact that if there had been no annexation there would have been no British unit in Jhansi to mutiny.

The Rani rebelled to regain Jhansi.

Not true. The Rani did not instigate the mutiny, nor did she support it. She resumed her role as Rani when the mutineers left as there was no other authority in Jhansi. The British initially approved and supported this action. She may well have had hopes regarding Jhansi's future but that is another matter.

Area Map

The Martin Enigma

Parasnis quotes a letter (javascript:show('aug-20-1889.html')) addressed to Damodar Rao and written by a T. A. Martin. This letter is dated Aug 20th 1889 and declares that the Rani was badly treated by the British and was entirely innocent of the charges laid against her.

On its own this letter means nothing other than that Martin had a guilty conscience regarding the Rani and is easily dismissed. However the British Library holds a copy of the recollections of 1857 by John Venables Sturt. Sturt was stationed near to Jhansi but his recollections have little to say on events there. But at the end of this document are extracts from three letters (javascript:show('martin.html')) written by a Mr. Martin to Sturt in the summer of 1897.

It is plain that T. A. Martin and Mr Martin are the same man, and that after his first letter to Damodar Rao he has established a good relationship with him and, I am guessing, persuaded him to write both his own biography and that of his mother. Both of these documents existed in 1897 but, like the letters, have disappeared.

Who was Martin? He says he knew the Rani personally, and there was a Captain Martin in Jhansi at least until early 1854. Martin recounts details of:-

So very possibly Martin could tell us a great deal about the Rani and the events surrounding her if only we could find his papers...

The Family Tree

The family details are derived from Mahasweti Devi's 'The Queen of Jhansi'.

A few notes:-

The Family Tree (

Godse's Account Lang's Account


This is what the British had to say of her.

Her Character

" ..a very civil, polite and clever young lady.." " [The Rani] is a woman highly respected and esteemed, and I believe fully capable of doing justice to the charge [of governing Jhansi]" " [The Rani comported herself as] a brave-minded woman had to do in her position, [being] quite capable of discussing her affairs with a Committee or government." " She is a wonderful woman, very brave and determined. It is fortunate for us that the men are not all like her." " In her death the rebels lost their bravest and best military leader." " The Ranee was remarkable for her bravery, cleverness and perseverance; her generosity to her Subordinates was unbounded. These qualities, combined with her rank, rendered her the most dangerous of the rebel leaders."

Her Appearance


The portrait of the Rani on the home page (rani.jpeg) is apparently from a contemporary portrait in the possession of the Tambe family in Nagpur. Another contemporary portrait is to be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The oft-quoted description of John Lang's is derived from a brief glimpse he had when Damodar momentarily put aside the curtain separating him from her. She maintained purdah when dealing with the British though not otherwise.

" [The Rani was] a woman of about middle size .. [her face] must have been very handsome when she was younger and even now it had many charms .. The expression also was .. very intelligent. The eyes her particularly fine and the nose very delicately shaped. She was not very fair, though she was far from black .. her dress was plain white muslin, so fine in texture and drawn about her in such a way that the outline of her figure was plainly discernible - and a remarkably fine figure she had. What spoilt her was her voice. " " .. she adopted a costume that symbolically combined the elements of a warrior with those of a queen: jodhpurs, a silk blouse with a low cut bodice, a red silk cap with a loose turban (or puggree) round it, She wore diamond bangles and large diamond rings on her small hands: but a short bejeweled sword and two silver pistols were stuck in her cummerbund. " " In appearance she was fair and handsome, with a noble presence and figure and a dignified and resolute, indeed stern, expression, which appeared to to have usurped the place of the peculiar softness which, when she was younger and had a good hope of a prosperous life, distinguished her. "

A more recent quote

" Interviewer: You've always said that your dream role has always been of portraying "Rani of Jhansi". Any similarity, Rani of Bollywood?
Rani: I've always dreamed of playing Rani of Jhansi. My father is from Uttar Pradesh, and when I was young he would narrate stories about the Rani. In fact, I've been to the fort where she lived and it's always inspired me. I hope I can portray the real Rani someday. Of Jhansi I mean. I am the real Rani Mukherjee anyway. "


This is a small selection of quotes by the British of acts by the British. The purpose is to give some background to the story of Lakshmibai, to show the attitudes of many of the British and the sort of news that would have received in Jhansi, rather than to castigate the British. The effect of the stories of British actions, which would hardly need amplifying, reaching Jhansi, combined with the news of Rose's force heading their way requires little by way of imagination.

By and large these quotes are taken from Hibbert's The Great Mutiny.

The Suppression

" the Word of God gives no authority to the modern tenderness for human life." " [There] must be no more disbandments for mutiny. Mutineers must be attacked and annihilated; and if there are few in any regiments, and not immediately announced to be shot or hanged, the whole regiment must be deemed guilty and given up to prompt military execution." " Let us propose a Bill for the flaying alive impalement, or burning of the murderers of the women and children at Delhi. ... I would inflict the most excriutiating tortures I could think of on them with a perfectly easy conscience." " Few courts martial were held by Nicholson; his dictim 'the punishment for mutiny is death' obviated any necessity for trial ... Nicholson issued an order that no native should pass a white man riding, without dismounting and salaaming."


" ... gallows were immediately erected; and scores of natives suspected of rebellious intent were subsequently hanged on them, including 'some boys, who, perhaps in mere sport, had flaunted rebel colours and gone about beating tom-toms'." " Hanging parties also went out into the surrounding districts, 'and amateur executioners were not wanting to the occasion. One gentleman boasted of the numbers he had finished off, quite 'in an artistic manner', with mango trees for gibbets and elephants for drops, the victis of this wild justice being strung up, as though for pastime, in 'the form of a figure of eight'."


" Eagerly responding to [Colonel Neill's] orders, European volunteers and Sikhs descended upon the town, burning houses and slaughtering the inhabitents, old men, women and children as well as those more likely to be active rebels who were submitted to the travesty of a trial." " The gallows and trees adjoining it had each day the fresh fruits of rebellion displayed upon them. Hundreds of natives in this manner perished and some on slight proofs of criminality." " Every day ten or a dozen niggers are hanged. [Their corpses hung] by two's and three's from branch and signpost all over town ... For three months did eight dead-carts go their rounds from sunrise to sunset, to take down corpses which hung at the cross-roads and the market places, poisoning the air of the city, and to throw their loathsome burdens into the Ganges."


" We took a Pandy prisoner and my men amused themselves by making him eat greased cartridges, but we are to take no prisoners in future ... It is impossible to feel the slightest sympathy for these black beasts" " Unwary civilians who showed their faces in the streets were as likely to be murdered as captured sepoys. Those suspected of being or harbouring rebels were hanged, bayonetted or shot. 'Already intent on vengeance, the soldiers were more than ever determined to exact it when they came across the mutilated corpses of comrades murdered in side streets and alleys to which they had been enticed by the female accomplices of badmashes and fanatics'. The revenge was appalling. Old men were shot without a second thought; groups of younger men, endeavouring to escape from the city were rounded up and executed in a ditch outside the gates. 'No one with a coloured skin could feel himself safe.' The murders were committed quite without compunction or regret." " [A civilian whose sister had been murdered by the rebels was in the habit of attaching himself to any regiment with whom he might have an opportunity of glutting his desire for vengeance] He shook my hand saying that he had put to death all he had come across, not excepting women and children, and from his excited manner and the appearance of his dress - which was covered with bloodstains - I quite believed he told me the truth. One would imagine he must have tired of the slaughter during the six days of fighting in the city, but it was not so."


" Everywhere might be seen people helping themselves to whatever they pleased. Plunder was the order of the day. Jewels, shawls dresses, pieces of satin, broadcloths ... the most magnificent divan carpets studded with pearls ... books, pictures, European clocks, English clothes, full-dress officers' uniforms, epaulettes, aiguillettes,manuscripts, charms; [and much more besides]." " There were hundreds of sepoys [mutineers] dead and dying, many on fire. Piled around the entrance and in every court and garden of the place, they lay in heaps, three and four deep, a suffocating, burning, smouldering mass while many a Highlander, Sikh, 50th and a few of ours lay among them. Now and then a stray shot came from some wretch yet able to pull his trigger. While there I saw 64 collected, drawn up and bayonetted with yells of 'Cawnpore'. God forgive us..." " [The scene was terrible] But at the same time it gave a feeling of gratified revenge. You may think me a savage but I gloated over the sights in this charnel house. Who did not who saw the slaughter at Cawnpore? ... Among the corpses were those of several women ... I saw the body of a woman lying with a cross-belt upon her and by her a dead baby also shot with two bullet wounds in it. The poor mother had tied the wounds round with a rag ... McQueen told me he had seen a Highlander bayonet another woman and on his upbraiding him for such a brutal act, he said the man turned upon him like a madman and for a minute he almost expected to be run through with his bayonet himself."


