Friday, 29 April 2016

British legacy - Lascar War Memorial, Kolkata.

Lascar War Memorial, Kolkata. commons.wikimedia.org
After the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, India came under the direct administration of the British Crown and when the first world war WWI (1914 – 18) broke out, lots of Indians were inducted into the British India army. Being soldiers in the British army, they had to fight against the enemies of the British Empire. The Indian soldiers fought well and got a name for themselves. It was the bloodiest war and lots of Indians died  valiantly fighting to save the name of the British nation.
Inside the Lascar War Memorial, Kolkata. Plagues.en.wikipedia.org

Lascar War Memorial, situated at the southern end of the Maidan, on Naiper Road, Hastings, near Prinsep Ghat  in the Hastings area of Kolkata, is  dedicated to the memory of 896 Lascars (sailor or militiaman from Indian subcontinent), who gave their lives, fighting for the British Navy during the Great War of 1914 – 18. It has similarity with  the victory tower of Chittor - Indo-Mogul type of architecture and was designed by William Ingram Keir, a famous British architect who designed several buildings in India. The Kidderpore Bridge, buildings at Bengal Engineering and Science University in Shibpur,  and Islamia College are good examples.
. Lascar War Memorial, Calcutta. www.flickr.com
The word lascar (Lashkar, Laskar, Persian in origin; al-askar in Arabic meaning a guard or soldier refers to a  a sailor or militiaman from the Indian Subcontinent or other countries east of the Cape of Good Hope, employed on European ships from the 16th century until the beginning of the 20th century.  The name lascar was also  widely in use to refer to Indian servants, specifically engaged by British military for various tasks.  The British ship employed lascars to serve on the ships under proper written agreements that stipulated transfer of workers from one to another and could be  retained in service for up to three years at one time. The shipping and mercantile companies were instrumental in erecting the Lascar War Memorial in honor of   896 Lascars of undivided Bengal and Assam who were killed  during World War I. On 6 February 1924 Lord Lytton, then Governor of Bengal opened the 100 feet high monument that was  built in typical Oriental style a four-sided column, having designs reflecting the prow of an ancient galley on each side of the column. The upper part of the monument consists of four small minarets and a large gilt dome. A typical Indian touch is imparted by adding wavy lines beneath the projected balcony. These   symbolize waves, along with chhajjas and trellises. The work on the memorial began in 1820 and completed in February, 1824.
Lascar War Memorial, Kolkata. www.lascarwarmemorial.com
The memorial has a huge entrance door way and has three plagues inside the building. First plaque  is about  the unveiling of the memorial by Lord Lytton (Feb, 1924), then Governor of Bengal. The second plaques mention  that the memorial was erected by shipping and mercantile community of India in memory of the 896 seamen from Bengal Assam and upper India who were killed in the war - WWI (the term Lascar is not used).  The third plaques tell
about the renovation and lighting of the Lascar War Memorial.

Ref:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lascar_War_Memorial