Jallianwala Bagh Massacre happened on 13th April 1919 when thousands of Sikhs were celebrating the spring harvest festival of Baisakhi. Undoubtedly it is one of the darkest moments in the entire British colonial rule in India.
As a student I had studied about the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, as a Sikh I had heard gruesome stories from my grandparents about the Baisakhi day, the beautiful spring season that brought bloodshed with it but I really understood the gravity of it all when I actually visited places like the Partition Museum, Wagah- Attari Border and Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar.
After having experienced the peace and serenity of the Golden Temple I headed to visit the Jallianwala Bagh.
You can read my 2700 detailed blog post on the Golden Temple of Amritsar by clicking here.
100 years ago, on the fateful day of 13th April 1919, an unarmed crowd of thousands of people was shot at by the British troops at the order of General Reginald Dyer in Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar.
People had come together to celebrate the festival of Baisakhi and for a peaceful protest against the atrocities of the British rule. According to the official records, 379 people lost their lives but the unofficial sources claim at least 1000 died.
No warning was given before shooting and it didn’t stop till the ammunition was almost exhausted. The bullet marks can still be seen on the walls of Jallianwala Bagh.
The well, from where 120 dead bodies were recovered, still stands as the witness of this heinous bloodshed. This incident added fuel to the fire of India’s struggle for Swaraj which eventually led to the downfall of the British rule.
In this post, I am answering a few frequently asked questions about the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre and the details about Jallianwala Bagh. All views expressed in this post are my personal views.
What is the meaning of Jallianwala Bagh?
Jallianwala Bagh is a piece of land that was owned by a man Himmat Singh who belonged to a village Jallah in the district of Fatehgarh Sahib in Punjab. That is how it got its name Jallianwala Bagh. It literally translates to ‘Garden of the ones belonging to Jallah’.
Why was Jallianwala Bagh made?
Jallianwala Bagh is a public garden in Amritsar city of Punjab. It covers an area of about 6.5 acres. It is a memorial established by the Indian Government in 1951 to commemorate the massacre of common Indian people by British troops on the festival of Baisakhi on 13th April 1919.
When did Jallianwala Bagh massacre happen?
Jallianwala Bagh Massacre happened on the evening of Sikh festival of Baisakhi on 13th April 1919.
Why did people gather at Jallianwala Bagh?
People gathered at Jallianwala Bagh to celebrate the festival of Baisakhi and also for a peaceful protest against the oppression of Indians by the Britishers. The gathering comprised of unarmed men, women, old people, and children.
Is there luggage check-in facility available for visiting Jallianwala bagh?
There is no facility for luggage check-in at Jallianwala Bagh. One can check-in luggage in the cloakroom at the Golden temple nearby.
How long does it take to visit the Jallianwala Bagh?
It takes around 1 to 2 hours to visit the Jallianwala Bagh.
Entry Ticket for Jallianwala Bagh
There is no entry ticket for the Jallianwala Bagh. The entry is free to everyone.
It is open all days of the week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Any good place to eat close by?
Jallianwala Bagh is located in a place that has a lot of places to eat and shop nearby. You can relish the flavor of Amritsari Kulcha, Lassi, Kulfi, etc. Bharawan Da Dhaba is a popular place to eat that serves delicious Punjabi food along with many other Indian options. You can taste local street food too.
Any good place to visit close by?
The Golden Temple and the Partition Museum are very conveniently located at a walking distance of around 10 minutes from the Jallianwala Bagh. One can shop for traditional clothing, footwear, handbags, fashion jewelry, artwork, and souvenir, etc in the market close by.
You can read my 2700 detailed blog post on the Golden Temple of Amritsar by clicking here. Golden temple is located in the city of Amritsar in the state of Punjab in India. It is also known as Darbar Sahib or Harmandir Sahib. It is called the Golden temple because it is plated with gold. This place holds great importance for Sikhs all over the world. It is among the holiest places for Sikhs.
One more place that I would highly recommend you visit in Amritsar is the Wagah Attari Border Beating Retreat Ceremony (Click here to read). Wagah border is situated at the borderline of India and Pakistan and is located at a distance of around 32 km from the city of Amritsar on the Grand Trunk road between Lahore and Amritsar From this border, Lahore is just 22 km away.
If you would like to know more about the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre then read on for Historical details.
Why did the Amritsar Massacre happen?
Rowlatt Act was passed in March 1919 that empowered the British government, restricted freedom of expression of people and strengthened police powers allowing the imprisonment of suspects without trial.
Gandhiji opposed this and called for Satyagraha. He was barred from entering Punjab.
Congress Leaders Dr. Satyapal and Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew informed the public about this act. On 10th April 1919, they were arrested and deported out of Amritsar. This added to the frustration, resentment, and anger of Indian people.
On the same day in Amritsar, many people came together and arranged a peaceful protest seeking the release of their leaders. British troops opened fire on them which deteriorated the situation.
A mob of enraged Indians started attacking government buildings and set them on fire. This violence and attack resulted in the death of a few Europeans. A female missionary named Marcella Sherwood was also attacked by the mob.
The whole situation in Amritsar went out of control.
A proclamation was issued by General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer on 12th April 1919, banning all public gatherings but the orders were not adequately spread among the general public.
People assembled in Jallianwala Bagh on the occasion of Baisakhi on 13th April 1919 for celebrating the festival. People were also gathering there to protest peacefully against the arrest of their leaders.
General Dyer arrived there with his armed troops through the main entrance. He also brought two vehicles with machine guns that could not enter the field due to narrow main gate but blocked the way out for the assembled people.
