Tomb of Hindoo Stuart - Captivating Calcutta
24-08-2018    134 times
Tomb Hindoo Stuart

The South Park Street Cemetery is located on Park Street, renamed Mother Teresa Sarani, near the crossing of Lower Circular Road. It was opened in 1767 on a wide space, which was once a marshy land. However, in those days, the mortality rate among the white settlers was pretty high, due to the attack of infectious diseases like Malaria, Plague, Black Fever, Cholera, Amebiasis, Diarrhoea and Tuberculosis. Hence, the big cemetery was further extended on the northern side of Park Street by the year 1785. However, the extended space was also proved to be not sufficient enough. Finally, it was officially closed in 1790, due to shortage of space. Gradually, with the passing of time, the cemetery, which is supposed to be the largest Christian cemetery outside Europe and America, became abandoned.

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Today, the huge abandoned cemetery, surrounded by high walls and shaded with tall leafy trees, is lying neglected in the heart of the city. It contains not less than 1600 tombs, which reflects a strange combination of Egyptian pyramids and obelisks, Islamic domes, Roman cupolas and Grecian urns, along with black basalt carvings on the façade indicating Hindu tradition.

Apart from Sir William Jones, the founder of the Asiatic Society; Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, the teacher behind the Young Bengal movement; Sir Elijah Impey, the infamous chief justice of the Supreme Court at Fort William; Walter Landor Dickens, son of English novelist Charles Dickens and other eminent persons of British India, the South Park Street Cemetery is also the final resting place of Major-General Charles Hindoo Stuart.

But, who was this Major-General Charles Stuart and why was he named as Charles Hindoo Stuart, are the two inevitable questions that come up to the inquisitive minds.

The Hindu temple like tomb of Hindoo Stuart
The Hindu temple like tomb of Hindoo Stuart

Born in 1758, Charles Stuart left Ireland for India in his teens and lived in the country till his death in 1828. He joined the East India Company, served the army and from a cadet rose to become a Major-General. He had a huge collection of Indian weaponry, costume, prints, natural history specimens and a library, which was subsequently sold at auction in London in 1829 and 1830.He was one of the few British officers to embrace Hindu culture, married an Indian lady and thus earned the nickname ‘Hindoo Stuart’. Declaring Indian garments best suited to the weather of India, he took to wearing Indian clothes and that became his normal dress. Every day, he used to take his regular bath in the Ganges at Calcutta. He also had an excellent collection of Hindu deities from across the country. He openly advocated for the elegant, simple, sensible and sensual Indian Saris instead of the corset busks wore by the European women, in order to hold their bellies in and project their breasts out. He even criticized the work of European missionaries in India, who deprecated Indian culture. However, despite everything, Charles Stuart also made it sure that he did not lose the British Tastes.

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Charles Stuart died on 1st April, 1828 and was buried at the South Park Street Cemetery, along with several idols from his collection. On his grave, a mausoleum was erected in the shape of a Hindu temple, which looks completely different from the others. Unfortunately, much of it is mutilated and the heritage lotus symbol has been stolen from it.

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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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