An ancient cemetery in Calcutta stirs up more interest and a noticeable increase in the amount of visitors as a result of a movie based on it. Calcutta, India. 18/02/2010
"The Great Cemetery"or "The South Park Street Cemetery", Calcutta(Kolkata), India.
The historical cemetery where the last burial took place in about 1830 A.D. holds in its fold the last remains of many families and personalities who were amongst the important dignitaries mainly of the British community present in Calcutta during their days of expansion of the Indian colony by the then East India Company. Situated on the southern flank of the present Park Street ( which is recently re-named after Mother Teresa ), at the intersection with Lower Circular Road, this burial ground was opened in 1767 A.D. after the old cemetery on the grounds of St. John's Church was closed for burials.
At the time of its opening and for several years thereafter, the road leading to the cemetery was known as Burial Grounds Road which was, in fact a narrow, lonely, raised causeway winding its way through marshy lands hidden from the pedestrians' view by large patches of jungles visited by carnivorous animals. This area was a little away from the main area of the then 'white town' inhabited by the 'sahibs'. With the passage of time, Park Street developed into the food and fashion street of Calcutta, while inside the cemetery, time seems to have stood still. Rather, the cemetry and the tombs inside gradually started to decay.
In 1978 a body called Association for the Preservation of Historical Cemeteries in India was formed which took up preservation of the cemetry in association with the London based British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia. By that time the cemetery had reached a stage of almost complete destruction and dilapidation. Another cemetery known as the North Park Street cemetery which was started after 1830s had by that time also almost disappeared and the land taken over by a Christian Missionary to construct a Church, a Hospital and a school. To fulfill the need to preserve the history of the city the Association has worked together with The Christian Burial Board, a statutory body formed in 1881 to maintain and restore the historical cemetery in a green environment.
One interesting and "different" tomb that strikes one during a walk through the cemetery today is that of Maj. Gen. Charles Stuart (1758-1828) . Stuart was nicknamed "Hindoo Stuart" because of his habits of wearing "dhoti" off duty and his daily practice of walking to the Ganges for a morning bath. He also worshipped Hindu Gods and invited wrath of British ladies by urging them to wear "Saris" which Stuart described as the "most alluring dress in the world". The tomb was designed somewhat like a Hindu temple with miniature idols decorating it.
Another simple tomb that is important from the point of view of Calcutta and Bengal is that of Henry Louis Vivian Derozio(1807-1831). Derozio was a poet and Assistant Headmaster of Hindu College, Calcutta, a radical thinker and one of the first Indian educators to disseminate Western learning and science among the young men of Bengal. Derozio was generally considered an Anglo-Indian, being of mixed Portuguese descent, but he was fired by a patriotic spirit for his native Bengal and considered himself Indian.
He had a batch of brilliant students who later contributed significantly to the culture and education in Bengal.
There are many more historically important persons and many young babies and young men and women from their families whose mortal remains were laid to rest within the four walls of the cemetery but during the last month of 2010 a new interest seems to have been stirred up in the cemetery and many young visitors are searching for the grave of one "Thomas Goodwin". Honestly speaking, this is a fictional character created by the famous film maker Late Satyajit Ray in one of his stories GOROSTHAN E SABDHAN
(literally meaning :"Be careful at the cemetery") and recently converted into a film by Ray's son who is also a film maker.
Description of the photographs
1) An aerial view of the cemetery with greenery and modern buildings in the background.
2) Tomb of Henry Louis Vivian Derozio.
3) Tomb of "Hindoo Stuart".