National War Memorial - Rashtriya Samar Smarak

February 25, 2019

 

Prelude 

India is by far the largest democratic nation with second largest population of 1.3 billion people. It is also the only country with diverse range of language speaking states and religions co-existing together in a geography that is surrounded with the highest mountains, desert and ocean. Thus it becomes imperative to protect it's borders. Indian Military Force is one of the greatest military force in the World and undoubtedly a pride for our nation with a unique and valourous gallantry of Indian soldiers recognised globally. Since the Independence, our Armed Forces have fought four major wars with great casualties to defend our national borders and to keep the nation’s peace intact that is seldom forgotten. Thus, it becomes imperative and becomes exigent to remember these brave souls who lost their lives for the count. 

The National War Memorial (NWM) is a journal of the heroic and selfless stories of the soldiers and the elaborate military culture, their customary traditions and history that needs to be reminded to all the citizens time and again. The Martyr's Memorial is a symbol of the connection between these unsung brave soldiers and the citizens as a reminder of our country’s peaceful existence. In the conception of this war memorial, the soldiers and the hardships they face are glorified and not the wars in itself. The memorial thus becomes an example of our peaceful existence. The design concept of the memorial is to go beyond immortality. The gestate of the memorial is primarily based on the conception of reincarnation of the unsung heroes through their stories and struggles. The memorial is designed in such a way that the entire experience will take the people through the journey of these soldiers and making them feel the struggles they face. The concept of reincarnation is associated with this experiential concept of the memorial. Reincarnation is an Indian mythological concept and a modern day interpretation for the same is REBIRTH.

 

 

Context

The selected site is located in the heart the Lutyens Zone in the Capitol Complex in the capital city of India, New Delhi. Delhi breathes history and it has played a vital role in the rich cultural and political transformations of the country. Being the seat of power over decades of monarchy, Delhi has transformed into a layered historical and geographical landform, from the history of Pandavas, decades of Indian rulers, Islam Dynasties, Mughal and finally in early 20th century Edwin Lutyens building the new capital for the British empire. One of the masterpieces was the capital complex on the Raisina Hill with a brilliant axis passing right through India gate. It has lush green cover which is a key environmental asset and an essential lung space for the city. The Lutyens’ Zone was designed on ‘Garden City’ principles with a magnificent Vijay Path (‘Road to Victory’), Jan Path and diagonal pathways dividing the lawns around the capital complex. The most vital component of the site is the axis that the Raj Path creates. The Raj Path ends beyond the India Gate in a hexagon shaped garden with the Chatri that holds the Amar Jawan Jyoti. This Jyoti is lit to never forget the Indian soldiers in the First World War. The site aptly sits behind the war memorial- India Gate built for the 82000 Indian Army Soldiers who lost their lives in the First World War, kindly reminding us of their sacrifice. The concept of the new memorial is designed to be an extension of India Gate to etch the names of our jawans from the post independence wars, eternally.

 

Master Plan

In the heart of Delhi is the Rashtrapati Bhavan complex built as Viceroy's House and presently the President's quarters. It is located on the Raisana Hill. The Raj Path or the King's path connects the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the India Gate in a slope. The Jan Path or the People's path runs perpendicular to the Raj Path just next to the India Gate. The Lutyens plan of delhi had strong Central Axis which is the Central Rajpath which connects the India Gate with the Rashtrapati Bhavan and ends in the circular Mughal Gardens or the Charbagh inside the Rashtrapati Bhavan complex. The Lutyens plan had another garden planned to terminate the axis in the rear side of India Gate which never got built. The proposed memorial is designed as an extension of the India Gate as a huge public open space with garden as a closure point of this Central Axis.
 
The axis of the Raj Path is considered as the axis of life and the new axis that is proposed perpendicular to the Raj Path and parallel to Jan Path. Connecting the National war museum and the National war memorial is the Axis of Death. The memorial is positioned as the epicentre of these two major axes.
 
The National War Memorial is designed as complex spread over 42 acres of lawn 1, lawn 2 and lawn 3 and part of lawn 4, in the C - hexagon, comprising of Param yodha sthal, the Rashtriya Samar Smarak and the plazas. As directed by the guidelines of the Central Vista Committee, Delhi (the governing body of the Raj Path for Lutyens Delhi), the form of the War Memorial is subterranean with the built form not exceeding 1.5 meters above the ground level. The design of the National War Memorial was conceived carefully to retain the existing open character of the existing public space and the aesthetical sanctity of the Lutyens planning.

 

Design concept

The design concept of the National War Memorial is inspired from the notion of Chakravyuha, one of the efficient battle formation techniques used in the ancient warfare. The Design intends to create an experience of walking amidst soldiers in a war field in its varied layers. The concept is interpreted as five concentric circles of varied elements as layers with its own functionality and conveying different emotions (protection-bravery-sacrifice), at different levels. 
 
