This year, the country celebrates its 76th year of independence with ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav,’ an initiative by the Government of India to mark the freedom struggle and pay homage to the nation’s diverse cultures and glorious history.
The day also reminds us of the many brave hearts who laid down their lives to free the country from British rule and numerous others who have fought wars to defend the nation’s borders post-independence. As a testimony to the supreme sacrifice made by the Indian Armed Forces, many war memorials have been built across the country.
Whether it is the National War Memorial in Delhi or the Siachen War Memorial in Ladakh, the war memorials speak volumes about the soldiers’ unflinching dedication to serve their Motherland. And, their spirit reflects in the words that the Kargil War Memorial proudly bears: “When you go home tell them, for your tomorrow, we gave our today.”
A look at some of India’s war memorials that are a must-visit
National War Memorial
Although a number of war and area-specific memorials existed across the country, there was a need for one monument that paid tribute to the Indian Armed Forces as a whole. Thus, on behalf of the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the National War Memorial to the Armed Forces on 25 February 2019.
Since its independence in 1947, India has engaged in several counter-terrorism operations, UN humanitarian missions, proxy wars and humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations. This memorial is an ode to all those soldiers who were martyred during their service.
Talks regarding the construction of the National War Memorial had been underway since 1961. Finally, the Union Cabinet approved the plan in 2015, and Delhi’s Lutyen’s zone was chosen as the war memorial’s location. Situated to the east of the India Gate, around the canopy at the ‘C’ Hexagon, the memorial complex includes the ‘Amar Jawan Jyoti’ or the eternal flame and an area that has busts of the soldiers who received the nation’s highest gallantry award, the Param Vir Chakra.
India Gate, an unmissable spot in Delhi, is another war memorial built in 1931 to commemorate the soldiers who were martyred during World War I and the Third Anglo-Afghan War. It is located close to the National War Memorial. The monumental landmark has the names of 13,516 out of 83,000 Indians who lost their lives during the wars.
Kargil War Memorial
The Indo-Pak War of 1999, which was fought at one of the world’s highest altitudes, is also referred to as the Kargil War.
Pakistani troops had illegally captured some peaks beyond the LOC during the freezing winter months when, as part of bilateral agreements, both nations’ armies were supposed to retreat from those heights. With reports of infiltration in Mushkoh Valley, Dras, Kaksar and Batalik subsector, as well as the following capture and death of a patrolling team headed by Captain Saurabh Kalia, the country initiated ‘Operation Vijay’ to clear the Kargil sector of Pakistan soldiers and militants.
The Kargil War was fought between the two neighbours between May and July 1999, and India was successful in recapturing crucial peaks like Tiger Hill and Point 4875. Captain Vikram Batra and Captain Vijayant Thapar laid down their lives during the war and were posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra.
The Kargil War Memorial is located at ‘Ground Zero’ at Dras and was built in 2004. Situated on the Srinagar-Leh highway at the foothills of Tololing Hill, the site comprises Amar Jawan Jyoti, Manoj Pandey Gallery, the Veer Bhoomi and a helipad dedicated to Captain Vijayant Thapar. The gallery, along with the Hut of Remembrance, which was added in 2012, bears the name of all the 559 martyrs. The Veer Bhoomi has epitaphs of all who were martyred in Dras, not just during ‘Operation Vijay’.
One can visit the memorial during the daytime and a movie is screened in the memorial’s audio-visual room, which tells more about war. The memorial also houses some of the heavy artillery used in the war and sand models to show the whole terrain.
Siachen War Memorial
The Siachen glacier is the world’s highest battlefield with soldiers posted at sub-zero temperatures throughout the year. The memorial was constructed in 2019 at the Siachen base camp to honour the soldiers who laid down their lives during Operation Meghdoot in 1984.
Another Indo-Pak conflict, the Siachen War was fought under the most adverse conditions with temperatures dipping as low as -50 degrees Celsius. In one of the most remarkable feats of high-altitude warfare, the Indian Army retaliated against the enemies and gained control over the disputed glacier.
