Rani Avantibai was the queen of Ramgarh. The British had declared her husband Vikramaditya Singh insane. After his death, the British did not accept her sons Aman Singh and Sher Singh as heirs to the throne as they were minors and declaring the princely state as ‘Court of Wards’, they appointed their own administrator there. The Queen threw the administrator out and declared war against the British.
Rani Avantibai then sent messengers to the neighboring states. The rulers of these states learned of the Queen’s resolve when they read her letters. She had also sent some bangles along with the letters. The Rani had written:
“If you think you have a duty towards our enslaved Mother India, raise your swords and jump into the war against the British, otherwise wear these bangles and hide yourself in your houses“
A gentle woman had motivated mustached men. The kings who received the bangles from the queen now reached out for their swords. The call of Rani Avantibai aroused a wave of revolution in the Central Provinces.
As a matter of strategy, Rani Avantibai set up her front near the village of Kheri of Mandla area. She intended to invade Mandla but before she could attack, the British commander arrived to confront her. This was the first battle she had fought against the British army. She began to annihilate the enemy with her sword flashing like lightning. The commander Waddington confronted her. She struck him forcefully with her sword. The stroke had such force that the head of the horse was severed and fell on the ground. On seeing this, Waddington jumped off his horse, turned tail and was lost in the crowd of soldiers.
Waddington was greatly distressed by his defeat. He made preparation once again and besieged Rani Avantibai in her capital, Ramgarh. When the queen received information about Waddington’s huge army and his military preparation she vacated Ramgarh and went to the hills of Devhargarh.
Rani Avantibai resorted to guerrilla warfare, attacked the military camp of Waddington and dispersed his army. The force of some Northern Indian states and those of Rewa state arrived to help British. Rani Avantibai continued to face the enemy forces with full determination. The enemy forces surrounded the queen on the Devhargarh hill. With her was her trustworthy companion Umrao Singh. The queen said to him “Bhaiya Umrao, I think the enemy forces wanted to capture me alive. I think it would be better to put an end to my life instead of falling into their unholy hands.”
Umrao Singh said, “Rani behan, first let your brother show the mettle of his sword. After my death you can do whatever you deem fit.”
Umrao Singh assumed slaughtered the enemy forces like cattle. While massacring them, he advanced too far and the queen was left alone. When she saw that she would fall into the hands of the enemy, she jumped off her horse, thrust her own sword into her belly and lost consciousness. On seeing the fallen queen, Waddington announced that the battle be stopped. He went to her and tried to bring her back to consciousness. When the queen regained consciousness for a while, Waddington saluted her and asked her the names of her supporters. The queen spoke just the following words, “I alone am responsible for this war.”
After that, she shouted, “Hari Om” and went to eternal sleep.
A heroic woman sacrificed her life for the country on March 20, 1858.
Source : Indian Revolutionaries: A Comprehensive Study, 1757-1961, Volume 1