English cemetery of Surat -Many powerful English officials of EIC and English Nabobs lie buried here!

 The British East India Company was founded by a royal charter in 1600 for the express purpose of profitable exploitation of trade with India and Asian countries. In 1608, they landed in Surat, a coastal city in West Gujarat during the Mogul period and with permission  and established the first  trading station and factory. 

English cemetery  of Surat, gujarattourism.com

British cemetery, Suratcommons.wikimedia.org/

Their business grew by leaps and bounds with efforts put in by their officers not through honestly but through illegal means - corruption, bribery, etc. Their relentless pursuit of wealth, trade and land expansion  backed by powerful army with good artillery power  put them them in a strong position to control the subcontinent. Thanks to the disunity among the Indian rulers- Maharajahs, Nawabs and others, besides scores of traitors and whistle blowers who were ready to betray their motherland, the latter made the jobs easier for the wily British Bobs. 

By the time when the British  left the shores of India in August in1947, they not only left behind a divided India with poor treasury and emaciated population but also between 700 to 1,000 cemeteries across the land.  

What is surprising is they used the burial places of the dead as symbols of their growing political power and cultural dominance , wealth and personal status. relegating the European Christian practices to the back side by  following the practice of the Muslims elites. Contrary to Christian and other practices, Hindus cremate the dead and don't bury  them. The English built massive dome like or temple like structures over the graves, and followed the design styles of Europe and Indian - mostly Mogul. For example  the South Park Street Cemetery, the oldest non-church cemetery in the world has become a center  piece  massive toms of various sizes - neoclassical tombs, tall obelisks, columns, etc  urns.

Tomb of Alexander Patrick Johnstonesahapedia.org

Above Image: Kolkata South park cemetery, largest one in 1800s. In 1769, 8 acre land was acquired for the cemetery to avoid space crunch.  The structure over the tomb is Indo-Saracenic.........  

 By 1800  the South Park Street Cemetery, the oldest non-church cemetery in the world  was crowded with massive neoclassical tombs, tall obelisks, columns, urns.  Many British cemeteries across India are slowly crumbling  due to various reasons such as lack of funds, official apathy, misuse of grave s and vandalism. They are all protected monuments, but they are not properly fenced. The ASI and state governments  like West Bengal are making efforts to repair them and put them back to old glory.   

18th CE British Nabob. .quora.com/

There arises a necessity to compare the English the early cemetery at Surat with those at other places. Considering the way the massive mausoleums are built on the tombs, the Surat's  neglected colonial cemetery  brings out the grandiose  dreams of  rich British Shaibs who were later bitingly nick-named  British Nabobs in their homeland upon their return  with a huge bundle of ill-gotten money.

Robert Clive, Nabob general.nam.ac.uk

Above image:  Clive as Governor of Bengal (1758-60 and 1764-67) became a master looter of Bengal. Under him wheeling and dealing and corruption were rampant. He got back to  Britain to be initially  denounced in Parliament as a corrupt 'nabob'.........

 Pretending aristocracy, they broke  into upper class and  tried to have political clout. Unfortunately,  they lacked the grace and polite manners of the  British aristocrats. In some boroughs, politically motivated,  they created class strife among the communities. Some bought large estates , consolidated their wealth and held powerful posts in the government between 1700 and 1800 CE.

These newly rich Bobs  were neither  royals. Nor were they born rich and had connection with the British Royal family such as Lord Napier, Duke Wellington, Lord Curzon or Lord Cornwallis and others.  Starting their lives at rock bottom in the English company in India  many of them  became fabulously rich  and  lived in style taking inspiration from the Indian rulers. They were corrupt, dishonest and doing business on the sides illegally (not taking permission from the local rulers).  

But many of the nouveaux riches spent their last days and  died in India some of them had a big structure built over the grave and some had a simple tomb with epithet their grave. The historical monuments to the dead became “important tools for projecting British power in India .”The big structure on them highlight their status in the society as well as in the company. 

There are, it is said, as many as 400 graves in the cemetery in Surat before the office was moved over to Bombay. The English cemetery here, one of the neglected  and earliest colonial cemeteries in India is altogether different from other English cemeteries across India in particular,  those  on Park Street, Kolkata, Sewri in Mumbai and many other places like Meerut, MP  where the British had  garrisons and cantonment.  Many of the graves have massive fancy ornamental structures - mausoleums over them in Indo-Saracenic style. But the ones built in the 19th century CE were simple

The mausoleums in other European cemeteries in India can hardly surpass the ones in Surat  in size, splendor and style.  Now, they remain neglected and forlorn and is not yet repaired. Below them in the grave  lie powerful British men of past era such as George Oxenden, the first Company governor of Bombay Presidency, his brother Christopher, and the second governor successor Gerald Aungier, et al. The latter combined seven islands off Bombay to transform them into a town. 

Some structures over the grave of high officials of the company do have stairway to reach the upper level. In the 17th century, primarily  high officials of ESI who died here had a mausoleum built above their  graves leaving behind them as their legacy in this part of the world so that the posterity would look  at them with awe. Can they take inspiration from them? That is a moot question because British Bobs  such grand structures with boodle!  

With thick growth of wild grass, vegetation and weeds, the British cemetery  has  become an abode of poisonous critters. Latest reports say that  the cemetery at Khatatgam Dharwaja has become a hang out for grass smokers and they make the souls in the  grave feel high. Tipplers don't lag behind and have a ball leading to brawl disturbing the departed souls in their eternal sleep.  Will the Gujarat government set things right at the old English cemetery?