Adapted from Sandhya Rao’s story
When Lakshmibai was born in Benaras, the wise ones said she would become a queen. Her parents, Moropant Tambe and Bhagirathibai named her Manikarnika after the river Ganga. Her mother told her many stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha, and Manu, as she was called, was very happy. Unfortunately Bhagirathibai died all of a sudden when Manu was only four. Moropant Tambe moved to a place called Bithur. There he worked for Baji Rao II, who had once been the Peshwa. ‘Peshwa’ was the title given to the Maratha ruler. Manu was not sad for long in Bithur. She quickly made friends with the boys, Nana Sahib and Tantia Tope. Nana Sahib was Baji Rao’s adopted son.
With them, she learned to ride and shoot. She also went to school, although in those days girls were not taught to read and write. She was called ‘Chhabili‘- the sweet one – by everyone, including Baji Rao.
Because of her charm and wit, Gangadhar Rao, the king of Jhansi, married her after the death of his first wife, Ramabai who had died without a child. When Gangadhar Rao married Manu, she was only 15 and she was a child herself. The bride was given a new name, Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi. The people of Jhansi welcomed Lakshmibai into their hearts and she loved them too.