The Mutiny Route and Cemetery Tourism
By Maxwell Pereira
mfjpkamath@gmail.com

Good news for the British, European, Anglo-Indian and other such whose ancestors or relatives are buried in India. The country, it appears, has woken up to the potential of packaging cemetery tourism to cater to this segment of tourists.

Interest in cemetery tourism is spurred further by the special 'mutiny' tours being planned by British travel companies to commemorate next year the 150th anniversary of the 'sepoy rebellion' of 1857 - which some historians now prefer to term as India's 'First War of Independence'. This unprecedented 'revolt' and massacre that followed, accounted for a sizeable number of those buried in the then British garrison, cantonment and residency townships in north-India - especially at Mirath (Meerut), Cawnpore (Kanpur), Lucknow, Delhi and Agra.

Advance bookings are in full swing, it is learnt, for premium tours that will traverse in May 2007 the 'mutiny route' of bloody battlefields and scenes of massacre spread over 1857-59 …at Meerut where it all started, Badle-ki-Sarai in Delhi, Sasia near Agra, the Residency at Lucknow, and Satichaura ghat on the Ganga at Kanpur among other.

GS Bali the tourism minister of India's northwestern state of Himachal Pradesh went on record recently with his initiatives to repair and renovate the neglected cemeteries in the state to promote tourism. There are plans to list cemeteries systematically and document information on people interred in each - if necessary by consulting records on those who lost their lives in undivided India of the Raj maintained in church records or the India Office records in the British archives.

Most townships in Himachal state like McLeodganj, Dalhousie and Kasauli were home to large populations of foreigners during the colonial era. For many others, they were places to frequent every year to escape the summer heat of the plains. The state capital Simla also used to be the country's summer capital then. Consequently, church cemeteries are full of graves of foreigners - today the hunting ground for their progeny in distant lands, in search of family and ancestral links to loved ones of an era gone by.

Despite the apathy and neglect for over half a century, the task of the Indian authorities is actually made easy by work pioneered in the field by private individuals. Volumes of archival data is available in various websites and elsewhere, thanks to the enterprise of those who came earlier in search of their own family roots, remains and memorials of ancestors and loved ones whose mortal remains never returned to the land of their origin. Most have lamented for long the utter neglect, desecration and destruction of the graves - and crusaded on to document and index, to identify, restore or renovate.

The British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia (BACSA) set up in 1976 to care for, and to record, European cemeteries wherever the East India Company set foot, estimates that some two million European men, women and children are buried in the Indian subcontinent alone. Apart from showcasing examples of preservation work, lists of cemetery monumental transcriptions etc, the BACSA website details an archive built up over 26 years to form a unique record of over 1,300 cemeteries based on official sources with inscriptions and photographs.

An impressive website is of Cathy Day who visited cemeteries in South India in search of her own ancestors. In the links on her website is an index to over 235,000 names of Europeans who were in India during colonial times. These are a series of lists of Europeans from original sources, such as military and church records. There were over 200,000 Europeans in India during the last years of the Raj, and almost double that number of Anglo-Indians.

Delhi's Rajpura Road cemetery was entirely devoted to those who lost their lives in the mutiny. The portal http://members.tripod.com/~Glosters/memindex3.htm provides information on officers who died in 'The Indian Mutiny 1857-59' compiled mainly from 'The Mutiny Casualty Roll' by I. Tavender, 'Soldiers of the Raj' (1912) by Rhe-Phillipe & 'Hodson's Index'. The website of 'Families In British India Society' (FIBIS) helps those researching their ancestors and the background against which they led their lives in British India.

Bangalorean Ronnie Johnson has attempted to restore sentimental heritage in the Agram Cemetery of Bangalore - with transcription work on surviving headstones. He has in addition a webpage on the Baithkol Cemetery near Mangalore, with photos and inscriptions of the graves there. Barry Lewis has visited Ramandroog, a former hill station in the Sandur Hills of Bellary District and has photographed and transcribed all existing gravestones.

Andy Nicoll from Scotland has transcribed all the Church of Scotland burials in the cemetery in Assam for the period 1939-1959. Fredie and Bas from the Netherlands have transcribed all the names from the records of the Dutch Church at Cochin. Many French people lived and died in India, and some cemetery transcriptions have been done for French cemeteries.

For those whose ancestors died this century whilst serving with Commonwealth armed forces (of Great Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand) their graves would be in special cemeteries maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which are beautifully maintained.

27.09.2006: Copyright © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sector-23, Gurgaon-122017 Tel: 0124-4111026 & 2360568; website: http://www. maxwellpereira.com; email: mfjpkamath@gmail.com

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