Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi


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This is what the British had to say of her.

Her Character

" ..a very civil, polite and clever young lady.."
    -- Sir Robert Hamilton, Agent in Central India
" [The Rani] is a woman highly respected and esteemed, and I believe fully capable of doing justice to the charge [of governing Jhansi]"
    -- Major Malcolm, Political Agent
    He later seemingly changed his mind, refusing to forward an endorsement of the Rani's case from Major Ellis, the Political Agent at 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."
    -- 'Other witnesses' quoted in Fraser
" She is a wonderful woman, very brave and determined. It is fortunate for us that the men are not all like her."
    -- Cornet Combe, 3rd Bombay Light Cavalry
    Combe was one of those who intercepted her flight from Jhansi.
" In her death the rebels lost their bravest and best military leader."
    -- Regimental history of the 8th Hussars
    The 8th Hussars are most probably the unit responsible for her death.
" 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."
    -- General Sir High Rose
    Officer commanding the force that took Jhansi and Gwalior.

Her Appearance

The portrait of the Rani on the home page 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. "
    -- John Lang, Lakshmibai's lawyer.
    He also described her as 'stout but not too stout'. The criticism of her voice may well be a cultural thing. Indian sources describe her voce as melodious. Certainly even my relatively sympathetic ears can find the female Indian accent to be harsh when an Indian will find it beautiful.
" .. 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. "
    -- John Lang / Antonia Fraser
" 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. "
    -- Meadows Taylor (quoted in Smyth)
    Taylor's authority on her looks is not stated.

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. "
    -- Bollywood actress rani Mukherjee talking to Madhureeta Mukherjee of Filmfare online magazine.

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Last modified: 2005-09-23 23:23:02.000000000