south street cemetery kolkata musicAn old friend, now gone, well informed about cemeteries, used to say that cemeteries were passive recreation spaces; 

So no surprise that on a balmy Saturday afternoon, five musicians got together to play baroque music to the dead at Kolkata’s famed South Park Street cemetery. It was the first time that such a concert was held at the 250-year-old cemetery, the resting place of some 1,600 early British settlers, many remembered by tombs and cenotaphs marked ‘endangered by tree roots’.

The aim of the initiative by the Christian Burial Board—a statutory body which runs five cemeteries in Kolkata—was to connect with the city’s elite and diplomats and create awareness about what perhaps is the oldest British colonial burial ground.

The 18th century cemetery, where the last burial took place in 1931, stands out for its diversity of architecture: opulent tombs and sarcophagi of various designs, some even resembling Hindu temples, but hardly any bearing a cross.

As the musicians led by violinist Prosanto Dutt played compositions of Johann Sebastian Bach and George Friedric Handel, visitors milled around the eight-acre complex, marvelling at the giant carved stone urns and obelisks.

Often they would stumble upon rows of structures marked as endangered—some even appear to have been uprooted from their brick plinth.

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