Text of the information plaque at Hessing’s Tomb, Agra and the Tomb inscription (below gallery)
Hessing’s Tomb (1803 AD)
This is the tomb of Col. John William Hessing who was Dutch and came to Ceylon as a freelance adventurer. He participated in the battle of Kandy in 1765. Then, he served the Nizam of Hyderabad and in 1784, entered the service of the Maratha chief Mahadji Sindhia. He fought several battles under the command of the French general De Boigne. Mahadji trusted him the most, and Hessing accompanied him to Poona in 1792. On Mahadji’s death there in 1794 he returned to Agra which was held by Marathas. He was made commandant of the fort and its Maratha garrison in 1799. He died here on 21 July 1803. The fort was captured by the British the same year. His tomb was built by his children.
It stands on a square platform which 11.25 feet high and 58 feet side, containing a crypt with the real grave and a corridor around it. An octogonal chabutra is attached to each corner in the form of a mini-tower. Twin stairways are also attached to it on the western side of the platform measuring 22 x 8.75 feet. The tomb reposes effectively in the middle of the main platform. It is square in plan with 34.75 feet side and 28.5 feet in height. Each facade has an iwan in the middle, flanked on either side by ornamental peshtaq (alcoves). It is essentially a Mughal design. Slender turrets are attached to the central iwan frame. They are crowned by pinnacles. Square turrets, 2 feet side, are attached to the corners of the tomb. These have vertical flutes and are surmounted by beautiful square chhatris. The tomb is roofed by a double-dome, crowned by mahapadma (Sheath of lotus petals) and Kalash finial. With pinnacles and chhatris of the turrets, it makes up a perfect superstructure. The interior is a square chamber 17.75 feet side with ribs-and-panels soffit. The cenotaph bears an inscription in English. As a whole it is a perfectly balanced and beautiful building and is rightly called “A Taj in miniature.” This is in fact, the most beautiful tomb of a European at Agra, and probably in India. Though a Dutch tomb, it belongs in letter and spirit, to Agra and the art of the Jamuna-Chambal region. It marks continuance of Mughal “ideas”, “feelings”, and “skills” in 19th Century A.D
1803 — HESSING, J. W. Colonel
John William Hessing, late a Colonel in the service of Maharaja Daulat Rao Sindhia, who, after sustaining a lingering and very painful illness for many years with true Christian fortitude and resignation, departed this life, 21st July 1803, aged 63 years, 11th months, and 5 days. As tribute of their affection and regard this monument is erected to his beloved memory by his disconsolate widow, Anne Hessing, and afflicted sons and daughters, George William Hessing, Thomas William Hessing and Magdalene Sutherland. He was a native of Utrecht in Holland and came out to Ceylon in the Military service of the Dutch E. I. Company in the year 1752, and was present at the taking of Candia by their troops. Five years afterwards he returned to Holland and came out again to India in the year 1733, and served under the Nizam of the Deccan. In the year 1784, he entered into the service of Madho Rao Sindhia and was engaged in the several battles that led to the aggrandizement of that Chief and wherein he signalized himself so by his bravery as to gain the esteem and approbation of his employer, more particularly at the battle of Bhondagaon near Agra in the year 1787, which took place between this Chief and Nawab Ismael Beg, when he then became a Captain, and was severely wounded. On the death of Madho Rao Sindhia in 1793, he continued under his successor, Daulat Rao Sindhia, and in 1798 he attained to the rank of Colonel and immediately after to the command of the Fort and City of Agra, which he held to his death.
[There is little to be added to the history given in the epitaph. He was born in 1740. There is no record of his adventures between 1763 and 1784. He served in De Boigne’s brigades of regular troops. The “several battles” are Lalsot, Chaksana and Patan. After Patan, he quarrelled with De Boigne and left him but Madhoji Scindia employed him to raise a bodyguard for him. which grew to 4 battalions. In 1800 he was compelled to resign his command by ill- health and retired as commandant of Agra to that city. He is described as a “good, benevolent man and a brave soldier.” His tomb is a miniature of the Taj in red Agra sandstone.]
- Blunt, Edward. List of inscriptions on Christian tombs and tablets of historical interest in the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. Allahabad: Printed by W.C. Abel, Offg. Supdt., Govt. Press, United Provinces, 1911. Print. p. 46-47 Download.