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Raja Rammohun Roy's tomb restored in Bristol

August 07, 2008 08:37 IST

A major restoration and repair work has been carried out on the tomb of renowned Indian social reformer Raja Rammohun Roy in UK's Bristol city, where he died of meningitis.

The tomb is located in Arnos Vale Cemetery on the city outskirts. It was built in 1843 by Dwarkanath Tagore, who along with Roy founded the socio-religious reform movement Brahma Sabha (later became Brahmo Samaj).

Carla Contractor, a local historian who has interacted closely with the Indian high commission and others to preserve and cherish Roy's association with Bristol, told PTI that the restoration and repair was complete.

"This is very important to me. It has taken 20 years to get to this stage. I am delighted that at last this major monument in Bristol has been repaired and conserved," she said.

The funds for the restoration work -- over 50,000 pounds -- were committed by Aditya K Poddar, a Singapore-based businessman with roots in Kolkata.

The Kolkata Municipal Corporation had approached Poddar after Mayor Bikash Bhattacharyya visited the tomb in December 2006 and saw for himself the poor state it was in.

Every year, top representatives of the local council, the Brahma Samaj and the Unitarian church and followers from all over Britain and Europe congregate at the cemetery around 27 September, Roy's death anniversary.

"The Raja was a remarkable man in his day. He fought for women's rights and for the reform of legal and fiscal services in India. He was a humanitarian and founder of the Brahmo Samaj movement. All Indians can take pride in what the city of Bristol has done in memory of the Raja and be proud too of their own roots in the Indian subcontinent," Contractor said.

The last time when repair and restoration work was doneon the tomb was in 1883, according to archives in the University of Calcutta, when minor restoration was done.

The work undertaken with the expertise of a conservation architect included re-carving the pillars, repairing the leaked roof, consolidating its foundation (it is based on a slope) and repairing cracks in its foundation stone.

The tomb, a major structure in the cemetery, was designed by architect William Prinsep, who was a friend of Dwarkanath Tagore.

Contractor said descendants of Prinsep had also contributed funds for the repair work.

In 1997, the 50th year of India's independence, a statue of Roy was installed by the then high commissioner L M Singhvi at College Green, a prominent location in the Bristol city centre.

Roy travelled to the UK in 1831 as an ambassador of the Mughal Empire to ensure that an earlier regulation on the practise of sati (a widow immolating herself on her husband's funeral pyre) was not overturned.

He died at Bristol, 169 km west of London, on September 27, 1833.

Prasun Sonwalkar in London
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