" The men were off duty, and even some native soldiers, but chiefly the 86th and artillery were frightfully drunk. Having seized on the native liquour shops, they then commenced looting and killed everything black, old men and young, woen and children ... They shouted 'Cawnpore!' and 'Delhi!' and down they went. Streete says he saw a room full of dead women with children suckling at their breasts. Other women brought out dead children supplicating for mercy. Officers rushed down with the Provost Marshall and some dragoons and put a stop to it and destroyed all the liquour." " [Durand led his column towards Chambal, capturing numerous prisoners who were shot with their hands tied behind their backs.] Then we burned some houses near a village. The men in them ran out all on fire, their hair in a blaze and were killed by the infantry muskets. Whilst we were attacking the escaping villagers, I saw a man in a tree and shot him with my revolver."

The Accusations

There is no formal charge sheet against Lakshmibai, but she has been accused of instigating the massacre and of aiding the rebels with money, horses and elephants. Later, so-called historians would have her responsible for the mutiny as well.. Her character was also impugned with accusations of licentious behaviour.

Dealing with her licentious behaviour first, Sir John Kaye, historian for both the East India Company and the India Office dismissed the stories as myths. Everything known about her behaviour points the other way. Personally I would have no problem if she had been 'licentious', but I believe that for some, such considerations are important.

Evidence of Complicity

The accusations seem to be based, at best, on hearsay:-

[Mrs Mutlow, a Eurasian, survived with the aid of her ayah (nanny), and because of her Indian appearance. She lost both her husband and brother in the massacre. They had gone to the Town Fort with the other civilians. Her state of mind must be judged with those facts in mind.]

Could it be that Mrs Mutlow, and possible Mr Thornton and others, viewed the Rani as being a more powerful and influential figure than she actually was? In which case her failure to save those massacred must have implied guilt at the very least by inaction on her part?

Major Erskine

Finally, and more importantly because it gives a glimpse inside the British upper echelons is the statement of Major Erskine. Erskine was the man to whom the Rani had addressed her report of the mutiny and massacre in Jhansi. It was he who had asked her to take control until the British could return. He had believed her account stating that it '[agreed] with what I have heard from other sources'.

He was criticised for his belief in the Rani's credibility and seems to have come under some pressure to change his mind. Quoting Erskine from the 21st August 1857:-

It is the general impression that the mutineers after killing some of their own officers and plundering the town were going off and it was only at the instigation of the Jhansi Ranee, with the object of obtaining possession of the Jhansi state, that they attacked the fort the next day together with other armed men furnished by her ... The mutineers are said to have received Rs. 35,000 in cash, 2 elephants and 5 horses from the Ranee" (my emphasis)

The key phrase here is 'It is the general impression...'. Surely this can only imply that there was no actual evidence that such a thing happened? Where is the logic in the Rani's supposed action as outlined in this statement?

There was no longer a British force in Jhansi; de facto she was the only source of political power in the place. Would she invite back into Jhansi, a mutinous force that had, in Erskine's words, been "plundering the town"? Would she tell them she had all that cash lying around? Or would she have been relieved to see them go? She had a bodyguard, but only a small one as permitted by the British, and so she would only be placing herself and the town at peril.

The Rani herself told the British of the money she had paid the mutineers. If it had been a payment for them doing such dirty work for her, surely she would have kept it secret?

Further Major Ellis stated in a telegram of the 26th June ('jun-26-1857.html')) of the mutineers 'having at last forced the Ranee to assist them with Guns and Elephants'. (my emphasis)

Then there is the evidence of one of the captured, and condemned mutineers. He said that the Rani had been 'obliged to yield'. A statement that Sir Robert Hamilton, Political Agent of Central India, believed.

All in all it makes no sense. Erskine must have been toeing the official line. The Rani was to be the official scapegoat for the mutiny and massacre at Jhansi.

Resentment at Annexation?

The motive for Lakshmibai's involvement in the massacre was said to be her resentment at the annexation of Jhansi, but if we look at the Rani's personal situation:-

The case for a festering resentment seems weak and unsubstantiated.

The actions of a Rebel?

Her actions after the mutiny and massacre, are not those of a rebel. If she had been involved in the mutiny with the aim of regaining Jhansi, then she would know that to succeed the British would have to be expelled from India, otherwise they would return. Nonetheless she did nothing to further the rebel cause, at least not until the British laid siege to Jhansi. On the contrary she appealed to the British for help on more than one occassion, even in her letter of the 14th June (javascript:show('june-14-1857.html')) ; asking them for orders. When Jhansi had been invaded, she contented herself with defending Jhansi and did not take any aggressive retaliatory action. Her actions are consistent with someone who had not been involved in the mutiny or massacre; with someone who was not a rebel.

In the wider sphere, Jhansi was a small state and as such vulnerable to attack from other states. The British, whatever their faults, at least guaranteed the integrity of Jhansi, presumably a factor in the original treaty between them and the grandfather of Gangadar Rao. With the British gone, Jhansi was at risk, a fact demonstrated by the two neighbouring states invading Jhansi in 1857. In this context she needed the British.

There is another factor, law and order. Even today India is relatively lawless, very lawless in some parts. The land to the north of Jhansi was prime bandit country, and there are still bandits operating there, most famously the late Phoolan Devi, the Bandit Queen. Up until the 1830's travellers in India had the additional threat of the Thugs who would enveigle their way into travelling parties, and then, once trust was gained, murder and rob them. Some local leaders would protect Thug bands in retrn for a part of the takings. Only the British were in a position to take them on, and the task was given to Colonel Sleeman to lead the effort, an effort in which he was successful. The Rani almost certainly knew of Sleeman, and quite possibly met him, as in the 1840s he had his headquarters in Jhansi and was also political agent for Bundelkand, and so she would have known of his, and the British, achievements.

Martin's Letter

In a book published in 1894 (Maharani Lakshmi Bai Saheb Hyanche Charlta, Parasnis) a letter sent by a T A Martin (javascript:show('aug-20-1889.html')) in 1889 to Damodar Rao stated:-

"Your poor mother was very unjustly and cruelly dealt with - and no one knows her true case as well as I do. The poor thing took no part whatsoever in the massacre of the European residents of Jhansi in June 1857. On the contrary she supplied them with food for 2 days after they had gone into the Fort, got one hundred matchlock men from Kurrura, and sent them to assist us. But after being kept a day in the fort they were sent away in the evening. She then advised Major Skene and Captain Gordon to fly at once to Duttia ad place themselves under the Raja's protection - but even this would not do - and finally, they were all massacred by our own troops--the police, jail and customs, etc. How could the poor Rani have succoured them?"

In 1897 a Mr Martin, presumably the same man was in correspondence with a John Venables Sturt about the Rani. Extracts from these letters (javascript:show('martin.html')) also talk of the Rani's innocence of rebellion, and also of her death. He claims to have known the Rani and was in contact with Damodar Rao and had a copy of Damodar Rao's autobiography and biography of the Rani.

But who was Martin? There was a Captain Martin in Jhansi in Nov. 1853 who was one of the British officers called in to witness the adoption of Damodar Rao. Is this the same man? In his letters to Sturt he says he knew the Rani personally which implies he was in Jhansi before 1857. C. A. Kincaid in an article for the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, April 1943, says that "Martin escaped the massacre and with another Englishman and lady was hidden by the Queen in her palace". However given the implications of this for the Rani's innocence it is remarkable that no other author has mentioned it and, most crucially, nor does it appear in the available extracts of Martin's letters.

