Thursday, 21 April 2016

The Scottish Cemetery of Calcutta (Kolkata)

Scottish Cemetery, Calcutta. cottishcemeterykolkata.wordpress.com

Scottish Cemetery, Calcutta. indianvagabond.com
When the East India company became firmly rooted in Bengal soon after the signing of the Allahabad (16 August, 1765), treaty  with Shah Alam, the Mogul ruler and Robert Clive in their wake of  their victory over the Indian rulers at the Battle of  Buxor (22 October, 1764), they became almost De facto rulers. They got the El Dorado, large revenue generating Diwani rights from the Indian rulers. With vast  stable revenue from a prosperous huge region there was no turning back for them. Their mercantile trade opportunities multiplied and expanded by leaps and bounds. Calcutta became a major business center next to London. 

In order to mange their growing establishment and expansion activities, they needed the services of more men from England. Lots of Irish, Welsh and others  moved over to Calcutta region for employment and business. Correspondingly many churches sprang up to cater to the needs of these people from England.
Scottish Cemetery at Calcutta. scotscemeteryarchivekolkata.com
The Scottish Cemetery at Calcutta was established in 1820 with a view to  catering to the specific needs of the large Scottish population in the Kolkata area. The Scots were employed in East India company as soldiers, administrators, etc. Besides, there were innumerable Scottish missionaries, small and big business people engaged in trades and  carried out contract works  for the East India company.
St. Andrew church and writer's building, Kolkatta.www.alamy.com
St Andrews Church (1816), Kolkata pixels-memories.blogspot.com
St Andrews Church (1816) of Scotland located in  the busy Dalhousie Square was a premier church for the Scots living there. In 1820, the cemetery came up. The Scottish Cemetery at Calcutta covers an area of about four and half  acres  in  the dense urban area on Karaya Bazar Road and characteristically carries a strong Scottish character.  It  has more than 2000 burials well protected on all sides by a high boundary wall.

The gravestone here are mostly sandstone or granite with markers and inscriptions apparently brought from Scotland, hence, as mentioned before, had strong Scottish imprint. Unfortunately the cast iron and lead used in lettering were removed over a period of time in the 20th century, apparently by scavengers of graves, hooligans and  anti-social elements. 

This cemetery was in use way back in 1940s. After independence in August, 1947, the cemetery was no longer used for Christian burial and fell into disuse and later neglect. Over 90% of Scott and the rest  Bengali Christians  were buried here. The entire burial site was in a dilapidated state.

In order to preserve the damaged Scottish cemetery,  belonging to Kolkata’s first Scottish-built church, and to emphasis the glorious historic  link between India and Scotland, a Scottish Charity called the Kolkata Scottish Heritage Trust (KSHT) was formed in 2008. As a first step, cleaning work was done, removing all the unwanted growth of  wild shrubs, plants and trees  there;  later a survey of the monuments was done with ample support from the Royal Commission of Ancient and Historic Monuments for Scotland. Under the project head Dr. Neeta Das, the cemetery's burial archives are being transcribed for digital use by KSHT in collaboration with the Presidency University, Kolkata. On her return to India after learning the art of conservation of  historical monuments, Dr. Neeta Das started a research facility called "the Lime Centre", Kolkata, on the model of a center in Scotland to teach techniques of restoration and conservation of damaged historical sites back to glory.

The solitary Scottish souls, who have an eternal sleep in a grave yard  thousands of miles away from their mother land and close relatives, were once in the employ of the British India and strove hard for the growth and development of the Indian subcontinent. We must respect the sentiments of the departed Scottish souls  who continue to sleep in glory under the Divine Grace of the Lord. 

Ref:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_Cemetery_at_Calcutta