By Jehangir Khan Tareen
MULTAN, Apr 10 (APP):Travelling on the airport road through Jamilabad area of Multan city, the travelers come across over 150 years old graveyard, the Gora Qabristan – a burial place of British soldiers who lost their lives during Siege of this ancient city during colonial regime.
Many those who pass by glancing on this graveyard are oblivious of the fact that this cemetery reminds us the historic Siege of Multan when the residents of the then settlement had waged a war against occupational forces of British East India Company inflicting heavy losses on invaders.
Spanning over 57 kanals (an area of 310400 square feet), the cemetery has unparalleled monuments and distinctive pieces of tombstones with some of tablets missing and some intact.
Patches of writing or inscription on gravestones reveal the stories of pain and grief of those who laid down their dear ones in these graves as reveals the grave of Caroline Charlotte who died on May 1869. “Here we suffer grief and pain; Here we meet to part gain; In heaven, we part no more.”
Another noticeable grave in this cemetery is of Jean who was the wife of Major F W Birch and departed in 1852. It is a beautifully constructed box shaped grave constructed to lay down the body of Jean.
The cemetery also has a 168 years old monument built in the memory of Mary Elizabeth, spouse of G. Trefusis Holt. Near it, lies Sarah who was wife of John Lynch, Barrack Master of Multan. Its tablet is now deteriorating.
“This is a historic cemetery. It contains many graves of British Christians dating back to more than one and a half century,” said Bishop of Multan, Leo Roderick Paul who is serving in St Mary Cathedral, built in 1848.
“It is important for the British Christians for another reason as it is also an eternal abode to the son of Queen Elizabeth-I,” claimed Leo Roderick Paul.
The English had also erected a monument in the last part of cemetery as a token of winning the war. Besides it, there is the grave of Brigadier General AC McMaster of Madras Army, bearing comments, “he died when in command of the Madras Brigade at Mooltan on June 22, 1879. The stone was erected by his friends and brother officers as a token of their esteem and regard.”
“This is a historic asset as it reveals two centuries old saga of rise and fall of civilizations. It needs special attention for its preservation,” Paul said.
He informed that with the passage of time some graves of soldiers, their kids and other family members had turned to be shabby. “We desire proper maintenance of all such graves and besides overall care of this historic asset.”
Many celebrated officers and scholars including Laucy Maria Sherwi, Capt Robert, John Lucy, Brig McMaster and others are also buried there. There is one very beautiful monument erected by the officers and men of V battery, Royal Artillery as a mark of esteem in memory of those who died in war against Sikhs and other freedom fighters of the Indian subcontinent.
“We try to fully take care of this cemetery within available resources,” said Denyel, who is serving the cemetery since last 24 years as watchman. He has been appointed by Cantonment Board to ensure cleanliness and repair of the depleted and shabby graves.
“It is indeed a momentous cemetery where numerous Pakistani Christians are also entombed now and the authorities should ensure sufficient resources for its maintenance,” he stated.
View on site was also not too good due to self grown shrubs and thorns on the grave. There is also water supply issue at the cemetery as also mentioned by Yaqoob Masih, a watchman who lives in the cemetery premises with his family members.
“We had a tube well and two hand pumps at Gora Qabristan. But, none of them is functional,” he claimed. “For us, this graveyard is of historic importance. We endeavor to maintain it, but face resources constraint.”
“I request the authorities to get tube well and hand pumps repaired for water availability and maintenance of the graves,” he appealed. “Although some community members pay Rs 100 per month for maintenance, but this is not a sufficient amount.”
Besides community members, the elected representatives of the Christian community had also been funding maintenance of Gora Qabristan. The tube well was installed through MPA Major Victor Samuel in 1987 along with construction of the watchman hut. The boundary wall was built by then MPA Naveed Aamir Jeeva.
Although the site is maintained through funding by different sources, Leo Roderick Paul desires proper preservation of this heritage and promoting it as a good source of religious tourism for local and foreign visitors.