The bravest soldier of the First War of Indian Independence, Rani Laxmi Bai was born on 16th November 1834 in Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. Her original name was Manikarnika or Manu. She was very brave even as a child. At the age of eight, she was married to Raja Gangadhar Rao of Jhansi. Laxmi Bai was the second wife of Raja Gangadhar. Though a son was born to her, he had a very short life span. After her husband`s death she adopted a son and appointed him as her successor.
During that period, Lord Dalhousie introduced the system of "Doctrine of Lapse". This doctrine stated that if a ruler of a dependent state died without leaving a natural born heir, his kingdom would lapse to the British Empire. Any adopted son of the deceased King was not entitled to get the throne. Lord Dalhousie, on this ground, annexed Jhansi. Revolting against this decision the Rani organised her own army, waiting for the right opportunity to teach the British a lesson.
On 4th June 1857, the Sepoy regiment stationed at Jhansi revolted thereby breaking the British control and enabled Rani Laxmi Bai to rule Jhansi till March 1858. The British forces under the leadership of Sir Hugh Rose laid a protracted siege on Jhansi. Though Laxmi Bai put up a stiff resistance, she was ultimately forced to flee Jhansi. She managed to escape and joined forces with Tatya Tope, the lieutenant of Nana Saheb. The British forces pursued her at Kalpi and inflicted a crushing defeat, but she surprised them by capturing Gwalior. The enemy forces surrounded Laxmi Bai and though she tried to retreat she was fatally wounded and died on 18th June 1858 on the battlefield.
Even her enemies praised her indomitable spirit as a fighter to save the country from the clutches of the British. In the words of Sir Hugh Rose, "Although a lady she was the bravest and best military leader of the rebels". She became a legendary figure and her brave deeds inspired future generations to fight against the British Raj.