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Restoration of Dutch traders' final resting place in India completed

Cemetery an architectural heritage site

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

SURAT, India - About 50 graves at the Dutch cemetery at the formerly Dutch colonial trading post in Western India, which were plagued by earthquakes, warfare, tropical downpours and erosion, are nearing the end of their restoration by a specialized Dutch architectural firm. The cemetery is one of a few local reminders of a nearly 130-year Dutch presence which ended in 1744. The Dutch in Surat traded in cotton cloth, yarn and indigo.

3D Blueprint Architecten opened a branch in India to offset a drop in orders in Netherlands and took on the project with the help of the Dutch embassy in India and private sponsors.

The Surat trading post was part of a larger Dutch presence in the state of Gujarat which was directed from the nearby city of Ahmedabad. The Dutch firm had been drawn to Ahmedabad by of its prestigeous university for architecture. 3D Blueprint specializes in restoration projects.

Among the graves in Surat are monumental tombs, which have been classified as architectural treasures. One of these is the tomb of the Dutch Governor Baron Adriaan van Reede tot Drakenstein (1636-1691), who also is known for his botanical research published in Amsterdam in a twelve-volume series entitled Hortus Malabaricus (1686-1703).

Governor van Reede, the son of a Dutch forester, enlisted the help of the local community of tree-tappers and medical practioners who had specific knowledge of plant species. His tomb consists of a double cupola with open arcades. On ground level, the lower gallery / arcade is supported by decorated columns.


The structure of the Dutch cemetery in Surat is dominated by the largest monuments Europeans built anywhere in India at their burial sites. The graves at Surat are also among the oldest that have survived from the Dutch and British colonial eras in the country. English traders settled in Surat in 1608, followed by the Dutch in 1617. French and also Swedes (for just a short period) who were present in Surat seem to have left no reminders of their burial culture.

Only six inscriptions remain on the grave markers and structures, three of them on the tomb of Governor van Reede, the largest of all grave markers in India, a baroque monument with only a few traces of Arabian art.

The Dutch cemetery reminds visitors of traces of Armenian traders who used a larger adjoining burial site, only separated by a wall. The Armenians in Surant helped the Dutch with their knowledge of the language and local conditions.

Indian authorities are spared further embarrassment by 3D Blueprint restoration work. They had been severely criticized for their lack of attention to this very unique monumental Dutch graveyard. In 2003, they were accused of allowing the site to be neglected, covered by all kinds of graffiti and left unprotected from vandalism.

The Dutch in Surat traded in cotton cloth, yarn and indigo.