Shimla, Aug.4 : Himachal Pradesh government is making an endeavour to give a facelift to various churches and cemeteries of historical significance, located here since the British Raj in India.
Taking assistance of renowned historians in the State, the tourism department has conducted a documentation of these cemeteries and churches.
In Shimla, Palampur, Dalhousie, Dharamshala and other parts of Himachal Pradesh there are a number of cemeteries and churches, which date back to the days of British Raj. Some of them are two centuries old.
State's tourism department has started focusing its attention on the restoration of facades of churches and proper upkeep of graveyards here.
International tourists attach great value to the historical relevance of churches of yore and cemeteries.
Historians and other elders, committed to the preservation of the region's heritage, have hailed the government's initiative.
Raja Bhasin, a historian, has played an important role in the documentation of these monumental legacies.
People complain that there is no proper placement of graveyards and no description of the churches in the tourism map of Himachal Pradesh.
To prepare an authentic list of the churches and cemeteries in the region, the British Association of Cemeteries of South Asia was approached. The Association promptly reciprocated and assisted in the documentation of cemeteries of Europeans in Himachal Pradesh.
"This is definitely one aspect of Himachal Pradesh that interests them, especially people from the U.K. who have their ancestral roots here. They are curious to locate their roots, where their ancestors once lived," said Raja Bhasin, a historian.
According to the Commissioner of Himachal Pradesh Tourism, the preservation of churches and cemeteries would attract more of foreign tourists especially from Great Britain.
He mentioned that the documentation of the plan has been completed and very soon these graveyards and churches will have new face.
"We wanted the Tourism Department first to have a catalogue, a proper documentation of all the churches and all the cemeteries in Himachal Pradesh. We also wanted the history detailing the significance of these churches and related stories behind the construction of these churches. Then there are cemeteries where people, who have been laid to rest there, have interesting stories related to their lives. So the Tourism Department has now come out with the manuscripts, with the initial copy of the history of churches and cemeteries in Himachal. We are going to publish it very shortly," said Ramsubhag Singh, Commissioner of Tourism in Himachal Pradesh.
Visiting foreign tourists often find it very difficult to locate the cemeteries connected with their relatives. The latest plan of the State government will help all those who wish to see and pay tribute to their forefathers laid to rest in the cemeteries here.
"We should make the graveyards more accessible to foreign tourists. I know the graveyards but I can't tell you exact location where and that's why having them in a chronological order.... it would really help people like me. I look forward to it...and it's very-very interesting," said Adam Kelvey, a British tourist.
The Tourism Department is optimistic about the descendants residing abroad contributing their support to preserve the dignity of their ancestors' graves in Himachal Pradesh.
Consequently, the inflow of foreign tourists, particularly from the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth nations is also expected to increase once the entire documentation is compiled and the churches as well as the cemeteries are lent the facelift. By Hemant Chauhan