The Jallianwala Bagh lies in the heart of the walled city of Amritsar and at the heart of our struggle for independence. For it was bagh, in the holiest city of the Sikhs, on a day sacred to them as the birth anniversary of the Khalsa April 13, 1919, that a massacre involving the killing of hundreds of unarmed, defenseless Indians was ordered by Brigadier-General R.E.H. Dyer. This was a turning point in the history of Anglo-Indian relations, more decisive than even the first war of independence. A committee was formed with Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya as president to raise a memorial to perpetuate the memory of the martyrs.
The bagh was acquired from the Jallewala sardars on August 1, 1920 but the actual construction of the memorial had to wait until after Independence. Dr. Rajendra Prasad, India’s first President on April 13, 1961, inaugurated the monument, and befittingly named the Flame of Liberty. The central 30-foot high pylon, a four-sided tapering structure of red stone standing in the midst of a shallow tank, is built with 300 slabs with the Ashoka Chakra, the national emblem, cast on them. On all four sides of the pylon the words, In memory of martyrs, 13 April 1919, is inscribed in Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and English. Bullet holes are carefully preserved under thick glass frames. The well, now enclosed holds no water, only coins tossed by those who come to pay homage. At the adjoining martyrs' gallery the Jallianwala Trust files have recorded details of condemnation that followed the massacre.
Dyer was unrepentant when the British Parliament passed strictures against him. The Lt. Governor of Punjab, Michael O'Dwyer was shot dead 21 years later in London by Udham Singh, who was executed within months. Udham Singh's portrait rests in the gallery with the famous lines from his trial inscribed below, “What greater honour can be bestowed on me than death for the sake of my motherland?”