Dras War Memorial

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Kargil War Memorial. On the background is the name of soldiers who died during the battle, and a memorial for them in the front.
Image installed at the Kargil War Memorial, Dras

Kargil War Memorial, is a war memorial built by the Indian Army, located in Dras, in the foothills of the Tololing Hill. The memorial is located about 5 km from the city centre across the Tiger Hill. It is located on the Srinagar-Leh National Highway 1D.[1] The memorial is in the memory of the soldiers and officers of the Indian Army who were martyred during the 1999 conflict between India and Pakistan. The conflict later became known as the Kargil War. The memorial has a huge epitaph with names of all the officers and soldiers who died in war.[2] Kargil Vijay Diwas is celebrated on 26 July every year at the memorial simultaneously the Prime Minister of India pays tribute to the soldiers at Amar Jawan Jyothi at the India Gate, New Delhi.[1] The main attraction of the whole memorial is the Sandstone wall, in the open, which has the names of all the Indian army personnel, who laid their lives during the Kargil war besides there is also a souvenir shop. Visitors to the memorial can also see from there, some of the peaks that the Indian army captured back from Pakistan.[3] A giant national flag, weighing 15 kg was hoisted at the Kargil war memorial to commemorate the 13th anniversary of India’s victory in the war.

History

In the winter months of 1999, Pakistani Army had intruded into Indian Territory across the Line of Control (LoC) and occupied numerous heights dominating the National Highway and roads connecting Leh and Kargil to Srinagar. The Indian Army launched OPERATION 'VIJAY' (Victory) to evict the intruders in May 1999. Fierce battles were fought to regain territory in one of the most treacherous terrain on Earth. The intruders were disgraced and evicted by 26 July 1999. Each year, 26 July is observed as 'Kargil Vijay Diwas' (Kargil Victory Day) to commemorate the un-daunting spirit and supreme sacrifice of Indian soldiers during this conflict.

A make-shift Memorial is said to have been constructed to honour the Indian soldiers who laid down their lives during the Kargil Conflict sometime in 2000. The memorial, in its current form was constructed by the Indian Army in Nov 2014, with the Tololing Heights, Tiger Hill and Point 4875 (Batra Top) forming the background. Some of the toughest battles in Military History were fought to regain these heights in 1999. The memorial is made of pink "Chitter Stone" with a brass plate in the background that is engraved with names of all soldiers who laid down their lives during Operation Vijay.

Over the years, numerous infrastructural improvements have been made in the memorial. On 26 July 2012, the Flag Foundation of India presented a National Flag sized 37.5 feet by 25 feet on a 100 feet high flag pole to the Memorial. This majestic flag stirs up the National Pride of every visitor. The Kargil War Memorial is an important landmark and a major tourist attraction in Western Ladakh. In the year 2016, approximately 1,25,000 visitors are believed to have visited the Memorial.

How To Reach Kargil War Memorial is located on National Highway – 1 which connects Leh to Srinagar via Kargil and Dras. It is accessible by bus and taxi from Srinagar (155 km) and Leh (281 km) airports. The nearest railway station is at Jammu (395 km).

Where to Stay There are three hotels in Dras with very basic amenities. A new hotel with better amenities is expected to commence operations by 2018. Decent Hotels are presently only located at Kargil, which is about 60 km from Dras and involves an hour long drive.

Best Time to Visit The War Memorial is open throughout the year. The best time to visit is sometime between June and October. However, visitors should avoid the period between 23 to 26 July, as the Memorial remains closed for general public due to Kargil Vijay Diwas events.

Timings The memorial is open from 7 AM to 8 PM.

Entry Fees The entry to the War Memorial is Rs.500/-. Visitors are required to show any proof of identity and register their details at the entrance gate. Visitors are subjected to a security check at the entrance gate.

Instructions for Visitors Considering the sanctity of the War Memorial, visitors are expected to maintain basic decorum during their visit. Loud and unruly behavior may invite getting checked by the staff. Instructions for visitors are displayed at the entrance.

(Instructions for Visitors – displayed at the entrance to the War Memorial)

Ø Kindly enter your name in the visitor's book at the reception counter.

Ø Kindly maintain the sanctity and decorum of the War Memorial.

Ø Wearing of slippers is not permitted in the memorial premises.

