Old Cemetery in Darjeeling
Tourists in general do not include the Old Cemetery in Darjeeling in their itinerary. However, if one is interested in the history of the place and love everything heritage, he/she will surely want to visit this old memorial park, which has been accorded the status of ‘National Importance’ by the Kolkata Chapter of Archeological Survey of India. Located on the lower strata of the town, this cemetery is the resting place of those who made Darjeeling what it is today.
Although we have to admit that the cemetery could have been better maintained, what is left is worth a visit. In most cases, the inscriptions have become hazy, while some of the gravestones have actually broken down and the protective railings around them are missing. Yet, when we look around to see centuries old gravestones lying in the backdrop of lush green tea estates and the mighty Kanchenjunga, we are transformed to another world, another era.
Whoever chose this site as the final resting place of the departed chose it well. Located on Lebong Cart road, the cemetery is more or less 1.5 Km from the centre of the town. It overlooks the lush green tea estates below and from the upper section, one can also have an overview of part of the Darjeeling town. The Kanchenjunga too is clearly visible on a clear day.
The Grave Of Lt. General George W. Aylmer Lloyd
As we have already indicated, the cemetery can be divided into two distinct strata; the upper section and the lower. The older graves are mostly located in the upper section. Although the inscriptions in most graves have become hazy, a few of them are still readable. Among them is the grave of Lt. General Lloyd, who more or less ‘discovered’ Darjeeling. One has only to look back into the history of Darjeeling to realize how very important this man was to the development of this hill station.
Lt. General George W. Aylmer Lloyd was a servant of the East India Company. He came to the hills in 1828 and just fell in love with what was then a tiny hamlet inhabited by handful of Lepchas. Thanks to his endeavor, the Company got hold of the land and very soon the whole area turned into a flourishing settlement. Lloyd died in 1865 in Darjeeling and was buried in this very graveyard.
Alexander Csoma de Koros
He was however, not the first to be buried here. According to the legible inscriptions, the honour goes to one Alexander Csoma de Koros. He was a Hungarian linguistic and had compiled the first dictionary in the Tibetan language. Moreover, he had also worked on Tibetan grammar and had made significant contribution to the development of the language. He died here in Darjeeling on his way to Lhasa. Even today, the Hungarian Government remembers him and officials are sent to lay wreaths on his grave. This is actually one of the few graves, which has been nicely maintained and has beautiful flower beds all around it.
There are however, other graves whose owners may not have been luminary during their lifetime; however, their graves today throw some light on the life of the people who lived here centuries ago. It would have been better if the inscription were more readable. Still, for an imaginative sole, the place is indeed worth a visit.
Present Condition of the Darjeeling Cemetery
It is true that the condition of some of the graves is not what it should have been. However, it is not only time, but also the pounding of the monsoon rain, which is responsible for such a condition. The mountain wind that blows in from the North is also to some extent responsible for it. In addition to that, except for the Archeological Survey of India, there is no official caretaker of the symmetry. What is more, ASI only looks after the two historical graves; i.e. that of Lt Col Lloyd and Hungarian linguistic De Koros. There is no one to look after the rest.
Earlier, the cemetery fell under the jurisdiction of the St. Andrew’s Church. However, with the emergence of two other churches (Church of North Indian and Union Church), the scenario has changed to a large extent. To make the long story short, nobody actually takes any care of this heritage site now.
Reach Old Cemetry in DarjeelingSince the cemetery is located on the lower strata of the town, one has to come down to the Chowk bazaar. From there, one can take up the Lebong Cart Road and start walking. It will not take long to reach. However, one can also take a taxi from Chowk Bazar.
Some Important Points to RememberThe Old Cemetery is also known as the English Cemetery because majority of those who lie there were of English origin. However, in some quarters it was also referred as the Hooker Road Cemetery or even Hill Cart Road Cemetery.
Today there are two more cemeteries; i.e. the New Cemetery and the Parsee Cemetery. Among them, the ‘New Cemetery’ was established in the year of 1858. It is also known as the Singtom Cemetery.