Suitcase and World: In memory of martyrs. Jallianwala Bagh.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

In memory of martyrs. Jallianwala Bagh.

Jallianwala Bagh is a national memorial commemorating the massacre of hundreds of unknown men, women and children that took place on April 13, 1919. The Hindi word *bagh* means *garden* in English.

In 1919, India was still fighting for its independence from Britain. Just days before the massacre took place, violent protests had broken out in the streets of Amritsar. Angry Indians were demanding the release of two popular leaders of the Indian Independence Movement. The protesters were fired on by the British military, killing several demonstrators. The firing set off a chain of violence that eventually culminated in the deaths of at least five Europeans, including government employees and civilians.

On April 13, 1919, thousands of men, women and children had gathered inside Jallianwala Bagh to celebrate Baisakhi, one of Pubjan's largest religious festivals. Under the command of Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, fifty British Indian Army soldiers, opened fire on on the crowd without any warning. Jallianwala Bagh is enclosed on all four sides by buildings with only one main entrance that was blocked by Dyer's troops so there was no way for the crowd to escape from the storm of bullets. Other smaller gates were locked and people fleeing from the firing were shot. Many of them jumped to their death in a well inside the garden.

By the time it was all over, Dyer's troops had fired upon and killed hundreds and stopped only when they ran out of ammunition. The British government officially put the casualties at 379 dead and over 1,100 injured. But local witnesses had claimed that nearly 2,000 people were killed in the massacre - the bloodiest in India's freedom struggle.

Jallianwala Bagh is located a short walk away from Harmandar Sahib. After our failed attempt to visit Harmandar Sahib, Aman suggested that we go ahead and visit Jallianwala Bagh and so went. I followed Aman through the congested streets of Amritsar. We walked through the narrow alleyway that leads to the Bagh.

Passing through the alleyway, I found myself standing at the entrance to a very pretty garden.  A bit of serene oasis tucked away from the chaos of the rest of downtown Amritsar. 

The memorial garden was actually built in the mid 1920's.  In 1961, 45 foot tall red stone pillar, in the shape a large flame, was erected.   You can see the flame from pretty much every spot in the garden and it is definitely a popular for photos.

Aman leading the way.

A walkway winds around the garden.  Aman and I made our way along.   A covered portion of the walkway led us to the Martyr's Gallery.

Inside the gallery are portraits of many of the men who died fighting for India's independence.  At the end of the gallery hallway is a large painting depicting the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh.

Back outside, we continued our walk around the garden.  We were heading towards the garden well that many victims jumped to their death in.  As expected, there were people huddled around the well, peering down into it.  I'm not keen on seeing a spot where people plunged to their deaths trying to escape a hail of bullets so I snapped a photo from afar and walked on.

It was a warm but beautiful sunny day in Amritsar so I took a few minutes to enjoy the garden but I couldn't linger long.  By now, it was late afternoon.  It had been a long travel day but I had one more item on the tour agenda before I could call it a day - a visit to the Wagah Border.