Drass War Memorial near Kargil – Where Emotions Run High

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Drass War Memorial - Kargil, India
Drass War Memorial – Kargil, India

Drass War Memorial at Drass near Kargil is something that we have all heard of. We are from a generation that has lived through the Kargil War in 1999. We know heroes of this war and we relate to them. And we have seen the visuals of Kargil War & Drass War Memorial on Television.

It was a stop on our road trip from Jammu to Leh – located somewhere on NH 1 after you cross the mighty Zoji La Pass. I wanted to visit it – anyone who has grown up in cantonments would want to. I am not too fond of war memorials or museums that showcase war material. Having said that, nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelming emotional experience that I went through for the small time I spent there one evening.

We stopped in front of a gate that has baby pink walls surrounding it. In Gothic Font, one wall said:

Forever in Operation
All save some, some save all, gone but never forgotten.

Drass War Memorial

Vijaypath - leading to the eternal flame - Drass War Memorial
Vijaypath – leading to the eternal flame

After doing an entry into the register, we entered inside. The pathway surrounded by Indian flags leading to another tall Indian flag suddenly brought out the Indian in us. All other identities that we carry took a back seat. When I saw the tricolor fluttering, all that mattered was that we are an Indian and this is a place that celebrates India. We all clicked pictures with the flags swaying rhythmically with the gentle evening wind.

Drass War Memorial from the Road - Kargil War
Drass War Memorial from the Road

The peaks that were captured during the Kargil war, surround this war memorial. I stood in the middle of the pathway called Vijaypath and looked around. In my head, I could see bullets flying around. I am sure it was more filmi imagination and there is no way I can feel how it feels to be in the line of fire. The reality is that this place is a constant war zone. Every other day we hear of war like exchanges in these hills. To be a common tourist here is just getting a glimpse of the environment.

Kargil Day or Kargil Vijay Diwas is celebrated on July 26th every year.

We walked towards the Amar Jawan Jyoti – the eternal flame that is dedicated to all those soldiers who lost their lives in the Kargil war. As we reached closer, we heard a soldier explaining the Kargil war and sharing stories of all those who lost their lives. His voice had pride – knowing well that his name could well be the next in line. After a brief story, he asked us to look left where the memorial stones commemorate each soldier who died here. Then he asked us to look right at Manoj Pandey Gallery where war remains can be seen.

Veer Bhumi or the Memorial Stones at Drass War Memorial

Veer Bhumi - Drass War Memorial, Kargil, India
Veer Bhumi – Saluting each soldier who lost his life for us

A band played the music, as we started walking around. I first walked to the memorial stones called Veer Bhumi. Closer to the stones, I started reading – each stone had a name along with the rank it held and in few words told you how & when this brave soldier lost his life to keep us safe. This is when I felt the first lump in my throat. I quietly walked around and tried to read as many names as I could – as if this is my ‘Shraddhanjali’ or tribute to the soldiers. The fact is, after a while my eyes became clouded with tears and I just walked to the middle. A diorama here celebrated the victory with soldiers holding the tricolor flag of India high against a mighty hill.

Victory Sculpture at Veer Bhumi - Drass War Memorial - Kargil, India
Victory Sculpture at Veer Bhumi

A sculpture here celebrated the victory with soldiers holding the tricolor flag of India high against a mighty hill.

Amar Jyoti at Drass War Memorial

 Amar Jyoti at Drass War Memorial
Poem at Amar Jyoti

With a heavy heart, I came back to Amar Jyoti. Closer to the flame were words written from the Hindi Poem – Pushp Ki Abhilasha by Makhanlal Chaturvedi. I remember this poem from my primary school. Like many travel phrases that I understood during my travels, this was my moment to understand this lovely poem where a flower says it does not want to be offered in a temple or decorate a woman but it wants to lie on the path where the brave men walk to defend their country. This is where the flower would find its ideal place.

Behind the courtyard with the eternal flame is a golden wall – that again tell you the names of each of the soldiers who lost their lives here. Everyone had a heavy heart. No one spoke to anyone. Each thought was with the soldiers who died when we were probably sleeping peacefully at home or cribbing about small little problems in our lives.

Manoj Pandey Gallery @ Drass War Memorial

Hut of Remembrance or Manoj Pandey Gallery at Drass War Memorial - Kargil, India
Hut of Remembrance or Manoj Pandey Gallery

After spending few moments, I walked to the Manoj Pandey Gallery also called the Hut of Remembrance.

Asthi Kalash @ Manoj Pandey Gallery - Drass War Memorial
Asthi Kalash @ Manoj Pandey Gallery – Drass War Memorial

At the entrance, it had a bust of a soldier surrounded by Asthi Kalash or the pot their carries the ashes of the dead. This is when I broke. I cried and cried. When I looked around, I saw a tear in almost every eye. It was impossible to be not moved there.

Agnipath by Harivansh Rai Bachhan - Drass War Memorial - Kargil, India
Agnipath by Harivansh Rai Bachchan

Poem Agnipath by Harivansh Rai Bachchan with a message from his famous son was inspiring in one panel. A letter from a soldier to his son was touching in a way that can not be described.

