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Landmarks of the Indian Freedom Struggle

History

INDIA GATE

One of the most prominent landmarks of New Delhi, India Gate dates back to the early 20th Century. It is situated on Rajpath, right in the heart of New Delhi. The monument was built to commemorate the soldiers of the erstwhile British Indian Army, who had lost their lives while fighting in World War I and the Afghan Wars. Originally called the All India War Memorial, it was changed into the site of the Indian Army's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier after the country's independence. India Gate is one of the largest war memorials in India. It was designed by Edwin Lutyens, the chief architect of New Delhi. The walls of India Gate have been inscribed with the names of the Indian soldiers who died in World War I and the Afghan Wars. The arch of India Gate houses a shrine, inside which is the ever-burning Amar Jawan Jyoti. Amar Jawan Jyoti was unveiled on January 26, 1972 by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The flame of the Jyoti burns day and night to remind the nation of soldiers who died in the Indo-Pakistan War of December 1971.

BIRLA BHAVAN

Birla Bhavan in New Delhi is the place where Mahatma Gandhi spent the last 144 days of his life. It originally belonged to the Indian business tycoons, the Birlas, but was acquired by the Government of India in 1971. It was opened for the public on August 15, 1973 and was renamed the Gandhi Smriti (or Gandhi Remembrance).

RED FORT  

The entrance to the Lal Quila or Red Fort is through the imposing Lahore Gate, which takes its name from the fact that it faces Lahore, now in Pakistan. This gate has a special significance for India since the first war of independence and many important speeches have been made here by freedom fighters and national leaders of India.

The Red Fort is the site from which the Prime Minister of India addresses the nation on August 15.  At one point in time, more than 3,000 people lived within the premises of the Delhi Fort complex. But after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, the fort was captured by Britain and the residential palaces were destroyed. It was made the headquarters of the British Indian Army. Immediately after the mutiny, Bahadur Shah Zafar was tried at the Red Fort. It was also here in November 1945 that the famous court-martial of three officers of the Indian National Army was held. After India gained independence in 1947, the Indian Army took control over the fort.

RAJ GHAT

Raj Ghat is a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. It is a black marble platform that marks the spot of Gandhi's cremation on January 31, 1948. It is left open to the sky while an eternal flame burns perpetually at one end. It is located on the banks of the river Yamuna in Delhi. A stone footpath flanked by lawns leads to the walled enclosure that houses the memorial. Two museums dedicated to Gandhiji are located near by. The memorial has the epitaph "He Ram", believed to be the last words uttered by Gandhi. The memorial was designed by Vanu G Bhuta.

MANI BHAVAN 

Located in Mumbai, Mani Bhavan acted as the focal point of Gandhi's political activities in Mumbai between 1917 and 1934. The mansion belonged to Revashankar Jagjeevan Jhaveri and the Mani family prior to that. It was from Mani Bhavan that Gandhiji initiated the Non-Cooperation, Satyagraha, Swadeshi, Khadi and Khilafat movements.

Gandhiji's association with the charkha began in 1917, while he was staying at Mani Bhavan. Mani Bhavan is also closely associated with Gandhiji's involvement in the Home Rule Movement as well as his decision to abstain from drinking cow's milk in order to protest against the cruel and inhuman practice of 'phookan' meted out to milk cattle during that period. In 1955, the building was taken over by the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi in order to maintain it as a memorial to Gandhiji, to his frequent stays and to the political activities he initiated from there.

CELLULAR JAIL

This national memorial at Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar, is the most important monument of these islands. It has been a witness to the inhuman tortures meted out to the freedom fighters incarcerated in this jail. Completed in 1906, this jail came to be known as 'cellular' because it is entirely made up of individual cells intended for the solitary confinement of prisoners. After the First War of Independence in 1857, the British transported the most unrelenting patriots to first the awful jails at Viper Island and then the Cellular Jail, where most of them perished. This was the reason that the place came to be known as 'Black Water Prison' or 'Kala Pani'. Netaji Subash Chandra Bose hoisted the tricolour flag to proclaim Independence on December 30, 1943 at a place near this three-storeyed jail. The jail also houses a museum, an art gallery and a photo gallery.

