Christian burial ground in proposed heritage list

 The 35-acre Sewree Christian Cemetery is billed as the largest Christian burial ground in Asia.

Posted on September 14, 2012, 1:33 PM

(Photo: ancestors.nickolls.me.uk)

Mumbai:The 145-year-old Christian burial ground in Mumbai has found a place in the proposed heritage list of the city’s municipal corporation.

The 35-acre Sewree Christian Cemetery, established in 1867, is billed as the largest Christian burial ground in Asia.

The corporation’s list proposes to grade the burial ground, as II-B precinct, giving it protection from changes in its layout and usage laws.

“We have already lost a fourth of the cemetery’s original acreage to encroachments. Protection under heritage rules will thwart any attempts to grab cemetery land,” said Reverend Graham Engineer, a former member of the Sewree Cemetery trust.

Historian and archivist Benjamin Nasib said the burial ground was originally a horticultural garden.

Nasib’s 1995 study on the cemetery was published in the Indian Church History Review, a journal brought out by church history buffs.

After a petition from the Anglican, Scottish and Roman Catholic Churches for a large cemetery, the botanical park was shifted to Byculla to make way for a burial ground, he said.

The cemetery’s famous graves include that of F.W. Stevens, the architect of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in the city.

The cemetery includes graves of people who died in the 1944 dock explosion, epidemics and attacks by wild animals.

Prominent members of the Christian community associated with the nationalist struggle, including Kaka Baptista, too are buried in the ground.

In one corner of the ground is a monument dedicated to Italian prisoners of war who died in Mumbai during the World War II.

Across the world, historic cemeteries are finding a place in the itinerary of tourists.

An international news magazine’s recent listing of attractions in the world’s great cities included Rome’s Non-Catholic Cemetery where poets Shelley and Keats and buried, and Buenos Aires’s Chacarita Cemetery, which is the resting place of poets, painters and tango composers.

The Sewree cemetery, too, gets visitors, especially those on a mission to trace graves of ancestors.

Engineer said the burial ground is important to the Anglican Church as many missionaries and educators sent by the church are buried here.

“I was surprised when we had visitors from the UK, Canada, the US and Australia. We have meticulously maintained records of burials and if the visitors have the names and probable dates of burial, we can track down the graves they are looking for,” said Engineer.

Source: dnaindia.com

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