|Location||Amritsar, Punjab, India|
Jallianwala Bagh is a historic garden and ‘memorial of national importance’ in Amritsar, India, preserved in the memory of those wounded and killed in the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre that occurred on the site on the festival of Baisakhi, 13 April 1919. It houses a museum, gallery and a number of memorial structures.
The 7-acre (28,000 m2) garden site of the massacre is located in the vicinity of the Golden Temple complex, the holiest shrine of Sikhism and is managed by the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust, which was established as per the 'Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act, 1951'.
Jallianwala Bagh or 'the garden of the Jallah-man', with its well, implies that it was once green and flowering. Over the years it had become popular as a recreation ground and an area of rest for those visiting the nearby Golden temple. In 1919, it was a dried out plot stretched to seven acres and was surrounded by tightly packed multi-occupancy buildings divided by some narrow gullies and holding only one narrow entrance and exit route. It was unoccupied and surrounded by a wall.
The place derives its name from that of the owner of this piece of land during the rule of the Sikh Empire. It was then the property of the family of Himmat Singh, who originally came from the village of Jalla district of the Punjab in India. The family were collectively known as Jallewalle.
In 1919, in response to excluding Mahatma Gandhi from visiting Punjab, the secret deportation of Saifuddin Kitchlew and Satyapal on 10 April and the reactions to the Rowlatt Act, Punjab had witnessed attempts of Indians to gather and protest. On the morning of Vaisakhi, 13 April 1919, to the beat of military drums by the cities town criers, 19 locations around the city were read out Brigadier General R.E.H. Dyer's new rules. He had placed restrictions on leaving the city without a permit, banned all "processions of any kind" and any congregation of more than four people, and announced that "any person found in the streets after 8 pm will be shot". However, the announcements came on a background of noise and unusual heat, missing key locations around the city, meaning that the notice was not widely disseminated. Dyer was subsequently informed at 12.40 pm that day, that a political gathering was to be held at Jallianwala Bagh. One of the organisers was Hans Raj, who had accompanied Satyapal and Kitchlew just shy of their arrest and who later gave evidence in court as an approver.
By 3.30 pm, 15 000 people had gathered, a mix of speakers, listeners, picnic makers and of men, women and children of all ages, including Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and Christians. Inhuman Dyer went with ninety Sikh, Gurkha, Baloch, Rajput troops from 2-9th Gurkhas, the 54th Sikhs and the 59th Sind Rifles and ordered them to fire towards the crowds. More than 2500 were wounded or killed.
As a result, in 1920, a Trust was formed with the aim of creating a memorial at the massacre site. A number of the surrounding buildings were destroyed in the troubles of 1947. In 1951, the government of India established the site as a ‘memorial of national importance’.
The entrance to Jallianwala Bagh is via a narrow passage, the same passage that was the only entry and exit point at the time of the massacre and the same route that General Dyer and his troops took to reach the grounds. At the entrance is a statue of Udham Singh. Once entered, some old trees can be seen in the garden with some buildings at the back. With the words 'Vande Mataram', a flame titled 'Amar Jyoti' is seen burning to the right under a domed meditation area.
The portico pillars, just inside the garden, represent Dyer's soldiers.
During the massacre, there were no escape routes. The narrow passage was blocked by the army and people either ran towards the walls or jumped in the well.
The 'Martyrs Well' is surrounded by a large structure the Martyr's memorial, with a sign giving a figure of "120" as the number of bodies that were recovered from the well. It was designed by American architect Benjamin Polk and inaugurated in 1961.
The wall has its own historic significance as it has thirty-six bullet marks which can be easily seen at present and these were fired into the crowd by the order of General Dyer. Moreover, no warning was given to disperse before Dyer opened fire which [sic] was gathered here against the Rowlatt Act. One Thousand Six Hundred and Fifty Rounds were fired
A number of other plaques are seen inside the garden, one of which reads:
This site is saturated with the blood of thousands of Indian patriots who were martyred in a nonviolent struggle to free India from British domination. General Dyer of the British army opened fire here on unarmed people. Jallianwala Bagh is thus an everlasting symbol of non-violent & peaceful struggle for the freedom of India
The Martyr's gallery and museum
The Martyr's gallery contains a number of paintings including some of political leaders and a painting of the inside of Jallianwala Bagh, showing a number of people dead on the ground. The addition to the painting of the Gurkha's was painted in at a later date. A portrait of Udham Singh is on display in the gallery and his ashes are kept in the museum.
The initial Trustees of the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial were named as
- Jawaharlal Nehru
- Saifuddin Kitchlew
- Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
- President of the Indian National Congress
- Governor of the State of Punjab
- Chief Minister of the State of Punjab
- Three people nominated by the Central Government.
In November 2019, The Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill was passed by Parliament in an attempt to seek the removal of the President of the Indian National Congress as a trustee.
Since the massacre, Jallianwala Bagh has been the site of a number of official and publicized visits. One of the earliest was during the public enquiry by the Indian Congress, when Jawaharlal Nehru visited the site in the immediate aftermath of the massacre. His investigation revealed 64 bullets in one part of the wall.
The site was visited by the Queen Elizabeth II in 1961, 1983 and 1997, and British Prime Minister David Cameron visited in 2013. During Prince William and Kate's official visit to India, Jallianwala Bagh was not on their itinerary. Others from Britain include Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London in 2017, and Dominic Asquith and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby in 2019.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the grounds in 2015 and politician Kiren Rijiju visited in 2016 as part of an Indo-Pak border visit. Proposed renovations to Jallianwala Bagh were presented to India’s vice president Venkaiah Naidu, the governor of Punjab V.P. Singh Badnore and other officials when they visited the site in April 2019 to attend a commemoration ceremony organised by the Ministry of Culture. Other visitors in 2019 included Rahul Gandhi.
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