Friday, August 1, 2014

Peace & Eternal Rest

The World War II cemetery in Kohima, Nagaland is probably the most well-known tourist spot in the city. It lies on the top of Garrision Hill in a picturesque and peaceful setting. 

The gravestones are neatly laid out in terraces along the gentle slopes of the hill. It's beautifully maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and is one of many such memorials in India. 

The cemetery is dedicated to the soldiers, both British and from pre-independence India, who fought on the side of the British against the Japanese advance in the North East. There are 1420 graves here. 

At one end of the cemetery is a memorial to 917 Hindu and Sikh soldiers who were cremated (according to their respective faiths). 

The top of the hill offers beautiful views of Kohima city all around.

An interesting trivia, I learnt later, is that the memorial is located on the site of the bungalow of the then Deputy Commissioner. The battle was at its worst here. No traces remain of the bungalow or anything else, except the tennis court. The outlines of the court were made a permanent part of the memorial by cementing it. You will be able to see it if you look closely at the base of the large cross in the photo (the first one in this post, right at the top).

In 1944, India narrowly missed becoming 'geographically' embroiled in the Second World War. While many Indians were part of the British Indian Army and fought the two world wars on foreign shores (on behalf of the Imperial British), the country itself had not been attacked during the war until the battle in the North East. 

The Japanese had managed to reach the outskirts of Imphal (Manipur) and Kohima (Nagaland) where they were finally defeated by the British army in the Battle of Kohima

The large number of gravestones and names on the memorial are a poignant reminder of the waste of lives that war brings about. But it seems like history only repeats itself and across the world we humans go to war again and again be it for power, supremacy, riches or natural resources as the case might be.  

As I left the cemetery with mixed feelings, I also felt glad that all these soldiers who laid down their lives so far from home had a fitting memorial to commemorate their bravery. 

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