Park Street Cemetery
The Park Street Cemetery is an important heritage place of Kolkata. It was established during the colonial rule of the British. Previously known as Burial Ground Road, it is one of the oldest cemeteries of Kolkata. The mausoleums and memorials are architecturally impressive and represent the grandeur of the colonial period. It houses the tombs of distinguished expatriates who were once an integral part of Kolkata’s history.
Location of Park Street Cemetery
It is located at Park Street, Kolkata.
History of Park Street Cemetery
The Park Street cemetery was ceremonially declared open in 1767. It is one of the first non-church cemeteries in the world. In the 19th century, it was known as the ‘Great Christian Burial ground’ in Asia. The cemetery was named after “Park Street” after the private deer park built by Sir Elijah Impey around Vansittart’s garden house. The cemetery served as a burial ground for the European expatriates who were settled in Calcutta during the colonial period. The cemetery houses the graves of many notable European figures of the regal era. Most distinguished tombs are those of ‘Rose Aymler’, beloved of the poet Walter Savage Langdor, Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, the initiator of the Young Bengal Movement who lived an eventful life for a short period of just 22 years; Charles Dickens’ son, Sir William Jones, founder of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta in 1796, David Drummond, C. F. Andrews and Michael Madhusudan Dutta, the illustrious and anglicized poet of Bengal.
The cemetery was closed in 1840 due to lack of burial space and is now a heritage site, preserved by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). In the year 1785, the burial ground was extended on the northern edge of Park Street and by 1840 an enormous new cemetery was opened in a place called the Lower Circular Road Cemetery located nearby.
The renovations of the tombs began in mid 2000 and are still continuing. The first batch of restoration started with 15 tombs. The surroundings have been maintained in epoch style combined with modern environ-friendly technology such as solar-powered lighting.
Features of the Cemetery
The cemetery is spread across eight acres of land. Surrounded by high brick walls, the enclosure has an assortment of 1600 tombs with cenotaphs, tablets and epitaphs. The landscape is quaint and serene with tall shady trees and many beautiful flowers and bushes encircling the tombs. The architecture of the grave stones is a mix of Gothic and Indo-Saracenic style. The tombs are mostly made of sand-stone and are square, rectangular or circular in structure. The architectural designs of the tombs reflect classical European styles ranging from Romanesque cupolas, Grecian urns, pyramids, obelisks, cairns and sarcophagi. The sarcophagi’s are designed in unique Hindu style with black basalt carvings on the frontal fascia that resembles miniature replicas of Orissan ‘rekha deul’. One can feel a subtle character of Hindu philosophy expressed through some of the architectural designs.
Notable Tombs at Park Street Cemetry
- Rose Aylmer (died 1800) – Niece of Sir Henry Russel, after whom the Russel Street is named.
- Elizabeth Barwell (died 1779) – An eminent socialite and a fêted beauty)
- The Lady Anne Monson (died 1775) – A great grand daughter of King Charles II.
- George Bogle (1746–1781) – Diplomat and the first British to lead an envoy to Tibet for exploration.
- Lieutenant-General Sir John Clavering (1722-1777) – Army officer.
- Augustus Cleveland (1784) – A distinguished administrator of the Indian Civil Services.
- Henry Louis Vivian Derozio (1809–1831) – Teacher and Poet and the leader of Youth Movement in Bengal.
- Charles Short (1785) – An affluent trader after whom the present Short Street is named.
- Sir Elijah Impey (1732-1809) – Eminent Judge and after whose private park the cemetery has derived its name.
- Sir William Jones (1746–1794) – Indologist, founder of the Asiatic Society and an eminent scholar and orientalist.
- Colonel Robert Kyd (1746–1793) – Botanist and founder of the Botanical Garden Of Calcutta.
- Lieut. Col. Colin Mackenzie (1754–1821) – Surveyor General of India.
- Sir John D’Oyly, 6th Baronet (1754–1818) – Politician and Socialite.
- Major-General Charles Hindoo Stuart (1758–1828) – Known to be a devout practitioner of Hindu faith who bathed in the Ganges everyday and wore traditional Bengali attire in domestic life.
- The Bengali film: ‘Gorosthaney Sabdhan’ (literal translation: Beware in the cemetery) was shot here. The film was based on the novel of the same name by Satyajit Ray.
- An interesting fact – The burials in the cemetery used to take place only after dark. This was the norm followed usually. The funeral processions took place with lighted torches and the coffin of the deceased was generally carried on the shoulders of friends and family members. Occasionally, military funerals took place with gunshots fired in honor of the deceased officer.
- The high walls that were built around the cemetery had a scientific reason. The excessive brickwork was done to contain the danger of dead bodies spreading contagious diseases.
- There is an anonymous tomb that reads: “A virtuous mother.” Died 1825. Perhaps the deceased wanted to remain unidentified to the world.
- Some of the interesting professions of the commoners mentioned in the epitaphs are: Breeder of cattle, Jail-keeper, Silversmith, School Teacher, Architect, Translator, Livery, Printer, Head tide-waiter, Park superintendent, Cooper, Postmaster and Surgeon.
- The oldest monument that bears an inscription reads ‘In Memory of Mrs. Sarah Pearson ob. 8th of September 1768 Act. 19’.
- The Dennison family tomb finds a special mention here due to a strange phenomenon that occurs on their tomb. The tomb is known to bleed at particular occasions emitting a blood like fluid which is very peculiar yet shrouded in mystery. It is also known as the bleeding tomb.