Conspiracy Theories

One can construct any number of theories about what might have been going on behind the scenes, but there is no proof for any of it. For example, perhaps the massacre was engineered by an overly ambitious British officer. He would survive, become a hero and achieve promotion, except the mutineers went too far. Perhaps, we should look at Lieutenant Taylor, the sole officer to survive the original mutiny but who died in the massacre, or Captain Gordon who killed himself rather then be captured. Or perhaps someone in the hierarchy had made an amorous advance to the Rani and been rebuffed and that man bore her a grudge. And so on, all are equally worthless without proof.

In fact, if I favour any conspiracy it is that someone in the hierarchy bore Lakshmibai a grudge. At the time of the annexation of Jhansi Dalhousie would have been advised by one of his underlings. If that man had, say, sort to curry favour with Dalhousie, or had simply been incompetent, he might have slanted his advice towards annexation. The case for annexation has been so easily demolished that one has to question the advice given to Dalhousie. Once Dalhousie had published his decision he would have found it politically difficult to back down. Now Lakshmibai fought hard against annexation taking it all the way to the Company's board of directors in London, Dalhousie's bosses. The poor quality of the decision would have been revealed. Whilst publicly backing Dalhousie, they would have been privately displeased; Dalhousie would have transmitted that displeasure to his underling. Now if that underling was still in place in 1857 he could have taken the opportunity to poison the air for Lakshmibai, gaining his revenge on the Rebellious Rani; the native woman who had the temerity to question his advice and expose his incompetence. Maybe it wasn't Lakshmibai who harboured a grudge over the annexation - maybe.

It doesn't matter how I look at the massacre of the British I can see no reason for the Rani to have been involved. The action itself fitted with the actions of mutineers elsewhere - they needed no other instigation or payment. Similarly the massacre by the British at Jhansi fitted in with their other actions. There is no need to include the Rani in either action, each would have happened whether she existed or not.

To repeat what I have said elsewhere, in looking at the Rani's guilt we are missing the real conspiracy, the real guilty party. The British were engaged in suppressing the rebellion; seeking retribution from the population as a whole, not just the rebels. General Rose wrote in his report to Canning on the battle for Jhansi '[that] the inhabitants, from the Ranee downwards, were more or less, concerned in the murder and plunder of the British'. If Rose believed that then the British soldiery certainly did. As we have seen there was no evidence for such a belief. At a more political level, and more importantly, the British were also intent on ensuring, by intimidation and terror, that it wouldn't happen again. In pursuing those aims many innocent lives were taken, in that respect the Rani was just one more victim.

There was one conspiracy theory that I do like to entertain. There is some confusion over her death, which is odd considering her importance and the number of witnesses. What if she didn't die? All she would have to do would be to put on a sari, and she could have walked away from the battlefield. Perhaps sometime around 1900-1910 an old woman lay dying thinking, with some amusement and pride, at the legend she had become... Perhaps. So long as she remained anonymous, the British would have no interest in her. In fact others have had similar ideas, one having her living into the 1920's, but I think we have to file such things alongside sightings of Elvis.

Nonetheless, I have read of one English woman who was feted by the English as a heroine for killing her sleeping abductor, his family and then herself. Except that she didn't; she married him instead, lived anonymously, only revealing her secret to a British clergyman 50 years later on her deathbed. All things are possible.


i) For Sleemans own account see Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official at Project Gutenberg. There is also on the web accounts of Sleeman's campaign which include this statement:- "In June 1831, the Raja of Jhansi, who occupied a well-fortified castle on a hilltop defended by two cannons and at least a thousand men, refused to surrender to Sleeman Thugs. In response, Sleeman called on the resources of the Army, and the castle was attacked with artillery and infantry. In the smoke and confusion, the Thugs managed to slip away, but this erstwhile Thug sanctuary was leveled." which is historically untrue, Jhansi fort is still standing. However in Mike Dash's book 'Thug', he quotes a Jhansi official in 1832:- "The Khyrooa Thakoor will not give up the Thugs at the order of the Jhansee chief because he desires a service from them, and pays no attention to the Jhansee Chief's orders. This residence is on a hill, and is a strong castle, and he confides in its strengh, and has put two pieces of cannon on it; and has a thousand followers at his command..." In other words the fort in question was the fort of a local chief in Jhansi state. Again one would expect the Rani to be aware of this fort and its fate.

ii) For an account of Phoolan Devi's life see Another St. Valentine's Day Massacre and Phoolan Devi, Bandit Queen. In her story are many of the ills that afflict modern India.

Q and A

This is not an FAQ, no one has ever asked me any questions about Lakshmibai, and nor am I any sort authority to answer them in any case. These are questions I have asked myself, and my own answers. This is me talking to myself.

When was she born?
What was her marriage like?
Was the annexation of Jhansi justified?
Was Lakshmibai involved in planning the Rebellion?
Was Lakshmibai licentious?
Was Lakshmibai implicated in the Mutiny and Massacre?
What was the role of Lakshmibai's Father?
Was Lakshmibai betrayed?
Was Lakshmibai really a Rebel?
What was her mental state after Jhansi?
What other traumas had she suffered?
What was the British attitude to Lakshmibai?
Could Lakshmibai have done anything to prevent the destruction of Jhansi?

When was she born?

Some claim a birth date of November 19th 1835 which would make her 22 at the time of her death. This date seems to stem from Parasnis though I am unaware of his source and this is the date recorded on her memorial in Gwalior. Others believe a date of about 1828 to be more likely, making her about 30 when she was killed.

Tahmankar for example claims she was born in 1827. His reasoning being that she was born in Varanasi, and her family moved from there to Bithur in 1832. He also states that at the time of her marriage which he places in 1842, her father was concerned that she would reach puberty without being married arguing for a later age at marriage. (Just to illustrate the confusion, the cover of Tahmankar's book claims she died when she was 23.)

This date is also supported to an extent by claims that she 'played' with Nana Sahib, Taya Topi, and Rao Sahib. Since Nana Sahib was born about 1820 and Tatya Topi even earlier in 1814, the later birthdate of 1835 would put her 'playmates' into another generation altogether.

More recently (Dec. 2003) I have been able to confirm that she was married in, or about, May 1842. There is an entry in the Jhansi Treasury Accounts held by the British Library which reads: "To Maharaja Gangadhar Rao to cover the expenses of his marriage ... bill dated 21st May - 40,000 Rs".

If Lakshmibai had been born in Nov 1835, she would have been 6 and a half at this time, early even by standards of the time. Mahasweta Devi for one claims the 1835 date and that she was married when she was 8 years old; both of these claims cannot be correct. Further would it have been sensible for a man who had lost one wife, was no longer young and needful of an heir to marry a child and then wait several years before she could bear him a child?

Parasnis, who seems to be the source for the Nov 1835 date, states that she went with her father to Bithur when she was 4 years old. As Sinha points out, this move occurred after the death of her father's employer Chimunji Appa and his subsequent employment by Chimunji's brother. This happened in 1832, giving a birthdate of 1828.

In John Lang's book, Wanderings in India, from which the famous description of the Rani is taken, he mentions that he "had heard from the vakeel that the Ranee was a very handsome woman of about six or seven and twenty years of age", a description which his own does not contradict. If the Rani had been 26 or 27 in 1854, that gives a birthdate of 1827/1828. I can think of no reason why Lang or the vakil should misrepresent the facts.

All in all a birthdate of 1827 or 1828 fits. A birthdate of 1835, whatever the source of that date may be, does not and is contradictory.

In "Our Bones Are Scattered", Andrew Ward notes that in Bithur there is a legend that Manikarnika and Nana Sahib had fallen in love but that Baji Rao forbade the marriage. If true this indirectly confirms the later age of Manikarnika as this would not have happened if she had been 8 years old, but at 13 or 14 it is somewhat more likely. I would suggest that even the fact of the legend itself indicates the later age.

What was her marriage like?

Her marriage to Gangdhar Rao is usually portrayed as 'perfect', the perfect wife with the perfect husband in the perfect relationship. That is the myth, but in the real world?

First of all the 14 year old girl was married to a man about 20 years or more her senior. It is difficult to imagine a communion of souls.

Secondly, by all accunts she was an energetic, physical, girl and retained these characteristics as a woman. Gangadhar Rao, on the other hand sees to have preferred less physically demanding pastimes.

Thirdly, there was only the one child, at most. There could be many reasons for this. There may have been miscarriages, some people just find it difficult to conceive. As Gangadhar Rao's first wife also failed to conceive, the lack of children is more likely to do with him than anything else. Nonetheless it is Lakshmibai who would have been blamed and who would have felt the guilt.