Ø Please walk only on designated pathways.

Ø Plucking of flowers, walking on lawns or touching of statues is not permitted.

Ø Drinking and smoking is strictly prohibited.

Ø Consumption of eatables and beverages may please be restricted to the cafeteria.

Ø Carriage of fire arms, ammunition or knives is strictly prohibited.

Ø Do not litter the memorial premises.

Photography Photography is permitted at all places, free of charge. However, visitors are expected to maintain decorum, particularly in the area of the Amar Jawan Jyoti.

What to See at the Kargil War Memorial

Vijay Path (Victory Path). The central promenade beyond the entrance gate is called the Vijay Path or Victory Path. The path is resplendent with the Indian Tricolour adorning either sides. During the spring (Aug-Sep), colourful flowers add to the splendor of the majestic boulevard. Tourists love to take pictures on the Vijay Path.

Amar Jawan (Immortal Soldier) and Wall of Heroes. The sanctum- sanctorum of the War Memorial is the Eternal Flame of Amar Jawan (Immortal Soldier) which is kept lit 24x7. The Eternal Flame provides vigil to the inverted rifle with helmet, depicting the Unknown Soldier. Behind the Amar Jawan is the Wall of Heroes. The brass wall has names of the soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice during the Kargil Conflict. Visitors can pay homage to the soldiers by offering flower petals.

Live Briefing on the Kargil Conflict. A live briefing in Hindi on the Kargil Conflict by a soldier is conducted throughout the day near the Amar Jawan for groups of visitors. Visitors are shown some of the mountains that are visible and given a feel of the battles that were fought to reclaim these peaks in the summer of 1999. A visit to the Kargil War Memorial is considered incomplete without hearing the Live Briefing. Visitors must ask for the time of the next briefing on arriving at the War Memorial. Requests for a separate briefing for large groups can also be made with the staff.

Veer Bhoomi. It appears to have been inspired by the Arlington Cemetery. Veer Bhoomi constitutes epitaphs of soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice while serving the nation in the Dras-Kargil Sector since 1947, other than of those who died in Operation Vijay.

Manoj Pandey Gallery. The Gallery is named after Captain Manoj Pandey, an officer of 1/11 Gorkha Regiment, posthumously awarded with India’s highest Gallantry Award, Param Vir Chakra for his audacious courage during the Kargil Conflict. The Gallery showcases the achievements of various units and Regiments of the Indian Army which had participated in Operation Vijay. The Gallery has three main areas:-

  • Hut of Remembrance. Hut of Remembrance has boards with the names of all the soldiers Killed in Action during Operation Vijay. It also houses letters written from the war zone and messages of various individuals and organisations for the troops who were involved during the Operations.
  • Photos and History Gallery. This portion of the Gallery hosts the battle accounts of the units that participated in Operation Vijay. Models and photographs of the major battles fought during Operation Vijay are also placed in this gallery. It also has a wall with photographs of soldiers who were awarded with Gallantry Awards during Operation Vijay.
  • Captured Weapon and Equipment Gallery. Weapons, documents and equipment of Pakistani Army that were captured during Operation Vijay are displayed in this gallery.

Bofors Gun and MIG-21 The Bofors Gun and the MIG-21 fighter aircraft played a stellar role during the Kargil conflict. A full size replica of the Gun and a MIG-21 airframe are placed at the memorial. Photography with the Gun and Aircraft is also very popular with the visitors.

Audio Visual Room A short documentary titled “Kargil Vijay Diwas” in Hindi, recounting the Kargil Conflict is shown to the visitors free of charge. The duration of the documentary is 20 minutes and the seating per show is about thirty individuals. The documentary is started as the seats in the room fill up. Large groups can request for a special screening of the documentary with the staff. For non Hindi speaking audience, the documentary “Lion of Ladakh” is played on request. The documentary is very moving and every visitor must see it.

Souvenir Shop A Souvenir shop is available for everyone to carry back memories of their visit to Dras. Major attractions are Key chains, Fridge Magnets, Custom Printed Mugs and T-shirts. Books on the Kargil Conflict are also available. Visitors can buy postcards with stamps and mail them to their loved ones right at the souvenir shop itself. Garments made by local women at the Vocational Training Centers run by the Army at Dras are also sold at the souvenir shop. Earnings from the sale of these garments are given to the women, thus contributing to women empowerment in the region.

