Iconic India Gate completes a century

A prominent tourist attraction today, India Gate is a solemn memorial to the soldiers from India who died in action during World War I and originally called the All India War Memorial Arch.
Iconic India Gate completes a century
Photo: Wikimedia/Author

The foundation stone of the All India War Memorial Arch in Delhi or India Gate as it is known today was laid on February 10 in 1921 by British royal Duke of Connaught during his visit the country, according to old records.

Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, was an uncle of King George V, the then reigning monarch of the British Empire who had held a grand durbar in Delhi in 1911 where he had also announced the shifting of the imperial capital from Calcutta to Delhi.

Following this decision, work began on creating a new capital in the Raisina Hill area, whose foundation stone was laid by King George V on December 15, 1911.

Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker laid out an extraordinary new capital, with the Viceroy's House (now Rashtrapati Bhavan) and the North Block and South Block fronting it, being the centerpiece of 'New Delhi', which was officially named so later in 1926.

However, during the construction of the new imperial capital city, the World War I broke out and a large number of soldiers from the British Indian Army were sent to the war zones.

The India Gate, a prominent tourist attraction today is a solemn memorial to the soldiers from India who died in action and originally called the All India War Memorial Arch.

During his Delhi leg of India visit in 1921, the Duke of Connaught participated in a number of activities and laid the foundation of the All India War Memorial on February 10 and the Council Chamber of the Parliament House, designed by Baker, two days later.

According to a 1921 publication of the Superintendent Government Printing, Calcutta, units of the Army from across India had gathered at the event in 'New Delhi', which was under construction.

"On this spot, in the central vista of the Capital of India, there will stand a Memorial Archway, designed to keep present in the thoughts of the generations that follow after, the glorious sacrifice of the officers and men of the Indian Army who fought and fell in the Great War," the Duke of Connaught said in his speech.

"The men were nobly led and the officers were bravely followed, and we give thanks to Almighty Providence that the cause for which they fought was the cause which prevailed, and that our Memorial is not one of lives lost in vain, but a monument of great and overwhelming victory," he said.

The monumental sandstone arch, often compared to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, was opened after a decade.

The 42-metre-high All India War Memorial Arch was built to honour the soldiers who died in the First World War (1914-1918) and the Third Anglo-Afghan War (1919). The landmark has the names of soldiers inscribed on its surface.

Over 80,000 Indian laid their lives in those campaigns and India Gate bears names of 13,516 etched over its surface.

Amar Jawan Jyoti was built to commemorate India's victory in the Indo-Pak War of 1971, an Army official had said earlier.

Amar Jawan Jyoti is a memorial symbolised by an inverted bayonet and soldier's helmet over it with an eternal flame burning beside it. It was built in 1972 underneath the India Gate arch to commemorate the soldiers who lost their lives in the Indo-Pak War of 1971.

Delhi's iconic Connaught Place, a plush heritage shopping plaza, built during the making of 'New Delhi' was named after the Duke of Connaught.

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