Friday, July 16, 2010

Withered Hope

After the celebrations were over, Gangadhar Rao wrote a letter to the Company. He gave all the details about the adoption and requested the Company to recognize the adopted son as the heir. He suggested that, till Damodar Rao came of age, Rani Lakhsmi Bai should be recognized as his representative. The Maharaja reminded the Company of the friendly relations between Jhansi and the Company. The letter was handed over by the Maharaja to Major Ellis with a request to give it to Lord Dalhousie.

The Maharaja shed tea5rs when handing over the letter. He was overcome by emotion and his voice was choked. The sobs of the Maharani crying behind the curtain could be heard.

Gangadhar Rao told the Major: "Major Saheb, my Rani is a woman. But she is endowed with many qualities which even the ablest men of the world should appreciate." As he was speaking, unknown to him, his eyes were filled with tears.

"Major Saheb, please see that on no account Jhansi becomes on orphan," he said.

Within a few days, on 21st November 1853,Gangadhar Rao died. The inexperienced 18-years-old Lakhsmi Bai became a widow.

A Hindu woman – that too, a young woman and a widow – bound by the chains of custom; in addition, the responsibility of a state with no protection; on one side, Dalhousie who was waiting to annex the kingdom; on the other; Damodar Rao, an infant in her arms-this was the plight of Lakhsmi Bai. Limitless, endless her problems and her sorrows!

Lakshmi Bai sent a number of petitions to Dalhousie for a decision on the Maharaja’s representation. Three months passed, but there was no reply.

On one unfortunate day, in March 1854, Dollhouse’s order arrived.

It read: ‘The Company does not recognize the right of the late Maharaja Gangadhar Rao adopt an heir. It has, therefore, been decided to merge Jhansi in the British provinces. The Rani should vacate the fort and live in the palace situated in the city. She will b paid a monthly pension of rupees five thousand.’

The Rani could not believe it at first. She was taken aback for some time, and then exclaimed: "No, impossible: I shall not surrender my Jhansi."

It did not take her long to realize how difficult it was for the small state of Jhansi to appose the British might and cleverness, when even the Peshwas had bowed before it. The kings of Delhi also were on their knees before the British

After the British took over the government from her, the Rani’s daily routine changed. Every morning the hours from four to eight were set apart for bathing, worship, meditation and prayer. From eight to eleven she would to out for a horse ride, practise shooting with a gun, and practise swordsmanship and shooting with arrows, with the reins hold in the teeth. Thereafter she would bathe again, feed the hungry, give alms to the poor and then have food; then she rested for a while. After that she would exercise lightly in the evening. Later she would go through some religious books and hear religious sermons. Then she worshipped her chosen deity and had supper. All things were done methodically, according to a strict time-table.


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