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India's booming salute for fallen soldiers

Last updated on: March 29, 2011 19:45 IST

India's booming salute for fallen soldiers

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A Ganesh Nadar
In an unusual pilgrimage, Rediff.com's A Ganesh Nadar visits a war memorial that doesn't allow us to forget the sacrifices of India's martyrs.

In the heart of the beautiful city of Jammu, perched on a small hill, stands a majestic war memorial.

Balidhan Sthamb or the Tower of Sacrifice silently grieves for the fallen soldiers and paramilitary troopers who died to preserve and protect an undivided India.

Photograph Courtesy: S N Acharya, PRO, Ministry of Defence


Image: The Tower of Silence

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Hard-hitting and poignant tribute

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The memorial is a hard-hitting and poignant tribute to those courageous men who, as the defence forces often say, 'gave their today for our tomorrow'.

The 60-metre imposing structure is built like a rifle, replete with a bayonet and a sling.

An eternal flame, the Amar Jyoti, burns brightly at the foot of the memorial, in honour of our brave martyrs.

Photograph Courtesy: S N Acharya, PRO, Ministry of Defence


Image: The Tower of Silence

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A striking sight to behold

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Two musical fountains not only provide a beautiful backdrop to the grave structure, they also light up with an array of magical colours in the night.

Basking in the glow of the kaleidoscopic fountains, the memorial and the 21-acre garden surrounding it become a striking sight to behold.

Photograph Courtesy: S N Acharya, PRO, Ministry of Defence


Image: The fountains light up during the night

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Jammu and Kashmir has often been a battleground

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The foundation stone for the memorial was laid on January 6, 2005, the plaques flanking the Tower of Silence inform the visitor.

The memorial was constructed by the Indian Army and was inaugurated on November 24, 2009.

Since Independence, this state has become an unwitting battleground every time India and Pakistan waged a war for the picturesque Kashmir valley.

Photograph Courtesy: S N Acharya, PRO, Ministry of Defence


Image: The memorial in the night

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A saga of valour and sacrifices

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The history of Jammu and Kashmir is a saga of extraordinary valour, enduring courage and supreme sacrifices made by our countrymen to uphold the sanctity of its borders and the sovereignty of the nation.

The names of these brave men -- the martyrs of the Indo-Pakistan wars in 1965, 1971 and 1999 -- are etched in gold on the black granite of the memorial pillars.

The names of the soldiers are listed along with their regiment and the day they laid down their lives for the nation.

Photograph Courtesy: S N Acharya, PRO, Ministry of Defence


Image: A schoolgirl pays tribute at the memorial

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Soldiers had fought as an united force

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The pillars on the other side of the memorial commemorate the soldiers who were killed during the 1947-48 war with Pakistan and the 1962 war with China.

As I went through the names on the pillars, I realised that they represented every region of our vast nation.

These slain soldiers had fought a pitched battle against the enemy as an united force; they had died for the sake of an united India.

Photograph Courtesy: S N Acharya, PRO, Ministry of Defence


Image: The pillars with the names of the martyrs

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Some pillars remain nameless

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I paused at as I reached the end of the pathway leading to the memorial.

Here stood some pillars, devoid of the names of any fallen soldiers, and I prayed that they remain nameless forever.

At the end of the sprawling 21-acre garden, a short history of the wars India has fought so far is inked on a black granite wall.

Photograph Courtesy: S N Acharya, PRO, Ministry of Defence


Image: The Tower of Sacrifice in the night

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We remember our fallen soldiers here

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The mammoth wall reveals some lesser known statistics -- like the fact that in the Drass sector alone, 30 officers, 116 Junior Commissioned Officers and 405 others were killed during the Kargil War in 1999.

Pakistan lost nearly 1,000 soldiers.

Along with the history of each battle fought in the state since 1947, the memorial wall also lists the names of the various battalions and the officers who led them.

Photograph Courtesy: S N Acharya, PRO, Ministry of Defence


Image: The musical fountain

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A reminder and a pilgrimage

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For the brave families of these soldiers, the memorial is a reminder of the fact that the nation remembers and respects the supreme sacrifice made by their loved ones.

For others like us, it is a pilgrimage to pay a silent tribute to these selfless men, to whom we owe a debt that we can never repay.

Photograph Courtesy: S N Acharya, PRO, Ministry of Defence


Image: The Tower of Sacrifice in the night

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