MUTINY MONUMENT

The Mutiny Monument was erected in New Delhi in 1863 in the memory of English veterans of the First War of Mutiny in 1857. After independence in 1947 it was re-dedicated to all the martyrs of India's freedom struggles and renamed as 'Ajitgarh' in 1972 when India celebrated its 25th anniversary of independence.

SAHEED MINAR

This 165-foot monument in Kolkatta was erected by public subscription in 1828 to honour Sir David Ochter Lony, a one-time resident of Malwa and Rajputana, to commemorate his victory in the Nepal War (1814-1816). In 1969 it was renamed 'Saheed Minar' to honour the martyrs of the freedom struggle. The foundation follows an Egyptian style whereas the body of the minar and the dome resemble Syrian and Turkish designs respectively. The minar is 158 feet high with two balconies at the top.

Different political parties convene meetings, rallies and seminars behind the Saheed Minar at present. The custom of convening political seminars started in 1931 when a historical convocation took place here which was presided over by Rabindranath Tagore.

AGA KHAN PALACE 

Aga Khan Palace was constructed by Sultan Mohammed Shah, Aga Khan III, in the year 1892. Built in Yerwada, near Pune, it was intended to be a source of employment for the famine-struck villagers in the surrounding areas. Prince Karim El Husseni, Aga Khan IV, donated the palace to the Government of India in 1969 in memory of Mahatma Gandhi and his philosophy. The Aga Khan Palace is also known as the Gandhi National Memorial because of its close association with Mahatma Gandhi, who was kept at this palace under house arrest in the 1940s. His wife, Kasturba Gandhi, and his long-time aide, Mahadev Desai, both died while under house arrest in this palace and their samadhis (memorials) were built here. A small amount of Gandhi's ashes are also kept here.

JALLIANWALA BAGH

On April 13, 1919 thousands of people gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh (garden) near the Golden Temple in Amritsar on Baisakhi day. An hour after the meeting began as scheduled at 4.30pm, Brigadier Reginald Dyer marched a group of 90 British Indian Army soldiers and ordered the troops to open fire without warning. He continued the firing, approximately 1,400 rounds in all, until ammunition was exhausted. Apart from the many deaths directly from the firing, a number of deaths were caused by stampedes at the narrow gates and because people who sought shelter from the firing jumped into the solitary well inside the compound. A plaque in the monument at the site, set up after independence, says that 120 bodies were plucked out of the well.

As a result of the firing, hundreds of people were killed and thousands were injured. When an inquiry was called, Dyer said he would have used his machine guns if he could have got them into the enclosure. He said he did not stop firing when the crowd began to disperse because he thought it was his duty to keep firing until the crowd dispersed and that a little firing would do no good. In fact, he continued the firing till he ran out of ammunition. In the storm of outrage that followed the release of the Hunter Report (which stated the events that occurred at Jallianwala Bagh) Dyer was placed on the inactive list and his rank reverted to Colonel since he was no longer in command of a Brigade.

This evoked feelings of deep anguish and anger and catalysed the freedom movement in the Punjab against British rule and paved the way for Mahatma Gandhi's Non-Cooperation Movement against the British in 1920. It was also motivation for a number of other revolutionaries, including Bhagat Singh. The Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore returned his knighthood to the King-Emperor in protest. S Srinivasa Iyengar resigned as Advocate-General of Madras Presidency and returned his Order of the Indian Empire. The massacre ultimately became an important catalyst of the Indian independence movement.

GOWALIA TANK MAIDAN  

Also known as August Kranti Maidan, this park in central Mumbai is the place where Mahatma Gandhi issued the Quit India speech on August 8, 1942 decreeing that the British must leave India immediately or else mass agitations would take place. The call mobilised the citizens of India to a huge civil disobedience movement as the British refused to grant independence till the war was over.

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