The outermost layer or circle is the Circle of Protection or the Rakshak Chakra, followed by Circle of War or the Yudh Path. The next layer is the Circle of Sacrifice or Tyag Chakra, then the Circle of Bravery or Veer Chakra and finally Rebirth or Punarjanam.

 

Circle of Protection | Rakshak Chakra

The Circle of protection personifies the territorial control of the armed forces of the borders where the topography bows down to receive these valourous soldiers. The brave soldiers have never ceased to disappoint the land and all their brothers and sisters. This circle renders the space to personify imprints from the past that we look back to stay grounded. This circle signifies a shift in memory of war, towards a peaceful future. 
The trees are arranged in a specific order in a circular arrangement inspired from the fleet formation of the soldiers, signifying the disciplined life led by the soldiers out of all odds. This space gives a feel of walking through a fleet of upright soldiers who are standing straight and ready for protecting their country.

 

Circle of War | Yudh Path

War trench - Concept 

 

A central axis to the memorial is also the Yudh Path Axis connecting the north and the south zone, this axis is located perpendicular to the Rajpath. People can enter into the memorial complex only through this path. The Yudh path holds two galleries and convenience stores at the north and the south zone in the subterranean level which educates and provides with the information on the history of some of the important battles fought by the Indian Soldiers.

 

 

Circle of Sacrifice | Tyag chakra

 

The Circle of Sacrifice, metaphorically represents the formation of the soldiers in the war. As derived from the concept of Chakra vyuga the soldiers stand in the endless rows in the formation of concentric circles protecting the nation. The concentric rings are created by arranging granite stones each representing an individual soldier. Continuous band of stones hold and protect itself and its occupants within, symbolising discipline, order, and commitment of our heroes towards the nation. 
 
Each granite stone block represents a Martyr, on which his name and ranks are engraved. The wall of sacrifice has been designed as a modular self balancing structural stacking system which is 2m length and 1.5m height. It is held together in position through interlocking mechanism generally found as a technique in Indian architecture. The proposed design can hold 30,000 names of the soldiers with space left for future expansion.

 

Circle of Bravery | Veer chakra

 

History is not merely a summation of previous events, but instead its purpose is to show reasons for why and how these events had happened. It needs to emote pain, breakthroughs, war etc. to the spectators. By learning about the causes and effects of events in Indian War History, people can learn better ways to deal with conflict among nations and individuals. Considering this, the gallery in the memorial will exhibit each war’s history and events. 
 
The circle of bravery has been conceived as subterranean collonnaded semi open corridor holding the stories remembering the bravery exhibited by our soldiers. Veer Chakra Gallery holds 6 bronze murals which depicts the important battles fought by the Indian soldiers after the independence. The list of battles which were the turning point, in the history of the nation building process were Battle of Longewala, Battle of Ganga sagar, Battle of Tithwal, Battle of Rezangla, Operation Meghdoot, Operation Trident.

 

Circle of Rebirth | Punarjanm

 

The focal point of the memorial is the innermost circle which is the Circle of Rebirth, symbolising the immortality of each of the jawans who lost their lives through the eternal fire in the epicentre. 
 
The eternal fire is described through a central obelisk which is 15m high, holds the Amar Jawan Jyoti in the middle and the Ashoka Chakra - the Emblem at the top, symbolising the act of burning soldiers in protecting our nation. 

 

 

Landscape

The landscape of the National War Memorial(Rashtrapati Samar Smarak) is inspired from Mughal gardens which emphasises the belief of gardens being the door to the heaven. Some features adopted from the Mughal gardens include the sequential arrangement of different layers of the landscape. 
 
The outer ring has flower bearing trees arranged in a perfect order like a fleet of soldiers. The next ring is an earth berm followed by small and medium size shrubs with white flowers and fragrance symbolising peace and purity. 

 

Param Yodha Sthal

The Param Vir Chakra is India's highest military decoration, awarded for displaying distinguishing acts of valour during wartime. This is equivalent to the Medal of Honor in the United States and the Victoria Cross in the United Kingdom. Only 21 soldiers have received this award till date. 
 
The Param Vir Chakra translates as the "Wheel of the Ultimate Bravery", and the award is granted for "most conspicuous bravery in the presence of the enemy". 
 
The Param Yodha Sthal is separate and a unique space for all the jawans who have been awarded the Param Vir Chakra, the highest form of recognition given for military personnel. The August Kranti Maidan is developed as the Param yodha sthal dedicated to the Param vir chakra awardees. The park is designed with the existing trees in position and well laid out pathways. The landscaping accommodates the bronze statues of 21 param veer chakra awardees.

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