The Dutch Cemetery in Chinsurah: A Digital Archive of Memories
The Map of the Dutch Cemetery in Chinsurah
The Dutch cemetery is located around the junction of Phulpukur Road and Jyotish Chandra Ghosh Sarani in Chinsurah. The local bus-stop is also called ‘Gorosthan More’ (‘Gorosthan’ being the Bengali word for ‘cemetery’). A twenty-minute bus or auto-rickshaw journey from the railway station and ten minutes away from the ‘Gharir More’ (or Chinsurah’s iconic clock-tower), this cemetery houses over 165 graves where the epitaphs are legible and quite a few that are in various stages of disrepair. The tombs are a mix of nationalities - mainly Dutch and English although we found some that we thought could be Portuguese. This map aims to supplement an earlier map created by the Archaeological Survey of India. Also, the old Dutch cemetery was moved to its present location in 1790 - the map of the old cemetery can be viewed in the Netherlands Archive webpage. This map will be useful for potential historians researching topics such as the VOC, 18th and 19th century colonial India as well as genealogists and anyone interested in similar topics.
How to Use the Map
In this interactive map, we can locate the individual tombs via their geotagged positions. Using GIS (geographic information systems), our team has identified the location of over eighty-five percent of the tombs and on clicking on a tomb, you will be able to see the name of the person. Click the name to view the full record in our database. The tombs are mapped on a Google Maps interface. It is also possible to view the satellite image in Google Maps. The icon allows you to change the view to ‘Google Hybrid’ and ‘Google Satellite’. If you do change the view, please keep the ‘Dutch Cemetry’ box checked so as to find the tombs. The map zooms to the cemetery and its environs automatically but it is possible to zoom in or out using the controls on the left.
Methodology and Technical Note
Within the database too, records will show the position of the tomb on the cemetery map if the GIS data is available for the tomb. Our team members have individually photographed each tomb and simultaneously geotagged them using Wolf GIS, a freemium app for mobile phones that is available on Google Play and the Apple Store. Wolf GIS was chosen because it was able to give readings up to the 12th decimal place for the latitude-longitude (lat-long) values. As the tombs are sometimes very close to each other, the readings needed to be extremely accurate. Many of the tombs have their original grave plot number inscribed on them. We have recorded these in the database where they are available. The photographs and the GIS readings have been repeatedly checked and tallied for accuracy by alternate groups within the team.We are using Drupal 7 as a CMS and MySql 5 as database. Geofield, Geocoder ,GeoPhp, Open Layers modules are used here to make GIS based application.
The BACSA website also gives a list of 'Chinsurah Ruinous Graves' from the burial data collected by Percy-Smith/ Bullock. This data is available here: http://tinyurl.com/p4aabcz. These graves are in a ruinous condition and are largely inaccessible and their epitaphs are illegible.