Sunday, 18 February 2007

White Man's Remnants: The Residency and La Martinière

In my previous post I looked at some of the faded archeological glory left behind by Lucknow's Muslim rulers. Now some examples of what was left behind from the Europeans' arrival in Lucknow.

Claude Martin was a French soldier of fortune who struck it big in India by serving both the East India Company and the local rulers of Lucknow. In the late 1700s he used part of his finances to build himself an outlandish and very un-Indian country resort: La Martinière.

Decorated with greco-roman sculptures and bronze lions this country residence looks more like a European palace, and is certainly far from anything you'd expect to find in the middle of India.

Today La Martinière has become an exclusive boarding school, although Martin himself has been allowed to remain buried in the crypt.

Nearby a huge monument to Martin seems completely out of place here on the North Indian plains. But it really does succeed in making a statement. For a sense of scale: An adult human can easily stand under the small arches at the bottom of the column.

Jump ahead in time 70 years or so, and you see the remnants of the British headquarters in Lucknow, called The Residency. When it is looking so much less well preserved than La Martinière above it is not because of neglect, but because this was the scene of perhaps the longest and most fierce siege of the bloody events of 1857, known by the British as the "Great Mutiny" and by the Indians as the "First War of Independence". When the rebellion broke out all of Lucknow's British residents (including many civilians) and a good number of local loyalists were evacuated to here.

This is the what used to be one of the finer mansions or halls in Lucknow. The picture above is taken from what was once the basement, whereas the columns above were probably decorative pieces in the main dining room. But the artillery shelling, sniper fire and other kinds of attacks laid most of the complex' buildings in ruins. And of the 3000 people captured inside the complex only about one third made it through the 87-day siege alive.

A plaque put here by the British commemorate those who died in the "defence of Lucknow". Of course since independence the official spin on the events of 1857 have changed but the Residency complex still retains a good balance showing the events mainly from the perspective of the sieged British defenders, without glorifying colonialism. Apart from a few memorials and a museum the whole complex stands as it was left after the siege.

Here you see me with a view to the main residency buildingin the background, standing in what used to be the Residency's church. Today hardly anything remains but for a few, low brick walls.

Just outside the church wall the cross from a grave has been claimed by plants.


Asger said...

Hi Esben
I just saw your blog, I am danish as well, living in Thailand. I am working in a christian ministry and here we have 2 in our team which is from Nagaland, so it was very interesting to see the pictures from there !
Thank you for the good pictures.
Blessings !

Asger Poulsen

Esben said...

Hej Asger

Siden du er dansker, skriver jeg paa dansk til dig. Det er altid dejligt, naar der er nogen der saetter pris paa ens blog, saa tak for det. Og sjovt, at du som landsmand lige faldt over min blog, mens du soegte paa noget saa fjernt som Nagaland. Held og lykke med arbejdet i Thailand og hils dine kolleger fra Nagaland :o)

Mvh. Esben