Indian Catholic News

British organization offers help to restore cemeteries

The condition of British cemeteries in Shimla is bad.


The British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia (BACSA) has extended its support for the restoration of Christian cemeteries that lie in a dilapidated condition in Himachal Pradesh, especially Shimla.

"We are particularly sad about the condition of the Shimla cemeteries because, as you know, this was the seat of the British government during the summer months," BACSA's honorary secretary Rosie Llewellyn-Jones said.

She said that BACSA is keen to restore and preserve the cemeteries in the hill state.

"We are more than willing to support reliable local people with restoration... We believe that if there is local involvement, then the cemeteries have a much better chance of survival," Jones added.

In the Shimla’s Oakover cemetery, the oldest British era cemetery opened in 1828, 17 out of the 20 graves have simply vanished.

“The Oakover cemetery, which was closed for burial in 1841, has only three graves with inscriptions. The rest are either damaged or encroached upon,” said Raja Bhasin, a Shimla-based writer-cum-historian who has compiled a book "The Churches and Christian Cemeteries of Himachal Pradesh" for the state tourism department.

The condition of three other British cemeteries in Shimla - Kanlog, Sanjauli and the nun's cemetery in Navbahar - is also bad.

"There is no trace of the town's fifth cemetery. It was located somewhere below the old bus stand. The entire cemetery has been gobbled up by slumdwellers," Bhasin said.

Many towns in the state still attract descendants of British Raj officials who are eager to know about their roots.

"The cemeteries have really fallen on bad days. Moss is eating into the remains of the graves. Seeing faded epitaphs and missing gravestones is really distressful," Bhasin said.

Tourism Director Arun Sharma said the department is keen to provide funds for restoring British graveyards, provided some Christian association takes the initiative.

There are 23 prominent cemeteries in the state. Some of them are two centuries old.

One of the oldest burial grounds in the state is at Subathu, about 65 km from Shimla.

It houses most of the graves of British army officers and men who were killed during the war with the Gurkhas in 1814.


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