Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Garrison Cemetery, Srirangapatnam, India that includes Swiss mercenaries and the British

Garrison cemetery, Srirangapatnam, India.  youtube.com

Among the Indian colonial monuments, the European cemeteries attract the foreign tourists more than the natives.  Tourists visit those grave yards in Kolkata, Chennai, Bombay and  Delhi. The first three cities and the provinces formed residencies in the colonial period.   The Garrison Cemetery in Srirangapatna, South India  is little known, almost gone into oblivion due to lack of publicity. It is a European cemetery that dates back to the 1800s. Centuries ago mercenaries from other countries traveled to other countries and joined the military and participated in the wars on payment of money and other perks. Thousands of them lost their lives on the battle fields overseas valiantly fighting while others were afflicted with dreadful diseases and died. Those people ended up in the graves in the place where they died. Thus a small group of men from Switzerland joined  the English company in the late 1700s as mercenaries, took part in the final Angelo-Mysore war and died while fighting.  These  people were given honorable burial  in Srirangapatna near Mysore city, Karnataka.  

             ''Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
              Their sober wishes never learned to stray; 
             Along the cool sequestered vale of life,
             They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.'' 
                                ...........Thomas Gray  from“Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.”
Garrison Cemetery in Srirangapatnam on the banks of the Cauvery river is one of earliest colonial cemeteries in south India.  Close to the  Bangalore - Mysore Highway, it is a sprawling graveyard with  about 307 graves of European officers  who lost their lives in the final assault on Tipu Sultan and his army  during the siege of his fort in1799. Tipu Sultan was killed in the battler that led to the restoration of the Mysore kingdom to  the royal dynasty of the Wodiyar family by the English company.
Garrison cemetery, Srirangapatnam, India .deccanherald.com
Included in the European cemetery are 80 graves of  officers of the Swiss ‘de Meuron Regiment’(known after its commander, Comte Charles-Daniel de Meuron), and the graves of their family members as well, besides the British.  An interesting fact  that many of us may not be aware of is that  the  active participation of the Regiment de Meuron,  in  the Siege of Srirangapatnam against Tipu. This regiment was the first one to crack  Tipu's formidable fort and paved for the victory of the EIC  in the last war against the Mysore ruler. This regiment later became part of the British army with distinct identity.  Earlier, they were in the services of the Dutch East India Company, Ceylon and  fought against the EIC in Ceylon. In 1795, having left the Dutch East India company in   over wage  payment dispute (or expiry of their service contract), they joined the EIC  with 800 men at a time when a major war against Tipu was in the offing.
Srirangapatnam, Karnataka. mysore.ind.in
The very first burial in this grave yard  was  in 1800, and the cemetery had been in use till 1860. The EIC turned place  into a garrison town after the final war  and the cemetery came to be  called   the ''Garrison Cemetery'' and the name remains unchanged so far. This town does not have a garrison now.  The cemetery  is being managed by the Church of South India.  CSI's  St. Bartholomew's Church, Mysore is taking care of this old grave. In 1931, Parsons  mentions that the cemetery  has  graves many of the fallen  young men on the British side  and also many young widows aged 20–24 years. "Caroline Isabella Scott'' (and infant child), wife of Colonel I. C. Scott of EIC , Commandant of Srirangapatnan garrison  and near- by gun factory, who died during child birth  on 19th April 1817. She and her kids were associated with the tragedy of the ''Scott House'' that was built by the ruler of Mysore for Col. Scott, who happened to be a friend of the Maharajah.
Garrison cemetery, Srirangapatnam, India deccanchronicle.com
 The cemetery entrance gate has a marble stone slab that  reads: "Garrison Cemetery AD 1800''.  Many of these tombs are ornate and quite impressive.  Quite similar to other European cemeteries dating from this period in India,.Neoclassical and Egyptian motifs were  widely used, such as  obelisks, urns, columns and pyramids. The tombs here come in various sizes, some are quite imposing while others are small.  Some are built in the shape of a coffin and are believed  to contain the remains of infants who died of the plague.  The cemetery had fallen into a bad state of decay near destruction  prior to the restoration work initiated by  RGR Architects in 2007.  Credit goes to the  direct descendants of the Swiss-based Meuron families  who visited this place in the past  and got involved in the restoration of this grave yard, using old and tradition methods  and materials employed in the past -  use of traditional lime mortar, organic additives, fine masonry tools, and finished with a coat of lime wash made from shell lime as per old technique. Thus they gave a face-lift  to this  graveyard. that was otherwise in a dilapidated condition. Mention may be made of late Luis Dominic de Meuron, his wife Monique who took continued interest in this project. 
The Garrison Cemetery project has been generously funded and initiated by the Swiss-based members of de Meuron family, especially late Luis Dominic de Meuron, his wife Monique, the direct descendants of the de Meuron family associated with the de Meuron Regiment in India, who continue to care and upkeep the site.  The completed restoration has been widely admired. 

http://mysore.ind.in/garrison-cemetery-2
 https://www.deccanchronicle.com/lifestyle/viral-and-trending/120818/sunday-story-in-srirangapatna-tombstones-tell-tales-of-swiss-valou.html
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garrison_Cemetery,_Seringapatam