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Chapel in a Hospital - Captivating Calcutta
2087    Dibyendu Banerjee    03/08/2019

It may seem strange to believe, but there is a chapel in the PG Hospital, Calcutta.

Most of us are aware that PG Hospital, founded in 1770, is the oldest general hospital in the country and probably for its proximity to the Presidency Jail, the hospital was named Presidency General Hospital or PG Hospital. Initially the hospital was meant for Europeans only, but its doors were opened to the non-European patients from 2 April 1770. Michael Madhusudan Dutt, the great Bengali poet, was one of the earliest natives admitted in the hospital on 22 June 1873 and he breathed his last in his hospital bed on 29 June 1873.


However, the local government changed the name of the heritage institution to Seth Sukhlal Karnani Memorial (SSKM) Hospital in 1954, simply because Indra Kumar Karnani donated a sum of 1,600,000 Rupees, for the expansion of the hospital, in memory of his late grandfather Seth Sukhlal Karnani. Nevertheless, in the year 1957, SSKM Hospital became the Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education & Research (IPGMER) & SSKM Hospital, as it earned the honour of becoming the first Post Graduate Medical Institute in Eastern India

Perhaps most of us are aware that, many buildings in the SSKM Hospital compound carry the heritage tag. However, what most of us are unaware is the existence of a chapel in one of those heritage buildings.

chapel in a hospital

A forgotten chapel, believed to be more than a century old, has been 'rediscovered' in 2013, at the SSKM Hospital, on the ground floor of the hospital’s main building. The portion of the building, where the chapel is located, had been under renovation for years and the authority stumbled upon it during an inspection.


On further verification, it was also discovered that, the chapel was initiated by the sisters of the community of St. John the Baptist Clewer and was associated with the healing ministry of the Presidency General Hospital. During the First World War, Sister Constance Ruth and her team of dedicated nurses served the chapel. Sister Ruth passed away in the year 1928.

There is a cross in the chapel, hanging from the ceiling above the altar, with the Lord engraved on it and two angels on either side. The cross was dedicated to the memory of the sisters, who died on duty during the World Wars. Apart from that, the chapel is also equipped with a statue of Mother Mary, prayer tables and a confession room. There is a marble plaque at the base of the statue, which indicates that Lt Col F O’Kinealy CIE IMS presented it to the chapel. Incidentally, O’Kinealy was the officiating surgeon general with the government of Bengal in the 1910s.

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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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