Today's Paper

Rajiv Gandhi Memorial dedicated to nation

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Sonia Gandhi, Congress president, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka and Robert Vadra at the Ceremony of Dedication of the Rajiv Gandhi Memorial in Sriperumbudur near Chennai on Friday. P.S. Ramamohan Rao, Tamil Nadu Governor, is at left. — Photo: Vino John  

Sriperumbudur Oct. 10. As the sound of conches rent the air at Sriperumbudur, near Chennai, the President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, today dedicated to the nation the Rajiv Gandhi Ninaivakam (Memorial) at the site he was assassinated over 12 years ago. The occasion was marked by the chanting of prayers of different religions.

The Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra, besides six Congress Chief Ministers and a host of party leaders, were present at the 12.19-acre memorial for the sombre ceremony.

The President read out a prayer he had penned for the occasion: "...Embed the thought that nation is bigger than the individual in the minds of the leaders and people. Oh God, bless my people to work with perseverance to transform the country into a peaceful and prosperous nation."

Standing close to a marble portrait of Rajiv Gandhi inlaid with scattered flowers installed at the exact spot where the former Prime Minister fell to a suicide bomber on May 21, 1991, Mr. Kalam also prayed for guidance to "my people to develop an attitude to appreciate different ideologies and transform enmity among individuals, organisations and nations into friendliness and harmony."

The Rs. 21.15-crore memorial constructed by the Central Public Works Department, conceived and created by an array of eminent artists over the past decade, features seven pillars topped by a bronze capitol, each depicting a concept. Two children standing beside each of the pillars explained the seven ideals — Dharma, Truth, Justice, Science, Sacrifice, Shanti and Progress.

Thereafter, the tragic events of the night of May 21, 1991 were recalled. A group of school children brought a red cloth in a ceremonial procession on the final, few steps taken by Rajiv Gandhi and laid it in front of the marble portrait of the departed leader.

The ceremony came to a close on an emotional note with a recorded speech of Rajiv Gandhi on "what is patriotism" reverberating in the air.

After listening to the speech with her eyes closed, Ms. Gandhi accompanied the President to pay floral tributes to the portrait of Rajiv Gandhi. The leaders then took a look at the bas relief work on a grey granite stone wall at the southern end of the Memorial which captures the journey of Indian civilisation with a stylised sculpture of Rajiv Gandhi in the middle.

The Union Minister of State for Urban Development, Bandaru Dattatreya, whose Ministry organised the function, the Tamil Nadu Governor, P.S. Ramamohan Rao, the Union Environment Minister, T.R. Baalu, the Tamil Nadu Tourism Minister, A. Miller, and the Congress Chief Ministers, A.K. Antony, Ashok Gehlot, Sheila Dixit, S.M. Krishna, Amarinder Singh, Sushilkumar Shinde, and N. Rangasamy were present.