Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday dedicated a new National War Memorial, situated in the India Gate complex in New Delhi, to the nation. He lit the flame positioned at the bottom of the stone obelisk to pay homage to the soldiers who died in the line of duty.
"Our armed forces are among the strongest in the world. They have always risen to every challenge in front of the nation and responded with their full strength," PM Modi said, honouring the soldiers who have given up their lives to defend the country and also launching a piercing political attack on the Congress at the event.
The National War Memorial complex, spread across 40 acres, includes a central obelisk, an eternal flame, and six bronze murals depicting famous battles fought by the Army, the Air Force and the Navy.
The design of the National War Memorial has a layout comprising four concentric circles, namely, the 'Amar Chakra' or Circle of Immortality, the 'Veerta Chakra' or Circle of Bravery, the 'Tyag Chakra' or Circle of Sacrifice, and the 'Rakshak Chakra' or Circle of Protection.
Statues of 21 awardees of Param Veer Chakra have also been installed in the National War Memorial. This includes those of the three recipients of the country's highest gallantry award-Subedar Major (Hony Capt) Bana Singh (Retired), Subedar Major Yogendra Singh Yadav and Subedar Sanjay Kumar.
The National War Memorial will not replace the Amar Jawan Jyoti which was built in 1972 underneath the India Gate arch to commemorate soldiers killed in the Indo-Pak War of 1971. The memorial will remain intact, a senior army officer told the news agency PTI.
"This war memorial will keep reminding us, in years to come, of the valour of the soldiers and their dedicated service," Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.
PM Modi spoke about the memorial in his ''Mann ki Baat'' programme on Sunday, saying not having such a memorial always pained and surprised him.
"I do believe that for our countrymen, a visit to the National War Memorial will be akin to a pilgrimage to a holy place. The national soldiers'' memorial is a symbol of the nation's gratitude to those men who made the supreme sacrifice after we gained Independence," he said.
The names of 25,942 fallen heroes, along with their rank and regiment, are inscribed in the 16 walls of the memorial.
Apart from the soldiers who were killed in the wars in 1947, 1962, 1965, 1971 and 1999, the names of the soldiers who died while on Indian Peace Keeping Force Operations in Srilanka is also inscribed on the memorial.
(With inputs from PTI)