India Gate Delhi – All India War Memorial

Written by Sudhir Kumar

About India Gate

At the centre of New Delhi stands the 42 m high India Gate, an “Arc-de-Triomphe” like archway in the middle of a crossroad. Almost similar to its French counterpart, it commemorates the 70,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Army during the World War I. The memorial bears the names of more than 13,516 British and Indian soldiers killed in the Northwestern Frontier in the Afghan war of 1919.

The India Gate is the national monument of India. Situated in the heart of New Delhi, the India Gate was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, inspired by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It was built in 1931. Originally known as the All India War Memorial, it is a prominent landmark in Delhi and commemorates the 90,000 soldiers of the Indian Army who lost their lives while fighting for the Indian Empire, or more correctly the British Raj, in World War I and the Third Anglo-Afghan War. It is composed of red and pale sandstone and granite.

Originally, a statue of George V of the United Kingdom stood under the now vacant canopy in front of the India Gate, but it was removed to Coronation Park together with other statues. Following India’s independence, the India Gate became the site of the Indian Army’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, known as Amar Jawan Jyoti (“the flame of the immortal soldier”).

Until the 1920s, the Old Delhi Railway Station served the entire city and the Agra-Delhi railway line cut right through what is today called Lutyens’ Delhi and the site earmarked for the hexagonal All-India War Memorial (India Gate), on Kingsway (Rajpath). Eventually the line was shifted to run along the Yamuna river and when that route opened in 1924 construction of the memorial site could begin. The New Delhi Railway Station was opened in 1926, ahead of the inauguration of the city in 1931.

The 42-metre tall India Gate is situated in such a way that many important roads spread out from it. Traffic passing around India Gate used to be continuous until the roads were closed to the public due to terrorist threats.

The lawns around Rajpath throng with people during the evening, when the India Gate is lit up. Ice cream and street food vendors come out during this time and it becomes a popular picnic venue for families.

The India Gate hexagon complex with a diameter of about 625m covers approximately 306000m² in area.

The Republic Day Parade starts from Rashtrapati Bhavan and passes through India Gate to the reach the Red Fort.

Amar Jawan Jyoti

Burning in a shrine under the arch of India Gate since 1971 is the Amar Jawan Jyoti (the flame of the immortal soldier) which marks the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The shrine itself is a black marble cenotaph surmounted by a rifle standing on its barrel and crested by a soldier’s helmet. Each face of the cenotaph is inscribed in gold with the words “Amar Jawan” (Immortal Warrior).

This cenotaph is placed on a pedestal with four continuously burning torches on its corners. It was unveiled in 1971. After the India-Pakistan war of 1971, the then Prime Minister of India Mrs. Indira Gandhi paid homage on behalf of the whole nation on the eve of 23rd republic day (26 January 1972).

Today, it is customary for the President and the Prime Minister, as well as visiting Guests of State, to pay homage at the site.

Particularly on each Republic Day, 26 January, the Prime Minister pays homage to the country’s fallen soldiers along with Heads of Armed Forces, before joining the annual parade at the Rajpath. It is noteworthy here that the President of India and the chief guest do not take part in this ceremony on this day.

The flags represent the 3 branches of the Indian armed forces (Army, Navy and Air Force), and a member of each force guards the gate and tomb for 24 hours in rotation


Standing behind the gate is an empty canopy made out of sandstone, also designed by Lutyens, and inspired by a 18th century Mahabalipuram pavilion. Until the Independence of India in 1947 it contained the statue of King George V which now stands in the Coronation Park, Delhi. There have been a number of plans and calls to have a seated or standing statue of Mahatma Gandhi installed here, which were subject to debate and have not been agreed upon.

About the author

Sudhir Kumar

Leave a Comment