Brick by brick, India’s first war memorial to celebrate soldiers who have sacrificed their lives since 1947 is being built around the national capital’s India Gate.
Coming up on the lawns just behind the canopy, or chatri, the open memorial is expected to be ready by Independence Day, senior government officials involved in the project said.
The project, which will be in line with the central axis of India Gate that commemorates Indian soldiers who died in World War I, is being implemented by the defence ministry.
Designed in concentric circles, the memorial will be spread over approximately 40 acres, and have a 15-metre-high obelisk at its centre. “The national emblem will be placed on top of the obelisk, which will also carry the eternal flame, symbolising that sacrifices by soldiers are never forgotten,” one of the officials cited above said. A national war museum is also coming up in the adjoining Princess Park, which will be connected through a tunnel to the war memorial. The union government earmarked Rs 500 crore for both projects in the 2015 budget. The museum, however, will be completed much after the memorial.
The central congregation space at the war memorial will be below the ground level in order to conform to the height limit of the surrounding iconic structures on the central vista.
After the obelisk, there will be four more landscaped concentric circles, depicting the journey of a soldier from birth to martyrdom. The second circle will have a shaded open gallery with a wall on one side. This will be called the Veer Chakra, or the circle of bravery. “It will have bronze murals depicting some of the major battles such as Longewala, Rezang La and Karachi harbour, ” said a second official.
The third and fourth circle will be called Tyag Chakra, or the circle of sacrifice. These will have precast walls on which the names of about 26,000 martyrs from the army, navy and airforce will be inscribed on the granite tablets with golden letters. “The circular pattern of the wall is inspired by the ancient Indian war formation called ‘chakravyuh’,” the official said. Each of the soldiers, the official added, has been given a separate granite tablet.
“There are 4,000 blank tablets, which will take care of battle casualties in the next 40 years. On an average, India suffers 100 casualties a year,” the official said. The fifth and the final circle will be called the Rakshak Chakra or the circle of protection. “It will have trees planted in a circular formation, with each tree symbolising a soldier who ensures territorial control and safety of the citizens of the country,” the same official said.
Once it’s ready, standing at Vijay Chowk, one will be able to see India Gate, the canopy and the obelisk.
Yogesh Chandrahasan, 31, the Chennai-based architect whose company WeBe Design Lab was selected for the project, said, “The whole concept is based on the thought that the war memorial should be a place where we don’t mourn death, but celebrate the lifeof the soldiers and pay respect to the sacrifices made by them.”
Chandrahasan said it is for the first time that his company is executing a project of this scale. “We got selected through a global open design competition. It’s a proud moment for us,” he said. Nagarjuna Construction Company is the project developer.
There are five lawns around India Gate. While the memorial is coming up on two lawns behind the canopy, a third lawn — the existing August Kranti Maidan — will be developed into the Paramyoddha sthal where busts of 21 soldiers who were awarded the Paramvir Chakra will be erected. Each bust will have a citation.
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