Rani (Queen) Laxmibai of Jhansi is today a symbol of the first organized Indian resistance to British rule. She was born (c. 1828) in a conservative priestly family, but she got an unconventional education including trained in martial arts like the boys of her age. Married to the King of Jhansi, a small principality in central India, she became the ruler when her husband died prematurely. She governed well and earned the respect of her people.
At the time, British authority was well established in India, and had started taking over the independent principalities like Jhansi using legal loopholes. The Rani petitioned against such an attempt to the authorities in India as well as Britain, to no avail. About the same time a small rebellion among the Indian soldiers of the British army was developing into a full war for independence as many aggrieved Indian princes declared their determination to drive out the British. Laxmibai decided to cast her lot with the forces fighting the British.
Illustrator: Hema Joshi