Know why Amar Jawan Jyoti is significant for us and details about new National War Memorial

It has emerged that one of the reasons for extinguishing the flame at Amar Jawan Jyoti is the lack of interest in the newly built National War Memorial, which was built by the Modi government

Know why Amar Jawan Jyoti is significant for us and details about new National War Memorial

NH Web Desk

On January 21, 2022, the flame at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate was extinguished after having burned steadily for 50 years and the government claimed that the flame would be ‘merged’ with the flame at the National War Memorial less than 500 metres away.

The flame of the Amar Jawan Jyoti was inaugurated at India Gate on Republic Day in 1972 by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to pay tribute to the soldiers who had lost their lives in the 1971 war with Pakistan. It was also to mark India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 War, which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh. The flame has never been extinguished since then. The memorial also consists of a pedestal on which there is a cenotaph, which acted as a tomb of the unknown soldier, along with a rifle and a helmet in honour of the soldiers who died.

The Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate gradually came to be revered as the symbol of the country's tribute to several soldiers who sacrificed their lives in various wars since Independence.

The installation had four urns on it, with four burners. On regular days one of the four burners would be kept alive, but on important days like the Republic Day, all four burners would be lit. These burners were the eternal flame, and it was never allowed to be extinguished.

Since 1972, when it was inaugurated, it used to be kept alive with the help of cylinders of liquified petroleum gas, or LPG. One cylinder could keep one burner alive for a day and a half. In 2006, fuel for the flames was changed from LPG to piped natural gas, or PNG, through a project which cost Rs 6 lakh.

India Gate, near which the Amar Jawan Jyoti was built, was earlier known as the All India War Memorial. It is a memorial of the 13,300 servicemen who died during World War I, beyond the North West Frontier and during the Third Afghan War and those who have no known graves. It is also a memorial to all the 70,000 soldiers of undivided India who died during the years 1914-1921, the majority of whom are commemorated by name mostly outside India, according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It also remembers unnamed soldiers who died in the wars during that period. It was unveiled by Lord Irwin on 12 February 1931.

The government claimed that a part of the flame was taken over to the National War Memorial without explaining how that was possible. The National War Memorial was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 25, 2019, and ever since it was set up, political and military leaders of the country lay wreaths in remembrance at the new site rather than at the Amar Jawan Jyoti.

One of the reasons for extinguishing the flame at Amar Jawan Jyoti, it has emerged is the lack of interest in the newly built National War Memorial, which was built by the Modi government. It paled in comparison with the Amar Jawan Jyoti. The government wanted, according to sources, to promote the new memorial, so that it could be seen as a part of its redevelopment of the entire Central Vista, of which India Gate, the Amar Jawan Jyoti and the National War Memorial are parts of.

The National War Memorial was built to commemorate all the soldiers who have laid down their lives in the various battles and wars post Independence. In 2015, the Modi-led government approved its construction, and the location east of the India Gate at C Hexagon was finalized.

The architecture of the memorial is based on four concentric circles. Largest is the Raksha Chakra or the Circle of Protection, which is marked by a row of trees, each of which represent soldiers, who protect the country. The Tyag Chakra, the Circle of Sacrifice, has circular concentric walls of honour based on the Chakravyuh. The walls have independent granite tablets for each of the soldiers who have died for the country since Independence.

Then Veerta Chakra, the Circle of Bravery, has a covered gallery with six bronze crafted murals depicting the battles and actions of our Armed Forces. The final is the Amar Chakra, the Circle of Immortality, which has an obelisk, and the Eternal Flame. At present, there are 26,466 names on these granite tablets etched in golden letters. A tablet is added every time a soldier is killed in the line of duty. Busts of the 21 soldiers who have been conferred the Param Vir Chakra, the highest gallantry award of the country, are also installed at the memorial.

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