None of this answers the question, but is not suggestive of the perfect union of myth. There is one event where Lakshmi Bai was able to publicly display her affection for her husband and that was his funeral, and even here one must be careful as peoples outward reactions to trauma such as death can belie their true reaction.

Lakshmibai seems to have kept her observance of mourning to the minimum. She is said to have broken her bangles, but she did not shave her head or take on the widows weeds as was customary. She also kept the mourning period to the minimum.

She did not become sati and I doubt that would have been expected of her, nor does it fit in with my conception of her character. Sati had been outlawed by the British some years before and not entirely without Indian support. Given Jhansi's pro-British stance it is unlikely anyone would have expected her to break this law. Gangadhar Rao himself expected her to be regent for his newly adopted son. The lot of a widow was, all too often, not a happy one. For many death on the funeral pyre was preferable to the alternative. However this would not be Lakshmibai's fate as she would inherit her husbands wealth and position. Another factor militating against such a thing was the presence of her father at the Jhansi court. If she were to die then he would lose his position and income so his interest lay in her survival.

She is said to have refused to shave her head until she had freed Jhansi from British rule. A sentiment that is understandable in 1858, but, I believe, unlikey even in 1857, and most unlikely at the time of Gangadhar's death and during the mourning period. At that time the annexation of Jhansi and subsequent grievances lay in the future.

Overall, what little we know does not suggest the idyllic marriage of myth.

Was the annexation of Jhansi justified?

In the wider context of British Imperialism in India, the answer can only be, no. However nothing is simple. Within the more limited context of the situation that existed at the time, there were agreements, contracts, rights, duties and so forth that had to be discharged. In that context, were the British justified? Their case looks remarkably weak to me, and can at best turn on a technicality. The problem for Lakshmibai was that the judge and court that would decide the case were not only the same institution, but the very same people she was opposing. There was no other court. That of itself was an injustice. I have collected references to the documents available to me and my own comments here (comments-annexation.html) .

Was Lakshmibai involved in planning the Rebellion?

It has been suggested that Lakshmibai was involved in some manner with the planning of the whole Mutiny and Rebellion. There is no evidence for it and her own actions do not suggest any wider involvement. It is possible that she or her agents met with those who subsequently played a leading role is of no real significance. It would be surprising if there were no meetings with other Indians of wealth, power or status, that must surely be considered normal business. Similarly it would be surprising if the role of the British in India, and their preference for it to be curtailed, was not discussed. Nonetheless that is not the same as, nor evidence of, planning the Mutiny. If anything one gets the impression that the Indian leaders were taken by surprise themselves, and in some instances, forced to play a part. Lakshmibai was, I believe, one such, except that she was forced into becoming a rebel leader by the British themselves.

Was Lakshmibai licentious?

No. Only the least reputable of British 'historians' claimed it to be so. Personally I would prefer it to have been true, her life was too short and she was deprived of too many of its' pleasures.

Was Lakshmibai implicated in the Mutiny and Massacre?

The rationale for the British action against Jhansi and Lakshmibai was that she and the townspeople were implicated in the massacre of the British. Some of the townspeople were involved, all of the forces of law and order joined the mutineers, and presumably so did some civilians. There seems to be no question but that the massacre was ordered by the one man, the leader of the mutineers, and carried out by a handful of men.

The British interviewed many people and took statements to determine what had happened. Sen examines 4 of these in detail and I assume that these are the most damning. The statements that these witnesses provide is hearsay, sometimes contradictory, and includes evidence that initially at least the Rani tried to aid the British, and was herself threatened by the mutineers, events that are attested by other independent sources. There is no hard evidence of Lakshmibai's involvement, no correspondence, no actual witness. I am sure that if there were then it would have been well publicised. Sen mentions a letter purportedly written by Lakshmibai incriminating her in the planning of the mutiny, and it is one that Sen easily shows as a forgery. That someone should have done such a thing suggests not only a lack of real evidence but a desperation to play down the doubts of her guilt.

After the Battle of Koonch a packet of Lakshmibai's letters was found. If they had incriminated her in any way we can be certain they would have been publicised. As it is they have disappeared, so at the least they did not incriminate her, and possibly demonstrated her innocence.

Before the mutiny occurred in Jhansi Lakshmibai asked for, and was granted, permission to raise a small bodyguard in view of the unrest in other parts of the country. She seems to have had less faith in the loyalty of the British garrison than their officers. Politically, this was a destabilising act. That Jhansi's most prominent citizen should feel it necessary to take such protective steps was a signal to all that she at least expected trouble. The British officers should have taken the hint. This act demonstrates that she neither involved in the mutiny which she was anticipating, nor that she expected to be treated kindly if it occurred.

I have collected the relevant documents available to me and also my own few words on their credibility here (comments-mutiny.html) .

What was the role of Lakshmibai's Father?

Lakshmibai's father, Moropant Tambe, followed to Jhansi, after the mutiny he became a member of her government. Occasionally one reads of him, seemingly acting as her agent, and one of the witnesses, not one of the more reliable ones, reported that he was condemned to death by him. He is also reported as being in favour of resisting the British return to Jhansi. There is little reliable evidence that he was involved with the rebels, but he must have played some part. What was it?

Was Lakshmibai betrayed?

It is common for those writing her biography to attribute apparent mistakes to treachery by a third party. For example the British were told by someone unknown of the best place to attempt to breach the walls. Another has a Brahmin opening one of the fort's gates. She was similarly betrayed or tricked into not mounting an attack from the city when the British were engaged at the Battle of Betwa. Whether these betrayals were real or not, she was betrayed. Jhansi's record keeper, Gopal Rao, for one sent this report to the British, and this report by someone unknown to me. Further this quote from General Rose's report on the siege of Jhansi to Canning:-

'The two 10-inch Mortars created great havoc in the Fort, and having pointed out to Lieutenant Pettman, Bombay Horse Artillery, the position of a powder magazine respecting which I had information, he blew it up on the third shot....' (my emphasis)
This does not imply betrayal, but the British had good intelligence of the Fort's defences, they had their spies.

Was Lakshmibai really a Rebel?

Lakshmibai was not involved in the planning of the Mutiny, neither the whole mutiny nor the Jhansi mutiny in particular, nor was she complicit in the massacre. After the rebels left Jhansi she worked to restore it to law and order; professed loyalty to the British in her letters, asking them for aid. Defended Jhansi against the encroachments of Sadishav Rao, and the states of Datia and Orchha. She took no action against the British directly and none to further the cause of the Rebellion. Not what one might expect of the fire-brand rebel.

Whether she agreed with the rebels or not she had good reason to stay aligned with the British. In the third of her letters protesting the annexation she comments on the weakness of the her forces, and Indian forces in general, compared to those of the 'paramount power'. By January of 1858 she would know of the defeats of the rebels in Delhi, Lucknow and so forth, and after the trouble she had against the Indian forces of Orchha she would not have been in any doubts about her chances against a British force.

Even up to the a few days before Rose's force appeared before Jhansi, the British had intelligence that she was still uncertain as to whether to resist or not. Her advisers were divided on the issue, and she was inclined to hand Jhansi back to the British. It is entirely possible that single letter from the British would have tipped the balance.

Nonetheless, once the die was cast, she turned her energies entirely over to firstly, the defence of Jhansi, and then the battle against the British. Once she became a rebel, she became their best, most influential leader.

So the answer is both, yes and no.

What was her mental state after Jhansi?

None of the books I have read have addressed this question, not even the fictional ones. They just treat it as just any other day...

As she was making her escape from Jhansi, Lakshmibai was in a situation of such extremity that I have difficulty in thinking of others who had gone through something similar. She was not the first leader to lose a battle, but this was not just any battle or just any leader:-

And how did all this affect her subsequent behaviour?

There was another, more positive, process happening as well. From the death of her husband onwards, just as events had conspired to turn her to rebellion, so they also conspired to liberate her from the confines and shackles of conventional life. With the loss of Jhansi, she was now fully liberated and free to act as she saw fit.

What other traumas had she suffered?

All Lakshmibai's life had been more or less peaceful until the Jhansi mutiny, her life had not been without its painful moments, and again one wonders at the effect on her personality.