No warning was given to the public asking them to disperse.
General Dyer ordered the troops to open fire at the public including women and children. The firing went on for about ten minutes killing and wounding hundreds including children. The firing finally stopped when the ammunition was exhausted.
People panicked and ran in various directions. The garden was enclosed on all sides with walls and buildings. There were a few exits which were locked. Many people who jumped into the well to save themselves died inside and many perished in the stampede.
‘Crawling orders’ were passed for the street where Marcella Sherwood was attacked.
‘Kucha Korianwala’, which is now famous for ‘Kesar Da Dhaba’ was the infamous lane where every Indian passing through had to crawl laying down on his belly. Anyone refusing that was stripped and flogged. Dyer believed this was a way to teach Indians how to respect women. These orders remained in force from 19th to 24th April 1919.
General Dyer left the scene along with his troops paying no heed to the wounded people lying on the ground. According to him, he fulfilled his duty. He kept defending his act till the end of his life.
How many people died at Amritsar in the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre?
The British official documents state that 379 people died in Jallianwala Bagh Massacre but many believe this figure to be dubious.
‘Sewa Samiti’, a charitable organization did house-to-house survey to reach a more accurate figure and traced 530 killed. This survey was conducted at the time when people were scared and hesitant to talk openly about it.
Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya and Gandhiji believed that at least 1000 died during the massacre and in the aftermath.
Due to the curfew, people who got injured during the massacre, could not be given proper treatment and lost their lives. Many died in the well that they jumped into in order to save their lives.
What happened to General Dyer after Jallianwala Bagh massacre?
At the House of Lords in England, Dyer was appreciated and honored for this but he was criticized by the liberals in the House of Commons. While he was given the title of ‘Saviour of Punjab’, he was also called ‘Butcher of Amritsar’ by many.
This massacre was criticized by Winston Churchill. Rabindranath Tagore rejected his Knighthood and Gandhiji called for a nationwide protest.
The incident had angered the nation and shaken the faith of those Indians who had earlier favored British rule.
Dyer was adamant and proud of what he did as his duty. He stated that he did what was needed to crush the rebellion. Hunter commission was established to investigate the massacre. It condemned the action taken by Dyer in Jallianwala Bagh.
He was removed from duty and sent back to England where he spent rest of his life. He died due to ill health in 1927.
Who killed General Dyer?
Udham Singh, an Indian freedom fighter from Punjab, killed Michael O’Dwyer on 13th March 1940 at Caxton Hall in London in order to avenge the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. Michael O’Dwyer was the Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab at the time of Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.
Many people believe that Udham Singh shot the wrong Dyer. The truth is that Udham Singh was aware that the man he wanted to kill was not the one who ordered to open fire at the innocent people in Jallianwala Bagh but the one who was equally responsible for the bloodshed as Reginald Dyer. After the incident, Michael O’Dwyer approved of the action taken by Reginald Dyer and defended him strongly.
Who killed Udham Singh?
Udham Singh was awarded death penalty and was hanged on 31 July 1940 for killing Michael O’Dwyer.
Indians, especially NRI Punjabis and Sikhs in Britain have been seeking an apology from the British government on this massacre for long that is an unhealed wound on the hearts of thousands.
In 1997, on her visit to Jallianwala Bagh Memorial, Queen Elizabeth paid homage by removing her shoes and laying flowers at the monument. She called the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre ‘a distressing example’ of ‘difficult episodes in our past’. In 2013, Prime Minister David Cameron laid a wreath at the memorial and called the incident ‘deeply shameful’.
On 10th April 2019, a few days ahead of Jallianwala Bagh Massacre centenary, British Prime Minister Theresa May made a statement in the House of Commons calling the event ‘a shameful scar in the British Indian history’. She further added, “We deeply regret what happened and the suffering caused.”
No clear and proper apology has been received on this matter from the British government that could give a healing touch to the wound inflicted 100 years ago.
Jallianwala Bagh Massacre: Movies, Books & Poetry that documented the gruesome mass murder
Many movies have been made on Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.
- ‘Jallianwala Bagh’ (1977) featuring Vinod Khanna, Parikshat Sahni, Shabana Azmi, Deepti Naval
- ‘Shaheed Udham Singh’ (1999) featuring Raj Babbar, Gurdas Mann, Amrish Puri, Shatrughan Sinha, Juhi Chawla, Tom Alter are the popular movies based on this.
- A few other movies like ‘Gandhi’(1982), ‘The Legend of Bhagat Singh’ (2002), ‘Rang De Basanti’, ‘Midnight’s Children’ (2012) have a few scenes or reference to this tragic incident.
In his book Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie portrays the massacre through the eyes of the main character.
The famous Punjabi poet Nanak Singh was a witness to the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre which left him scarred deeply.
A poem ‘Khooni Vaisakhi’ that he wrote in 1920 about this incident was banned by the British at that time. It is translated from Punjabi to English and published by his grandson on the occasion of the centenary of this event.
A lot has been done and a lot is being done to keep the memories of sacrifices of our people alive but we are somewhere lacking in giving them the honor that they deserve.
Fragrance-less pollen is rotting into oblivion
Ha! This lovely garden lies all drenched with blood
Come, dear spring but come quietly
This is a mourning place so cause no commotion)
– Subadhra Kumari Chauhan
The poetess in the above poem requests the incoming season of colors, spring, to arrive at the Jallianwala Bagh solemnly and respectfully.
She requests the spring not to be noisy as this place that has witnessed a lot of pain and sorrow.