The Glorious Dead Cenotaph, Calcutta (Kolkata)
The Glorious Dead Cenotaph
Maidan, Calcutta (Kolkata)
Cenotaph literally means an empty tomb or monument erected in honour of a person or group of people whose remains are elsewhere.
Located on the Northern end of the Calcutta (Kolkata) Maidan the Glorious Dead Cenotaph is the most well known of the WWI Memorials of Calcutta (Kolkata). It is popularly but wrongly known as the “Memorial of Unknown Soldiers.”
Designed by architect Herbert William Palliser, the sandstone built memorial loosely resembles the Cenotaph of Whitehall, London.
Built in 1924 the Glorious Dead Cenotaph commemorates those Calcutta British and Anglo Indians who gave their lives for King and Country between 1914 and 1918. The Eastern side of the cenotaph bears the inscription “Glorious Dead” on the lower portion.
The top portion of the Southern and Northern side contains strange inscription of MCMXIV and MCMXVIII respectively. But this are actually not random alphabets but Roman numerals representing 1914 and 1918, the beginning and end of the Great War. (M = 1000, C = 100, X = 10, V = 5, I = 1).
Strangely the memorial contains no plaques with the names of those fallen and probably because of this the memorial is commonly known as the memorial of unknown soldiers.
But the memorial once had plaques and they were removed in 1959 to the nearby St. John’s Church where they can still be seen to this day. St. John’s Church also contains a brass plaque which mentions about the transfer of the plaques in 1959.
All the names noted in the brass plaque were British name indicating that the “Glorious Dead” cenotaph was a WWI dedicated only to British and Anglo – Indian soldiers.
A low yellow coloured baluster railing separates the memorial from the adjoining Red Road. The entrance is marked with two statues of British Tommies (Soldiers).
The statues adopting the standard British army funeral vigil stance of heads bowed with bayonetted rifle turned upside-down. The statues were cast in London from the foundry of EJ Parlanti. The sculptor was Herbert William Palliser whose name can just be deciphered on the pedestal.
Every year on the Sunday nearest to 11 November at 11am , a Remembrance Service is held at the Cenotaph to commemorate British and Commonwealth servicemen and women who died in the two World Wars and later conflicts
- Cenotaph, Calcutta 1924. Flickr photo by D C R Finch
- War Memorial, Calcutta 1924. Flickr photo by D C R Finch