28 March 2012
Last updated at 00:33
The Armenians of Calcutta are one of the smallest minority groups in the multicultural Indian city. Decades ago they were a wealthy and influential group, but now their numbers have diminished. Text and photos by Alakananda Nag.
There are an estimated 200 people of Armenian descent in the city. Most have never been to their country of origin.
Although many of the Armenians have married into the general population, they have maintained their sense of identity and their Christian religion.
Like many of the students at Calcutta's Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy, Ejmin is from Iran. He studies there because the free school offers a good education. On the left, he dresses in his choir uniform. On the right, he learns an Indian dance.
The Armenians came to Calcutta in the early 1600s - before the British. Many of them were wealthy merchants. They ran coal mines and built hotels and other landmarks.
The Holy Church of Nazareth, built by Calcutta's Armenians in 1707, is the oldest church in the city.
The church is the central institution holding Calcutta's dwindling Armenian community together.
Decades ago, Calcutta's Armenians were still influential in the city, owning hotels, publishing houses and other businesses and living in grand homes. Today, their former grandeur is only a memory.
The funeral in November last year for Charles Sarkies, who was the oldest surviving alumnus of the Armenian College. Sarkies, an Armenian-Iranian who came to be known as chacha (a Hindi term for uncle) immigrated from Julfa in Iran when he was 12 and never returned.
Left picture: Irene Harris and her husband Jimmy are both in their early 90s. Irene's grandfather, Arathoon Stephen, was one of the most illustrious Armenian businessmen and philanthropists of Calcutta. Right: Playing patience at the Armenian home, which provides free accommodation to any member of the community who needs it.
Mackertich Sarkies Adams (Mac) was born and raised in Calcutta. His wife, Elizabeth, is of Anglo-Indian origin. Their marriage was arranged. Mac says he feels more Indian than Armenian.
Calcutta's younger Armenians cling to their community's traditions but are also at home in the mainstream of Indian culture.