A visit to the Jallianwala Memorial: An ode to the bloodiest Baisakhi

After the first shot was fired, Kamala didn't hear anything, it was just a loud continuous ringing sound which seem to be coming from her own head. Within seconds she fell to the ground and her little Gudiya was dragged away from here by the hundreds of running feet all around. She lifted her head and could see people climbing on the edge of the well and then falling like logs of wood, some inside and some outside. But Kamala's eyes were searching only for her little one. Gudiya had been looking forward to this Baisakhi for over a month and today she was wearing the little yellow dress that Kamala had herself stitched just a few days back, embroidered with Gudiya's favourite elephants.

And then she saw her, bloodied, crushed and disfigured beyond recognition, but for the yellow dress and her large eyes, wide open in shock. Kamala wanted to close her gudiya's eyes, but it was already too late for them both.

The bullets stopped raining after about ten minutes, not because someone decided to show mercy to the families gathered to celebrate Baisakhi, but because General Dyer's army ran out of bullets. By then almost 2000 unarmed innocents, mostly women and children, who had gathered to celebrate the Punjabi festival of Baisakhi at Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar, were dead.

Jallianwala Massacre Amritsar Punjab India painting
Jallianwala Massacre in Amritsar

Jallianwala Bagh (photo credits: Kunal Jain)

Jallianwala Massacre

The day of the massacre was 13th April, 1919.

Soon after, the event came to be known as Jallianwala Massacre - unparalleled even in the imperialist British army's heavy handed rule over India and many other colonies.

Though initially hailed as a hero for saving the British Empire, Dyer was eventually criticised both in India and Britain. This is how Churchill described the act in his speech in the parliament:

"The crowd was unarmed, except with bludgeons. It was not attacking anybody or anything… When fire had been opened upon it to disperse it, it tried to run away. Pinned up in a narrow place considerably smaller than Trafalgar Square, with hardly any exits, and packed together so that one bullet would drive through three or four bodies, the people ran madly this way and the other. When the fire was directed upon the centre, they ran to the sides. The fire was then directed to the sides. Many threw themselves down on the ground, the fire was then directed down on the ground. This was continued to 8 to 10 minutes, and it stopped only when the ammunition had reached the point of exhaustion."

However, Dyer was allowed to resign without court-marshall or any other further punishment. In fact an exorbitant amount of £26,000 was raised for him back home which allowed him to live a good life till he died years later. Contrast this with the measly sum of £37 which was given to the families of those massacred under his orders. Eventually Dyer became a celebrated hero for many in Britain and died comfortably in 1927.


Jallianwala Memorial

A memorial was later built at the site where the massacre took place in Amritsar. It was designed by an American architect, Benjamin Polk, and inaugurated in 1961. The park is now surrounded by houses from most sides, and a road which leads straight to the Golden Temple.

Jallianwala Memorial, Amirsar (photo credits: Shrinath Chavan)

Bullet marks on the walls (photo credits: Kunal Jain)

My first visit to the memorial was a long time back when my mother and I visited Amritsar to visit Golden Temple. It was a hot afternoon and the memorial park was full of people, and I didn't quite connect with the place. However, on my next visit there I sat alone in a corner and cried. And the weird thing about crying is that once you start, you can't really stop so easily.

The only other place where the violence of the past affected me so much was at the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda.

Whether it was the British Empire doing everything it could to crush people's rights to self-governance in India, or the genocide in Rwanda, it's eventually humans killing each other, and eventually humanity itself. A place like this needs to be visited and absorbed into the consciousness, as it's not just a memorial but also a reminder of all that we have done wrong to fellow humans.

The narrow passageway (photo credits: Kunal Jain)

Planning a visit to the memorial

Address: near Golden Temple, Amritsar
Entry fee: Free
Timings:
Summers: 6 am – 7 pm, gallery: 9 am – 5 pm.
Winters: 10 am – 4 pm, gallery: 7 am – 6 pm


To reach Jallianwala Memorial

Reaching Jallianwala bagh is very easy as there are numerous vehicles going towards the Golden Temple and it's just minutes away from it. You cab take an e-auto, rickshaw or auto-rickshaw to reach there. If I understand correctly, right now both Ola and Uber don't provide services in Amritsar.


To reach Amritsar

Amritsar is well connected with rails as well as roads, especially with Delhi and all other cities of Punjab. The closest airport is at Chandigarh.

Comments

  1. Sohnne Punjab te kutteya de julma di dastan jalliwala di deewaraa aaj v byaan krdi aa... Nice blog keep it up Sid..

    ReplyDelete
  2. Amazing blog post. thank you so much for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Had never heard of this but it's always great to learn more about history. It's wonderful they built the memorial there to commemorate the lives lost. Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing this emotional experience.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Unfortunately the American school system doesn't teach very much world history, so I had never heard of the Jallianwala Massacre. Although it is a horrible thing to learn about, what atrocity is pleasant to learn about? It's ridiculous what they raised for Dyer compared to what they doled out to the families of the massacred. The memorial looks nice though. It's good to remember the bad events in history, so that they are not repeated.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for this great and at the same time sad post. I did not know about this event before and it breaks my heart to read it. You writing is also very powerful and much deeper than a regular travel blog writing as you blend the facts so well with the story.

    ReplyDelete
  6. You really brought home the horrors of that massacre, a horrific act of aggression on part of the British. Even those on the "side" of the Empire decried the horror of such a level of violence on unarmed civilians. And yet he really didn't suffer any hardship at all for his actions. I think what's most shocking to me is that this is so recent in our histories, just coming up to 100 years anniversary next year. I really appreciate your post on visiting the memorial. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  7. That is just an awful thing that happened to those poor people. I understand soldiers killing other soldiers in times of war, but I don't understand something like this at all. So horrible. And then the way the General Dyer was treated after? Disgraceful. When we went to Bergen Belsen Concentration Camp in Germany, I felt this same way. How can people do this to each other? I will never understand.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Sad beyond words!
    And to think that no action was taken against General Dyer for this senseless killing is unpardonable. Are they humans is my question.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Sad story. An awful thing happened to the people. It is good to read a history and learn more and go deep about the places we visit during travelling.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment