Exploring Delhi’s burial grounds. ♦
Delhi War Cemetery
Headstones in neat lines mark the graves of mostly Christian soldiers (though we did find a Jewish doctor) who died during World War II, with the soldier’s number, rank and regimental seal engraved on it. A tall, colonnaded entrance plaza has, on one side, a book with the names of 25,000 Hindu and Sikh soldiers and airmen who died in WWII. The other end contains an engraved plaque with the names of soldiers, buried in Meerut, who died in WWI. The graveyard is maintained by the army and managed by the Commonwealth Graves Association, and is a peaceful, tidy place with trellises and benches to sit on. Behind this is the in-use, hodgepodge Cantonment Cemetery, under the Delhi Cemeteries Committee. Just ahead of Brar Square, to the right, Cantonment, Dhaula Kuan.
Rajpura (Mutiny) Cemetery
This early nineteenth-century cemetery was on the original ASI list of protected sites, but only one of the old gateways remains and the graves are much newer. Encroached upon and poorly maintained. Across from Maurice Nagar/Vijaynagar Bus stand, near Miranda House, Delhi University. Metro Vishwavidyalaya.
Though this British cemetery from 1857 was cleaned up in 2006 with considerable fanfare, it is in less than perfect shape today. Washing hangs on the railings surrounding John Nicholson’s grave. The monument to the Corcoran family (which helped finance St Mary’s Church) is falling apart. A pile of tombstones lies heaped near the entrance. What the graveyard is wonderful for, though, is browsing through Delhi’s who’s who of 150 years ago. Boulevard Road, near ISBT. Metro Kashmere Gate.
Skinner Family Cemetery
This small plot within the compound of St James Church holds the remains of James “Sikandar” Skinner, who built the church, as well as the graves of several of his family members. Well-maintained, but small. William Fraser and Thomas Metcalfe are buried nearby. St James Church, Kashmere Gate. Metro Kashmere Gate.
Lothian Road Cemetery
According to INTACH, this 1806 cemetery is the first British one in Delhi. In a pocket of raised land next to Kashmere Gate, this graveyard – though gated – is not locked, and has not aged gracefully. There are constructions inside and the ground is filthy. The most notable grave is the tomb of one Thomas Dunnes, constructed by Skinner. Lothian Road, Kashmere Gate (next to the Post Office). Metro Kashmere Gate.
New Delhi Cemetery
This Mansingh Road cemetery dating from 1920 is a landmark, mostly because of the convenient flower sellers outside. The entry gate has recently broken down. The cemetery contains some interesting graves from the mid- 1900s, but is mostly full of more recent burials. Behind this, the Parsi Cemetery and Jewish Cemetery are better maintained and the strongest visual presence of these small communities in Delhi. Corner of Shahjahan Road and Humayun Road, off the Taj Mahal Hotel roundabout.
Indian Christian Cemetery
This serene cemetery is a bit of calm in Paharganj. It is a modern cemetery and is quite well maintained and in use. Nehru Bazar, Paharganj. Metro New Delhi Railway Station.
This area around Lodhi Colony and Jorbagh, originally known as Aliganj, has several Shi’a sites. The Karbala graveyard is largely swallowed up by the Rajdhani Nursery, and the remainder is overgrown with tall weeds. However, Tazia processions from Shahjahanabad, Nizamuddin and Mehrauli still visit here during Muharram. The wall was built in the late eighteenth century. When we visited, the gate just before Rajdhani was overgrown and recent rain made walking through the nursery towards the mosque within difficult. The eastern gate, through which lies the tomb of Mah Khanam, seems to be sheltering some furniture makers. Off Jorbagh Road, near the Aurobindo Marg intersection.
Part of a few stories for a Time Out Delhi‘s “Ten spiritual trails” cover. Read more here.