We are glad to present a brief history of Madras Cemeteries Board Trust, Chennai.
Burials must have started as early as the death of Abel. Bible records the incident of Abraham buying land at MachPlelah to bury his wife, Sarah (Gen 23:16) Joseph also took the body of his father, Jacob to be buried in the same land MechPelah (Gen 50:5,12) Cave or tomb are used to keep the body covered with linen and entrance was closed with stones. Jesus went to the Tomb of Lazarus. “It was a cave and stone lay against” (John 11:38) Jesus being a poor carpenter’s son was buried in the Tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea. “He laid it in his new tomb which had hewn out the rock” (Mathew 27:60).
Though foreigners came to Madras much earlier (1639) it was only after 1813 missionaries were allowed for evangelism in the areas under the control of East India Company. Dutch, Portuguese and French People were also on Trade in India. Missionary societies like S.P.G. C.M.S., (Anglican) C.S.M. A.P.M., (Presbyterian) L.M.S. (Congregational) and W.M.S. (Methodist ) and (Reformed Churches) A.A.M. had their Mission fields in and around Chennai. Catholic missionary societies ware also functioning in and around Chennai. Old towns like George Town and Egmore were under the control of Portuguese in the beginning. Later Portuguese had to leave Chennai.
Church of England and Church of Scotland being the national churches in U.K. had better access with British, East India Company Churches like St. Mathias, St. Georges, St. Thomas Santhome, (SPG), had used their church yards for burial. St. Mary’s had burial ground at Body guard Road (Pallavan Salai) This Cemetery St. Mary, was the oldest (1700). St. Mary’s Cemetery at Pallavan Salai was used for European especially military and civil servant of Anglican Church. Later on other denominations also used Cemetery near by this area. Armenian Cemetery, Weslian Cemetery, Andrews Cemetery, Patrick Cemetery, sacred heart Cemetery & war memorial Cemetery are also located in this area.
Nineteenth century saw the expansion of Madras and hence Purasawakkam and Vepery area accommodated the burials in St. Mathew’s Cemetery, Vadamalai Pillai Street, (1825) for SPG churches, London & mission Cemetery (LMS) (1825) was used by Protestant missionaries and staff. Rev. John Anderson (Church of Scotland) was buried here. Perambur Barracks General Cemetery Purasawakkam, (CMS) opened in 1860. Missionaries like Rev. Harwood Raw (WMM) Rev. William Walton (Missionary of Jafna Weslian) Rev. William Moffat (Free Church of Scotland) were buried here
The third phase of Cemeteries emerged on the outskirts of Madras in 1900s, namely Kilpauk Cemetery, Foreshore Estate (1900) & kasimode (1900). Cemeteries were maintained by Eccleastical department and Public works still 1947. This was Transferred to local Cemeteries Committee on 11.03.1948.
Eccleastical department was abolished in 1947. The authority and administration of the Cemeteries which were the responsibility high commission were transferred to local Cemeteries Rev. S. D’Morais (Chaplain of Mathias Church) Hon. Secretary Chaired the meeting at the CSI Diocesan Office on 11.3.48 Rev. Walton (George’ Cathedral) Dr. Bartly Mr. Goudin, Rev. Pereira, Rt. Re. Mgr. A.F. Theodore Mr. K.C. Chertan, Mr. S.G. Haynard, Rep. of British High Commissioner were present as members.
Deputy High Commissioner of U.K. in Delhi, Mr. JWD Locker ESQ through his letters of 1950 and 1951 handed over the closed Cemetery and open for the maintenance by local Cemeteries committee. This was made possible through the efforts of Chaplain of St. Mathias namely Rev. S. D’Morias. The south India Cemeteries Board which maintained the Cemeteries was functioning till 1956 at DARE House, Madras, Near Paris corner.
Madras Cemetery committee was formed on 31.07.1956.
Bishop of CSI Diocese of Madras Bishop David Chellappa Chaired the meeting on 31.07.1956,
Following Cemeteries were handed over to Madras Cemeteries Committee.
Madras Cemeteries committee as administered by President and Secretary.
Kilpauk Cemetery was maintained by Superintendent, and Kasimode by Chaplain of Marks Church.
Office of Treasurership was created in 1969 and office of Vice President ship in 1971. Constiitution of 1947 was amended and New Constitution was adopted on 23.09.1971. Management consists of Four Officers namely, President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer, Seven members were elected. Both catholic and CSI Bishops nominated 3 persons each. Representative of Deputy High Commissioner was invited as Observer.
Rev. Peace B David, President
Rev. Fr. Mac Farey, Vice President
Mr. K.M. Cherian, Treasurer
Mr. H.J. Marsland, Secretary
Mr. Dunhill St. Mathias – CSI
Mr. Venhottlen – Christ Church – CSI
Mr. J.B. Sawyer – St. Marrys – CSI
Rev. Vedanayagam – St. Pauls – CSI
Chaplain of Marks – CSI
Mr. V.G.D’Souza – Church of Immaculate Mary
Mr. Mahimaidoss – Church of Immaculate Mary
In 1976, a proposal to construct office room for MCB at St. Mathias Cemetery was turned down.
There was shortage of funds to maintain Cemeteries churches were asked to donate for the maintenance of Cemeteries. New constitution was adopted in 1982. Churches of all denominations were invited to become members. “Madras Cemeteries Committee” was renamed as “Madras Cemeteries Board Trust” (in 1982).
St. Mathias Cemetery becomes a ground for Vandalism and misuse.
At the request of one church (Apostolic Fellowship) an agreement was made to give a portion of the land for temporary use and to take care of the place on 21.04.1983 On seeing the breach of agreement General Body has decided to terminate the agreement(1988). The matter is still pending.
Arch Bishop and Bishop in Madras as Patrons and head of the Church used to send 3 of his nominees to attend General Body and Management Committee. Change in circumstance demanded their personal presence in General Body since 1988.
MRTS came with a request to take a portion of the land on Body guard Road for Train service in 1987. A portion of the land (A.R. 17, 80 Sqm) was taken over and equal portion of land was given as compensation in 1988. 175 graves were shifted for the public cause.
Southern Railway also paid amount to shift the graves to new areas. St. Patric Cemetery was benefited with an open place to bury 300 more bodies.
Constitution was amended on 27.09.1994 to limit the membership in the management committee to CSI and R.C. only. General body is given power to include others as members of General Body, if necessary.
Closed Cemeteries like St. Mathias Cemetery London mission Cemetery, General Cemetery, and St. Mary’s Cemetery were handed over back to CSI Diocese of Madras for their maintenance. St. Patric Cemetery which joined M.C.B. in 1977 also has withdrawn; Plans to purchase new land at Velachery did not materialize. St. Mary Cemetery at Mandaveli came under MCB for maintenance for 2 years.
Constitution was amended in 2002 to elect office bearers for a team of 3 yeas instead of 2 years. Shortage of space was felt and M.C.B. has decided to close new burials at Kilpauk from 01.04.2005.
Madras Cemeteries in its meeting held on 26.04.1973 have decided as follows “Kilpauk Cemetery is nearly filled, unless the closed Cemeteries are made use of, a time will come when dead would have to be buried miles away”. It was like a prophesy.
At present there are 2 Cemeteries under MCB
We have requested the Government of Tamilnadu to allot land for burial. Law regarding re opening of burial after 14 years may be reduced to 5 or 7 yrs.
Multi-tier vault system of burial will be introduced at Kilpauk within 4 months. This can only help to meet the need to some extent.