Home > Calcutta (Kolkata), Calcutta Heritage, General > Gas Crematorium, Crematorium Street, Kolkata

Gas Crematorium, Crematorium Street, Kolkata

Gas Crematorium

Crematorium Street, Behind Lower Circular Road Cemetery, Kolkata

At first glance it may appear to be a small church, complete with a bell tower, red titled roof, a projected porch, long flight of stairs and pointed Gothic arches. A common sight in small towns of Europe.

Gas Crematorium, Crematorium Street (Behind Lower Circular Road Cemetery), Kolkata

Gas Crematorium, Crematorium Street (Behind Lower Circular Road Cemetery), Kolkata

But the building is located in the heart of Kolkata, next to the Lower Circular Cemetery and is approachable from both Mullick Bazar and Park Circus.

Gothic window, Gas Crematorium, Kolkata

Gothic window, Gas Crematorium, Kolkata

Its not a church but a crematorium, and what appears to be a bell tower with Gothic windows is actually a chimney.

Started in 1906, the gas operated crematorium was the first substitute for open wooden cremation pyres in the whole of India.

Strangely, the gas crematorium was not meant for Hindus but for Christians.

Today, with the shortage of burial space, many Christians in developed western countries are going for cremation.

After the cremation, the ashes are collected in urns and are buried in small plots, thus saving space and the process is known as urn burial.

Kolkata (Calcutta, as it was then known as) was always ahead of its time and the first crematorium for the Christians came up more than a hundred years ago.

It was also a welcome relief for the Britishers, working in India, who preferred to be buried in their home town back in Britain. In such cases, they were cremated in the gas crematorium and the ashes were shipped back home for urn burial.

Furnace, Gas Crematorium, Crematorium Street, Kolkata

Furnace, Gas Crematorium, Crematorium Street, Kolkata

Also, the converted Hindu Chirstians sometimes preferred to be cremated than buried and instead of the open wood fires along the Hooghly River, they preferred to be cremated next to a Christian cemetery.

Interiors of the furnace, Gas Crematorium

Interiors of the furnace, Gas Crematorium

Also the Bramhos, who followed an interesting mix of Eastern and Western philosophies, used the gas crematorium for their last rites.

Famous scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose, who was a Bramho, was also cremated at this gas crematorium.

The gas crematorium functioned till the early 1980s and had to be stopped because of erratic gas supply.

Today the gas crematorium is under the Christian Burial Board and is kept under lock and key. The writing on the gate reads “Trespassers will be prosecuted.” So the only option to visit the gas crematorium is to get a formal permission from the Christian Burial Board’s office in Lower Circular Road Cemetery.

Crematorium furnace manufactured by Taisoul Fradet & Co., Paris

Crematorium furnace manufactured by Toisoul Fradet & Co., Paris

The permission can easily be obtained from the Christian Burial Board’s office on any working day and during the working hours.

Peep Hole (L: Close R: Open) Gas Crematorium, Kolkata

Peep Hole (L: Close R: Open) Gas Crematorium, Kolkata

The Gas Crematorium can be approached both from Mullick Bazar and Park Cirus and is located in a heavily populated area and is thus difficult to spot.

Although the compound is overgrown with weeds, the crematorium, which looks more like a small church, is more or less well maintained.

Although most of the windows have broken and roots of vegetation have penetrated deep inside the structure, but the century old structure still looks stable but gives a creepy feeling!!

The real surprise lies in the interiors. The furnace supplied by the French furnace maker Toisoul Fradet & Co., Paris is still in very good condition.

The company, once specialized in making crematorium furnaces, have supplied crematorium furnaces in Paris and several cities of France and Britain, including Marseille, Rouen, Dessau, Leeds and Bradford.

Gas Crematorium (side view), Crematorium Street , Kolkata

Gas Crematorium (side view), Crematorium Street , Kolkata

The furnace is in perfect order and the ash release levers still work. Another interesting feature of the furnace are the peep holes, three on each of the two sides. The holes are opened to see the progress of cremation.

