Friday, 10 May 2019

The colonial Dutch Cemetery at Chinsurah, Hoogley West Bengal, India

The Dutch Cemetery at Chinsur dutchcemeterybengal.com
The Dutch Cemetery at Chinsurh  ahalamy.com
The historical fact is the Dutch had already built a settlement at  Chinsurah, West Bengal   and had been engaging in trade activities for sometime long before the  arrival of the British  who settled down in Sutanuti (now part of Kolkata city)  right across  the  bank of the Hooghly river. Later the British with their typical administrative skill, strategy and better military forces became a force to reckon with  and dominated the mercantile trading activities. At one point, in 1823 the Dutch, unable to face the competition in the Indian subcontinent, finally ceded some of their valuable possessions to the British  in return of  the Sumatra island (Indonesia) back to them.  But for a cemetery with about 191 graves, some with impressive masonry mausoleums, there are no remnants of their early settlement here. As for  Serampore, WB one can see vast  Danish heritage sites, proving their monopoly in this NE part of India before the arrival of the East India company to this place.  
Dutch Cemetery Chinsurah  YouTube
Much light is thrown on the Dutch East India company bythe Dutch anthropologist Bauke van der  Pol.Besides, the Presidency University' has  a  website on the Dutch cemetery in Chinsurah and some Indian historians are working hard in tandem to improve the  University's  website with respect to our understanding of the Dutch heritage in Chinsurah that is yet to get international popularity. The European colonies are now giving due importance to their heritage sites that they had left behind way past centuries ago.  Many of these heritage sites in West Bengal and across India are not well taken care of by the government for many reasons such as lack of interest, paucity of funds, pilferage, encroachment by certain unworthy people, etc.

However, in the past  two decades  or so the ASI, a government organization, responding to the appeal of countless heritage/monument lovers, is seriously taking steps to repair and restore the most important heritage sites back to old glory so that the next generation of our people will understand the actual history of the country.
The Dutch East India Company,The Geography of Transport Systems
The Dutch East India Company, the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) is not as much well known as the British India company; the latter became a menace to the Indian natives as the English company was seriously engaged in grabbing Indian lands. But the Dutch company and the Dutch colonists did not have any imperial ambition in India. In the 17th to the 19th centuries through its settlements in coastal India, the Dutch company successfully managed the  inter-continental trade with the trading post in  Bengal and elsewhere in India. Yet another historical fact was the involvement of some  key Dutch people in  shaping the trade, polity and culture in the Indian subcontinent.
The Dutch East India Company DutchReview
Above image: 
The Dutch East India Company (VOC; Verenigde Oost-indische Compagnie), founded in 1602, is often regarded as the first true multinational corporation. It is believed to have been richer than Google, Miceosoft and Apple  all put together.  From the 17th to the 18th century trading companies such as VOC and its British counterpart- the East India Trading Company acted on behalf of European governments in Asia. As joint stock companies they were private mercantile  traders guarantied trade monopoly in exchange of rights paid to their respective governments. They were more or less states by themselves with their own ships (military and merchant) and military forces with extraoridary powers. Their initial goal was to develop trade links for prized commodities such as pepper, etc. With the passage of time,  they became increasingly involved in the control and development of their respective territories. Introducing his book, Bauke van der Pol said VOC was the first international symbol of a multinational company. VOC in 2002  celebrated  its 400th anniversary. ...................

Two centuries have gone by since  the Dutch formally ceded their settlements to the British, Chinsurah, close to Kolkata, once a Dutch settlement, is devoid of solid heritage sites that would prove its  old glory. The Embassy of the Netherlands is embarking on certain  heritage projects to  highlight and  preserve the importance of Chinsurah for both the Netherlands and India. The  Dutch cemetery of Chinsurah is quite well-known and it has 190 Dutch and British tombs. Unfortunately, the Dutch legacy  is unknown to the world and it needs to be brought to light. There are  stories about  women's education in India, the Dutch general who fought in the Maratha army, etc. The university website covers a brief  history of the Dutch cemetery,  Dutch buildings, the well known Dutch in this town of Chinsurah, etc.  Of great help to the Dutch is the full list of the tombs in the cemetery and its map,

Now  being maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India, the cemetery was once relocated and now every grave has a tombstone upon it. The list includes  the names of Dutch governors but also those of European missionaries, the English painter, William Hodges and William Carey.   The city of Cochin, Kerala and the Tarangampadi, Tamil Nadu are some of the other Dutch settlements.  
https://www.telegraphindia.com/states/west-bengal/dutch-in-chinsurah-website/cid/1608503