Jhansi is an important city in the state of Uttar Pradesh. It is situated in the north-central part of India. The city is full of historical, cultural and heritage value. The ancient name of this historical city was Balwantnagar. Three main rivers, namely – the Pahuj, Betwa and Dhasan intersect the city. It is said that, in 1728, Jhansi was offered, as a part of his state by Maharaja Chattrasal, as a mark of gratitude, to Maratha Peshwa Baji Rao (I), who helped Maharaja Chattrasal in defeating the Mughal Army.
Thereafter, Naroshanker was made the subedar of Jhansi in 1742. He ruled for 15 years. The extension of Jhansi Fort and construction of other buildings was done by the Subedars who succeeded from 1757 to 1769. The famous Maha Lakshmi Temple and the Raghunath Temple was built by Raghunath Rao (II) Newalkar.
Jhansi remained the capital of princely state of Jhansi from 1817 to 1854 till the British authorities took over under the terms of Doctrine of Lapse. After the death of Raghunath Rao (III) in 1838, the British ascended Gangadhar Rao as the Raja of Jhansi who was married to Manikarnika, commonly known as Rani Lakshmi Bai (1828 – 58).
Lakshmi Bai gave birth to a boy who died within few months and soon after Gangadhar Rao adopted his cousin’s son Anand Rao, who was renamed Damodar Rao. On the day of adoption, Gangadhar informed Major Ellis, political agent at Jhansi, about his will wherein he had desired that, after his death, the administration of the state should be vested in his widow and that she be recognized as the mother of the adopted child, which the British didn’t approved of after the death of Maharaja in 1853.
After the death of Gangadhar Rao, the state was declared as having lapsed to the British Government.
In the early months of 1857, the rumour about the greased cartridges containing animal fat began to spread. As a precautionary step, Lakshmi Bai sought the permission to raise the army from the British political officer. By June 1857, the European Officers of the garrison along with their wives and children were massacred by men of the 12th Bengal Native Infantry, who also tried to seize the Fort. The Sepoys left Jhansi four days after the massacre.
Thereafter, Jhansi was invaded by forces of Orchha and Datia. Requesting the British for help was a futile exercise and Lakshmi Bai without wasting much time assembled forces which included former feudatories of Jhansi and defeated the invaders on August 1857.
Till this point, Lakshmi Bai was reluctant to rebel against the British. But, the ignorant and arrogant attitude of the British ignited the thought of wanting Independence from the British rule. She convinced her advisors that the British were cowards and consequently guarded the Fort with cannons and guns.
Sir Hugh Rose asked her to surrender the city but Rani announced publicly: “we will not give up Jhansi”. She defended Jhansi against British Troops till it was surrounded by Hugh Rose in 1858. Request for help was sent to Tatya Tope, who responded with an army of more 20,000 but failed to relieve Jhansi. The British continued the siege and launched bombardment to breach the walls. The fight continued into the following day.
The Rani withdrew to avoid the resistance within the city. With Damodar Rao on her back she jumped on her horse Badal from the fort. She decamped at Kalpi which was later captured by the British. Thereafter, Lakshmi Bai and Tantya Tope moved on to Gwalior intending to occupy the strategic Gwalior Fort.
The Maharaja of Gwalior was a strong ally of the British and was not ready to give up, but after negotiations, his troops surrendered and the rebels took possession of the fort. Realizing the danger, Hugh Rose took prompt measures to check the activities of the Rani of Jhansi and Tantia Tope.
The battle was fought and Rani of Jhansi, dressed in male attire, died a soldier’s death on 17th June 1857, whereas Tatya Tope and Rao Sahib escaped to Nepal.
A tomb was erected in the Phool Bagh area of Gwalior to commemorate the sacrifice of Rani Lakshmi Bai.
Apart from Jhansi Fort, places to see in Jhansi include: Government Museum, Rani Mahal, Mahalaxmi Temple, Iskcon Temple, St. Anotony’s Cathedral, St. Jude’s Shrine etc. Besides, there are many tourist spots around and nearby the city of Jhansi such as Orchha, Chirgaon, Gwalior, Khajuraho etc.