Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi

The Martin Enigma

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Parasnis quotes a letter addressed to Damodar Rao and written by a T. A. Martin. This letter is dated Aug 20th 1889 and declares that the Rani was badly treated by the British and was entirely innocent of the charges laid against her.

On its own this letter means nothing other than that Martin had a guilty conscience regarding the Rani and is easily dismissed. However the British Library holds a copy of the recollections of 1857 by John Venables Sturt. Sturt was stationed near to Jhansi but his recollections have little to say on events there. But at the end of this document are extracts from three letters written by a Mr. Martin to Sturt in the summer of 1897.

It is plain that T. A. Martin and Mr Martin are the same man, and that after his first letter to Damodar Rao he has established a good relationship with him and, I am guessing, persuaded him to write both his own biography and that of his mother. Both of these documents existed in 1897 but, like the letters, have disappeared.

Who was Martin? He says he knew the Rani personally, and there was a Captain Martin in Jhansi at least until early 1854. Martin recounts details of:-

  • The Rani's behaviour during the 1857 mutiny but what is his source? It cannot have been Damodar Rao as he writes to Damodar Rao of this in his first letter. Was he in Jhansi at the time? C. A. Kincaid in an article in the Jourmal of the Royal Asiatic Society, April 1943, claims that Martin and two others were hidden by the Rani in her palace, but I think this has to be dismissed as not even Martin mentions this and given the implications for determining the Rani's innocence it is remarkable that only Kincaid sees fit to write of it.
  • The Rani's death and cremation. His source for this is quite likely Damodar Rao, who although a 10 year old at the time is unlikely to forget the basic details of what he witnessed, assuming that he did witness these events.

So very possibly Martin could tell us a great deal about the Rani and the events surrounding her if only we could find his papers...

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Last modified: 2005-09-23 23:23:03.000000000