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Gorakabar lies in grave neglect

- British era cemetery was built in 1822

Cuttack, March 6: The pre-Independence era British cemetery — Gorakabar — here, might crumble soon if appropriate measures are not taken up for its protection.

Gorakabar, which means “white graveyard”, was established in 1822 to bury British officials and their family members. Managed by the Odia Baptist Church of the city at present, the cemetery also houses the tomb of Madhusudan Das, known as the Madhusmruti. Das was a noted leader and is known as the architect of modern Odisha.

“A nephew of English author Somerset Maugham was buried here. A few years ago, his successors from England tracked the tomb and visited Gorakabar to pay homage to him,” said a local resident.

Though the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has initiated measures for preservation of the Madhusmruti, no measure has been taken towards the preservation of British era tombs inside the cemetery.

As a result, the tombs are now covered with wild grasses, plants and other unwanted vegetation. Besides this, the impressively designed concrete tombs and the engraved epitaphs have been damaged owing to lack of measures for their preservation.

“Most of the tombs belong to the colonial period. Though we carry out minor repair works, it is not possible on our part to preserve the heritage site because of dearth of funds,” said Odia Baptist Church in-charge and general secretary Sailendra Patra.

According to Patra, the oldest burial ground in the city is now reeling from neglect, as the authorities have not initiated concrete measure towards the maintenance of the Gorakabar.

“Weathering and natural elements have caused erosion of the dates and names inscribed on the tombs of the British officials who were buried here, far away from their homeland,” he said.

Though the Cuttack Municipal Corporation (CMC) initiated measures for lighting inside the burial ground some years ago, the lights have been lying dysfunctional for the past couple of years.

There is also an urgent need for repair of the pathway, which has been damaged at many places.

Officials of Baptist Church said the drainage system inside the burial ground has become obsolete and it causes difficulty while carrying out funerals, particularly during the rainy season, because of waterlogging on the eastern side, which has a natural slope.

The wastewater from two houses also enters the burial ground and the civic authorities have not taken any measure in this regard.

Local councillor of ward No. 13 Pallabi Bhagat has assured the all-around development of Gorakabar.

“There is a proposal to improve the existing lighting system inside the Gorakabar. Other developmental works would also be undertaken soon,” said Bhagat.