These lines imprinted on a flag at the war memorial is proof of the bravery and gallantry of Indian soldiers. The only war memorial of Himachal Pradesh is located at Dharamshala. The state, called Dev Bhoomi (land of the Gods), is also known as Vir Bhoomi (land of the brave) as it has sacrificed many sons in wars fought for saving the motherland. A heroic young army officer thrashed his enemies in a hand to hand fight. That brave officer was Captain Vikram Batra. He was posthumously awarded with the Param Vir Chakra for his valour and bravery. Captain Saurabh Kalia lost his life at the age of 22. His sacrifice woke up a sleeping nation, the then Army Chief told his father.
”This war memorial is not a tourist spot, it is a temple of our martyrs. People should come with the feeling of patriotism to salute and seek blessings from our martyrs who lost their lives guarding our motherland,” said Lt Col Jai Ganesh Singh (Retd), legal advisor and former chairman of the war memorial. “These brave souls made a supreme sacrifice of their today for our better tomorrow,” he added.
The memorial was inaugurated in 1977 to commemorate the soldiers who lost their lives during Indo-Pak wars (1947-48, 1965, 1971), Sino-Indian war (1962) and during some other peace operations. The memorial is spread over 700 acres of land. The names of all the soldiers belonging to Himachal who have sacrificed their lives, from all the three wings of armed force, are engraved on the five faces of the three curved walls which rise from a circular shallow pool of water with 21 water jets. These three walls are made of black marble. The curved shape of these walls signifies the continuity and onward movement of human life.
The beds of pink, red and white roses along the main monument depict the childhood, youth and old age and subsequent death of an individual . A person dies but the nation and mankind live on. On the sixth face an image symbolising the ever burning flame of national freedom and a tribute to the brave souls of the martyrs is etched. The largest number of 52 martyrs from Himachal Pradesh died during the Kargil operation.
Initially, this monument was managed by the Zila Sainik Board. In 2000, retired Army personnel joined hands and formed an NGO to look after the war memorial. Now, it has more than 200 members.
” To honour our fearless martyrs and their achievements we host four or five major functions at the war memorial every year like Kargil Day, Vijay Divas, Republic Day, Independence Day, etc.,” , said Lt Col GB Thapa (Retd), ex chairman. “School and college students from nearby areas participate in various programmes like slogan writing, declamation competition, etc.,” he added.
”There are eight to nine workers taking care of this pious monument. As the funds we have are not enough so our workers are getting minimum wages. We charge ten rupees as entry fee and twenty rupees as parking fee. Other than this we have placed a donation box outside the gate which is our sole source of income,” said Col KKS Dadwal (Retd) , current chairman of the war memorial.
”Many times VIPs or ministers donate some funds for the maintenance of this monument along with government provided funds, ” he added.
The war memorial has become a popular spot among tourists as it has good road connectivity and ample parking space. “Whenever I visit Himachal Pradesh, I wish to visit the war memorial to pay tribute to the martyrs and their families,” said Harpreet Singh , 37 , from Punjab. Shakuntala Rathore , 42, from Rajasthan said, “When I came here for the first time, my eyes were full of tears. I salute the brave mothers who are sending their sons for saving us and our country.”