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Neg. No: 2954
Neg. Size: 10"x12" [CK]
Neg. Date: NONE

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Sitter: Raja Martand Brabadamba Das Raja Martanda Bhairava Tondiman Bahadur, Raja of Pudukkottai (1875-1928)

Raja Martand Brabadamba Das Raja Martanda Bhairava Tondiman Bahadur, Raja of Pudukkottai (1875-1928).

Biog: Raja Sri Brahadamba Das Raja Sir Martanda Bhairava Tondaiman Bahadur, Raja of Pudukkottai, GCIE (1.1.1913). b. at Pudukkottai, 27th November 1875, third son of Raja Shri Brihadambal Rajammani Sahib, by her consort M.R.Ry. Kolandaswami Pallavarayar Sahib Avargal. Adopted by his maternal grandfather and appointed Heir Apparent, 2nd March 1877 (recognised by the GOI 15th January 1878). Succeeded on the death of his maternal grandfather and adopted father, 15th April 1886. Installed 8th July 1886. Reigned under a Council of Regency until he came of age and was invested with full ruling powers, 27th November 1894. Lived abroad for several months in the year due to ill health. Decided to live outside India on a permanent basis in October 1922 and appointed his natural brother Regent of the state.

Married at Sydney, Australia, 10th August 1915, Miss Esmé Mary Sorrett (Molly) (b. at Melbourne, Australia), youngest daughter of Wolfe Fink, Esq. MA, LLD, of Melbourne, Australia. He d. at La Favorite, Cannes, France, 28th May 1928, having had issue an only son, who was not permitted to succeed him on account of his race

The Hindu, Monday, November 06, 2000

Tall, well-built Martanda Tondaiman, granted special permission to visit Australia when 'Whites Only' was its official policy, met Molly Fink, years younger and from an educated, well-to-do Melbourne family, and fell in love with her. Molly who was to grow from good-looking to beauty with age had no doubt about his love for her; only she was never sure what she felt, but remained faithful to him till his death after which she allowed herself several flings till her death in 1967.

Australia was scandalised by their marriage. And angry. And newspaper comment, reflecting both, was virulent. One was to later write, "Pudukkottai is only a tiny municipality tucked away in the toe of Mother India's boot; its ruler is, nonetheless, a Rajah. For a Rajah to roam about Europe and Asia pinching barmaids where the Hays Code forbids, is a threat to the prestige of all and is liable to drive a lot of proud princes to hard work instead of their usual diet of hard drink".

The Raj was embarrassed by it all. With the Rajah refusing to give up his Ranee, it packed them off to Europe, ordered that they could not be addressed as His or Her Highness, cast the 11- gun salute into limbo, appointed a Regent and, cruellest blow of all, deprived their son, Martanda Sydney Tondaiman, of the succession. That the boy went crook when he grew into manhood could not have been unexpected, given the circumstances in which he grew up.

From all accounts, looking back on it all, Esme Mary Sorrett 'Molly' Fink Tondaiman was not a wicked woman; it was only Australia and the Raj that thought her wicked for marrying Raja Martanda Bhairava Tondaiman.


Date: 1903 (?)

Occasion: -

Location: The Lafayette Studio, 179 New Bond Street, London.

Descr: FL standing.

Costume: -

Orders, Decorations & Medals: -

Furniture & Props: -

Photographer: Lafayette, 179 New Bond Street, London.

Evidence of photographer at work: -

All images of sitter:

Raja of Pudukota Raja of Pudukota Raja of Pudukota

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Provenance: Pinewood Studios; acquired 1989.


Biog: Who's Who; Jehangir Sorabji, Princes and Chiefs, London, 1903; Joanne Punzo Waghorne, The Raja's Magic Clothes, Pennsylvania, 1994; Who's Who In India, Lucknow, 1911, part II, pp 6-7.


Occasion: -

Costume: -

Orders, Decorations & Medals: -

Reproduced: -

Acknowledgements: Christopher Buyers

All images are copyright V&A Museum, London