A Forgotten Cemetery With Links To India's Colonial Past In Delhi

The Nicholson Cemetery in Old Delhi is a window into the forgotten days of the Indian Rebellion of 1857
Nicholson's Cemetery at Kashmere Gate
Nicholson's Cemetery at Kashmere GateWikimedia Commons: nilesh korgaokar

Whether you are a traveller or a resident, Delhi always has something new under its sleeve for everyone. The city has gained a reputation for having embraced an urban aesthetic with its vivid and vibrant city scenes. There is, however, a dark juxtaposition in the very heart of Old Delhi which sends shivers down one's spine.

Amidst the bustling expanse of Kashmere Gate, where one takes in pollution, crowds, colours and life, the Nicholson Cemetery draws wanderers into its confines and lives in perfect opposition to the hurried life of the city that surrounds it.

British Army officer John Nicholson's grave
British Army officer John Nicholson's graveWikimedia Commons: Rangan Datta Wiki

This cemetery is anything but ordinary. It is one of the few hidden pieces of history that the city has forgotten. Offering a connection to our colonial past, with the bodies of many colonial residents buried there, the Nicholson Cemetery brings back haunting images of the Indian Rebllion of 1857.

The walk from the rusty iron gates of the cemetery to the tombstones starts with the grave of Brigadier General John Nicholson, after whom the cemetery was named. A supercilious British official during the First War of Independence, his grave immediately draws attention with its metal fencing and location next to the caretaker's residence.

Gravestones at the Nicholson Cemetery
Gravestones at the Nicholson CemeteryWikimedia Commons: Anupamg

On a bright and sunny Delhi day, one might be easily enticed to spend hours here and experience the timelessness of the space. The graves have a magnetic pull, after all. Even though there are no fancy tombstones, what keeps one coming back and looking for more is the breadth of the space and the way the sun shines through the nettle, filling in the wanting gaps of the leaves, much like the explorers' own sense of adventure.

Not much attention is paid to this cemetery today.The graves lie in shambles with overgrown shrubs and grass that you will find yourself entangled in when you try to read their chipped engravings. The tombstones are shocking to look at because one sees the poor life expectancy during the days of the revolt, with children as young as five buried there.

A board about the cemetery and timings
A board about the cemetery and timingsWikimedia Commons: Anupamg

What strikes the searching eyes of those who visit this place of departure is what they find as they walk towards the end of the cemetery: Big trees and a lone sweeper going about his job in the distance. On a good day, you might find yourself among young people sitting and reading poetry under the shade of a tree, near someone's short-lived existence, and breathing life into the cemetery again.

Getting There

Take the yellow line till Kashmere Gate Metro Station. The Nicholson Cemetery is a short walk away. The timings vary at different times of the year and entry may be restricted.

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