What was the British attitude to Lakshmibai?

On the one hand we have this quote from General Rose in his report to Canning:-

'...the inhabitants, from the Ranee downwards, were, more or less, concerned in the murder and plunder of the English.'

And many of the British considered her responsible to some degree for the massacre. On the other hand more than one communication from Canning spoke of investigating Lakshmibai's involvement in the massacre, and instructions were issued in the event of her arrest:-

'If the Nerbudda Field Force goes to Jhansi and takes the Queen prisoner, her trial should be conducted by a commission and not court martial.

Sir Hugh Rose should be instructed to send the Queen over to you and certainly you will appoint te best possible commission.

... a primary investigation must be conducted in order to determine if a trial is at all necessary...'

This was sent Sir Robert Hamilton and dated 11th Feb 1858. Although Lakshmibai was to be taken into custody, Canning seems to be of the opinion that the case against was not proven. But then in a comment to Cannings response to her letter to Hamilton of the 1st Jan 1858 we have:-

'...[Canning] was not agreeable to changing his ideas about her. The Queens' letter has been rejected outright.'

So it would look to be a case of guilty till proven innocence for Canning, and guilty for many others. Hamilton was one of the exceptions in that he seems to have been inclined to believe her innocence.

British policy of not communicating with her, and certainly not of rendering the aid she asked for, can only have been interpreted one way by Lakshmibai. The British had intelligence reports that indicated that she intended to return Jhansi to the British, that they took no action to communicate with her can only mean that they did not intend peace.

Could Lakshmibai have done anything to prevent the destruction of Jhansi?

Obviously she could have surrendered. That would have saved some lives, some destruction, but the British would still have searched out any who were, or suspected of being either mutineers or rebels for execution. I have seen nothing to suggest that Rose's force were as brutal as some others, but since Jhansi was the scene of a massacre it is likely that little mercy would have been granted, and that justice would take second place to vengeance.

One writer has suggested that she should have fled to Gwalior as soon as possible after the mutiny. Such an act would have meant leaving the people of Jhansi a hostage to fortune. Only Lakshmibai had the personal authority, and ability, to govern Jhansi, and she was not a person to abandon her responsibilities.

I can't think of anything more she could have done to convince Canning of her innocence in the massacre, or anything to ameliorate the British response.

Comments on the Annexation

There are the first two letters that Lakshmibai wrote to Dalhousie, which I believe to be complete, and an extract from the third. According to Fisher, Dalhousie was irritated by her persistence. It was after the second letter that he decided to settle the Raja's personal property on the son, Damodar, rather than his widow. She continued writing to Dalhousie through to 1856.

The first letter is primarily concerned with the adoption and demonstrating that it had been performed correctly and could not be questioned. The second is primarily concerned with the history of Jhansi and its close and loyal ties with the British. Unfortunately for Lakshmibai, the question of the succession depended on the approval of the adoption by Dalhousie. Since Dalhousie wanted to annexe Jhansi all he had to do was withhold that approval. Here is an extract from the report upon which Dalhousie presumably based the justification for his decision, and a draft justification signed by Dalhousie on February 27 1854.

The extract from the third letter is interesting in that although I believe it is intended to state both that the annexation will not be resisted and that the British are nothing other than bullies, it also shows that Lakshmibai had considered resistance no matter how fleetingly, and was aware of the British strength and Indian weakness. One wonders how this letter, and the irritation at her persistence in stating her case, affected the perception of her in 1857. As a dig at the British it is nicely done, as a political statement it was ill-advised.

The dubious nature of the British case is best demonstrated by Dalhousie himself in this extract from a minute dated 25 March 1854. In it he draws the distinction between inheritance of personal property and inheritance of the state. For the one Damodar Rao was considered the legitimate heir, but not for the other.

If we examine the draft justification mentioned above, there seems to be little of substance in it. It simply ignores Lakshmibai's arguments based on the Treaties with the British.

Point 3 is irrelevant, the question is one of legality, not whether it looks suspicious to some bureaucrat. Gangadhar Rao knew he was dying, and so arranged the adoption. There was no secret about the circumstances.

Point 4 is not relevant since it was the widow (apparently) who adopted a son, and not Ramchandra Rao.

Point 5 is irrelevant, and not true. The British had an interest in Jhansi because of its strategic position within Bundelkhand, as is stated in point 6.

Point 7 is not true. Other states had not benefitted from British rule. Some people would benefit of course, but on average they would not. It is a simple matter of economics. The taxes would have to pay for the British administration and garrison in Jhansi and for funds to go to Calcutta and to England. Where a local ruler would spend most of the tax money locally, the British would send more money elsewhere.

With respect to the well-being of a town after the British took over, Mehr Afshan Farooqi, in his introduction to The Eleven Illustrations, ( speaks of the descent of Bareily from prosperity and of the observations of two Britons - 'Nevertheless, both Heber and Tennant recognise and admit that the ruin or emigration of the local chiefs (who were also the patrons of the local industries) following the establishment of British rule, was responsible for the decline of many of the local crafts.'

Comments on the Mutiny

The relevant documents are:-

This table is an attempt to capture all of the statements made by the witnesses involving the Rani in the Mutiny and Massacre. Where a statement contradicts an accusation I have put it in italics. This happens more than once.

A Comparison of the Statements concerning the Rani's involvement in the Mutiny and Massacre
Mrs Mutlow Sahibuddin Gulam Muhammad Customs Clerk Scot Ellis
June 5th - - - The Rani places guards at her Palace and shuts herself up inside - -
- Skene and Gordon go to the Rani and ask for help and receive 50-60 guns and ammunition. She also provides 50 of her own sepoys - (Actual date not available) The Rani sends her lawyer and offers to protect the women and children at her palace. She sends 40 guards to protect the English Gordon sends a message to the Ranee asking for help, which is refused as the mutineers threatened her with death. - -
- The Rani recalls her men and they and she join with the mutineers - - The Rani's guards join the mutineers. - -
June 6th - - - 3 British officers attempt to gain admittance to the Rani to ask for help, but she refuses and has them taken to the mutineers. They are murdered. - -
June 7th - - - - - -
June 8th - A heavy cannon had been put in order by order of the Rani and was firing on the fort. The 40 guards join the rebellion. Skene assumes that the Rani also sided with the rebels. The Rani is threatened with instant assassination, so she provides the mutineers with 1000 (?) men and two heavy cannon. The Rani's troops joined in the attack. The Rani is 'at last forced' to help with Guns and Elephants
- The Fort surrenders. Skene requires that the Rani sign the surrender agreement, which she does. The British were reassured by Mahomed Sanar, a doctor, that they would be safe. - - - -
- - The Rani accompanies the mutineers to the pultun. During the Jhansi Massacre the Rani was in the Palace the whole time - - -
- (Actual date not available) The Rani offers a reward for the capture of Mrs Mutlow. - - - - -

It would be suspicious if all the witnesses corroborated every point of each others story, but the greater the involvement of the Rani, the less the corroboration, if not outright contradiction.

A lot of what is said of the Rani is, at best, hearsay. One of the witnesses, the 'Customs Clerk' was in prison when the events he 'witnessed' happened. He also reports what was said by the Rani in response to the request for help from the 3 British officers, something to which he could not possibly have been privy at even the second or third hand. When you remove the hearsay and dubious parts of the statements you are left with nothing of substance.

As for the unfortunate, and much-abandoned, Mrs Mutlow; she has been reduced to begging and to being a 'kept-woman', the last few lines of her statement perhaps reveal all and in particular the sentence ' Now its master's will to do some good for me and two children'. She has tried to please 'master', ie the British officers, and now she needs some help in return. The poor woman is desperate. Sen states that her friend, Daulat Ram, is a British spy, which makes anything she learnt from him suspect, apart from being hearsay in any case. Certainly his story of the letters being confiscated seems odd. If the letters of a wanted woman were confiscated, why wasn't he also confiscated?

According to Sen, Captain Pinkney who, along with Scot, investigated the events in Jhansi found no corroboration for Mrs Mutlow's statement of the Rani's part in the surrender of the fort, but put in his report that the British negotiated the surrender through 'Saleh Mahommed, Native Doctor'. Pinkney also stated in his report that the massacre was ordered by the 'Risaldan' without the complicity of the Rani.