Cafe Rendezvous Cafe Rendezvous at the Kargil War Memorial provides refreshments to the visitors on nominal charges. It is very popular with bikers who like to soak up the sun while enjoying a hot cup of tea with samosas. Momos available at the café are very popular. Juices and bottled water is also available. Visitors are advised not to litter the premises and use available dust bins for disposing the garbage.

Recreational Park A small park is located at the South Eastern edge of the premises where visitors can rest or walk around. The major attraction of the park are the captured Pakistani shelters retrieved from their positions after the conflict. Pieces of shrapnel from Artillery shells are also placed in the park.

Messages for Our Soldiers Visitors can convey their sentiments to the soldiers in the form of written messages or doodles. An electronic doodle board is kept at the souvenir shop for this purpose. Messages written are displayed on a TV in the Audio Visual Room.

Suggestion Book Suggestions from visitors are taken seriously and implemented promptly. Over the years, many services have been improved thanks to suggestions from the visitors. A suggestion book is placed at the reception which can be used by any visitor who wishes to convey a point to the officials managing the War Memorial.

Wheel Chairs The Memorial is accessible for persons on wheel chairs. Two wheel chairs are available at the main gate for use by visitors free of charge.

Rest Rooms Separate rest rooms for ladies and gents are conveniently located at the Memorial.

ATM An ATM of State Bank of India is located within the War Memorial premises and can be used by visitors for withdrawing cash.

Parking Vehicles can be parked astride the National Highway. Vehicles are not permitted to enter the memorial premises. Parking is not permitted right opposite the entrance gate.

FAQs

Q1. Is the War Memorial open to foreign nationals?

A1. Yes. Any foreign national possessing a valid passport and visa would be granted entry.

Q2. I want to make a documentary on the Kargil War. Can I carry out photography at the War Memorial?

A2. No. Photography for documentaries etc would entail a written permission from Army Headquarters. Amateur photography is permitted.

Q3. How much time should I plan to spend at the War Memorial?

A3. A visitor should plan to spend about two hours for a relaxed visit, which would include witnessing the Live Briefing and Documentary.

Q4. I want to witness the events during Kargil Vijay Diwas. From where can I buy tickets?

A4. Kargil Vijay Diwas commemoration events are reported to be by invitation only and restricted to the Veterans and Next of Kin of the soldiers Killed in Action. Attendance by regular tourists is not permitted due to paucity of space and in keeping with the solemnity of the occasion.

Q5. Is there a cloak room where I can keep my stuff?

A5. No. Visitors are advised to keep their personal belongings in their vehicles. However, visitors are allowed to keep their belongings like jackets etc near the Audio Video room at their own risk.

Q6. We are a group of Bikers who wish to participate in Kargil Vijay Diwas on 26 Jul. From where can we get permission?

A6. No permissions are granted. You must plan your trip either before 23 Jul or after 26 Jul. Please refer to A4.

Q7. I wish to bring Rakhees and Cards for our soldiers. Can I present them to the soldiers at the War Memorial?

A7. Yes. We have seen some citizens presenting Rakhees to the soldiers. You should contact the staff at the Memorial.

Q8. Can I plan to visit during Independence Day (15 Aug) or Republic Day (26 Jan)?

A8. Yes. There are generally no restrictions on other days, except 23-26 Jul. Only the very hardy visitors can plan for 26 Jan, as temperatures would drop to minus 30O C during that time of the year. However, the War Memorial is kept open.

Q9. Can I take pictures of the soldiers at the War Memorial.

A9. Yes, but with due caution. Visitors are advised not upload such pictures on social media, as there are restrictions on serving soldiers from uploading their pictures in uniform and you may unknowingly cause him trouble. Sometimes, the soldiers may request you not to take their pictures.

Q10. When is it better to visit, morning, afternoon or evening?

A10. Generally there is very little breeze in the mornings. The wind picks up from about 11:00 AM, and the flags are in complete splendor for the rest of the day. Apart from this, any time of the day is suitable.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Dras War Memorial - Vijaypath". jktourism.org. 
  2. ^ "Drass memorial: Invoking memories of Kargil war". Rediff. 27 July 2011. 
  3. ^ "Kargil War Memorial". jktourism.org. 

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