Udayavni Special

Once a battle zone, Kargil now a paradise of bikers, tourists

Kargil, sight of this place stirs one’s heart filling it with extreme patriotism and gratitude for Indian army men.

Team Udayavani, Jul 26, 2021, 11:05 AM IST

Kargil, known worldwide for its never-ending range of differently colored mountains, deserted plains, its thick blanket of snow as a way of life for the larger part of the year and an impressive cultural wealth dates back to centuries, but to Indians, Kargil has a different meaning.

20 years ago the Indian Army recaptured all the Indian posts in this mountain that had been occupied by Pakistan’s army. Since then, July 26 has been observed annually to commemorate the sacrifices made by soldiers in this war.

Kargil, located 200 km from Srinagar is one of the two districts of the Ladakh region and is the second largest town of Ladakh and is situated roughly at equal distance from Leh, Padum Zanskar and Skardo Baltistan.

The district has always been an important trade centre in the past, traders from China, Central Asia and different parts of India used to trade in Tea, Wool, Carpets, Silk, and precious stones in the olden days and Kargil was known as a historical meeting point.

This scarcely populated district has been on the radar of tourists, not only from India but foreign back-packers too.

Kargil gained its importance when the area was thrown open for tourists in the year 1974 with other parts of Ladakh and a considerable number of tourists, trekkers and mountaineers started visiting the mountain.

This district again came in limelight during the Indo- Pak conflict in 1999 as it remained in the headlines of National and International media and some sites such as Tiger Hill, Tololing, Mushku valley, and Batalik have become very popular since then.

Besides historical importance unique landscape and number of Heritage sites, Budha Statues, Forts Palaces, ancient Rock carvings (Petroglyphs), Mosques, Monasteries, Pilgrim places, Kargil War Memorial is the main attraction here.

Kargil War Memorial is home to various tourists destinations like Suru valley, Mulbekh Chamba, Nun Kun mountain, Zanskar in itself is a huge destination.

                                                                  Kargil War Memorial

From 8th May 1999 to 5th July 1999, the infamous Kargil War between India and Pakistan took place after the Pakistani troops intruded for about 4 to 10 km into the Indian territory. The Indian Army gave a fitting reply to the intruders and after several days of battle, India declared a momentous victory on the battlefield on 26th July 1999.

The Indian Army gave a strong fightback and recaptured all the spots and many hills like Tololing, and Tiger Hills along the LoC of the Indian state. However, during the war, many martyrs and jawans selflessly lost their lives. The Kargil War Memorial is a homage to their bravery and sacrifice. This historic monument built in pink sandstone is an epitome of sheer bravery and sacrifice.

The memorial was built by the Indian Army to commemorate the huge victory of the valiant Indian soldiers in the 1999 Kargil War. It is located six kilometers ahead of Drass Town on the Srinagar – Leh National Highway and visitors are welcome anytime during daylight hours.

The cemetery and the war museum at the memorial make one go short for words on how much we are indebted to the men in the Indian army and their families. If you are traveling to Leh Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, a trip to the Kargil War Memorial is the best thing you could do.

Visitors to the memorial are greeted at the gateway which has the poem “Pushp Kii Abhilasha (Wish of a Flower) written by the poet, Makhanlal Chaturvedi. There is a MIG plane and few other cannons and army vehicles kept on display on the way from the entrance to the memorial. Inside the memorial at the centre is the Amar Jawan Flame that is kept lit 24*7.

Just above the flame is the tower bearing the words ‘Op Vijay’ over which the Indian Tricolor Flag flutters high. Behind it is the Memorial Wall which has the names of all the martyrs who lost their lives in the Kargil war. Beside the Memorial Wall is the special war gallery named after Captain Manoj Pandey. The gallery features the photographs and seized Pakistani weapons from the war featured here gives an insight into the actual war happenings.

The war museum inside the memorial features army emblems, war document archives and miniatures of Himalayan mountain ranges. On the other side of the War Museum is the memorial ground where the jawans are put to rest in peace. An elegy written by Dr. Harivansh Rai Bachchan found at the memorial moves everyone to tears.

The sight of this place stirs one’s heart filling it with extreme patriotism and gratitude for the army men. The cafeteria inside the war memorial is run by army men and serves tea and samosas. Then, there is also a souvenir shop selling hats, T-Shirts, coffee mugs, etc., to freeze your moments this exceptional visit.

The sound and light show and a video documentary screened for about 15 minutes at the memorial is a must-watch that explains the happenings of the war.

The best time to visit Kargil War Memorial is during the summer months from March to June. During this period of the year, National Highway 1D that connects Srinagar and Leh is open for tourists and the weather is pleasant with clear, blue skies.

This year to mark the 22 years of victory of the Kargil War, Northern Command of the Indian Army organized a two-day motorcycle rally to commemorate Kargil Vijay Diwas in Jammu and Kashmir. To commemorate the Kargil Vijay Diwas, Lt Gen Y K Joshi, GOC in C Northern Command is leading the 25 bikers from Udhampur under ‘Dhruv Kargil Ride’ which will end at Kargil War Memorial in Drass.

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