It is not too long ago that we celebrated our 70th Independence Day. While the feeling of freedom is indeed special, it is the result of the sacrifices made by the brave soldiers, positioned at some of the most treacherous locations. For them, safeguarding the national interest by protecting all its citizens takes utmost priority. To commemorate their acts of valour, there are numerous war memorials located in different parts of the country. We visited the national capital to pay a tribute as well as to relive some of the brave war stories of the past.
The grandeur of the India Gate can only be witnessed by facing it in person
The India Gate was chosen as our first destination, since it is an iconic landmark of Delhi. For this chapter, we chose the Hyundai Xcent facelift, which was launched earlier this year. The Xcent has always been a popular sedan among the ones who prefer to commute in the city and that is because of its compact dimensions. It indeed came in handy while dodging city traffic. While the roads in Delhi are almost well-paved everywhere, it is the dense traffic that plagues the capital. Though this wasn't a major area of concern in our car as the Apple CarPlay-enabled touchscreen entertainment system was a major stress buster.
When my photographer saw the new Hyundai Xcent, he appreciated its new design but then was sceptical if his cameras and equipment will get sufficient room in the boot. All these concerns were put to rest as soon as he started putting his luggage and camera equipment in the boot area. Thankfully, the new Xcent comes with a 407-litre boot space. Now that we were good to go, we navigated to the India Gate at about 2.3km from the Rashtrapati Bhavan. We have all read about one of India's most important structures in books, but to witness it in person is something totally different.
Unveiled in 1931, the India Gate was designed by Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens - a British architect also known for his design of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. It is often said that the India Gate's design looks similar to the Arc de Triomphe, the most famous monument in Paris. The India Gate, previously known as the All India War Memorial, was constructed to honour the 82,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives in the World War I and other battles fought between 1914 and 1921. Additionally, the gate has inscriptions of names of more than 13,000 servicemen, which also included soldiers and officers from the United Kingdom.
Below the tall structure is the Amar Jawan Jyoti, also called as Flame of the Immortal Soldier. The structure consists of a self-loading L1A1 rifle positioned upside down and capped by a war helmet, placed on a plinth made out of black marble. The Amar Jawan Jyoti was made to signify the sacrifices made by the Indian soldiers during the Liberation of Bangladesh in December 1971. It is a constantly burning flame, fuelled by CNG, which is manned by the personnel from all three defence forces.
Every journey has a destination and the one for us to conclude this chapter was the Delhi War Cemetery. Located in the quiet Delhi Cantonment, the cemetery is almost disconnected from the city. Since it was a Monday, we did encounter busy city traffic. However, the 75PS/190Nm 1.2l diesel motor of the Xcent was putting out its best to tackle it. Its easy manoeuvrability too was of great help. The road leading to the Delhi War Cemetery also has a taller railway crossing but with a ground clearance of 165mm it wasn't difficult to drive over it.
The Delhi War Cemetery has a beautiful garden with neatly placed tombstones to commemorate the soldiers who lost their lives in the World War I and II. This includes soldiers from other nationalities as well. Created in 1951, it has graves of 25,000 servicemen of the Indian Force who lost their lives in the World War II. Additionally, it houses graves from other cantonment cemeteries located in Allahabad, Kanpur, Dehradun and Lucknow. The 1939-45 War Memorial, which is the entrance to the cemetery, has a roll of honour that mentions the names of the celebrated soldiers. This resting ground also has a Delhi 1914-18 memorial that pays a homage to the 153 casualties of the Meerut Cemetery.
We have grown up reading about the India Gate and the Delhi War Cemetery, but the feeling of inspiration and pride that you get when you stand there and see it for yourself, is unexplainable. It makes you realise that we should value the sacrifices made by these great men and not take our freedom for granted. It is a privilege that has costed the lives of many, something that we should respect always.