There is this book, My Journey written by a Maratha Brahmin by name Vishnubhat Godse, as fate ordains, decided to go on a pilgrimage to North India exactly at the time the the rebellion is about to start. For his bad luck, he was near Mhow, in Jhansi, Dhar, Gwalior, Lucknow and Chitrakoot when the rebellion was taking place. This is one of the very few books we have from the Indian side of the war and it breaks some very important myths related to the Jhansi theatre.
1. The rebellion is not actually spontaneous. The soldiers had advance information which implies the British, too, knew about that. Either they underestimated the scale or were incompetent enough to tackle it.
2. Lakshmi Bai and Tantya Tope are not personal friends. She knew Nana Sahib(her marriage was arranged by Baji Rao) but not Tantya Tope
3. Lakshmi Bai didn’t simply jump on her horse in the middle of night and ran away. She broke through the gate, cutting through the British army with a contingent of 1500 soldiers. The onslaught was that considerable that they were able to cart off the royal treasury on an elephant.
4. The spies of Jhansi estimated the strength of British Force laying the seige at 60,000 plus the local riffraff. Below is what Kaye said –
The position of Sir Hugh Rose was perilous. Before him was an unconquered fortress, garrisoned by eleven thousand warriors, full of the ardour of battle; advancing against and close to him, an army of more than twenty thousand men led by a chieftain who hated the English, and who had twice revelled in their defeat at Kanhpur…The extreme daring of this plan will be realised when the reader reflects that Sir Hugh was unable to assemble more than fifteen hundred men of all arms for this purpose, that of these only five hundred were British, and that the enemy numbered, according to Tantia Topi’s own admission, twenty-two thousand men.
Godse writes Tantya Tope had 15000 and that army was the reason why Jhansi rebelled. Going by the British penchant for covering their incompetence in field strategy by deflating their numbers and inflating that of the enemy, it is clear that Hugh Rose had an army large enough to handle both Tantya Tope and Jhansi at the same time. That clearly proves the incompetence of the British, who even with such an overwhelming strength, were not able to break the enemy.
5. Gangadhar Rao used to cross dress some times for the chagrin of all. That was because he is no more powerful than a woman and to remind the rulers of their collective shame, he used to do that.
I don’t deny that there are exaggerations. But, why are treating the British word as the gospel? It’s high time we dig and find out what exactly happened. What of the court papers of Kalpi, Bithur and such rebel stongholds, of that of allies like Datia and Rewa? What of the private accounts? What of the poetry and other forms of literature? Till date, we don’t even have a name which acted as the brain behind such a massive, coordinated rebellion. I guess, it’s time we come out of the mould that whatever British wrote is our history. And remember, the rebellion was doomed from day one – they never had the numbers, though the British projected otherwise.