Special Thanks:

  • The Christian Burial Board for providing us the necessary permission
  • Subhadip Mukherjee, fellow blogger and heritage enthusiast, who accompanied me to the Gas Crematorium, do have a look at his blog.

  1. December 9, 2015 at 12:04 AM

    I love your discoveries. Keep them coming.

    • December 9, 2015 at 8:16 AM

      Thanks Maverick Bird, love reading your solo backpacking experience. Keep travelling and blogging

      • December 9, 2015 at 11:15 AM

        Thank you

      • Rev. James Ujjwal Dutta
        August 10, 2019 at 10:19 PM

        Very very important information that enriched my knowledge.

  2. December 9, 2015 at 4:20 PM

    Great post Rangan! Especially, you nicely narrated history attached to it.

  3. December 13, 2015 at 12:07 AM

    A completely less known place in the heart of the city and the facts being well exaggerated with pictures. Love to read your blogs, and get to learn a lot.

    • May 7, 2017 at 12:10 PM

      Thank you Adrish, Calcutta is full of such hidden gems

  4. December 22, 2015 at 1:08 PM

    Thanks Adrish

  5. January 22, 2016 at 5:55 PM

    This is fascinating ! Peep-holes in the gas crematorium do cause a goose-bump ! Is there any list of the people cremated there? It would be very interesting to know. I absolutely love reading about your great finds in our beloved city – brings the forgotten pasts of our culture alive.

    • April 29, 2016 at 2:31 PM

      Thanks Shinjini, I am not sure whether any list of the cremated person exists. I need to approach the Christian Burial Board and also the Bramho Samaj. I will let you know if I get any more info.

  6. Abhijit Das
    March 12, 2016 at 7:54 PM

    Rangan Da, good to see the pic of the furnace. We (me and Soham) approached Christian Burial Board last year for the permission to enter premises. Even we were ready to leave cameras outside. But had a tough luck. Do they ask for some reference to give the permission ?

    • April 29, 2016 at 2:28 PM

      Dear Abhijit, we had extremely good luck. The permission was granted with out much query.

  7. Isabella Simon
    May 6, 2017 at 12:25 AM

    This is wonderful piece of history and needs to be preserved as heritage site or The Christian Burial Board can reopen it for more progressive Christians and may be permit the Brahmo Samaj to use it . May be added to Bengal obituary.

    • May 7, 2017 at 12:05 PM

      Dear Isabella thank you for the comment. Its needs to be opened and the progressive Hindus can also use it. But it is presently located in a densely populated area and pollution can be a problem, but experts can find a solution.

  8. May 7, 2017 at 12:09 PM

    Thanks Sinjini, the peep holes are still present in modern day electric crematoriums. Christians and Bramhos are always good at keeping records, hope they have a list (quiet likely to be a separate ones) of the people cremated at the Gas Crematorium.

  9. Kashyap Ray
    October 23, 2017 at 9:01 AM

    Please publish a book.
    You are like Wikipedia of Information about Calcutta

  10. Alma Wickins Rowe.
    October 2, 2019 at 1:45 AM

    Wow it’s a pleasure knowing the History of our City Calcutta. A lot of hidden treasure will gradually be revealed. I am hoping for more surprises. Thanks n GBU all.

  11. ankitatiwari022
    October 13, 2019 at 11:04 AM

    Thanks for your post and there are lot of people will be help it’s real very nice

  12. Rev. Sanjay Dan
    May 20, 2021 at 10:43 PM

    Excellent blog specially for the times like these. Christians are little apprehensive in regards to cremate their dead body. If the corpse is a Covid body then this is the way the last rite should be performed. Thank you Rangan for beautifully written blog with very interesting history and information attached to it. This will help many Pastors/ Rev. to make people understand and guide them to this way. There is nothing wrong in it. Keep write such interesting blogs. God bless…
    Rev. Sanjay Dan

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