LA MARTINIERE COLLEGE LUCKNOW: MORE THAN JUST AN INSTITUTION


CONTRIBUTED BY ADITYA KUMAR

Major General Claude Martin, Founder La Martiniere College, Lucknow (Image Source: Google)

La Martiniere College, Lucknow is one of the three Martiniere institutions in the world. The other two are located in Kolkata and Lyon (France). The La Martiniere institutions were founded posthumously by Major General Claude Martin. The estates housing the schools and their campuses were a part of Claude Martin’s wealth. The institutions in Kolkata andLucknow have separate colleges for Boys and Girls whereas the three schools in Lyon (France) are co-educational.

Major General Claude Martin was the founder of these institutions which were established to honor his will. He was born on January 5, 1735 in Lyon, France. On coming to India, he joined the East India Company and rose to the post of Major-General. He also served at an important position in the court of Nawab Shuja-Ud-Daula and his son Nawab Asaf-Ud-Daula. During this period, he acquired a fortune of Rs 40,00,000 and built the palace of Constantia which would later serve as the building for La Martiniere Boys. He died on the 13th of September, 1800 and was buried in a vault in the basement of the college building. Majority of his wealth was used in setting up the La Martiniere schools. He intended on providing education to all, overcoming the barriers of caste, religion and nationality. However, the unfair treatment of the British towards the Indian people meant that his dream would not be realized immediately and the first students of the schools consisted of the Europeans. It was only in 1935, that Indians were also permitted to join the institutions set up at Kolkata and Lucknow.

Motto of La Martiniere (Image Source: Google)

At Lucknow, there are two branches of the school, one for boys and the other for girls. La Martiniere Boys’ College was founded in 1845 and the Girls’ College was established in 1869. The boys’ college is located on the Kalidasa Marg in Gomti Nagar and is in the vicinity of the residence of the Chief Minister of Lucknow while the girls’ college is located in Hazratganj. Claude Martin’s palace Constantia houses the Boys’ college. It is believed that the name of the building follows from the school motto LABORE ET CONSTANTIA (Work and Constancy) which in turn is also Claude Martin’s philosophy. Another theory, however, attributes the name to a young French girl Constance, who was Claude Martin’s first love.

The La Martiniere Boys’ college occupies a campus of around 200 acres part of which is now used by the Lucknow Golf Club and also includes a village called Martin Purwa named after Claude Martin and part of the Lucknow Zoo. The main building faces the Gomti river with a tower in between popularly known as the ‘Lat’. It is about forty meters high and is believed to be either a watch tower or a marker for Claude Martin’s grave. The college building is an architectural marvel considering its beautiful and unique design. Several statues have also been constructed along the terrace at Constantia which aptly supplement the huge projecting lion statues. The roofs of the library and chapel contain beautiful paintings.

La Martiniere Boys’ College, Lucknow (Image soure: virtualtourist.com)

Funds from a female education fund were used to construct the girls’ school at Moti Mahal. It was known as the Lucknow Girls’ school back then. However, a land grant from the government resulted in the school being moved to its present location at Khursheed Manzil in 1871 and was recognized as a branch of La Martiniere College.In 1951, Mr. Meredith Doutre was the first Indian principal of the boys’ college. The floods in 1960, 1962 and 1971 forced the government to construct a protective embankment in 1973-74 which though necessary for safe occupation of the campus, reduced the earlier picturesque setting. The school was affiliated to the Indian Council for Secondary Education System in 1976.

Medals awarded to Principal of the school post the Mutiny of 1857

La Martiniere boys played an important role in the mutiny of 1857 which contributes most to its historical significance. Its students and staff members were involved in the defense of the Lucknow Residency during the rebellion. For the first time in history, Britain had asked for the services of schoolboys in a military conflict. The boys from La Martiniere were commanded by the then principle Mr George Schilling. The location of the Martiniere contingent in the Residency is called the Martiniere Post which is also the name of the college magazine. This contribution of the Martiniere boys was officially recognized in QueenVictoria’s proclamation, with the boys and staff members who served during the mutiny being awarded the Indian Mutiny Medal which had the words “Defence of Lucknow” inscribed on each of them. Thus, La Martiniere Boys became the only school in history to be awarded a British battle honor.

A picture of La Martiniere from the 1880s

The school celebrated its centenary in 1945 and sesquicentennial anniversary in 1995. Several former members of staff and students visited the college to celebrate the occasion. The Constantia was lit up for several nights and the President of India released a postage stamp to recognize the contribution of La Martiniere College Lucknow. The La Martiniere schools in Lucknow are among the few educational institutions inIndiato be honored by the government through the Postal department. As mentioned earlier, on the 150th anniversary of the school, Late Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma, then president ofIndia, released a two-rupee postage stamp in the school’s honor. In 2007, when the girls’ school celebrated its 138th anniversary a first day cover of Khurshid Manzil was published by the Uttar Pradesh Postal Department.

The La Martiniere Boys’ college has been the site of multiple movie shoots:

  • Kim, a 1950 MGM adventure film starring Errol Flynn, Dean Stockwell (as Kim), Paul Lukas and Robert Douglas.
  • Shakespeare Wallah, the 1965 Merchant Ivory Productions film loosely based on the real-life adventures of Felicity Kendal’s family.
  • Shatranj Ke Khiladi (The Chess Players), the 1977 film by Satyajit Ray.
  • Stones Of The Raj: The French Connection, a 1997 documentary for Channel 4 television by William Dalrymple.
  • Gadar: Ek Prem Katha, a 2001 Bollywood movie starring Sunny Deol, Amisha Patel, and Amrish Puri.
  • Indra, a 2002 Tollywood movie starring Chiranjeevi and Sonali Bendre.
  • Anwar, a 2007 Bollywood movie starring Nauheed Cyrusi.
  • Always Kabhi Kabhi, a 2011 Bollywood movie starring Ali Fazal, Giselle Monteiro, Zoa Morani, Satyajit Dubey,a directorial debut for Roshan Abbas and was produced under Shahrukh Khan’s production house Red Chillies Entertainment.

(List source: Wikipedia)

The school has also been mentioned in several fictional works such as Qurratulain Hyder’s magnum opus Aag ka Darya (RiverofFire) and Valerie Fitzgerald’s 1981 historical novel Zemindar.

Thus, La Martiniere at Lucknow stands not only as an institution imparting education to students but also as a monument that is possibly the last remaining evidence of foreign architecture in Lucknow or even in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Its association with the mutiny of 1857 makes it an integral part of the story ofIndia’s struggle for independence. Moreover, the shooting of multiple movies (both commercial and documentaries) at the school also provide evidence of the uniqueness of its architecture and the significance it holds in history. The historian William Dalrymple described it as the East India Company’s answer to the Taj Mahal. A detailed account of the history of La Martiniere College can be found in the book ‘Constant Glory- La Martinière saga 1836-1986’ written by a former Martinian and member of Rajya Sabha: Mr Chandan Mitra.

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Disclaimer: The article expresses individual views of the author. The rights to the content of the article rests with the author.

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