The memorial has a structure of white-clad soldiers climbing a ladder with the tricolour behind it. The ladder bears the words, “Every warrior goes to heaven.” One can visit the place between 7.00 am to 1.00 pm.
Darjeeling War Memorial
Situated in the famous Batasia Loop in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district, this war memorial is dedicated to the Gorkha soldiers and regiments who have given their lives to serve the country in wars and operations during and after independence. The Gorkha regiment has always been one of the major troops of the Indian Armed Forces and has contributed immensely to several conflicts.
A scenic toy train journey from Darjeeling to Ghoom, the site of the world’s highest locomotive station, passes through Batasia Loop.
Constructed by the District Sainik Board of Darjeeling, the memorial was inaugurated on 22 March 1995. It has an oval-shaped raised platform with a triangular granite cenotaph. A roll of honour at the base of the platform includes the names of over 75 martyred soldiers.
One can either take the train ride or easily reach the site by road from Darjeeling.
Southern Command War Memorial
This is the only war memorial in South Asia which is made of citizens’ contributions. Nestled amidst the lush greenery of Pune’s Southern Command Cantonment, this national war memorial is a salute to the achievements and successes of the Southern Command wing.
The silver jubilee of India’s victory over Pakistan in 1971 triggered the idea of building this memorial for the soldiers who were martyred after independence. It was inaugurated on 15 August 1998. One can see the various ammunition, uniforms, rare war paintings and replicas of artillery used during the Kargil War and the 1971 Indo-Pak War.
This national war memorial and museum are open throughout the week between 9.00 am and 5.30 pm.
Tawang War Memorial
The Tawang War Memorial is a Buddhist stupa dedicated to the brave sons of the country who sacrificed their lives in the 1962 Sino-Indian War. It is located close to Tawang town in Arunachal Pradesh and is locally known as ‘Namgyal Chortan.’
There were a number of factors which led to this full-blown war — from India’s stance on Chinese control of Tibet and Chinese troops at the Aksai Chin border to the Dalai Lama fleeing the country. However, the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wanted to establish cordial relations with the neighbour and was certain that China would not attack. Hence, little to no preparations were made for any clash until matters got worse. China attacked Indian soldiers at Chushul, and a war ensued in Ladakh in October 1962. It lasted for a month after which China declared a ceasefire.
This war memorial is an ode to the 2,420 members of the Armed Forces who were martyred. The 40-feet high memorial has a gallery that showcases the weapons of both armies as well as an audio-visual room to screen short films about the Indian Army.
Victory at Sea War Memorial
Built in 1996, this revered war memorial is located in Vizag and pays tribute to soldiers of the Indian Navy who lost their lives during the 1971 Indo-Pak War. Located close to Ramakrishna Beach, near the submarine museum, the Victory at Sea War Memorial offers an amazing view and a serene atmosphere.
Along with a tri-service representation of artefacts, the war memorial has a T-55 tank from World War II, a P-21 ground-to-ground missile and an RZ-61 missile, which is exhibited during the Republic Day rehearsal parade.
One can visit this place throughout the week. It offers a great escape from the maddening crowd of the city.
Chandigarh War Memorial
One of the largest war memorials in the country, the Chandigarh War Memorial was inaugurated by former Indian President the late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam on 17 August 2006. It bears the eternal names of about 8,459 martyrs who have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty since 1947.
This post-independence memorial has a massive six-metre-tall structure at its centre with walls made of pink sandstone while the names are etched on black granite. The place is beautified with open-air amphitheatre-like seating and is ideal to host theatres and light and sound shows.
Dedicated to the brave sons of the nation, it is located in Chandigarh’s Bouganvillea Garden, Sector 3, and is open to visitors from 5.00 am to 9.00 pm.
(Main and feature image: Courtesy Shalendar Kumar/ @shalendar/ Unsplash)