Born on the banks of the Ganges at Benares, little Manakarnika was a charged and precocious girl- destined to be etched in history as the towering queen of the Revolt of 18757. A touching yet accurate portrait of this Indian Boadicea. The Ranee of Jhansi as a biography also puts the events of the 'mutiny' and the actual role of Lakshmibai in it, into perspective.
The writer takes you on a journey through the plains and hills of central India, which in 1857 could have - but such is the fatalism of history - turned around India's future forever. It makes for a breathless reading from beginning to end - through the circumstances that led to the revolt and through the vivid scenes of the glorious battle at Jhansi.
A woman of the strongest Mahratta mettle, Lakshmibai had an intuitive grasp of warfare, astute judgement of the enemy's power and an indomitable will that made her fight even in the face of defeat. And being a young Brahmin widow of thirty who led a whole army, she inadvertently created one of the greatest ironies in Indian history, when she was declared the 'best man on the rebel side'!
D.V. Tahmankar (d. 1982) was a correspondent of the Marathi newspaper Kesari before becoming the UK correspondent for the Deccan Herald till 1980. He set up the Lokmanya Tilak Memorial Trust and also wrote the biographies Lokamanya Tilak: Father of Indian Unrest and Maker of Modern India (1956) and Sardar Patel (1970).
A Word of Thanks
A hundred years ago, in 1858, Lakshmibai, Ranee of Jhansi, fell in the battle of Gwalior end for all practical purposes, the Indian Revolt came to an end. Whatever resistance the rebel leaders, such as Rao Saheb, Tatya Tope and the Begum of Oudh, could put up against the British became more and more symbolic than real after the Ranee's death. Her disappearance from the scene, therefore, is rightly regarded as a significant landmark in Indian history and the beginning of a new phase in Indo-British relations. It was in 1858 that by a Royal Proclamation Queen Victoria formally took over the Indian administration from the East India Company.
The Ranee of Jhansi has been acclaimed by Indians and British alike as the bravest soldier on the revel side. But her career has borne a blemish all these years as a result of one-sided accounts of the massacre at Jhansi of English men, women and children. Even the most responsible and informed historians of the day, such as Sir John Kaye and Colonel G. B. Malleson, have condemned her for the crime. She is a prima vista guilty in their view.
In this book I have attempted to show by citing evidence, which was either overlooked by the British historians or was not available to them, that the Ranee was innocent of the grave crime she has been charged with. I shall feel amply rewarded if my efforts go some way to vindicate her name and character, and thus secure for her the historical justice to which she is entitled.
Many friends have helped me in writing this story but I can mention only a few of them, without whose assistance I should not have been able to finish the book so soon. They are Professor S. R. Parasnis of Fergusson College, Poona; Shri V. P. Pandit, Keeper of Historical Records, Gwalior; Shri R. H. Divecha of Thana and Shri L. Pandit of Indore, who supplied me with valuable books and material. I am also deeply thankful to Mr. Mervyn Jones who read through the manuscript and helped me in preparing the press copy. I must also express my grateful thanks to my old friend, Shri G. G. Dandekar of Bhivandi, for his unfailing support and encouragement in my effort to 'sell' Indian personalities to the Western reader.
A book of this kind could not be written without having an easy access to old records and references. In this connection I acknowledge with thanks the most ungrudging help and co-operation I received from Mr. S. C. Sutton, Librarian of the Commonwealth Office Library (formerly the India Office Library) and his staff.
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