The monuments were huge compared with English gravestones. I could not place the style. There were miniature Greek temples, columns, arches, obelisks, domes and cupolas. Some of the obelisks were pyramid-shaped, others conical and carved in spirals. There was a Greek classical influence and it did not feel the least bit Christian. I should have thought myself in a Mughal burial ground. I learned later that the tombs are a mixture of Gothic and Indo-Saracenic style. Some of the carvings show a Hindu influence. It was a strange and wonderful place of calm surrounded by the hectic rush of modern Kolkata. Indeed, the cemetery is only a remnant of a much larger plot that has been built over. Taxis, buses and bicycles now stream over the forgotten remains of the men and women of the East India Company.
I met three young men, all technical students from the city. They knew little of the cemetery’s history and its British connection but they were grateful to find a place of peace and calm.
I walked around this marvel reading the inscriptions. The
people here died young. Many of the men died in their forties. There were
enormous monuments to young women. A huge pyramid shaped obelisk marks the
grave of Elizabeth Barwell, who died in 1778 aged 23. Rose Aylmer lies, dead at
20, under a vast inverted ice cream cone of a tomb. It was said that the life
expectancy of a European in
I saw very few crucifixes. Biblical references were rare. Rather, the epitaphs celebrated people’s civic and secular virtues. The Honorable (sic) John Hyde; a Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court died aged 59 in 1796. He was, I read, ‘a firm and zealous friend’. His hospitality had been enjoyed a wide extended circle. ‘His advice, protection and munificence to unfortunate persons were his noblest eulogium’. It went on at some length; it was a big memorial. It ended eventually with a tribute to the generosity of his mind.
Beating the odds of an early
death, Major General Charles (Hindoo) Stuart served in
The epitaph to Robert Gardiner reports that ‘unfortunately’ he
died in the ship Ganges on the Barabuller Sand in the river
A tattered advertisement informed me that I had missed the first concert ever to be held in the cemetery by a few weeks. I should have liked to have been there.
The Association for the Preservation of Historical