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The English Cemetery, Surat

engcemetery.jpg (63210 bytes)The tombs in English, Dutch and Armenian cemeteries at Surat are reckoned among the most important historical monuments in the city. It is reported that there was so much competition between the Dutch and the English in Surat to impress upon the natives their importance and power that they put mausoleums instead of tomb stones. Many of these are so ridiculously large and ornamental resembling Muslim tombs rather than the ordinary tomb stones in Europe.

One of the tomb in the Dutch cemetery is quoted as unequalled among the structures of its kind (barring a few) in Europe. However, Mr. A.F. Bellasis who had given a detailed account of these monuments and their epitaphs in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bombay for January 1861 was evidently apprehensive that within another fifty years or so the majority of these monuments, totally uncared for as they were in his time, would disappear.

Thanks, however, to Lord Curzon's solicitude for India's historical monuments, and to the efforts of the Archaeological Survey of India, established forty years after Bellasis wrote and which has under its charge a legacy of monuments and archaeological sites of national importance that these cemeteries in Surat are declared as protected monuments. In-spite of this, majority of these monuments are showing the signs of serious deterioration and it is feared that if measures to conserve them are not expedited the city would loose its historic memorials of the past.

A brief description of the distinguished architectural style of the few of the important tombs in the English, Dutch and Armenian cemeteries along with their historical background is presented here.

The English cemetery which is situated outside the city-wall ( which was known as 'Alampanah' ) near the Katargam Gate reminds the visitor eloquently of many a famous names in the historical narratives of the English factory at Surat who were the significant persons in the political history of the city. As per the "Revised List of Tombs and Monuments of Historical or Archaeological Interest in Bombay and other Parts of the Presidency" published in 1912 there were about 19 tombs in the English cemetery during that time, many of which are still existing. In addition to these, there is a large number of simpler structures, and inscription slabs-over the graves of less important persons. Few of the imposing monuments of this cemetery are described here.

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