Maniktala Christian Cemetery - Christian and Jewish Cemeteries
23-10-2018    70 times
Maniktala Christian Cemetery

It is rather painfully tough to spot the Maniktala Christian Cemetery, as even the local people seem to be indifferent or unaware of its existence. It is located near Maniktala on Acharya Prafulla Chandra Road, just behind the Leprosy Mission Hospital, with the entrance to the left of the hospital. The small, unimpressive gate bearing the name of the cemetery is easy to miss. The name plate is almost hidden by the branches of a tree. There is also a board regarding prohibition on trespassing, but in fact, there is nobody to restrict entry or take snaps of the much neglected graveyard. The narrow lane leading to the open cemetery is full of overgrown shrubs and bushes. The place is surrounded by a low wall, making it easily accessible for the stray dogs and the local kids, who often use it as a playground. Though it is still in use, it is rather a regrettably neglected graveyard, a mere skeleton of its past.

Maniktala Christian Cemetery - Entrance
Maniktala Christian Cemetery - Entrance

On the northeast corner of the Maniktala Christian Cemetery lies the family grave of the Rambagan Dutt Family. A small enclosure houses the grave of Torulata Dutt and her family. Torulata Dutt (1856-1877), widely known as poetess Toru Dutt, was born to Govin Chunder Dutt, of the said Rambagan Dutt family. He was an esteemed employee of the Government of India and was a linguist himself. Some of his poems were published sporadically over his lifetime. Toru's mother, Kshetramoni, translated an English book, 'The Blood of Christ', to Bengali.

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Hence, love for literature was in her blood. She was the cousin of the writer and ICS Romesh Chandra Dutt. Kailesh Chunder was one of the brothers of Govin. In 1854, Kailesh's son Omesh Chunder embraced Christianity along with his three uncles Hur, Govin and Greece (Girish). David Hare, William Carey and Alexander Duff had a large influence over them.

Toru Lata Dutt
Toru Lata Dutt

Toru Dutt was the first Indian women to write prose and poetry in both English and French language. Her literary works include, among others,‘Le Journal de Mademoiselle d’Arvers, ‘Sheaf Gleaned in French Fields’ and ‘Ancient Ballads and Legends in India’. During November 1869, Aru and Toru, the sisters, were sent to Europe, visiting France. They first went to school in Italy and then in England, where they attended lectures in Cambridge.

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Unfortunately, while in Europe, Aru caught the deadly germ of consumption and was advised by European doctors to go back to the warmer climate of India. Toru, the loving sister, nursed Aru devotedly and also caught the disease from her. They came back home, but never recovered from their illness. Aru died on 23 July 1874 (aged 20) and Toru on 30 August 1877 (aged 21) on consumption. Both of them were buried in the Maniktala Christian Cemetery. Graves of their parents, Govin Chunder and Kshetramoni and their only son Abju Dutt, are also here.

Graves of Dutt family
Graves of Dutt family
Tombstone of Poetess Toru Dutt
Tombstone of Poetess Toru Dutt
Tombstone of Poetess Toru Dutt
Tombstone of Abju Dutt

Before March 2007, the four modest graves of the Dutt family, covered with slabs of marble, used to lie inconspicuous, neglected and forlorn amid the romantic and the desolate surroundings of the graveyard. However, on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Toru Dutt, a local organization, ‘Pather Pachali’, took the initiative to restore her grave, along with those of her parents, her brother and sister. All the graves were cleaned and walled to protect the place from the vandals. On 4th March 2007, the restored graves were inaugurated by the then state sports minister Subhas Chakraborty. A black granite plaque on a part of the inner walls of the enclosure proudly announces the story of the restoration. Sadly the unplanned and unschooled restoration has robbed the graves of their serene beauty and natural dignity. Actually, it turned them into a segregated cellular cell with only the marble tablets visible.

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Tutorial at home

Most of the other graves of the forlorn cemetery belong to Bengali Christians with a few Anglican names. Almost all the neglected graves are in dilapidated condition and covered with unwanted shrubs, weeds and mosses.

Maniktalla Christian Cemetery
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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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