Tuesday, August 5, 2014
It has been a hundred years since the Great War began. Being a part of the British Empire at the time, India was drawn into the war, without too much of a say in the matter. Notionally a volunteer force, the Indian Army was pitched into several battles; with them were the armies of several princely states and European volunteers. The total number of troops from India was over a million. Almost four-fifths of them were sent to Middle East Asia, with the rest going to France and to Africa.
Over 60,000 soldiers from India lost their lives in the Great War. The founding nucleus of the Indian Army, the Madras Regiment, had its fair share of causalities. The city decided to honour the fallen with a memorial at the south-west end of Fort St George. The space that was known as "Cupid's Bow" until then was cleared up and an open, circular stone pavilion was built. On the western side, the circle is marked with the years 1914 and 1918.
This pillar, in the centre of the circle, was a later addition, after World War II. The years are repeated here. Around the circle, each section commemorates a battlefield where soldiers from Madras Presidency laid down their lives. Some of the names are no longer in common use: Mesopotamia, for example. Some others: well, they have become so enmeshed with fighting that one reads them with weariness - for example, Gaza. This memorial to the fallen soldiers of the Madras Presidency has been modified to reflect some of independent India's wars. Let us hope that there will not be reasons to keep updating this memorial!