Maharaja Ranjit Singh is probably the greatest leader that much of the world is unaware of. At his peak, he controlled a vast empire that ranged across territories of what are now four separate countries: India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and China. Unfortunately, after his death in 1839 the empire fell apart to various reasons such as internal treachery and overall mismanagement. However, in truth, the key reason is that the empire simply did not have a capable leader that could replace the man known as the “Lion of Punjab.”
Totally unbeknownst to me despite my numerous visits to India, there is actually a war memorial in honor of the Maharaja, off the side of the Grand Trunk road in Punjab state. Had it not been for a glance on Tripadvisor, I would not have known about it. Most locals I asked about it were not aware about it either, though it has been in existence since 1999.
The first impression one gets is that the grounds are very well maintained, with wonderful greenery in front of and around the compound. At the direct center vantage point is a statue of the Maharaja, who looks as if he is in a state of deep thought. On the sides of the building are various military items like tanks and airplanes.
The official cost is 20 rupees, but nobody was collecting admission. I asked the one worker I saw how many people came to visit and he shrugged his shoulders and said very few. My guess is this is due to the total lack of promotion of tourism in the state besides the Golden Temple, and the general nonchalance of the attitude of the country at large. India has a wealth of sites to see, but the number of tourists it receives is criminally lower than it should be, particularly when compared to other countries that don’t have half the sites but exponentially more tourists. Besides the Taj Mahal, I don’t think the average person knows what else there is in India, and this is really a shame.
Anyhow, regarding the memorial itself, in the building is a lot of military regalia, such as uniforms and badges, the significance of each shown. There is one room specifically about the Battle of Kargil, the last official war between India and Pakistan, in 1999. This was a unique conflict in the sense that it took place at high altitude, making the fight extraordinarily difficult.
In conclusion, if in the central Punjab area of India, this place is a worthy place to see. As stated earlier, it would be good for the authorities to make a minimal effort of promoting this, as Maharaja Ranjit Singh is one of the great rulers of modern history, not just in the Indian subcontinent but of the world.