Literally, a Cenotaph is an empty tomb or a monument erected in honour of a person or persons whose mortal remains are elsewhere.
There are three monuments in Calcutta, to honour the Indian soldiers who died in the First World War. The most prominent among these is the Glorious Dead Cenotaph, located on the northern end of the Calcutta Maidan, diagonally opposite to the Akashvani Bhawan and adjacent to the statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. This simple, dignified and massive sandstone memorial, built in 1924, was designed by Architect Herbert William Palliser on the lines of the cenotaph of Whitehall, London.
It was dedicated to the memory of the Calcutta based British and Anglo-Indian soldiers who fought to glorify the King and the Country, and lost their lives in the said war between 1914 and 1918. The Cenotaph, devoid of any ornamentation, except the two wreaths on either side, was unveiled in 1921by the Prince of Wales, who later became Edward VIII.
The lower portion of the eastern side of the cenotaph bears the inscription “Glorious Dead”, while the top portion of the southern and northern sides contains the inscription of MCMXIV and MCMXVIII, which stands for the Roman numerals representing 1914 and 1918.
The original brass plaque containing the names of the fallen soldiers was shifted to the St. John’s Church, for unknown reasons. Two bronze statues of British soldiers, painted in black, with heads bowed and bayoneted rifles at reverse-arms stand as the silent sentries at the entrance of the area. The statues were imported from England.
Every year on the Sunday nearest to 11 November at 11am, a Remembrance Service is held at the Cenotaph to commemorate the British and Commonwealth servicemen and women who died in the two World Wars and later conflicts.
Recently, the Police Memorial has been erected in the vicinity of the Glorious Dead Cenotaph, dedicated to the memory of the Police personnel killed on duty during the period from 1st September, 2008 to 31st August, 2009.
Location of The Glorious Dead Cenotaph