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Flame of the Immortal Soldier ‘India Gate’ – ‘Lutyens Delhi’

The picturesque spic and span area around Rastrapathi Bhavan, the Capital City of India, New Delhi is credited to have been designed by the British Architect, Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens (29 March 1869 – 1st January 1944). He was a Knighted Decorated, Honoured, Felicitatesd Architect by Forums & Governments, around the world!
An academically qualified Architect who has designed over 44 war memorials in England today are protected monuments. He’s initially designed various country homes to English folks and later graduated to buildings and structures for the erstwhile British Government! In India between 1912 – 30 during his tenure out here, he is credited to have designed the Rastrapathi Bhavan, which was the British Viceroy’s Residence. . . today this 340 room and 330 acre property houses the first citizen of our country – The President of India! He’s designed the Hyderabad House, a Palace at New Delhi for the Last Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan. Apart from several buildings around to blend in to the landscape, being one of the three principal architects of Imperial War Graves Commission, he was given the task to design the 43 mts. high marvel down the road of Rastrapathi Bhavan today called the ‘India Gate’! This structure resembles the ‘Arc De Triumphe’ situated at Paris, France, but Sir Luyten was good at blending local design and architecture into the structure! This beautiful towering edifice is built of pale stone, red stone and granite and built as a tribute and honour to the 90,000 Indian soldiers who fought the First World War and the Anglo Afghan War 1919. 13,218 Indian soldiers who were martyred – their names are sculpted on the walls of India Gate! It remains India’s Largest War Memorial. There was a statue of King George V at this edifice. Out of reverance to the brave and honoured dead, it was moved to his gallery at Delhi.
The foundation of this structure was laid by Duke of Connaught on 10th February, 1921 but took 10 years to be completed! After the 1971, Indo-Pak War, the then Prime Minister, Smt. Indira Gandhi added a Black Marble Cenotaph which has a inverted L1A1 Self Loading Rifle and an Indian Soldier’s Helmet, as a further tribute to the Indian Defence Forces soldiers who were martyred. It also has three flags of Army, Nary and Airforce. There’s a single flame which burns 24×7 through and through since it’s inaguration by the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi on January 26th, 1971! It’s christened, ‘Amar Jawan’ meaning ‘ Immortal Soldier’. LPG was fuel from 1971 to 2006! It was switched over to CNG from 2006! It is heartening to know that the 25th Chief of Indian Army Chander Singh Bist, Military Engineering Services used to stay with his family at the India Gate. There is a provision of living accommodation high up, below the arch of the structure. He used to look after the maintenance and upkeep of the structure. Today, the public are allowed to view the Jyoti of Amar Jawan from a distance. It’s guarded round the clock. India’s Defence pride! The side windows of the structure carry a giant Kalash! There’s no ticket to this edifice! One has to brave the crowds and elements of nature to view it at close quarters Delhi Summer and Delhi Winters. Sunrise is beautiful out here, so is sunset! Past sunset, the structure comes alive with artificial light, asthetically done. This is one of the must see places in the tourist circuit of Delhi!
On ‘Vijay Divas’, the Chiefs of Indian Army, Navy & Airforce lay wreaths honouring the brave soilders who have laid down their lives for India. On 26th January – Republic Day of India (since 1950), the most honoured day’s parade starts from here in presence of the President, Prime Minister and Chief of Army, Navy and Airforce. On this day one can see 4 flames on the Cenotaph and the surrounding buildings are lit up. Rajpath becomes a parade of honour and display showcasing, India’s Defence might and cultural representation from each and every corner of the country! The brave and the meritorious are honoured by the country. Normally a Chief Guest of friendly country is brought in and honoured. It’s a spectacular televised event across the country and world. Entry to the event is by invitation only! Of course one can be a bystander, if one can brave the crowds!
India Gate is located in the heart of New Delhi on Rajpath admist criss crossing of major roads in wide acreage of lush green lawns. This central lung space has become a favourite picnic spot for the local and the visiting population. The vendors around this revered area mutilate the sanctity of the edifice! This picnic spot has everything you can think of the eat and drink. Just carry cash. Forgot to carry your camera, there are enough photographers who are willing to capture your visit to New Delhi’s India Gate for fifty bucks!
Lutyens Bungalow Zone (LBZ) is a must visit area. Beautiful on Republic Day – security issues on the week of 26th January. Parking is a issue too. Get dropped off a cab and walk the distance! Avoid this place on weekends and holidays. When me being at Christmas, this place had a lakh of tourist and local crowd – newspaper reports!
-Jagdeesh Laxman Singh
aka Jugie Singh
Text & Photography

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