Restored Scottish cemetery, Kolkata serves both as a monument and a biodiversity conservation park

restored Scottish cemetery, Kolkata.

Scottish cemetery, Kolkata.

The Scottish Cemetery that came up in  1820 in Kolkata is the largest one outside  Scotland  and has 1,809 headstones and monuments and around 4,000 burials, principally of Scottish Presbyterians. The headstones were mostly made of Aberdeen granite of Scotland, inscribed there and  transported to Kolkata for use. 

This graveyard adjacent to St. Andrews church, Kolkata covering about  3  acres of land in a busy populated area of the city was in use till 1970s and later  fell into disuse. Established in 2008  with a view to restoring the cemetery,  the Kolkata Scottish Heritage Trust was involved in restoration work despite fund crunch. Over a period of 14 years many parts of the graveyard had been cleared and repaired so that the interior could be accessed easily without any hurdle.  In 1978  the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia undertook a massive restoration of the decaying cemetery . It is now maintained by the Christian Burial Board, Kolkata.  The site has been now graded  and landscaped.

The Scottish Cemetery  in the middle of the bustling Mullickbazar  on Karaya Road is now repaired with  restored graves and tombstones as well as 70 species of flora and 53 species of fauna forming a biodiversity spot - a natural habitat for the growth and prorogation of indigenous species.  

Scottish cemetery, Kolkata

Above image: Before restoration, Scottish Cemetery, Kolkata was a desolate space steeped in sadness concealing the mortal remains of thousands of young scots who  died here centuries ago in obscurity  in a far off land filled with  forlorn glory. Though tranquil, a pale of gloom hangs over this burial ground, one of the relics of Calcutta’s turbulent colonial history.  The cemetery was derelict, crumbling and covered with overgrowth of thick vegetation  and heavily rooted  plants. The tombstones were hardly visible once you were near the entrance.  After restoration, it serves as a biodiversity spot in the city. as well as  a much-needed green space to the surrounding urban sprawl. ..................................

After the cemetery fell into disuse, the widespread green space  had become a habitat for several indigenous endemic and threatened species. They together form a rich biodiversity of microbes, plants and animals along with preserved sections of semi-aquatic grassland and forested ecosystems. Instead of entirely clearing the overgrowth of plants, vegetation, etc, the planners carefully pruned the overgrowth to a  manageable level, creating  micro biodiversity hotspot in the middle of densely populated area of the city..

The restoration of the Scottish cemetery has given emphasis to two aspects for the first time - restoration of the old graveyard, a historical monument and landscaping of the vast green space to ''preserve the cemetery’s natural heritage as an urban parkland and as a biodiversity conservation park''.

The  Scots who visit the cemetery  and pay their respect to their forefathers in a comfortable and peaceful ambiance in  a parkland that serves as a natural habitat for countless flora and fauna.

The Jungle mynah, the Common babbler, the Oriental garden lizard and the Indian gray mongoose are spotted here.  That Scottish Cemetery once a dilapidated and neglected monument has now been turned into  a biodiversity-rich zone with restored tombs. The benefits are manifold - reduction of  air and noise pollution, improvement of groundwater potential, soil conservation preserving flora and fauna,