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Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav: Avantibai, a queen who fought against colonialism

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New Delhi, Jun 17: Lodhi Rajput queen Avantibai was one of the rulers who fought against the British before the freedom movement gained momentum in India. As the country is set to celebrate its Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav to commemorate the 75 years of independence, it is time for us to remember her valour.

Avantibai Lodhi

Who was Avantibai?
Born on 16 August 1831 in Mankehadi village district Seoni into a zamindari family, she learnt horsemanship, and archery and excelled in sword-fighting at her young age. She married Prince Vikramaditya Singh Lodhi, the son of Raja Laxaman Singh of Ramgarh (present-day Dindori), at the age of 18.

After her husband fell ill, the responsibility of ruling the kingdom came her way. When her kingdom started flourishing under her rule, the British's Doctrine of Lapse prevented her from ruling the kingdom.

As per the doctrine, an Indian princely state under the suzerainty of the East India Company (EIC) would have its princely status abolished and would be annexed into British India if the ruler was either "manifestly incompetent or died without a male heir".

Her attempt to make her sons (Aman Singh and Sher Singh) as her heirs were not approved by the company as they were minors.

The British took over the control of Ramgargh on 13 September, 1851. Insulted by this development, she waited for the right time to retaliate.

When the revolt of 1857 broke out, Avantibai waged war against the British with an army of 4,000 soldiers. She defeated the company in the battle held at the village of Kheri near Mandla. However, stung by the defeat the British came back with vengeance and launched an attack on Ramgarh, set it on fire and followed her to Devhairgarh.

She lost the battle but did not give up. She adopted guerrilla warfare techniques to attack the British. However, it was not enough to defeat the mighty British and she was surrounded by their forces. She was not willing to surrender or ready to die in the hands of the invaders. Hence, she died by suicide on 10 March, 1858 when facing an almost certain defeat in battle.

She lived through local folklore although she never made it to mainstream narratives.

The Narmada Valley Development Authority named a part of the Bargi Dam project in Jabalpur in her honour. India Post has issued two stamps in honour of Avantibai in 1988, and in 2001.

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