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Posted at: Dec 6, 2018, 10:50 PM; last updated: Dec 6, 2018, 11:20 PM (IST)

Stories etched in stone and steel

Besides commemorating the bravery and dedication to duty of soldiers, war memorials also serve as living libraries that showcase the tales of decorated as well as the unsung heroes. These enlighten and inspire just like the written word. Vijay Mohan and Tribune reporters narrate the stories of some such memorials in the region
Stories etched in stone and steel

Rezang La War Memorial, Rewari 

Rewari has the distinction of having an exclusive memorial dedicated to the martyrs of Rezang La battle, who fought against the Chinese in November 1962 in Ladakh. As many as 62 of the 114 Indian soldiers killed in this battle were from Haryana and 30 of these martyrs belonged to the Rewari region. With a 'Sudarshan Chakra' adorning the memorial's edifice, the names of all martyrs have been engraved on stone along with comments of some senior officers regarding their gallantry. 

Razang La, was one of the most decisive battles fought against the Chinese and is officially recognised as a "rare battle in military history" with the fighting being hard and bitter and troops going beyond the call of duty. The Chinese casualties are officially estimated at 500, while other sources put these between 500 and 1000.The memorial is looked after by a nine-member Rezang La Trust.            

— Ravinder Saini

Army Heritage Museum, Shimla

The 5,000 year history of courageous feats dating from the Mahabharata era to the present times is at display at the Army Heritage Museum at Shimla, which has also earned the distinction of being the only museum of its kind in the country. Established in 2006 by Army Training Command (ARTRAC), it houses rare artifacts such as the captured flag of 1st Bahawalpur Infantry Battalion of Pakistan, bust of Khuda Dad Khan, the first Indian to be decorated with the Victoria Cross, execution order of Mangal Pandey who raised the banner of rebellion against the British in 1857. A section is dedicated to the bravest of the brave and has photographs of all 21 Param Vir Chakra recipients, rolls of honour and models depicting battles of Laungewala and Tololing (Kargil).  

— Bhanu P Lohumi

Martyrs' Park, Dharamsala

The war museum at the Martyrs' Park in Dharamsala was inaugurated  before the last Assembly elections, but even a year later it is yet to be opened for public. Presently only the first floor of the museum has been furnished with busts of war heroes from the state, models of various gallantry medals, including the Victoria Cross and Param Vir Chakra.

The wooden outer structure is designed on the theme of old Himachali architecture. Like many other monuments in the state, maintenance is still an issue.  

— Lalit Mohan

Chandigarh War Memorial

Perhaps the largest war memorial in the country with the names of about 10,500 personnel from the three services who died in the line of duty since 1947 inscribed on its walls, the Chandigarh War Memorial was inaugurated by the then President of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam in August 2006.

It has a unique architectural concept and design. The central edifice consists of three converging posts, signifying the Army, Navy and the Air Force, emerging from a terraced circular base. It lies within a sunken circular arena about six feet below the ground level, surrounded by granite walls bearing the names of martyrs from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh. The design was meant to be in continuity with the city’s landmark structures and also gel with the lush surroundings in which it is located. The plan for the memorial was conceived by the late Lt Gen JFR Jacob, who had commanded a division in the 1965 Indo-Pak war and later negotiated Pakistan's surrender in 1971, when he was the governor of Punjab in 2004. Memorial ceremonies are held at the monument on important occasions like Martyrs’ Day.

Kargil War Memorial, Dras

The world’s second coldest inhabited place, Dras, is also the site of the memorial commemorating the sacrifices of those who fought in the summer of 1999 in the Kargil sector. The memorial has a huge epitaph with the names of all officers and soldiers who had made the supreme sacrifice in the conflict, code named Operation Vijay. Every year on July 26 — known as Kargil Vijay Diwas — a ceremony is held here to pay tributes to the martyrs.

Punjab State War Heroes Memorial and Museum, Amritsar 

A 45-meter-high stainless steel unsheathed blade of a sword turned towards Pakistan is difficult to miss as one drives from Amritsar to the Attari-Wagah border. This tallest standing sword in India is the central vista of the Punjab State War Heroes Memorial and Museum located 16 km from the border between Amritsar and Lahore. Apart from this iconic sword, three tanks — a Pakistani Sherman captured in 1965 by the 7th Light Cavalry; a Pakistani Patton captured in 1971; and the Indian Centurion Tank that figured prominently in the 1965 and 1971 wars, a de-commissioned MiG-23 fighter and a scale model of INS Vikrant aircraft carrier are among a host of war trophies and rare artefacts that can been seen. 

Spread over eight acres on the fringes of the Khem Karan battlefield where Pakistan’s 1 Armoured Division was decimated in the 1965 War, the complex was inaugurated in October, 2016. According to the original plan, nine display galleries, each depicting a significant period of battle in which Punjab stood to India’s defence — the times of Guru Hargobind , the Anglo-Sikh wars, the two World Wars, the India-Pakistan wars of 1947, 1965 and 1971, the India-China War of 1962 and the Kargil War in 1999, were to come up.  Right now, visitors have access to only six. After skipping numerous deadlines apparently over funding, the work on the eighth gallery dedicated to 1999 Kargil War and fourth gallery depicting World War I, the Battle of Saragarhi and the Jallianwala Bagh massacre — is still underway. 

— GS Paul

Siachen War Memorial, Nubra

The story of Siachen remains unparalled in the history of warfare. Nowhere have soldiers fought and held ground for so long under perilous conditions, where more men have fallen to the vagaries of nature than to enemy bullets. The Siachen War Memorial is situated the rugged, barren landscape of the base camp on the banks of the Nubra that flows from the glacier that forms the world's highest battlefield. The names of all soldiers who have died in Operation Meghdoot since 1984, are etched here.

Punjab State War Memorial, Jalandhar 

Dedicated to post-Independence war heroes, this memorial near the bus stand in Jalandhar remains neglected due to a reported tiff between the Jalandhar Improvement Trust and the Defence Services Welfare Department over whose responsibility it is. 

There is a hexagonal raised platform around the Amar Jawan Jyoti, which has the names of gallantary award winners since 1947 engraved on black granite. Pictures of Param Vir Chakra recipients, Flying Officer Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon, Subedar Joginder Singh and Capt Gurbachan Singh Salaria, along with the details of their feats are displayed. There is a separate room for the heroes of Kargil War, which has about 28 pictures of martyrs from Punjabl. The memorial is in neglect and no longer remains much of an attraction and has only a few visitors in a month. 

— Deepkamal Kaur

War Memorial, Hisar

Set up in March 1995, this memorial is dedicated to soldiers from Hisar district who had sacrificed their lives in various wars and operations. Located outside the mini secretariat, it has the names of martyrs inscribed on its edifice, led by the name and citation of Second Lieutenant Hawa Singh, who was decorated posthumously with the Vir Chakra in the Eastern Sector in 1971.

— Deepender Deswal


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