Standing tall in the wilderness
Dharamsala: The Church of St. John situated in upper Dharamsala; just a walking distance from McLeodganj, is a centre of attraction for large number of Indian as well as foreign tourists, especially descendents of Britishers who served in India and were buried here. The cemetery, which is attached to this church, has been the ‘final resting place’, for the Christian community here for over 150 years.
The church in the ‘wilderness’ (as the signboard at the entrance says), was built around 1852. There is a memorial here to JAMES BRUCE, EARL OF ELGIN or LORD ELGIN, as he was popularly known, the 2nd Viceroy of India, who died at Dharamsala on 20th November, 1863. He was so enchanted by the forests and mountains of Dharamsala that he had desired to be buried here, saying it reminded him of Scotland. The monument in memory of Lord Elgin in the compound of the church was got erected by his widow.
According to head priest of the church, Kunjumon K.J; “This church is one of the oldest cathedrals in North India and is known for its unique gothic character and stained glass windows. The church has a cemetery dating back to the 1850s and majority of those buried here are Britishers, some of whom were very high ranking officials of those times.”
Although this church has been declared to be a monument of national importance under the Ancient Monuments & Archeological Sites & Remains Act, 1958, and any kind of tampering is punishable under the law, but “who cares”. There are many graves which have been broken and precious old marble stolen or other mischievous acts carried out by miscreants, but still no action has been taken by the authorities, who otherwise come calling when any foreign dignitary makes a visit here.
The need of the hour is to make the authorities aware of the importance of these marvels of history. It should also be brought to the notice of national as well as international media who could document this wonderful marvel that has seen the time wind by since last 150 years.