A place set apart for the entombment of the dead, cemeteries are much more than burial grounds- they are a reflection of aesthetic considerations, religious beliefs and social attitudes, among other things. Chronicling the multi-cultural communities and diverse faiths that have lived in Mumbai for centuries, the cemeteries of this city tell tales of a forgotten past with their historical connotations and architectural intricacies. So move beyond the notion that death and beauty are incompatible as you tag along with us on a virtual exploration of these 7 cemeteries!
Sewri Christian Cemetery
Built in the 19th century by the first Municipal Commissioner of Bombay, Arthur Crawford, the Christian cemetery at Sewri is the burial ground for eminent personalities, colonialists and Indian Christians. Touted as the largest Christian cemetery in the city, a section of this site is dedicated to the Italian Prisoners of War, captured by the English in World War II.
Location: Sewri West, Shivaji Nagar, Parel
Tower of Silence
Acting as a peaceful passage for the deceased of the Zoroastrian community, is the almost 300-year-old funerary tower, Tower of Silence. Located deep within a forest, this tower has a circular structure whose three rows are assigned to men, women and children, respectively. Further, the tower complex also contains small structures called bunglis and khandias where rituals related to the funeral ceremony are performed.
Location: Malabar Hill
Built in the early 20th century to act as a burial ground for the thriving Japanese community which had moved to Mumbai, this cemetery is a part of Japan resting in India. The ashes of traders and geishas (Japanese hostess trained to entertain men with conversation and music) are interred at this cemetery and the last cremation rites performed here was in 1977.
Location: Dr E Moses Road, Worli
Armenian & Ba'hai Cemetery
Blooming flowers are spotted across this property which is shared by the Armenians and the followers of the Ba'hai faith. The two communities have come to a mutual understanding according to which, the 17th-century Armenian graveyard is tended by Ba'hai faith people and in exchange for burial space. It is interesting to note how the dead are promoting harmony through their living arrangements.
Location: Antop Hill
Chinchpokli Jewish Cemetery
A number of Jewish cemeteries dot the landscape of Mumbai, however, the one just outside Chinchpokli Railway Station is a historical landmark that has ties to the Sassoon family! This cemetery was built in the late 19th century by Elias David Sassoon in memory of his son, Joseph. The cemetery complex has a plaque honouring the Holocaust victims and is home to several Victorian-style mausoleums belonging to Sir Jacob Sassoon and his wife Lady Rachel, among others.
One of the oldest and the largest burial grounds of the city, Bada Qabrastan is believed to have been constructed during the 19th century and it is, currently, under the management of Juma Masjid of Bombay Trust. Further, this cemetery is well-known among the citizens of Mumbai, for it is the resting place of several iconic names of the Hindi cinema industry, such as Nargis and Suraiya.
Location: Marine Lines
Thousands of Chinese settled in Mumbai during the 1800s and as the community made the city its home, a Chinese Temple and cemetery came into existence, among other places. One of the oldest surviving relics of an era gone by, this cemetery is cared for by the Maharashtra Chinese Association and has epitaphs of older graves inscribed in Chinese.
Location: Antop Hill
While cemeteries are often associated with voodoo, goth and whatnot, we believe that a refreshed perspective on the utility of graveyards is important. Burial grounds do make the best backdrop for horror stories but they are also an offbeat way of exploring the history and culture of the place they are situated in. We hope these 7 chambers of the dead gave you an insightful tour of Bombay, something which is rarely found in the mansions of the living!