Mr Thorntons statement may have had a part in British thinking even though it seems illogical and, yet again, can only be reporting hearsay. To be fair to Thornton he prefaces his remarks with 'It is the general impression that...' and then gives a fairly detailed account of events he could not have witnessed. It requires us to believe that Lakshmibai invited back into Jhansi the very people that had just plundered the town, to commit yet more violence and to place herself at risk of from that violence.

The elements that we can take from the statements listed above as approaching the truth are:-

In other words these witnesses tend to corroborate the Rani's account and that of T.A. Martin. The Rani's account is further corroborated by the statement of one of the mutineers. According to Sir Robert Hamilton, this statement was itself consistent with others and he considered it to be, 'as far as it goes', creditable.

There were many witnesses and other statements were taken, but those of Mrs Mutlow, the Customs Clerk and the two orderlies are the only ones quoted, from which I assume they are the only ones that offer evidence against the Rani.

Other Possibilities

Perhaps the Rani tried to instigate and encourage the mutiny. Possibly. One of her servants was reported to be doing just that, though the report adds that it was not known if he were doing so with the Rani's authority. Her father is likewise accused, and the 'Customs Clerk' accuses him of sentencing him to death for helping the British, but the Clerk's statement has to be treated with some scepticism.

Moreover the threats issued against the Rani by the mutineers hardly suggests a friendly relationship. It is hardly likely that she would foment mutiny and then attempt to help the British when it started.

It is quite likely that the Rani wanted Jhansi back, and I've no doubt that a poll of Indians would have revealed a large majority in favour of getting rid of the British. However that does not imply active involvement. The Rani was well aware of the military strength of the British and the weakness of the Indian forces.

Perhaps she was riding out the Mutiny, hoping that as a by-product she would be able to regain Jhansi. There is nothing to suggest that, her letters to the British imply just the opposite, she was looking for them to return, to restore order, even as late as January 1858

There is no event that requires the involvement of the Rani as part of its explanation. There is no reason to suppose that anything that happened in Jhansi at this time would not have happened if Lakshmibai had never been born. What happened subsequently is another matter.

The impression I have is that the Rani did try to help the British, that as a result she was threatened by the mutineers, which was enough to scare her into withdrawing from the scene. She was in a very weak and frightening position; all the forces of law and order were in open revolt, prisoners had been released from gaol, plundering and looting had occurred. Her own troops joined the rebels, but since the rebels included not just the mutineers but all the other forces in Jhansi (the police, the prison guards (whose leader took a leading role), the customs and salt excise officers) this can hardly be a surprise. After the massacre the rebels then turned on the Rani with demands for assistance which she was obliged to yield. That the rebels are supposed to have chanted 'Jhansi for the Rani' does not imply her involvement but was quite possibly for the benefit of the towns people.

If the Rani's reactions seem to be less than heroic then that should be no surprise; she was in a situation which was confused and volatile, in which she was extremely vulnerable and for which she could have had no preparation; it was all totally outside her experience.

Why was 1857 a rebellion?

What does it take to qualify as a war of independence?

I've not studied this aspect of 1857, and all I can do is give my impression or opinion from what I've read.

For me, the phrase 'war of independence' implies an overall organisation and agenda. Wars are fought by armies on behalf of governments of whatever type.

A rebellion is more spontaneous, it is what happens when people have finally had enough. At the personal level it's like a loss of temper, an outburst. Rebellions are grass roots affairs with no government as such and ad hoc forces, not trained armies. A rebellion will of course have leaders, or throw up leaders, and if any success is achieved then perforce it will result in a government being created and if hostilities continue, the rebellion may transform itself into a war.

It seems to me that the American War of Independence and the Englsh Civil War both started as rebellions and became Wars. But both of these had leaders who were themselves members of the ruling clique. It occurs to me that, in effect, a rebellion is a poor man's war.

Our knowledge of the organisation of 1857 is, at best, limited, but it seems to have had the grass roots and spontaneous nature of a rebellion. The leaders became leaders after the event, and not always willingly it seems. The Indian forces were predominantly civilian, not trained soldiers, and so on. If it had been a 'war of independence' it might have succeeded.

As for it being a -National- War of Independence, that requires a -nation-. India the nation still lay in the future. 1857 was of course the turning point in India's colonial history...

I hope this explains my state of mind on this, as I said it is a matter of opinion rather than research and study, and I'd be more than happy to hear an opposing view :)

My correspondent also mentioned the anger that some Indians feel because so few British were able to conquer and control so many Indians.

This I think is based on a myth, the myth that India has always been a united nation encompassing the whole of the sub-continent. When the Europeans arrived in the sub-continent, India was no more one nation than Europe. The British were able to conquer India by using one state against another, they did not have to take on the whole of India. This was the divide and conquer policy, so far as I know that policy did not apply at the local level, the British did not attempt to set Hindu against Moslem etc.. The last thing a governing power wants is civil unrest, No peace, no taxes, and a lot of expenditure. It was when a national Indian consciousness started to develop and assert itself that the British felt obliged to leave.

But what of Ashoka and others who controlled Empires that take in all of India? Conquering a people does not make them one nation, Once again Europe is not a nation despite having been mostly conquered on 3 occasions, by the Romans, French and Germans. India did not become one nation because of Ashoka.

The British did not control a single nation of India, indeed it was the development of that nation that ended their rule.


A few images I have culled from books (and not well scanned either) and a couple of my own snaps. The links page (links.html) has links to other sites with other images.

The images will appear in a separate pop-up style window which with sensible placing of the windows will enable you to simply click through the images.

With reference to the statues of the Rani which all show her on horseback, there is a story that there is a convention that if the horse has both front feet off the ground then the rider died in battle, if it is just one foot the rider died of wounds received in battle, and with all four feet planted on the ground then the rider survived all battles. This is a myth, see ( . My thanks to Alok Mohan for this information.

Some recent snaps from Jhansi and Gwalior

Clicking on the thumbnail will pop up a window showing a larger image, as above.

The statue in Phul Bagh, Gwalior
One of two statues in Jhansi. This one is in a park and at the time of the photo had a small political meeting at its foot. Presumably some small time politician hoping to gain from her charisma.
The other statue in a small garden at a round junction.
The entrance to the Rani Mahal. Photography inside the Rani Mahal is forbidden, for no obvious reason, so what follows doesn't actually exist.
The Rani Mahal encloses a garden on 3 sides with working building on the 4th side. The majority of the Mahal is painted over and is used to display statues gathered in the Jhansi area.
Internal decoration.
Internal decoration.
Internal decoration in the portion that has not been painted over.
Internal decoration in the portion that has not been painted over, note the vandalism.
One of two large cannon on display at Jhansi Fort. This one is the Bhavani Shankar cannon which was operated by Moti Bai.
Battlements of Jhansi Fort
Battlements of Jhansi Fort. The Rani Mahal is the yellow building on the left.
Battlements of Jhansi Fort
Battlements of Jhansi Fort
Battlements of Jhansi Fort
Battlements of Jhansi Fort
The Panch Mahal, the palace inside Jhansi Fort, with some ugly extensions and communication tower in the background.
Another view of the Panch Mahal
The so-called Jumping Point. The Rani is claimed to have jumped her horse from this point on the wall to the ground below and so make her escape. The figures in red and blue give an idea of the scale. This plus the rough and sloping ground below must surely mean that any horse would have been killed, not to mention the rider. The Rani was a good rider, but physics is physics. It is somewhat more likely that she left by the gate.
The battlements of Jhansi Fort. This side of the fort wall coincides with the city wall.
The memorial to Gulam Gaus Khan, Moti Bai and Khudabaks. The three are remembered together as a symbol of unity. The Panch Mahal is in the right background along with a satellite dish...
A Shiv Temple dating from the Rani's period, there is also a Ganesh temple inside the fort near to the Gate.
Some recent decoration. There is a lot of this vandalism, whether it is a fort as here and at Gwalior, a temple, even the Rani Mahal.
Some more vandalism.


I last checked these links on the 19th June 2003, if any have died since then or you have some new ones please let me know! I hate sites with dead links.

The external site will appear in a new browser window. If you arrange the two windows sensibly, you can simply click through them.

