Saturday, August 7, 2010

CAPTURE 7 : Oldest Protestant-Catholic Cemeteries in Penang

Cemetery is not a place where everything comes to an end. It is a place where new view on life should manifest. Life begins somewhere, and ends somewhere. We know not where we will die and to die in a cemetery is a rare occurrence and definitely not even one among last few wishes that we may entertain. Somehow the mortal frame, if not cremated, needs a place of burial. A tomb marked with beautiful epitaph is a soothing description of the person whose remain exhausted in time. It is not a place where everything comes to a stop, but, it is a place that always remind us of our impending death, thus prepare us to face the unseen visitor dreaded by many, with a broader vision and part of the universe’s causative nature.

A lot of horror stories and movies are associated with cemetery. Movies have produced tremendous impact in the minds of people by strengthening their fear and shaped their concepts of cemetery accordingly. Most people tend to see cemetery as a place to be shunned and many people prefer not to talk about it. A well maintained cemetery can bring about a tranquil atmosphere; and well written epitaph can give deepest satisfaction on the meaning of life, existence, gratitude and appreciation. The memory of our loved ones or some prominent figures whose remain were buried there allow us a glimpse of the history associated with them. Cemetery is not just a burial ground but a place that can silence the agitations of the mind and bring about an introspective change in us.

Sadly, not all cemeteries are well maintained. Some cemeteries have the tombs removed, and some had been vandalized by grave diggers or drug addicts. These are the main fears associated with cemeteries; the dark forces represented by humankind themselves. Apart from these two main issues, I belief there is nothing else to be feared of. One can enjoy a brisk walk amidst the sleeping dead, stop and read the epitaphs. Some of the epitaphs speak of deep appreciation and loss of the loved ones with very rooting expression. The Greeks called cemetery as ‘sleeping ground’. Yes, it is an eternal sleep for the mortal frames laid therein. The Hindus call it ‘as the place in-between’. A place between the seen and the unseen worlds. Whatever one may choose to call, cemetery is certainly a place apart and an open book that carries interesting chapters that belonged to various characters. Unusual indeed, for people to admire cemetery, overwhelmed by the inexplicable serene atmospehere and choose to frequent there to free the inner chattering.

Penang is, no doubt, home for many heritage sites. Recently I went to two oldest Christian cemeteries in Penang. One is a Protestant Cemetery, while another is Catholic Cemetery. Most of the tombs were built in squarish shape. Some people built massive and luxurious tombs for their loved ones. Many factors such as social status, wealth and prominence determine the sizes and types of tomb built. It kindles the earnest appreciation of the loved ones over a life well lived by the deceased and their contributions towards the betterment of the society, thus their wish to build such tombs. Though cemetery means nothing for many people, it is something for some people. Enjoy the touch of yore and heritage in this picture. The cemetery was created during British settlement when Captain Francis Light's first landed in the island in 1786. Then it was used until the late 19th century. One of the oldest graves one can see here is that of Captain Francis Light.

Also, next to the Protestant Cemetery is the oldest known Catholic Cemetery. It lies hidden beyond the grayish wall that forms the border for both cemeteries. Unlike the well maintained Protestant Cemetery, the Catholic cemetery which is under St. Xaviers' Church Catholic, is in an abandoned state.

The separating wall....eternal dilemma of humankind!!

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Just_because_today said...

I dont like cemeteries. Maybe because I grew up listening to horror tales told by my grandparents. It also scares me because the thought of death scares me even if it could be the progression of life.

Barbara said...

I thought they looked like the cemetries of old and then saw they were built by the British. Nothing elaborate like that anymore. Most people get cremated anyhow as not enough land space for cemetries.