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AVANTI BAI (1831-1857)

Avanti Bai is remembered for fighting the British when they tried to annex Ramgarh, her husband’s fiefdom, under the Doctrine of Lapse. She was born to Rao Jujhar Singh, the landlord of Mankedi in the district of Seoni in Madhya Pradesh and wasd married to the Gond king Vikramaditya Singh, grandson of King Gajraj Singh of Ramgarh, now in Jharkhand. Avanti Bai had two sons, Aman Singh and Sher Singh, but both were underage when their father died. Avanti Bai accordingly took the administration of the kingdom into her own hands, but in 1851 an English Resident was appointed to keep an eye on the state. Humiliated, Avanti Bai turned on the British when the war of 1857 broke out. The British cited the Doctrine of Lapse and, on the grounds that the princes were underage, attacked and tried to annex Ramgarh twice, but she raised an army of 4000 men and led it herself against them. In these encounters her sons were killed.

Avanti Bai vowed to win back her land from the British. She raised an army of four thousand men and led it against the British in 1857. A fierce battle ensured and Avanti Bai fought most valiantly but could not hold out for long against the superior strength of the British army. When her defeat became imminent she fled to the forests of Devharigarh, where she killed herself to avoid capture, thus becoming a martyr.
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