|Earliest European graves in Mogul style,Agra returnoftheprodigal.wordpress.com|
|tomb of Walter Reinhardt, a European Mercenary |
India has innumerable historical monuments, spanning several centuries and connecting us with its past history, and its gradual development of various cultures from other nations that were heterogeneous in nature. Though Christianity came to India in 52 AD with the arrival of the Apostle St. Thomas who was instrumental in establishing seven and half churches on the coastal Malabar in South India, in the northern states, it took roots pretty late. The city of Agra has several historical Muslim monuments which are often being visited by the tourists. None is aware of the Christian monuments such as British buildings, churches, etc. Among them, the Roman catholic cemetery is an important and interesting historical site, for here we find one of the earliest Christian Cemetery, dating back to 1550. Unfortunately, it is the most overlooked historical site because of poor publicity by the tourist department. Further, the Roman catholic grave is not visible, as it is hidden behind a stone wall in a secluded area. The tourists in a hurry will certainly miss them unless they have keen eyes. Even the local taxi and auto rickshaw drivers are not aware of this site.
|The Marty's chapel,Agra: evenfewergoats.blogspot.com|
The oldest grave site with epithets is an interesting one for the History freaks. You come across a myriad of centuries old Christian graves of mostly Europeans who were once mercenaries, traders, monks, soldiers, etc., hailing from different nations and they long lived and perished here far away from their mother land. Perhaps they came here, seeking adventure, fame and fortune, but finally ended up being a lump of clay and dust in their graves, leaving behind only the inscription of their names intact on the grave stone.
|tomb of William Hessing, Agra. thatandthisinmumbai.wordpress.com|
|begum Samru's tomb, Agra |
The amazing thing about these oldest graves is the inscription, epithets are clear, readable and kept clean and tidy. For some reason, in the 17th and 18th centuries, Christians, after their death, were brought to Agra from various places exclusively for burial and perhaps, the church authorities might have found Agra was a blessed place for the departed souls. There are more than 80 Armenian graves well modeled and designed. It is apparent that there was a large Armenian community here during the period. Many of them were either traders or missionaries. The Mogul ruler Akbar allowed them to preach Christianity and also religious conversion.Though they could not succeed in their attempt to covert the native Indians to Christianity in the northern states, they continued to live here till their death. One may be surprised to come across the graves of Jerome Veronio, and Hortenzio Bronzoni; both were Italian jewelers during the Mogul period. There are many Italian graves here, each with distinctive inscriptions displayed both in eastern and western style. It is worth mentioning here that there is a grave for one Walter Reinhardt who worked for a local ruler and had his own army. He married an Indian woman Begum Samru, a Muslim woman, who became a Catholic later. She happened to be the only catholic ruler in India. There are graves of Jesuit monks of various nationality who died in Agra in 1600s.
The impressive tomb dated January 14, 1868 of Francis Ellis, an Englishman draws our attention. The architecture of this tomb is unique. It is an eight-sided structure made of sand stones with beautiful carvings and pointed arches. Around this tomb. one will find the graves of the Ellis family members who lived here and died on the soils of India.
"The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave. The paths of glory lead but to the grave".
The Indian Tourism department should make wider publicity about this historical site and take steps to preserve it for our future generation. The heroes of by-gone years whose mortal remains lie buried in the graves, are now forgotten poor souls and their places of eternal sleep - tombs need to be preserved and taken care of for the posterity.