On Lakshmibai

Letters of Rani of Jhansi (
A couple of letters written by Lakshmibai to the Raja of Banpur from 'Camp Jhansi' and 'Camp Kalpi'. The script is in Devanagari but thanks to Dr. Mithi Mukherjee of the Univ. of Colorado and Sanjay K. Gautam of the Univ. of Chicago we have these translations:
  • Camp Jhansi
  • Camp Kalpi
Laxmi Bai (
A good look at Lakshmibai, the woman, and includes a transcript of her first letter to the British. The author while pleading that we consider the woman rather than the myth, does her the injustice of describing her as 'fragile'. Women, by and large, are not fragile; if they were there would be no human race. This one, in particular was fit and, undoubtedly, tough. Like beauty, strength has more than one dimension, and, like beauty, isn't just about the shape of your body.
History of India - British: Rani Lakshmibai (
A rather muddled and inaccurate account, and it includes the account of Godse taken from this site but does at least retain the credit to Tahmankar.
Introduction - Jhansi Lakshmi Bai (
A more decorative version of the story of Lakshmibai which has her instigating the mutiny, and doesn't mention the massacre.
Jhansi Rani Lakshmi Bai (
A biography which stops just short of her death. Rather hagiographic and inaccurate with many statements for which there is no evidence. One gross example has the Rani sheltering the British women and children in her palace during the mutiny. Really a propaganda piece.
The Road to Morar (,prtpage-1.cms)
An Economic Times (of India) column by Raghu Krishnan contemplating the legend of the Rani and Gwalior.
A poem in Hindi about the Rani credited to Subhadhra Kumari Chauhan (
I am not a Hindi speaker, or reader, and so cannot comment on it, or if it even is really about the Rani.
An article from the British Daily Telegraph on the Rani, Jhansi and Gwalior (

Not all together accurate but it's a newspaper, and the travel section at that ... :)

Flags of Bundelkhand (
An Italian site showing the flags used by the states of Bundelkhand including that of Jhansi in 1857/1858.
British Cemeteries in India (

Jhansi Cantonment Cemetery ( in particular. It's a sad site but also see this article ( about the British Cemeteries in India and Jhansi and the work of Mrs Peggy Cantem in Jhansi.

Collect Britain, a British Library site (
Despite the title this site includes images from India and elsewhere. In particular, it includes photos taken in and around Jhansi in the latter part of the 19th C.. These are mostly of temples but includes the Jhansi and Gwalior forts.
Univ. of Pennsylvania South Asian Picture Archive: Jhansi (
A couple of pictures of the internal decoration of Lakshmibai's Palace. They look sadly dilapidated. A fact mentioned by Devi writing in 1956 and corroborated by this speech ( from India's Lower House, the Lok Sabha. Surely India can do better for one of her great figures?
Jhansi Fort 1882-1884 (
A photograph taken by Lala Deen Dayal included in an exhibition, India through the Lens: Photography 1840-1911 ( , at the Smothsonian Freer Gallery ( . There is a site dedicated to Lala Deen Dayal ( .
Photographs of India pre 1947 (
This site has a number of different subjects but of particular interest here is the collection of photographs taken before 1947, mostly Victorian but all after 1858. Jhansi does not feature, as yet, but Gwalior does.
Details of the Architecture of Lakshmibai's Palace. (
From Legacy of India (
Another short account of her life
Itihaas: Contribution: Itihaas of Sepoy Mutiny (
Quotes 21-40 (
Actually about Women in Hinduism but includes another copy of the Danuta Dubois story, as well as John Lang's description of her.
Amazons (
Includes a short and inaccurate story
INDOlink Kidz-Korner - Story of RANI LAKSHMIBAI (
Debts of Honor (
A slightly biased telling of the siege of Jhansi from the Indian point of view
Family tree of the rulers of Jhansi (
Has Lakshmibai's birthdate as 15th June 1834 in Bithur rather than earlier and in Varanasi. The main site ( has details of other princely states.
The movie - Jhansi Ki Rani (
Made in 1952, with Mehtab in the title role. I have not seen this movie and would welcome comments on it.
Postage Stamps Commemorating Great Women of India (
Including the Rani, and Jhalkari. The short account of the Rani is inaccurate and misleading.
Rani of Jhansi Postage Stamp (Indian Post) (

Boudicca (Boadicea)

The Rani is called the Indian Joan of Arc but her case more clsely resembles that of the Celtic queen Boudicca, though whether the Rani would have been so vengeful as Boudicca is debatable.

Bear in mind that the only accounts we have of Boudicca are Roman.

Boudicca on Wikipedia (
Boudicca at the Univ. of Chicago (

On Jhalkari

Jhalkari was said to resemble Lakshmibai and was taken by the British after the fall of Jhansi thinking they had taken the Rani. However as few, if any, of the British knew what the Rani looked like the resemblance would not have to be very close to fool them.
The Story of Jhalkaribai (
Jhalkari was one of the women in Lakshmibai's women's unit. She was captured by the British thinking that she was Lakshmibai. I have no definite word of her fate.
DKPNA: Stamps issued in 2001 (
One of these stamps featured Jhalkari and a short bio is given. The author believes she was released.
The Tribune: When Jhalkari Bai fought as Lakshmi Bai (
A longer bio which also has her being released and dying, possibly, in 1890.
Jhalkari Bai, a little known chapter on a woman's courage in colonial India (
A bio that emphasises the legend more than the others.

On The Great Rebellion

The Central India Campaign (
A military account of the British campaign to subdue the rebels as related in the Pakistani Defence Journal.
The Indian Revolt by Charles Creighton Hazewell (
An account first published in the Atlantic Monthly ( in December 1857. Also British India ( by the same author in November 1857.
Reconquest of India ( India (
Articles from 17th Oct 1857 issue of Littell's Living Age
An Account of the Opening of the Indian Mutiny at Meerut, 1857 by Elisa Greathed (
A letter written by Elisa Greathed of what she witnessed
The Relief of Lucknow by Robert Traill Spence Lowell (
A poem on that event
The Indian Mutiny: the Epic of the Race (
Remembering 1857-58 War of Indian Independence (
Chapter One (
A site devoted to the Victoria Cross, including those awarded during the India Campaign ( and the battles for Jhansi ( and Gwalior ( . 3 of the 4 medals awarded in the latter battle were for one action by members of the 8th Hussars on June 17th, presumably the action in which Lakshmibai was fatally wounded, and her companion, Mandar killed.
Map of Central Imperial India (
From the Gazeteer ( at Digital South Asia Library ( which has a number of other interesting resources including The Imperial Gazetteer of India ( .
Map of India 1857 (
Image is 400K, for more maps see Family History in India (
Britain-India Research and Resource (
A site listing resources on the net for relations between Britain and India. Includes references to this site, including some primary sources ( , ie electronic versions of original documents.
The Mutiny and the British Press (
Part of a more general site on the British Empire (
The Sepoy Rebellion(1857) (
A consideration of the causes of the rebellion and whether it was a mutiny or war of independence.
The Rebellion of 1857: Origins, Consequences, and Themes (
From Teaching South Asia Internet Journal ( . It includes a survey of attitudes in Britain to the rebellion which were initially against the East India Co.
The Causes Of The Rebellion (
From the Pakistan Defence Journal
About History: European Domination of South Asia (
A set of links to sites dealing with various aspects of European rule in India
The East India Company (
Under Construction

Project Gutenberg and India

Project Gutenberg ( is a volunteer project of several years standing to put as many out of copyright books on the net as possible. Naturally this includes works published during the 19th C relating to India. This a small selection:-

THE CENTURY?ITS FRUITS AND ITS FESTIVAL Part III (1877) ( Includes a piece relating travels in India which includes a visit to Jhansi. Despite the publication date, no mention is made of the Rani or even of the Mutiny. Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official ( William Sleeman's own account of his time in India. Sleeman was responsible for the suppression of the thuggees in the early part of the 19th C. including a perion in the 1840's when he was stationed in Jhansi. He mentions the Rani only in passing and in relation to her role in the Mutiny. A Journey through the Kingdom of Oude, Volumes I & II ( Also by Sleeman on his work in India. Includes a letter by him to Major Malcolm with his thoughts on how the Rani ("Baee") and others dependent on the Jhansi court should be treated after the annexation of Jhansi. Goblin Market, The Prince's Progress, and Other Poems ( Poems by Christina Rossetti which includes a short poem on the death of Captain Skene and his wife, "In the Round Tower at Jhansi, June 8, 1857".

