Colonel: [moments before the Amritsar Massacre] Should we issue a warning, sir?
Gen. Dyer: They've had their warning. No meetings.
Gen. Dyer: *Fire!*
(from Gandhi(1982), source : IMDB)
After visiting Harmandir Sahib, we went to the Jallianwala Bagh. It is situated at around 300 meters from the main entrance of Harmandir Sahib. Jallianwala Bagh reminds us of our past, of our freedom struggle against British colonialism. For people of our generation who are used to the violent protests everyday on any type of issue, this place reminds us what was it like to stage a peaceful protest or even to assemble peacefully. Such was the tyranny of British Raj that even a gathering on a festive occasion was fired upon. 

On 13th of April, 1919, there was a gathering of people in Jallianwala Bagh on the traditional festival of Baisakhi. At the scheduled time, the meeting started. Nearly an hour after the meeting started, then-Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer arrived there with a small contingent of Gurkha soldiers. Without even a warning Dyer ordered to fire upon the assembly. The Park was surrounded from all the sides by houses and there were narrow entrances which were chained. Only the main entrance was open for passage, which was manned by soldiers firing indiscriminately. There was no way to leave the park and subsequently most of the people died from the resulting stampede. Many of them jumped into a well inside the park to escape from bullets. More than a hundred bodies were recovered later from the well. This incident is known as Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. After the massacre, curfew was imposed in the city due to which wounded could not be taken out of the park to provide medical support and many more succumbed during the night to the injuries. Official sources placed the number of deaths at 379 while unofficial sources claimed that the total number of casualties were more than a thousand.

Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar

Today the 6.5-acre site is managed by Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust established in 1951. While entering the park, the spot from which bullets were fired could be seen. Looking from there it could be easily deduced that there was no way to escape the bullets other then coming towards the guns and trying to flee from the main gate. The bullet marks on the surrounding walls are encircled and carefully preserved. There are plaques installed near these marks giving details about the location of the bullets. The well in which people jumped to save their life is also a protected monument inside the park. A stone memorial with stone lanterns at its four corners was inaugurated on 13th April 1961. Later on, one eternal flame ("Amar Jyoti") was also installed.

amar jyoti at Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar

Near the main entrance to the park, there is a small hall in which a short documentary is played on a projector. The short movie gives a detailed account of what happened on that fateful day. Among other things, the documentary had some rare footage and voices of freedom fighters. This emphasized on the much talked-about right to protest peacefully which modern democracies boast of. If people can not protest in a peaceful manner against a decision of the establishment then how it is different from a dictatorship. 

Durgiana Temple, Amritsar

Then we went to Durgiana Temple, which derives its name from Goddess Durga. Built in 1908, this temple is also called Silver Temple because of its carved silver doors and is structurally similar to Golden Temple. Kar Sewa was performed to desilt the tank in 1921, 1975 and 1999. Durga is the main deity of this temple and Lakshmi and Narayan are the two other presiding deities of Durgiana Temple. That is why it is also called Lakshmi Narayan Temple. After visiting this temple it was time to go to Wagah Border to watch Beating Retreat Ceremony.

Also, see Amritsar : Jallianwala Bagh and Durgiana Temple in PicturesSee photos of Jallianwala Bagh and Durgiana Temple on Flickr here.

Leave a Reply