Sultanpet Cemetery

Location: 13° 23′ 1.81″ N, 77° 41′ 17.00″ E

Sultanpet lies at the foot of Nandi Hills near the village of Nandi and about 6 kilometres SW of Chikballapur. A British regiment was stationed here and on the hill of Nandidurga between 1799-1808, with its headquarters apparently at Nandi. A long set of stairs leads from Sultanpet village to the top of Nandidurga.

Tatiana photographs a tomb inscription with help from local children

The UK High Commission in India declared the abandonment of this cemetery on 13 Aug 1963 (OIOC R/4/243) and closed its file. Inspection of the site in the months before it was formally abandoned suggests that it had been without care for a long time. In his letter of 25 Mar 1963, the Rev. S. Ratnam of Chikballapur wrote the UK High Commissioner, “I beg to report that the cemetery is not completely enclosed. Half of it is enclosed with stone slabs and the other half was enclosed with mud walls which are almost dilapidated. There are only two big old trees within the cemetery. I saw 3 or 4 tombs errected [sic] with their epitaphs dating back to 1815-1825. One is of Lt. Prichard and one of Major Sinclair. It is not maintained or cared for by anybody and is abandoned. It is really deploring to see the tombs of those great heroes, left in that bad condition. It can not be kept safe, until or unless the other half is enclosed with stone slabs” (OIOC R/4/243).

I visited the cemetery on 5 January 2003 while on the way from Gudibanda to Nandidurga with Dr. S. K. Aruni, Dr. Sujata Patil, Tatiana Brecht, and Venkatesh. It is a small place with only 12 graves and, at that time, all of the tombs were overgrown with brush and weeds. One could easily drive past it without noticing the northernmost tomb, even though it lay only a few metres off the hard road. The mud walls mentioned by Ratnam were mostly gone, but otherwise the site was little changed from his visit 40 years ago. There are two rows of tombs and gravestones, all of which face East. As is now true of so many European graves in South Asia, the tombs and stones were long ago stripped of metal tablets and lettering, rendering it impossible to identify these individuals. The fortunate graves are those marked by inscribed stones, many of which are still present.

Each smalSultanpet cemeteryl rectangle in the sketch map of the cemetery marks a grave or tomb; the number in each rectangle is keyed to the inscription list below.

I posted these photos and other information to the web shortly after my 2003 visit and solicited information about the individuals buried here.  While I have been fortunate enough to hear from several of their descendants, one unanticipated consequence of my web posting was that it attracted attention to the site. Reports about the cemetery that subsequently appeared in the Deccan Herald and in blogs struck a responsive chord. The cemetery was cleared of undergrowth and a local landowner protected the area with a new fence.

If you have any information about Sultanpet, I will be delighted to hear from you. Please feel free to email me at blewis@illinois.edu or write me at the address given on my home page.

Click on the thumbnails to see larger versions of the photos


Grave 1

Sacred to the memory of
Lt. Colonel Ridgeway Mealy
who departed this life
at Nundydroog
on the 19th September 1805
Aged 44 years


Graves 2-5

Graves 2-5

A line of what appear to be 3 child and 1 adult tombs constructed in the same design and grouped by shared plot walls. Memorial plaques missing. Tomb and wall design is the same as that of Prichard (7) and Gabriel (8).



Grave 6

Grave 6

Sacred to the Memory of
Lt. James Sinclair,
2nd Battn 16th Regt [Madras] N I,
who departed this life
on the 24th June 1813.
He died much respected.

The OIOC biographical index identifies his
place of death as Nundydroog, 25 June 1813.


Grave 7

Grave 7

 

 Here lies the Remains of Elizabeth,
the Wife of William Prichard.
She departed this life on
the 1st day of August AD 1807

 
 
 


Grave 8

Grave 8

Sacred to the memory of
Major John Edward Gabriel
of the Wallajabad Light Infantry
who departed this life on
the 25th of March 1815 Aged 35 years
This monument is erected as a tribute of
affection and respect by his disconsolate widow

OIOC records identify Gabriel as a Major of the 12th Native Infantry, who died at Nundydroog (OIOC L/MIL/9/107 f. 299). His entry in the OIOC biographical index shows the following:

B. 29 Mar 1780
Hanworth, Middlesex
S of Rev Robert Burd, rector, and Elizabeth

M. Harriett (d 14 Jan 1835)
Harriet b 23 May 1809, d 11 Jan 1816
Ellen b 16 Apr 1811, d 9 Oct 1848
Elizabeth b 22 Apr 1813, d 31 Dec 1844
Jane b 4 May 1815, d 19 Sep 1904


 

Grave 9

Grave 9

  Sacred to Memory of
Driver William Henry Price,
25 Battery, Royal Field Artillery
who was drowned in Wonaikal Tank,
12th Dec 1904, Aged 28 years
erected by his comrades

 


Graves 10-12

Graves 10-12

 

 Three adult tombs, the styles of which are similar to those of Mealy (1) and Sinclair (6). The memorial plaques are missing.

 

 


Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Dr. S. K. Aruni, who had seen Sultanpet on an earlier trip to Nandidurga and who brought it to my attention, and to Dr Meera Iyer for her Deccan Herald article about Sultanpet, which helped greatly to stimulate interest in protecting the site. Tatiana Brecht worked with me to record and photograph the inscriptions and tombs.

Reference Cited

OIOC R/4/243 – UK High Commission file entitled “Maintenance of the Cemetery at Sultanpet, Sept 1962 – Aug 1963”.  Oriental and India Office Library, London.