On Flashman

Humor of the Flashman Papers - Flashman in the Great Game (

Other Related Sites

Women in Hindu civil Society (
An essay on women's rights and expectations of women in Hindu society through history.
1911 Encyclopaedia (
Compiled 50 years after the Rebellion and when India was still part of the Empire. There is some corruption of the entries, it looks like errors from an OCR, and the entries listed below are not necessarily the first on the page.
  • Bundelkhand (
  • Jhansi (
  • Tantia Topi ( (Incorrectly placing him inside Jhansi for part of the siege.)
  • General Rose ( or STRATHNAIRN, HUGH HENRY ROSE, 1st BARON, the entry looks to be corrupted.
  • Kalpi (
  • The Indian Mutiny (
The Rani is not considered important enough for her own entry, nor is her death noted. Interestingly no accusations are made against her, perhaps reflecting some disquiet about the official line.
Jhansi (
Jhansi tourist site, with a brief history of Jhansi, as well Lakshmibai, and some snaps of the Fort and other places around Jhansi
India's Sunday Tribune (
A travel writer's account of a visit to Jhansi.
Legacy of India (
Look for the section on Jhansi and places close by. Of particular relevance are the photograhs of details of Lakshmibai's Palace ( .
Univ of Pennsylvania South Asian Archive (
Architecture Archive (
Includes Jhansi ( and Gwalior (
Persian Manuscript detailing the crafts of Bareilly in 1820 (
The Introduction ( looks at the political and economic background to the manuscript which is very pertinent to Jhansi
Internet Indian History Sourcebook (
A site listing many source works of India from way back then to today. Excellent site.
Open Directory - South Asian History (
US Library of Congress (
This is a search engine for their Country Studies and is worldwide, which still includes the countries of the subcontinent.
Images of India (
Includes Images of the palace of Datia and the Fort of Gwalior.
Victorian and Pre-Victorian Colonial India (
From The Victorian Web (
Family History in India (
Primarily intended for non-Indians trying to trace their ancestory in India, but, as a consequence, with much other information albeit of a British hue.
Tour India - Forts in India (
Forts in India, including Jhansi and a brief retelling of the legend.
A Spunky Sculptor (
An article on a sculptor of one of the many statues of the Rani
Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education (
Situated in Gwalior. The Rani was fond of physical exercise and so it is not inappropriate that such an institution should be named in her homour.
First Australian novelist, his life in India (
An Indian Express article on John Lang, the lawyer who advised Lakshmibai on the annexation


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.
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.
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.
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.
Taylor, P.J.O. - The Rani of Jhansi (HarperCollins Delhi 1995 ISBN 81 7223 200 4)
A biography for children
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.

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 (-)
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
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.


I do not have access to the original source material, but where I have found a document quoted I have transcribed it as faithfully as possible and have avoided changes to format, spelling, etc.. I have used the most complete document available. In general these documents are actually extracts from the original. Where I, or someone else, has added an explanatory comment it is in square brackets ([]). Missing text is indicated by ellipsis (...) unless it is at the beginning or end of the document in which case it may be assumed.

I have collected together documents relating to the Annexation of Jhansi (comments-annexation.html) and The Mutiny and Massacre of Jhansi (comments-mutiny.html) and offered my own comments on them.

In general the documents listed below are in chronological order with the exception of the statements of witnesses to the mutiny and massacre. These statements were made sometime after the events but I have chosen to list them according to the date of the events rather than the date of the document, in order to provide a more coherent narrative, but be aware that this testimony was not necessarily available to the British at that time.

The documents will appear in a separate pop-up style window. If you are clever and arrange the 2 windows sensibly you can simply click through the documents.

1853 Nov 4 Sleeman, William Major Malcolm A letter to Major Malcolm giving Sleeman's view on how the Rani should be treated.
1853 Dec 3 Jhansi Rani Dalhousie The first of her letters contesting the annexation
1854 Feb 16 Jhansi Rani Dalhousie The second of her letters contesting the annexation.
Prior to 1854 Feb 26 Council of Dalhousie Dalhousie Extract of report on the succession of Jhansi
1854 Feb 27 Dalhousie et al Draft justification for annexing Jhansi.
1854 Mar Lang, John Lang's account of his consultation with the Rani.
1854 Mar 25 Dalhousie Extract of a minute regarding the inheritance rights of Damodar Rao.
1854 Apr 22 Jhansi Rani Dalhousie Her third letter requesting a delay in the annexation, but declaring that Jhansi would not resist the annexation with force.
Unknown Mrs Mutlow Her statement with respect to the mutiny and massacre
1858 Mar 23 Sahibuddin. one of Skene's orderlys His statement with respect to the mutiny and massacre.
Unknown Unnamed customs clerk His statement with respect to the mutiny and massacre
Unknown Captain P.G. Scot His report gleaned from three independent witnesses on the mutiny and massacre.
Unknown Aman Khan, Jhansi mutineer An extract from his statement regarding the involvement of the Rani.
1857 Jun 12 Jhansi Rani Major Erskine Written immediately after the mutineers left Jhansi. It describes the events of the mutiny, massacre and the initials steps she has taken to restore order.
1857 Jun 14 Jhansi Rani Major Erskine A follow up letter with an accompanying report (not available here) on the status of Jhansi and a more detailed report of the mutiny and massacre.
1857 Jun 14 Jhansi Rani Major Erskine The Narrative of Events that accompanied her letter of June 14th 1857.
1857 Jun 29 Major Ellis Secretary to Lord Canning Telegram giving an account of the mutiny and massacre from some Indians who had been inside the fort.
1857 Jul 2 Major Erskine Jhansi Rani Requesting her to assume control of Jhansi until a new Superintendent can be sent.
1857 Jul 2 Major Erskine The Proclamation sent to the Rani with his letter of 2nd July 1857
1857 Jul 2 Major Erskine Secretary to Lord Canning Giving the Rani's accounts of events, detailing his own actions, and other events.
1857 Jul 23 Secretary to Lord Canning Major Erskine Giving conditional approval to Erskine's actions and expressing doubt on the Rani's veracity.
1857 Aug 18 Mr Thornton/Major Erskine Unknown Extract from a statement implicating the Ranee in the massacre.
1857 Nov 19 Gulam Muhammad, one of Skene's orderlys His deposition before a magistrate with respect to the mutiny and massacre.
1858 Jan 1 Jhansi Rani Sir Robert Hamilton, Agent Governor General for Central India Detailing the troubles with Orchha and Datia and pleading for help.
1858 Jan 8 Unknown Extract of British intelligence report of comments by the Rani that she would not fight the British.
1858 Jan 16 Gopal Rao, record keeper of Jhansi Major Erskine Reporting political and military preparations in Jhansi
1858 Feb 14 Jhansi Rani (assumed) Proclamation of rebellion
Early 1858 Jhansi Rani Translation of a letter to the Raja of Banpur and others
1858 Apr 30 Hugh Rose Rose's account of the siege and capture of Jhansi
Unknown Vishnu Godse Extract from his account of the massacre in Jhansi
Early April 1858 Jhansi Rani Translation of a letter to the Raja of Banpur and others
1858 Jun 11 Secretary to Lord Canning Mr R Hamilton Advising Hamilton that a reward may be given for the capture of the Rani
1858 Oct 13 Gen Hugh Rose Chief of Staff Extract from Rose's report on the battle for Gwalior in which he mentions the death of the Rani
1858 Jun 25 Brig. M W Smith Gen Hugh Rose Smith's report on the actions around Kotah-ki-Serai
1858 Nov 4 Pinkney F. W. Secretary to Government, Bombay A letter explaining the confiscation of property of the Rani and others, along with a summary of the evidence against the Rani.
1889 Aug 20 T. A. Martin Damodar Rao Letter of unknown provenance exonerating the Rani of complicity in the massacre of the British.
1897 Summer Mr. Martin John Venables Sturt Extracts from three letters by a Mr Martin to John Venables Sturt telling of the death of the Rani, her innocence of rebellion, and mentioning an autobiography of Damodar Rao and a biography of the Rani by Damodar Rao.
1912 G. W. Forrest Short extract from Forrest's Introduction to his Selections From The State Papers Preserved In The Military Department.