Sunday, 10 May 2020

164 year old Nicholson Cemetery of Delhi - Is it a haunted place?

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In almost every country there are  hair-splitting stories about haunted places and  buildings besides  cemeteries. In the latter,  men and women  lie  buried in  tightly secured coffins with their  souls (''Athma'')  trapped inside. In an unreleased  state, these souls, it is said, are restless and are longing to get out.  When discussing superstition, rationality  and the very existence of ghost,  our curiosity  always gets the better of us  because the topic is unusual, something we are not accustomed to it before. The subject of ghost  is always a contentious issue, an enigma.  
Delhi:Nicholson cemetery, location map. en.wikipedia.org
Nicholson cemetery, Delhi, heritage walk. delhiheritagewalks.com
Among the Hindus it has been their religious custom to have the dead body cremated after performing certain rituals. It is said it is done with a view to  “releasing the soul” so that it can “reincarnate”.  They find the Christian practice of burying bodies underground  no longer odd  because there is are  large Christian communities living across India, in particular Kerala and NE India. However,  cemeteries such as this one in Delhi or  elsewhere  are avoided by  locals on the assumption they are haunted. The Nicholson Cemetery in Delhi has gained the reputation of being a haunted place by the locals because it has a large number of tombs within the graveyard. The Hindus as mentioned earlier,  normally cremate the dead so that the  soul is allowed to go free from the physical body  to get into  a new life depending on his/her past sins.   
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Paranormal forces are often associated with unused strange places, buildings, etc where people  had a violent and unnatural death. Besides,  such places are normally abandoned  and surrounded by overgrowth of vegetation, creepers, trees, broken structures,  strange-looking thick spider webs, dark shadows, etc  creating an uncomfortable ambiance. Such odd-looking innocuous, but uncertain surroundings can further aggravate the chilling experience. 
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So far there has been no concrete proof of  ghosts sightings in the supposedly haunted places. Such spooky and  eerie places, with some sudden  mysterious and weird noise or moaning of women, etc  often  cause the excitement and fear, according to the locals. Over a period of time these  places are tagged as haunted by the them  with a cooked-up,  poignant story  linking  the haunted  site. Visitors  are afraid to get in there primarily  due to overwhelming fear and anxiety  often accompanied by palpitation of heart.  The unusual calm and empty space will commonly  increase our curiosity.  In a strange situation people feel compelled to think  the creepy-crawly things  are lying in wait to get  them; The  fear factor goes way high after sundown. 
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When people see spooky flicks in a theater, they become nervous and  shiver their way till the end of the film. It is quite funny we shell out money on such movies  to get ourselves frightened  to death over something that is not real. Such horror and macabre movies  give you a big dose of suspense and anxiety with cinematic special effects, in particular, background sound. If you see the same flick without sound, you won't  experience  any anxiety or  fear.  Psychologically speaking, such horror movies or places unconsciously trigger the lingering fear in our subconscious mind, particularly when we feel unsafe in a queer, deserted environment with no people around. It triggers the panic buttons in our brain and warns us before hand about the impending danger  to our life. Driven by imagination and fear, these strange feelings motivate us to proceed with caution  and look for  an exit  in case of real threat.  The psychological fact is  such unsafe, secluded,  deserted  and ambivalent places may leave you  just frozen in place, making you uncomfortable and  unease. The psychological mechanism is at display behind  feeling ''creeped-out''.   In the USA, there are thousands of haunted places, a part of Halloween Theater and here haunting tour is a money-spinning business. 
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The cemeteries and cremation grounds, the final destination places of all mortals in this planet, have close links  with ghost sighting or paranormal activities. The Indian Paranormal Society  says that the Nicholson cemetery located in a secluded, quiet place far away from the  urban madness of south Delhi in Kashmere Gate is a haunted one  and there have been speculations about the sighting of headless apparition of John Nicholson on some nights and European ghosts crisscrossing the grave on certain  nights. Soon after late evening people with weak heart leave this deserted place as quickly as possible to avoid any weird experience. 

Locals believe that the mortal remains of  John Nicholson  in his grave  regroup and his spirit has the tendency to pop up unexpectedly from nowhere, say like Jack-in-the box. It is said it happens in the place where he was buried in Sept. 1857. Brig. Gen Nicholson was shot in the chest  and after severe pain he died in the hospital tent on the third day.  He was just 37, remained unmarried;  reports say he had children out of wedlock (?). He had a violent death, so were the countless people in the 1857 rebellion. After violent death they were buried in the same grave. 

The explanation given by Hindus is  that  at the Nicholson Cemetery, the English men who were buried here, had experienced horrible death, not a peaceful one. Though their mortal remains have been there since 1857, they are still restless with their  trapped souls having found no way to  exit from their bodies. Being agitated and having no peace of mind, they turn into ghosts and aimlessly  roam  the graveyard  at night hoping one day they would get a permanent relief for their souls  and would get a new lease of life. 

Brig.Gen. Nicholson's  war exploits in the NE Frontier areas, his tragic death in the 1857 rebellion, his killing spree against the native  rebels  - all these unpalatable events are  part of  one of the darkest chapters of colonial India in the 19th century. In 2006 a major restoration work was done at this historical cemetery in Delhi and the young generation of English people  who are related to those buried here  are anxious to visit this site to pay their 
respect to their forefathers who were part of Colonial India. 

Tit-bits:

The Nicholson Cemetery in Kashmere gate in South Delhi is  a historical site that underwent renovation in 2006. Delhi Cemeteries Committee and  BACSA  (the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia)  invited INTACH’s (The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) Delhi Chapter  to look into restoration work and they  all collectively did a painstaking job. The grave yard is a big one, covering 8.8 acres and 2,463 graves  and it was a major challenge for the conservationists and restoration workers to bring the  grave back to old  glory. The site had been a neglected one for a pretty long period.  With passage of time, the plaster over innumerable tombs had come off. Some people  drew the attention of the  British newspapers  about the British cemetery in Delhi and its poor upkeep.  The British High Commission took up the matter to save the cemetery.   A sum of   Rs.7 Lakhs was spent on the restoration work and additional work needed funds to complete the project.   Brig. Gen. John Nicholson was a brave military officer very much liked by his troops. He was quite loyal to the Crown Being a brave man he had an  aura of a daring soldier, always risking his life. A religious cult developed around him: the ‘Nikal Seyn’.
https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/phase-ii-set-to-begin-funds-awaited-as-nicholson-cemetery-among-oldest-in-city-is-restored-5857420/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholson_Cemetery,_New_Delhi
https://web.archive.org/web/20160409234236/https://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P3-1151483251.html