Sunday, 19 November 2017

'Constantia House', Lucknow - a mausoleum and a school in the same building?

Mausoleum & school. Constantaia House, Lucknow Taximall

Have you ever heard of the presence of a mausoleum and  educational institutions right under the same roof? yes, it may sound strange, but it does exist in the Indian city of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.
 
Lucknow city, India. Maps of India

Constantia House, as it is called, is both a school and a mausoleum. Considered as the largest European funerary monument in India, it  was built by an officer of the British Army, Claude Martin, in 1785 and  it served as a fortress  with its cannons and loopholes and turrets.   Major-General Claude Martin (1735–1800), initially, was an officer in the French army and later he joined the British East India Company. Martin  was quite wealthy and gained  his vast fortune while serving Asaf-ud-Daula, the Nawab wazir of Awadh, and was believed to be the richest Frenchman in India.

 Architecturally, the building is a blend of  various styles; with Mogul cupolas at the corners and figures of Greek gods and goddesses atop the ramparts and the lions which are symbolic of the East India Company. The strange thing about this unique structure is its basement, that is  cooled by vents from the top and the presence of  the grave of its founder-builder - Maj. Gen. Claude Martin. This feature forced the historian William Dalrymple  to describe Constantia  as "The East India Company's answer to the Taj Mahal". The palatial building was built to serve as Martin's country residence. For, security reasons, he fortified it to avoid sudden intrusion from outside.  The entire work on the building was completed in 1802, two years after Martin's death  on 13 September, 1800. As for the name of the building Constantia, there are two versions about its origin - one with a romantic twist. Martin fell in love with a young  French girl Constancy - his very first love. hence the building was named in memory of her.  The other side of the story  is, according to historians, the name takes its roots from the school motto Labore et Constantia (Work and Constancy) which represents Martin's personal philosophy. 

Constantaia House, Lucknow India.com
Constantaia House serves as part of the campus of the La Martiniere College, one of the premier schools of the city. The campus, covering roughly 200 acres of land, has residential quarters for the students and teachers all of which are housed in historical buildings.

Constantia /topyaps.com

Maj. Gen.Claude Martinen.wikipedia.org
As Martin remained unmarried and had  no legal heirs, in his will, dated 1 January 1800, he left a big part of his estate to establish  three schools to be named La Martinière in his memory. The schools were to be located in Lucknow, Calcutta and at Lyon, his birthplace in France. The reminder  of his estate was to be used for the maintenance of these schools. He emphasized in his 'Will' that He directed that his former residence should house the school/ collage to teach western education. He also mentioned that his well-preserved body should be kept beneath the same house in a lead coffin and the tomb should carry a plaque with inscription as follows:

Major-General Claude Martin.
Arrived in India as a common soldier
and died at Lucknow on the 13th of September,
1800, as a Major-General.
He is buried in this tomb.
Pray for his soul.


Martin was, as per his 'Will', duly interred in a specially made  vault right below the house in the basement.  Perhaps, Constantia, in Lucknow city, India is the only building in the world that is both a   school and a mausoleum.

Tit-Bits:

01. During the 1857  rebellion when the English officers and their families were fearing for their lives, Constantia  served as  the strongholds of the British army; it is believed, that garrisoned students and teachers of the institution fought against the rampaging Indian rebels who could not brook the atrocities committed by the corrupt British officers and rude military personnel.

02. The La Martiniere Boys’ college takes the credit of being the  only school in the world to have been awarded Royal Battle Honours’ for its role in defence of British officers and families during the siege of Lucknow in 1857.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Martiniere_Lucknow