Cemeteries give a peek into history of Darjeeling hills

The Archaeological Survey of India has come up with a publication on two European cemeteries in Darjeeling that throws light not only on the rich colonial history of the hills but also talks about the contribution of early European settlers who discovered the hills.

The publication compiled by the Kolkata Circle of the ASI, points out that the Old Cemetery of Darjeeling located along the Lebong Card Road, about one mile from the town centre, is the resting place of those early European settlers who turned the densely forested mountains here into one of the world’s most renowned tea producing estates.

“This cemetery extends over in two strata of the hills and there are probably 100 graves in this cemetery. But now it is difficult to ascertain the exact number because some grave tombs have got destroyed over time. The inscriptions on many of the graves are now barely eligible,” the publication states.

Key connection

Shubha Majumder, superintending archaeologist of the Kolkata Circle of the ASI, said graves of two Europeans had important connection to the hill station. These were graves of Lt. General George Alymer Lloyd, who discovered the Darjeeling town and another was great Hungarian linguist Alexander Csoma de Koros, who compiled the first dictionary and grammar in Tibetan language. Both these graves were notified as centrally protected monuments under the ASI, Kolkata Circle.

Tracing the history of these two prominent Europeans, the publication states that Lt. General Lloyd was an East India company official. “He was deployed by the East India company in Darjeeling to negotiate a deed with Raja of Sikkim. It was signed on February 1, 1835 granting permission of Darjeeling hills to the East India Company,” the publication said.

Dr. Majumder said General Lloyd loved Darjeeling and continued to stay here till his death in 1865 at the age of 76. He was buried at the upper strata of Old Cemetery of Darjeeling and over his grave was raised an obelisk type memorial column.

Employed as librarian

Among the other most important tombs is that of de Koros, who travelled to Kolkata in 1831 where he was employed as a librarian, cataloguing Tibetan books and learning on his dictionary. Regarded as the founder of Tibetology in 1833, he was conferred honorary membership of the Asiatic Society.

Cemeteries give a peek into history of Darjeeling hills

“After that he still continued his research in Tibetan, Sanskrit and other languages until 1842 when he decided to resume his quest and reach the land of Yugars by crossing Tibet. In a stroke of ill-fate, he contracted malaria and died in Darjeeling before reaching the Tibetan territory,” the publication states.

Though he never reached the land of Yugars nor was able to provide any lasting clues to the origin of Hungarian language and people. Instead, he made his contribution to the newly emerging field of Tibetan studies, an accomplishment largely unconnected with his original goals. The Hungarian Academy of Sciences has written on his grave stone that he is “A Pioneer of Friendship between people of India and Hungary.”

“We have been maintaining these two tombs for almost a century in Darjeeling. Our attempt to bring out publications informs and educate the people about the huge contribution made by both General Lloyd and Csoma not only to the hills but to the entire region,” Dr. Majumder said. He said that once people knew about the importance of these cemeteries, these places could turn into an important tourist attraction.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2021 9:25:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/cemeteries-give-a-peek-into-history-of-darjeeling-hills/article33054503.ece

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