With just one year to go before its exalted campus turns 200, the heritage treasure trove — that the Indian Institute of Engineering, Science and Technology houses — is being restored. The graveyard, around which the campus developed, has been restored and has brought up startling revelations. Next in line are the building clusters surrounding Bishop’s College that was set up on the Western flank of the Hooghly, much before Asia’s first tech school was set up by the East India Company here.
Bishop T F Middleton, the first principal of Bishop’s College, felt that a college to teach theology and training of priests should be set up. Since the Company had a large tract of land under its control, about 310 acres, it agreed to give 120 acres to the Bishop’s College. The Company had that land (better known as Botanic Gardens) to grow mahogany to feed the shipbuilding industry across the Hooghly.
The Bishop’s College attracted people like Reverend Krishnamohan Banerjee, Michael Madhusudan Dutta and several members of the branch of the Tagore family from Pathuriaghata, who had converted to Christianity. A graveyard was set up at the northern corner of the sprawling campus of the Bishop’s College because a large number of people from Shibpur got converted at this time. The College was a gothic structure and there were several residential buildings around it, complete with an impressive Chapel where the likes of Michael Madhusudan Dutta were baptized.
The cemetery has just been restored. Years of neglect and overgrowths of weeds had hidden the gravestones. Most gravestones and epitaphs were broken, the writings on them erased. “We consulted the Bengal Obituaries for this and after a long searchwewere able to recover details of 49 graves. We knew for long that we had the grave of Reverend Krishnamohan Banerjee in the graveyard, but when the cleaning was done, we found that he was laid to rest in the same grave as his wife,” said Bibhor Das, assistant registrar of IIEST.
Among the other important graves identified were those of Barendramohan and Nityendrabala, children of Gyanendramohan Tagore, who belonged to the Pathuriaghata line of the Tagore family. He married Banerjee’s daughter, converted to Christianity, was disowned by his family and finally went to live there. He later migrated to England, where he died. There are nearly 60 graves on the campus and the authorities are trying to identify the rest.
“We have done little to preserve the invaluable heritage. I was aghast at the way we have treated it on this campus. I am happy that we are still making good time for the restoration works,” said director, Partha Pratim Chakraborty.
The Chapel will be the focal point of restoration as it oversees the rolling “Oval” cricket ground, named after its senior in England, and was deliberately created because the British felt that the breeze from the Hooghly made the ball “swing”.
Once the restoration works are complete, a light and sound show around the history of the campus will be held on the ground.
Source: Times of India