Some time ago, on Facebook, a friend of mine had posted photograph of a gorgeous looking woman appearing in a newspaper clip. The accompanying caption claimed that the photograph was of Jhansi Ki Rani Lakshmibai. Photograph of our beloved Queen Jhansi ki Rani? Obviously everyone was excited to have a look at the photo. But just the first glance on the photo and I knew it was a fake photograph. In fact I was taken aback by the lack of common sense in Indian public. People were circulating this fake photo with much enthusiasm and significant amount of patriotic flicker in their hearts. But come on! Patriotism does not warrant total abandonment of one’s common sense. Here is the fake photograph of Jhansi Ki Rani Lakshmibai; you also take a look and decide for yourself:
Although, some kind of photography studios were there in India even in 1840 and perhaps before as well, but don’t you think the above photograph is just too “modern” to be that of the widowed Queen of Jhansi? At that time, such poses by Indian woman were a farfetched thought; let alone an erstwhile Queen would allow for such a photo shoot. If this photograph was that of Jhansi Ki Rani –it must have been taken in Queen’s personal chamber. And I just cannot imagine a Queen of those times allowing any photographer to enter her personal chamber.
Moreover, the woman in this photo has manners of someone who is well used to with photography sessions. General quality of the photograph also screams of the fact that it is much newer than the era of Rani Lakshmibai.
In this entire fiasco, the fact that upsets me the most is the nose-diving standards of journalism in our country (especially with respect to the Hindi journalism). I guess the above photograph was published in Dainik Bhaskar; India’s largest selling Hindi newspaper. Although the associated caption is providing us with the correct information but the photograph used is wrong! I wonder about the journalist who could make such a big blunder. Also, I feel ashamed of how irresponsible most of our reporters have become.
Well, if the above photograph is the wrong one –then where is the “right” photograph, if it exists at all. It is said that a British photographer took a photograph of the Queen of Jhansi in 1850 when she was about 22 years old. The photographer masqueraded under a German name “Hoffman” apparently because he had no chance of getting a photo opportunity if the Queen knew of his being a British. Photograph taken by “Hoffman” is given below:
At present, this photograph is in the possession of Ameet Ambalal, a painter in Ahmadabad. He bought it from somewhere in Jaipur for a sum of Rs. 150,000 (roughly about US$ 3200). Then Ambalal gave this photo to his photographer friend Vaman Thakre. Probably sometime in 2011, Thakre exhibited the photo in a photography exhibition in Bhopal. And thus came the above news clipping. The reporter wrote the caption correct –but used a wrong photo. I have no idea who is the woman in the fake photo. If any reader knows, please let me know.
Update: Much later than I wrote this article, ABP News telecast a news about the real photograph of Jhansi Ki Rani Laxmibai. To be frank, I do not trust the journalism of Hindi newspapers and TV channels. Their tone is sensational and full of rhetoric and that makes it difficult to have faith on them. Nevertheless, here I am embedding the TV news —just to show Shri Vaman Thakre and the photograph, that is said to be of Jhansi Ki Rani, in his possession.
The Queen of Jhani was born as Manikarnika on 19 November 1828 in Varanasi. Later nicknamed as “Manu” she went on to become an icon in the history and culture of India. Her valor and resolute nature gave her a place on the highest podium reserved for the heroes of Indian Independence Movement. She died at the young age of 29 (in 1858). In her short life; she studied self defense, horsemanship, archery and using sword, spear, dagger; she formed an army of women even before she got married; she got married to a king; she became a mother at the age of 16; lost her child just four months later; and her husband 2 years after that; subsequently she reigned over the state of Jhansi; she led her army and fought against the British with such gallantry that even the British generals praised her courage and skills; and she died protecting her people and state… Even in death she was so fearsome to the British that they did not dare to declare her dead until they were convinced that her body had been burnt.
Doesn’t it give you goose bumps? Well, to me; it does. And that is why we all Indians love her. And that is why I spontaneously referred to her as “our Queen”.
Jhansi Ki Rani is the epitome of courage and bravery of Indian women. She is the pride of India. She deserves the highest regards. And she can not be taken lightly as this news reporter did.
There are no photographic documents available of our brave Queen’s assault on the British army. However, a few photographs of the aftermath of Battle of Jhansi are available.
If we leave this photograph by Hoffman aside, not much is known about the appearance of Jhansi Ki Rani Lakshmibai. However, a rare account about her looks is available from the contemporary Australian novelist and journalist John Lang who met the Queen in 1854. Later Lang wrote about her in his newspaper, The Mofussilite:
Her face must have been handsome when she was younger (the Rani was about 19 years old when Lang met her), and even now it had many charms. The expression also was very good, and very intelligent. The eyes were particularly fine, and the nose very delicately shaped. She was not very fair, though she was far from black. She had no ornaments, except a pair of gold earrings. Her dress was plain white muslin, so fine in texture, and drawn about her in such a way, and so tightly, that the outline of her figure was plainly discernible – and a remarkably fine figure she had.
This article of mine is based on the facts known insofar. I do not claim that I have verified the veracity of the real photograph of Jhansi Ki Rani Lakshmibai. The primary aim of this article is to hope that the readers will stop circulating the fake photograph of Jhansi Ki Rani published in newspaper.
I hope you found this article useful. Please comment and let me know your views. Your feedback is important for me.