Restored commemorative arch reopens on Independence Day

The restored World War 1 memorial arch at Keela Valadi in Tiruchi on Monday.

The restored World War 1 memorial arch at Keela Valadi in Tiruchi on Monday. | Photo Credit: NAHLA NAINAR

Independence Day celebrations at Keezha Valadi near Lalgudi were made more joyous on Monday by the reopening of a commemorative arch built to honour the contribution of soldiers from the region to World War 1 (1914-18) as part of the British troops.

Originally erected by Dewan Bahadur G. Krishnamachariar and opened by Dewan Bahadur Sir T. Desikachariar, Trichinopoly District Board president, on August 10, 1922, the arch, bearing the phrase ‘Lest We Forget’ had fallen into disrepair, with the parts of the structure getting eroded over time.

The renovation was announced by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in October 2021, with a budget of over Rs. 6 lakhs, and the conserved structure was re-dedicated with a ceremony by ASI’s Tiruchi chapter, coinciding with Independence Day celebrations on Monday.

It is also known locally as the Pachampettai Valaivu, and serves as an entry for traffic from Periyavar Seeli, Mayil Arangam, Pachampettai and Thirumanamedu villages to the Lalgudi-Tiruchi Road.

Speaking on the occasion, Rajya Sabha member Tiruchi N. Siva (DMK), who has been among the most vocal supporters of the monument’s conservation, said, “It is important for us to take pride in our heritage, and reflect upon the sacrifices that our forefathers made to make India free from colonial rule. The arch is like many of the ancient buildings in the Tiruchi district that are still in use, and deserve to be appreciated more. Instead of heading out to foreign countries during holidays, we must try and travel locally and see the landmarks in our midst.”

The arch, standing about 5.75 metres in height, has a plaque with the note “in commemoration of the glorious victory of the Allied Arms in which the Indian troops played a prominent part.” It is thought that a few hundred soldiers from Lalgudi and nearby villages fought the World War 1 as British troops.

T. Arun Raj, Superintending Archaeologist, ASI, Tiruchi Circle, said the arch had the potential to be declared a national monument of importance, on account of its age and historicity.

“Going by the records of the time, the Indian soldiers who fought on Britain’s behalf in World War 1 were among the first to raise the idea of gaining independence from the shackles of colonialism. The roots of the freedom struggle could be traced to these brave men who wondered why they were being asked to go to war for the sake of Britain’s political interests,” said Dr. Raj.

The newly opened arch has been painted in pale yellow. Conservation efforts included double re-plastering with lime mortar, and creating bricks with rounded edges in order to preserve the authenticity of the design.

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Printable version | Aug 15, 2022 7:46:47 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/restored-commemorative-arch-reopens-on-independence-day/article65771667.ece