Feb 6, 2013

Dharwad loses a historical cemetery

Early 1980s
Summer vacations at Dharwad never went by without a visit to Kittur Chennamma Park. The park had a children's playground, a coconut plantation, a circular Mantapa, water fountains and an obelisk. At that age, the obelisk looked huge and I dreaded going near it because I was told it's Thackrey's Gori ~ Thackrey's tomb. The word gori was associated with ghosts by default :-(

2009 to 2012
March 2009 I visited KC Park to see John Thackrey's tomb. One look at the cream-ocher obelisk brought back memories of childhood. I felt it was untouched for years. Another visit some time July 2010 the obelisk had changed- black-white-grey.

While scanning Dharwad in Wikimapia/Google Maps I happened to see a small area marked as Thackrey's tomb and it was not in KC Park. Research on the Internet I realized that we had mistaken Thackrey memorial for his tomb all these years. Media articles said that Dharwad's historical European cemetery was neglected, encroached on by operators of a slaughter house and it was in danger of being destroyed completely. And that's where Thackrey's tomb is situated. I seriously doubted if anything remained in the cemetery. Anyway, let's check out the place.

January 5, 2013
Malatesh and I met at Shivaji circle. The cemetery is barely 600' away from where we met, yet we missed it as we passed by. We asked people living nearby, they pointed us to a narrow passage between two walls next to a open drain. It was filthy, a stream of red liquid flowing out from a 3' pipe. We saw pedestrians cover their noses with cloth to keep out the stench. Malatesh was hesitant, I told him to ignore the surroundings. We leaped across the drain and walked into cemetery.. cows and oxen waiting to be butchered. The cemetery plot measures approximately 150' x 70'.

Cows and Oxen tied all around to pegs and tomb structures.

Most tombs are destroyed, names & date tablets are missing.

The pink building is the abattoir.

Tombs are mutilated systematically with an intent of destroying them completely.

This Gothic obelisk is relatively well preserved.

Few more days nothing is left of this.

I had expected some resistance from the abattoir hands. A man wearing a white skull-cap turned up and asked who gave us permission to shoot pictures. Four or five men watching us in the background. Wow! I told him nobody's permission is required to shoot here. He suggested us to shoot at dairy farms. I told him clearly that we were here to shoot the tombs not cows and oxen. One man's feet was covered in blood. Butchers! Then the skull-cap man said is not for them these tombs would have been destroyed completely. We asked him if he knew which of these tombs is Thackrey's tomb. He said he did no know. Perhaps, he did not even know who Thackrey was. Dharwad's history is not his interest.

In fact the conversation happened right in front of this tomb, which we feel is Thackrey's tomb.

Lying about 15 feet away is this piece of sculpture which seems to be the cap-stone of the tomb.

Comparing the above pictures with the photo below, I feel we have located Thackrey's tomb.
John Thackeray's tomb photographed by Henry Cousens in 1880
Image reproduced with permission from The British Library
Malatesh and I felt all these tombs will disappear in 2 or 3 years if concerned government officials do not step in.

I wonder if its a difficult task for a state government to protect and preserve a historic monument.

Dharwad's European Cemetery Coordinates: 15°27'49"N   75°0'53"E

1 comment:

Pranusha Kulkarni said...

Hello! This post is very insightful. I am a part of an organization named Alexis Centre for Study and Research in Law and I am heading a project called "Dynamic Dharwad" wherein we are coming up with creative solutions to problems like the ones you have highlighted in this post. Can you please get in touch with me? My e-mail ID is kulkarni.pranusha@gmail.com We would be happy to collaborate with you!
Hoping to receive from you! Thank you.