The Constantia, Lucknow.
I had heard a lot about La Martiniere College of Lucknow from one of my friends Santosh Nautiyal who had studied there. So last year when I made a plan to visit Lucknow, I decided to visit this College also. I sent a polite request by post to the Principal of the College, followed by an email, requesting his permission to visit the College. Unfortunately for me, I was not favoured with any reply. Anyway when in Lucknow I decided to take a chance. I took a cycle rickshaw and went to the College late in the afternoon after the school hours.
Quite expectedly I was stopped at the gate by the Security Guard. I explained my case to him and also showed him a copy of the letter which I had sent to the Principal. He agreed to let me go in a rickshaw right up to the building and gave me thirty minutes to complete my visit.
La Martiniere College, Lucknow, established in 1845, was founded in accordance with the Will of Major General Claude Martin. Born in Lyon, France, on 5 January 1735, he died in Lucknow on 13 September, 1800. Claude Martin was an officer in the French, and later the British, army in India. He rose to the position of Major General in the British East India Company’s Bengal Army.
Claude Martin (Photo source: Wikipedia)
Under his Will, certain funds were allotted for the establishment of schools at Lyon, his birth place in France, in Calcutta and at Lucknow. In his Will Claude Martin also directed that “my house at Luckperra or Constantia House with all the ground and premises belonging to the house and all the ground around it, none is to be sold or detached from it.” The Will went on to define his purpose, which was “for to keep the said Constantia House for school or College for learning young men the English language and Christian religion if they found themselves inclined.” I am surprised that being a Frenchman, he did not include learning of French language as one of the desired purposes.
The building is called ‘Constantia’. It is a heritage building, the construction of which began in 1796.
He left a substantial lasting legacy in the form of his writings, buildings and the educational institutions he founded posthumously. There are seven schools named after him, two in Lucknow, two in Calcutta and three in Lyon. Since the British succeeded in pushing the French out of India, except for some tiny territories, it was natural for them to downplay the contributions of the French in India and to emphasize what they had achieved.
1st October, 1845, is taken as the date of actual beginning of the College and is now commemorated as Constantia Day. About seventy boys were admitted in the first session. Presently the strength on the rolls has crossed 4000, divided in classes ranging from the Nursery to the ISC (Year 12) level.
The College counts among its illustrious alumni, men of War and Peace – the Keelor brothers awarded with the Vir Chakra, for shooting down Sabre jets in the Indo-Pak War (1965) and the Nobel Peace Laureate, Dr Rajendra Pachauri. And to the list I may also add my dear friend, the self effacing Santosh Nautiyal from the IAS who retired as a Secretary to Government of India after a very distinguished career.
It is not protected by the Archaeological Survey of India. The Founder is buried in the crypt in the basement. Immediately above the crypt is La Martiniere Memorial Hall. To the North of the Memorial Hall is the famous Blue Room, a formal reception room of La Martiniere College. A portrait of the Founder dominates this room. A masterpiece by the artist Johann Zoffany with the Founder’s lady companion Boulone and adopted son, James as studies, is a prized possession.
There are two ferocious looking lion statues on the top of the building.
A huge bell lies in front of the building. The tower in the background, which is at some distance , is called ‘latt’.
An impressive gun with history adorns the frontage.
The carriage indicates that it was built by the A. Broome Foundry, Cossipore in 1853.
The marble plaque explains that the gun was used by Claude Martin in Sirangapatanam (present day Karnataka) in 1792 and restored to the College by Allahabad Arsenal in 1871.
One is often surprised to find a touch of beauty at unexpected places.
An old structure in the sprawling campus of the College.
Address: La Martiniere College,Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India- 226001; Tel: 91-522-2235415,91-522-2235416; Email: [email protected]
(Text with inputs from the internet and from the website of the College.)
Photos, text and copyright: K.J.S.Chatrath
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