Once being the capital of British India and also being the nerve centre of East India Company Kolkata has seen European migration for a really long time. Here you will find the cemeteries of the English, French, Armenians, Greeks and Dutch. I have only visited few cemeteries before writing this post thus when I started researching for this blog I was taken aback by the total gamut of history that is lying buried. In this blog I have listed out the Christian Cemeteries in Kolkata and for some of them I have added a brief history along with the list of illustrious important personalities each of these cemeteries are housing.
The list of cemeteries are as follows:-
- Lower Circular Road Cemetery
- South Park Street Cemetery
- North Park Street Cemetery
- Tiretta Cemetery (French Cemetery)
- Scottish Cemetery
- Maniktala Christian Cemetery
- Greek Cemetery
- Bhowanipore Cemetery
- Tollygunge Cemetery
- Stephen’s Cemetery
Lower Circular Road Cemetery
Established in 1840 this is one of the largest and the most visited cemetery in Kolkata, situated at the crossing of Park Street and Mullick Bazar. John Elliot Drinkwater Bethune, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Sir William Casement, Henry Whitelock Torrens, Sri Haren Mookerjee, C. F. Andrews etc. are some of the stalwarts who are buried here. This cemetery can be visited round the year but it’s highly recommended to visit this on All Souls Day when the whole place is lit up with candle light and you can roam around till late night.
The cemetery also houses an Armenian Section and has a direct private access from the adjacent St. Gregory The Illuminator Armenian Church. It is also to be noted that many WW1 and WW2 soldiers are buried here.
There is a crematorium just next to Lower Circular Road Cemetery at No. 2 Crematorium Street, it also houses a small compound where some graves are also present. This facility was started around 1904 to facilitate Urn Burial which was becoming common at that time especially with the armed forces.
This crematorium was gas powered and functioned till the 1980’s but due to erratic gas supply the service was stopped. It used to use a French built furnace from Toisoul Fradet & Co.
This crematorium was also used by the Brahmo community and notable personalise like Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose was cremated here.
South Park Street Cemetery
Then there is of course South Park Street Cemetery which is a historical landmark in the history of Kolkata as well as India. This is where the stalwarts like Sir William Jones & Henry Louis Vivian Derozio. This site was active between 1767 and 1830 and was once considered as one of the largest during that period in Asia.
This park has tomb style memorial more in the Gothic style, you can also get an Indian architectural style influence in them similar to that of temples.
North Park Street Cemetery
Just opposite to South Park Cemetery was the North Park Street Cemetery, started in 1797 this portion is no longer a cemetery and now stands the Assembly of God Church Tower, School and Hospital. The only surviving relic is the Robertson Monument. Somehow this has not been demolished and still remains visible.
Some of the tablets from North Park Street Cemetery has been shifted to South Park Street Cemetery and be seen plastered on the east end wall.
Few of the important graves that was once housed here are that of Edmund Robertson; he was the Senior Superintend of Calcutta Police, Richmond Thackeray; father of novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, Lieutenant Colonel James Achilles Kirkpatrick; the British Resident at Hyderabad from 1798 to 1805, John Zachariah Kiernanders’ family vault; the first protestant Missionary to establish a base in Bengal.
Tiretta Cemetery (French Cemetery)
Just diagonally opposite of South Park Cemetery was the Tiretta (French) Cemetery of Calcutta, but unfortunately you cannot see anything of it as it was leased way back in the 1973 and now houses high rise buildings.
This cemetery was once owned by Edward Tiretta an Italian architect who had come to India to work for the East India Company. He was an assistant to Giacomo Girolamo Casanova of Venice, the same Giacomo Casanova who was once considered as an epitome of womanizing and the term “Casanova” got coined after his name.
In India he was married to a young French girl who happened to die at a very young age, she was an orphan of a French officer, the Count de Carrion. Initially she was buried near Sealdah, Baithakkhana but he wanted her last resting place to be his own so he purchased this land just opposite to North Park Street Cemetery in 1786.
This is the same Tiretta from which we get the name Tiretta Bazar in present day Kolkata. Edward Tiretta was first registrar of memorials of deed affecting lands in Bengal and appointed for a salary of one thousand sicca on 1st of February 1781.
Later this cemetery was the last resting place for many French nationals who had come to work for the East India Company. Many Jesuits priests were also buried here later.
A walk down from South Park Cemetery towards Park Circus crossing will take you to the Scottish Cemetery, this place was established in 1820. No burial has taken place after 1940, at present this is under Kolkata Scottish Heritage Trust who are trying to do a full restoration of this cemetery.
Previously before the restoration activity was started this place was inaccessible with overgrown trees and graves in shambles, however recently a lot of restoration activity has been carried out and now can easily be accessed on foot. By the names on the headstone it’s clear that this place is having a rich Scottish heritage. However some tomb stone with Indian names can also be seen here.
One of the prominent grave out here is that of Father Thomas Jones who was a missionary from Montgomeryshire, he had come to Kolkata in 1840 and settled in the hills of Meghalaya where he did an extensive study of Khasi language. He is known as the “The founding father of the Khasi alphabets and literature”.
Maniktala Christian Cemetery
This is located just hundred meters before Maniktala Crossing if you are travelling from Sealdah flyover. You have probably crossed this several times but have failed to notice the small Iron Gate with the words “Maniktala Christian Cemetery” written over it. Another landmark will be the gate next to Leprosy Hospital.
This is a very small cemetery but this place is important since it has the graves of Toru Dutt and her family. Toru Dutt was one of the pioneer poet from India to write poetry in French, English and Sanskrit.
The only Greek cemetery in the city this small cemetery near Pholbagan Crossin on 105 Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad Sarani. There is a small prayer house inside this cemetery and it’s under the Greek Church in Kolkata.
Greeks being an expert shipping community often travelled around the world and their presence in India especially during the reign of East India Company can be felt.
According to the records there are burials here since the 1800’s, some of the gravestones were brought from the Amratollat Street as it was abandoned. There are a total of 108 named graves and 12 unnamed graves at this site. There is a small chapel at the location for the mourners to pray. The oldest grave is that of Alexis Argyris in 1777 and the last is that of 1949.
Now if we go from north to southern part of Kolkata we will reach Bhowanipore Cemetery. I find this most interesting since there is a specially designated World War One and World War Two memorial situated within the compound of this cemetery. Active since 1907, 95 burials from WW1 and 617 burials from WW2 are present here. This section is maintained by Commonwealth War Graves Commission and they have done a real fantastic work with restoration and maintenance.
You can spend hours here looking at the different headstones where the regiment of the fallen soldier is mentioned. Surprisingly you will also find Hindus and Muslims soldiers also buried and their headstones is clearly depicting this. Originally most of these soldiers were buried at Fort William but later transferred to this location. Other than war graves you will also find civilians also buried here, the oldest register show date of 1807.
On the southern extreme part of Kolkata lies Tollygunge Cemetery which was established in 1942.
St. Stephen’s Cemetery
This is one of the most obscure Christian cemetery in Kolkata, located near Kidderpore dock sometimes this cemetery is referred to as the Sailor’s Cemetery since quite a few of them are buried out here due to its proximity to Kolkata Port. Though most of these sailor’s cemeteries are old but some of the names could still be made out. There is another section within this compound where sisters from Missionaries of Charity institution are buried.
One of the prominent grave is that of Rev. Madhu Sudan Seal who was a prominent figure in the Bengali Christian community.
This blog will be an ongoing project and will keep adding to it more references and other important as and when I get them. Thanks a lot for going through this very long blog, keep watching this space for more interesting blogs.