Images at Drass War Memorial - Kargil, India
Holding the Indian Flag High – War Heroes

War Heroes

Inside the gallery, the real photographs of war and war heroes take you through an extremely emotional journey. Towards the end of this gallery when you see a Pakistani flag captured, you understand the power of signs we live and die for.

Celebrating the War Heroes of Kargil War - Drass War Memorial - Kargil India
Celebrating the War Heroes of Kargil War

In the rest of the premises, young soldiers when around doing their duties. They were gardening, tending to lawns and watering the tender flowers. I wanted to hug each one of them and bless them. I did go to a few of them and thanked them. They were humble as always and returned my thanks with thanks. I realized they were all very young men. One of them replied with immense maturity – M’am I am just doing my work like you do your work. I wish an ounce of this humility could be transferred to urban youth who only know how to ask for their rights and for whom responsibility is a meaningless word.

I saw the souvenir shop and coffee shop – both the places were a perfect coming together of tourism needs and army culture.

There are guns and choppers on display – including the famous Bofors Gun, but I skipped them. These are the things humanity can easily live without.

Soldiers message for the Countrymen

As you exit, you find these words facing you.

Message from the Soldiers for the Countrymen - Drass War Memorial - Kargil India
Message from the Soldiers for the Countrymen

I have been to all kinds of places, even Schindler’s Museum, but have never come out so emotional. I felt proud, humbled, thankful and grateful – all at the same time. While driving to Kargil town, I wondered if military service should be mandatory for all citizens? Would it shape us as Indians? Would it bind us in a national identity that sometimes takes a backseat in favor of regional identities? I do not have the answer, but a visit to Drass War Memorial will definitely leave you with these thoughts.

Travel Tips for Drass War Memorial – Kargil, India

Drass War Memorial Souvenir Shop
Drass War Memorial Souvenir Shop
  • Drass War Memorial is located at Drass on National Highway 1D that goes from Srinagar to Leh – somewhere between Zoji La Pass and Kargil town.
  • It is located right on the main road. You cannot miss it for its Pink walls are the only color you would see for some time.
  • There is no entry fee for Kargil War Memorial. However, you must show an Id proof and do an entry in the register.
  • There is souvenir shop where you can buy T shirts, Mugs and other memorabilia that would keep reminding you of this visit.
  • A coffee shop is also there but I am not sure if in that somber mood you can really enjoy the coffee.
  • For the general public, it is open from June to October when the roads are open. It is open until 7 PM.
  • You are expected to behave responsibly and respectfully inside the war memorial.

This trip was done in association with ScoutMyTrip and OyoRooms.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Jara Yaad Kari Qurabani, Yes It is very much true at DRASS WAR MEMORIAL NEAR KARGIL – WHERE EMOTIONS RUN HIGH and feels that those who laid their lives for the nation are always asking us that, let these bunch of big joker in our parliament , when they may learn a lesson of patriotism and when they may have self discipline? Do they all know what good are they doing for the nation, other then creating a chaos and supporting all anti national elements.. ?

    • Dipak, I wish each citizen including the parliamentarians visit Drass and I am sure they would pretty much go through the emotion we went through. Yes, living safely in our cities and towns, we do not realize the sacrifice our soldiers are making for us. Like I mentioned, some national service needs to be mandatory to realize the value of our freedom.

      • Very nicely written, thankyou very much that you have done lots efforts to write the one good article for the “Men in Uniform” I just wanted to inform you that Parliamentarians do visit these areas in the month of May to Jul till the session starts in Parliament, but not for to meet soldiers who, as citizens of “GREAT INDIA” describe “The SAVIOUR OF COUNTRY”, they just come for “Chhutti” and had the fauj for their own luxuries in the name of inspections. Ma’am you talk about the patriotism, there is no respect as such. What is patriotism only knows by the family of those soldiers who lost their loved one or whose loved one is serving for this Great Nation. Otherwise citizens remember them only when in troubles, they never bother us. I have lots of bitter experiences, which I have gone through during my service, because I am one of them in uniform and still doing my duties. Yes it feels very good when people meets us, shakes hand and asks about us. But I have never seen that our elected MPs have some such type of respects towards “Men in Uniform”. But we as the “Sons of India” will stand like a wall and do our duties to save our Mother Land, our citizens and their families at any cost. JAI HIND

        • Jai Hind Vijender JI.

          On behalf of all of India, including our politicians would once again like to thank all you ‘sons of India’ and ‘Men in Uniform’ for all that you do for us. As someone who grew up cantonments, surrounded by people like you can not but express my utter gratitude for you.

  2. I am glad you have described the emotions behind a soldier’s sacrifice apart from describing the memorial. And Yes, I am one of them who wants the government to make Military training compulsory.Even otherwise,I want my son to follow his father’s footsteps of serving the nation in Blue Uniform and Touch the Sky with Glory!

    • Meenakshi, What I missed saying in the post is that families of Army deserve the same respect and gratitude. While the soldiers get their medals – the contribution of their families in their lives & careers can not be ignored. So, hats off to you. May your young one lead a glorious life and make you proud.

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