Monday, 2 December 2013

Scottish Cemetery

Deep in the heart of Karaya Road, in the Park Circus/Mallickbazaar area, lies Calcutta's only Scottish Cemetery. You can find it on Google Maps by clicking here.


Established in 1820, it was abandoned around the 1940's and remained in a very neglected condition for many years. But, in the last 5 years conservation work has begun with funds and expertise from Scotland. Most of the graves are in fairly bad shape at present.


The cemetery contains around 1600 plots with around 2000 burials, and while many of the graves have obviously Scottish names, some of the graves are of Bengali Christians, such as the grave of the Bhattacharya family.


Some of the graves have been restored by surviving family members of the deceased.



The caretaker, Mr. Norman Hall is genial and helpful and accompanied me on my walk around the place. He stays right there with his family, and had a good laugh when I asked him if he was scared of ghosts.



The most famous resident of the cemetery of course is Rev. Thomas Jones, who was a Welsh Missionary known for his work in the Khasi Hills, where he helped develop the Khasi alphabet.



It is possible to visit the cemetery on any day of the week, and there is no entrance charge. However, I recommend that you visit in the winter, as during summer or the monsoons, there is the risk of snakes.



For those really interested, it is possible to obtain a list of those buried here from the government, and I am led to believe that a complete list is held by St. John's Church.



The site is a reminder of Calcutta's colonial history, and for me, now in 2013 it is a strange experience to look at graves bearing names such as McGregor. It is one thing to read about the people who were once our colonial masters. It is quite another to look at their graves. It makes them seem more like real people somehow, and it makes me wonder what made people from halfway around the world want to come and live and die in our country. Perhaps this was their home then, as much as it is mine now.


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