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Monday, June 11, 2018

Book Reviews : 'Rani Lakshmibai' by Sonia Mehta and 'Rani Lakshmibai : The Valiant Queen of Jhansi' by Deepa Agarwal

I am currently looking at two books, both of which, are about the same brave heroine, Rani Lakshmibai. The junior version has been written for Junior Lives is titled simply, ‘Rani Lakshmibai’ by Sonia Mehta (Junior Lives). While the other one, titled ‘Rani Lakshmibai : The Valiant Queen of Jhansi’ by Deepa Agarwal (Puffin Lives) is also produced by relatively, the same publisher. 

I am sure, all of us have heard about the great and heroic queen, who was not supposed to be a queen, yet she becomes one, and a brilliant one at that. She is born roughly around 1827, in Kashi (Varanasi, as it is known, today) into a Brahmin family; and a tomboy she is from the very start. 

She was named Manikarnika at birth, and she did not prefer dolls. She was more the outdoorsy kind of a girl, preferring to ride elephants and horses. But, unfortunately she lost her mother at two. And she grew up, becoming a tomboy, and also learning and doing almost everything that men did.  

She also read and wrote Sanskrit and also a bit of Persian. At a very young age, she along with two of her best friends, Nana Sahib, who was chosen to be Peshwa’s successor and also, Tantia Tope, who was much older than her, were a sight to see. The three of them, together were a hugely popular sight in town because of the naughty and adventurous stuff, which they got to do.

While she was at it, from a kingdom called Jhansi, ruled by a responsible man named Gangadhar Rao, who had lost his wife, came a proposal. Agreed to, by the father, Manu soon became the queen and she, who convinced her husband that she needed to ride and also state her point of view in official matters. She slowly took on a lot of official duties and was encouraged in the same by her husband. She also gave birth to a son named Damodar Rao, who died after a few months.

The British had decided to take over the country slowly, by then. They had laid down a rule, saying that if a state did not have an heir they would automatically take over the state. In the meanwhile, Gangadhar Rao decided to adopt a son and he wrote a letter to Lord Dalhousie informing him of the same, but this took its own time to get there. Unfortunately, Lakshmibai was widowed at twenty-six.

This is where I make the switch to 'Rani Lakshmibai : The Valiant Queen of Jhansi'. Major Ellis immediately informed the news of his death to Dalhousie. But Dalhousie had additional plans; he refused to accept the fact that Jhansi had an heir. Instead, Lakshmibai was granted a pension of Rs 5,000 per month.

Lakshmibai, who was unaware of all this got her advisers to declare that
Damodar was the new heir to the throne. Jhansi was swept in grief on the death of her King. But Lakshmhibai, herself had plans.

They decided to make war with the British. The first thing, Lakshmibai did was to recall all the 3,240 army officers, belonging to all castes and creeds. Plus, she always dressed in male attire, blue silk jacket, tight trousers and a turban; she also had a sword tucked in the silk sash, around her waist. Occasionally, she would wear the white sari, which was her widowed attire.

Another claimant to the throne, Sadashiv Rao Narayana was a great grandson to Gangadhar Rao’s ancestor, Sadashiv Pant. He laid claim to the throne, earlier. He crowned himself, King of Jhansi, and demanded allegiance. Lakshmibai, sent an army, which routed him. She was also threatened by the Rajput rulers around her kingdom. But she still won the day.

She kept on writing to the British, telling them of the dangerous position, she was in. She prepared the city for the battle that was always looming over her. What would happen in the end? Would Damodar Rao take over the kingdom? Would she continue to survive the battle? Or does she live on as a ghost, as some sightings were reported…

Read on, both the books, and let’s see which one is preferred. ‘Rani Lakshmibai’ by Sonia Mehta and done with excellent illustrations by Jitendra Mahadik or Deepa Agarwal’s ‘Rani Lakshmibai : The Valiant Queen of Jhansi’, with its own spots of trivia of India and also the world. 

You can Buy Book 1 and Book 2, right here.

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