Gangadhar Rao – the first governor of Jhansi during Maratha rule

Gangadhar Rao Newalkar was a descendant of Raghunath Hari Newalkar who was the first governor of Jhansi during Maratha rule.  He was also the son of Shiv Rao Bhau and the 5th raja (king) of Jhansi in India. Rani Laxmibai was his second wife.

Gangadhar Rao
Image credit: Wikipedia

Quick Facts

  • Full Name: Jhansi Naresh Maharaja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar
  • Born: 1797
  • Died: 21st November 1853
  • Reign: 1838 to November 1853
  • Predecessor: Raghunath Rao
  • Successor: Rani Laxmibai
  • Religion: Hinduism
  • Dynasty: Newalkar
  • Spouse: Ramabai, Rani Laxmibai
  • Father: Shiv Rao Bhau
  • Mother: Not known
  • Famous as: 5th Maharaja of Jhansi

Family

Gangadhar Rao ancestors hailed from Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. Some of them moved to Khandesh during the rule of Peshwa. They served important posts in the Peshwa and Holkar armies. Raghunath Hari Newalkar strengthened Maratha polity in Bundelkhand. However as he grew old, he handed over the reins of Jhansi to his younger brother Shiv Rao Bhau.

Reign

On the death of Raghunath Rao III in 1838, the British rulers accepted his brother Gangadhar Rao as the Raja of Jhansi in 1843.

Gangadhar Rao improved the financial condition of Jhansi, which had deteriorated during his predecessor’s rule. He took corrective steps to ensure the growth and development of the town of Jhansi. Gangadhar Rao was controlling an army of around 5,000 men. He possessed wisdom, diplomacy. Gangadhar Rao was an art and culture lover even the British were impressed by his statesmanlike qualities. Gangadhar Rao had collected a library of Sanskrit manuscripts and enriched the architecture of the town of Jhansi.

Marriage

Gangadhar Rao was first married to Ramabai who died soon. In May 1842, Gangadhar Rao married Manikarnika Tambe who was renamed as Laxmibai, who later became the Queen of Jhansi and revolted against the British during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. 

Adoption of Damodar Rao

In September 1851, she gave birth to a boy named Damodar Rao, who died at the age of just four months after birth. Raja Gangadhar Rao the adopted a child named Anand Rao who was the son of his cousin Vasudev Newalkar. He was renamed Damodar Rao on the day before he died.

This adoption was held in the presence of the British political officer. The British office had received a letter from the Raja requesting that the child should be treated with kindness and that the government of Jhansi should be given to his widow for her lifetime.

After the death of the Raja in November 1853, the British East India Company, under Governor-General Lord Dalhousie, applied the Doctrine of Lapse resulted in rejecting Damodar Rao’s claim to the throne. It happened because Damodar Rao was adopted.

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