The façade of Shaurya Smarak, Bhopal’s war memorial which is scheduled to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 14, is based on modern architecture, but many feel the memorial lacks an innate Indian-ness.
Built by Capital Project Administration (CPA) close to the state secretariat, the memorial is spread over 12 acres at Arera hills and has an amphitheatre with a seating arrangement for 1,000 people. It has galleries to showcase the history of the armed forces and their valour.
Structural engineer Ashok Manhar said the Shaurya Smarak was a matter of pride for Madhya Pradesh but it could have had a better ambience, with a design which could have reflected Indian history and architecture instead of a modern design. “It gives feeling of mechanical element,” he said.
An official engaged with working on the memorial is unhappy with the replica of a boot in the memorial. “The memorial doesn’t look inspiring... For instance, the boot replica is mostly seen in the western context, not in the Indian context. Had the 235-feet tall tricolour at Vallabh Bhavan been shifted to the memorial site, it would have definitely infused a sense of patriotism in people”, he said.
Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology professor (architecture and planning) KK Dhote, however, said every structure built reflected the expression of art and use of material and technology of the particular period during which it was built.
“But at the same time, values should remain the same. Artistic expression is one thing but sanctity of the structure must be maintained. It must be ensured that the place doesn’t develop as a picnic spot,” he said.
However, Shona Jain of Mumbai-based architectural firm UCJ Architecture and Environment, which has designed the memorial, disagreed. She said the entire ambience had been created to instil a sense of patriotism in people visiting it, with an abstract theme which also depicted victory over death after the phases of life, theatre of war and death.
A government spokesperson said, “Different shapes, angles, materials and techniques have been used to display complex enigmatic experiences of life-death, war-peace, salvation-devotion in an easy and simple way. An interesting fabric has been knitted with paintings on walls, ceilings, shapes, materials and technique. On the premises, various aspects of life, war theatre, death and life after death have been displayed in a serious of premises.”