Posted on: 2 October 2011

The controversial photograph and letters of Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi.

THE MYSTERY of the Jhansi Rani photograph that surfaced on Gyandotcom, the blog of Guwahati- based software engineer Rohit Sharma, has been solved. Amit Ambalal, an Ahmedabad- based painter and art collector, has claimed that the photograph has been in his personal collection since the late 1960s. Ambalal said: “ I bought it along with about a hundred carte de visites ( photos of the dimension of about 5 cm × 9 cm) from a Jaipur dealer nearly 40 years ago. Behind the photo, there were two inscriptions, identifying the photo as that of the Rani of Jhansi, in the Devanagri script and Urdu.” Ambalal said the photos he bought then included rare images of Bahadur Shah Zafar and Wajid Ali Shah, the fifth king of Oudh. All photos showed an arch on top. It means they had been copied either from a framed picture or a Dagguerrotype( a photo made on a light- sensitive, silver- coated metallic plate). A few years later, Ambalal bought another lot of photos from a Jodhpur dealer, which contained the same photo identified as the Rani of Jhansi — but this one was unlabelled. The photo had surfaced elsewhere as well. Photographer Designer Ram Rahman came across a print in 2002, in the fourth underground edition of V. D. Savarkar’s book, The Indian War of Independence ( National Rising of 1857), housed in the Teen Murti Library. The photo was a reproduction of a postcard image believed to be that of the rebel queen. “

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A web storm over Rani Jhansi photo By Neha Tara Mehta - India Today Read more at:

Indian heroine's letter unearthed By Alastair Lawson BBC News - November 2009 Read more :

Rajesh Khilari, a commentor on gyandotcom says : "...The above explanation still does not solve the mystery of the picture. There could still be a real picture untraced somewhere in the British archives. Reasons – 1) Maratha Brahmin queens never covered their heads. It was Maratha kshatriya queens and elites who covered their heads. She always adorned rich Nauvaari saari and jewellery until Maharaja Gangadhar rao Newalkar’s death in 1853ad. While performing her spiritual rites and personal work she would adorn white Nauvaari saari only without any jewels or crown as would any other widow of those times would do. During official work in the Durbar, she would turn up in entirely male attire that of a Maratha sardar. The picture has 2 objections – (1) The pagadi is no way near any variety of a Maratha pagadi, That’s a crown which Nawabi princess adorned their head with. (2) The picture between 1842 (marriage) and 1853ad (widowhood) must show her in the 9 yards saree with open head but full of jewellery. After 1853 till 1858ad she never wore any jewel. These 2 objections are strong enough to reasons to say that this picture does not belong to Rani Laxmibai Newalkar...."

I rather doubt that there is a 'real picture' of the Rani. We must remember that photography was still in its early days in the 1850s and that the equipment and materials needed were bulky and not something to be easily carried, and the process was tricky. Further the Rani maintained purdah around the British and Indian photographers were relatively rare. There are, I'm certain, still documents regarding the Rani that have yet to be discovered...