Cemeteries in Himachal capital face oblivion

picture-1They all are laying in oblivion and gradually vanishing from scene. The sunlight peeping through majestic cedars brings no hope for them so does the strolling visitors. The only hope comes in form of their descendants from foreign soil who land there to find their ancestral linkages to love ones lying buried in cemeteries of an era gone.

Shimla the ‘Queen of Hills’ had served as large populace for foreigners during the British Raj. The cemeteries here are full of graves of foreigners’ mostly British officers and their family.

The 38-year Andrew Campbell from Ireland, wanted to learn from the bye gone era. A Professor by profession, Campbell was recently in Shimla to find his vintage link. He left shell-shocked over the treatment was being given to foreigners’ cemeteries in Shimla.

He opened discussion with a sad note that it was really a painful feeling to see the graves in such a pathetic condition. The graves were so badly treated that I could not even click a photo of these to show my family back home. I am leaving Shimla in a very heavy heart, he lamented. Campbell forefather had once served in Shimla.

Many other foreigners like Campbell who have link with town, throng here with excitement but only to return with remorse and bad taste.

But true to Campbell’s feelings, for cemetery nothing has been changed. The intangible assaults on them have remained same. A local Nepalese chowkidaar Sher Bahadur, resides close to a graveyard give his best to guard this place but all in vain. He recounts the most of foreigners’ visitors in cemeteries return baldy upset after seeing their ancestral remain lying in virtual wreckage condition.

Ironically all graveyards in town have fallen to bad days. Majority of them have been reduced to either open toilets or playgrounds, as these grounds served as cricket grounds for locals. Many tombstones of old graves have gone missing. Apart from that, drug peddlers hound these places. The herds of cattle keep roaming in cemeteries thus leaving their waste to mess up the scene. But for some lovers from the nearby local educational institutions, it’s a delight under the thick lush green deodar.

picture-3.jpg picture-2.jpgA well placed official of HP Tourism Department says, tourism and culture ministry sometimes ago has asked all states to renovate and maintain these burial sites. While agreeing that cemetery tourism can help to fetch high end tourists mainly foreigners to state the official says following state government instruction the department is planning to document all the cemeteries.

Brief note on Shimla various cemeteries

Cemetery near Oak over:

This Christian burial ground was opened about in 1828 and first grave is dated back to 1829. As the town started growing, it was found to be too close to habitation and was close. The last grave of this cemetery is of Captain Mathew William Ford which dates March 17, 1841. This cemetery has about a dozen graves and monuments.

Cemetery at Barrier, Boileauganj:

This cemetery of Shimla’s Muslim community is believed to have been in use since the mid -20 century. This was brought into use once the older one at Boileauganj, which lies just below the mosque, was considered full.

Cemetery at Kanlog:

Dated 1850, the earliest grave in this burial ground for the town’s Christian community is of Joseph Anderson. As Shimla grew in both size and importance, this burial ground was repeatedly extended till it become what historically, is the town’s most important cemetery. In these confines lie some of the people who substantially influenced both Shimla, and the history of the period. This was closed in 1920s. While the cemetery was created in phases, today it is recognizable by the division created by the highway that has divided its two sections: the older one lives above the road.

Cemetery at Sanjauli:

Once the Christian cemetery in Kanlog was found to be full, other land was sought for the purpose. When this site was decided upon, negotiations were started with the former princely state of Koti granted in whose territories this spur lay. The Rana of Koti granted the land on a ‘perpetual lease’. This cemetery is still in use and was dedicated by the Bishop of Lahore on July 29, 1921. The earliest grave in this cemetery is of Joseph Multani, an Indian Christian who was buried here on May 12, 1921 – and this was before the formal dedication. Different plots have been marked for use by various denominations and this ground holds over 600 graves.

Cemetery at Nav Bahar (Nuns graveyard below St. Bedes)

This private cemetery was opened in 1870s for the nuns of the Convent of Jesus and Mary. Some nuns of the Loreto Order are also buried under the shady deodars. This memorial by the gate is dedicated to Colonel Parker who died in 1837, however his body was not buried here – and this cenotaph was placed here at the behest of Colonel Tapp, then Superintendent of the Hill States.

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  1. Even if these cemeteries are relics of an period of which no Indian is proud of, but yet they belong to our heritage and must be conserved.

    But the people who command the levers of power in the government, are not protecting all the humus of heritage that has collected up in the hills.

    Thanks Ghuman for highlighting the issue.

    1. Dear Ravinder ji,

      I have been reading your articles in papers. Ghuman is absolutely right. I had written to the BACSA about the pethatic condition of the grave. They said that thay have been sending grant to the church and where is that money consumed no body knows. I work as a Heritage Tour Guide in Shimla for the British and have prepared a blog on cemeteries of Shimla called http://www.cemeteriesinshimla.blogspot.com. due to which a number of British contact me as they see the graves of their forefathers in my list. But I feel ashamed to tell them ablut the actual condition of the Graveyard.

      A few days ago when I visited the Sanjauli Cememtery to click a picture of some one’s grave I was pleased to see the lock and key and the cemetery ground protected by a fence wall errected around it. I hope we shall be able to protect our built Heritage.

      Sumit Vashisht
      Mbl : 9418065001

      1. says: Gusta Dolezal

        Dear Sumit , is it possible to get a site map of the Sanjauli cemetery locating the plots and the numbers if it exists ? The Church may have this I would think .

        I have found on my Mother’s grave yard pictures some plot numbers nearby hers and with this may be able to find her own grave nearby .

        Appreciate any information .
        Bets Regards , Gusta

        1. says: Gusta Dolezal

          HI Again , is it possible to separate the 2 pictures in your picture-2 . This way I may be able to zoom in closer and read some names or find some clues in establishing and finding my Mother’s grave .

          THanks Gusta

    2. says: Gusta Dolezal

      Fully agree with you and support any movement to maintain these cemeteries . The good the bad and the ugly all belong to one’s history and culture .
      I hope there will be some interest shown to maintain these monuments to our deceased relatives .
      I for one am looking for the grave of my Mother and hope to come to find her in the coming year .

      Best Regards , Gusta Dolezal

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