You might have heard about it –but only few of you have seen the photograph that I am going to present today. This photograph was taken on 26 January 1963 in Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan when India’s nightingale Lata Mangeshkar famously sang “Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon”. I don’t know about the photographer but I am very happy to have seen the historic moment through this photograph.
India and China fought a war –which ended in November 1962 when invading China declared a unilateral cease-fire. This iconic song is the result of despair which Kavi Pradeep, a great Hindi poet, went through when he listened to the accounts of the last stand of 13th Kumaon Regiment during the war.
The C (or “Charlie”) Company of the 13th Kumaon Regiment of Indian Army fought the last battle at Rezang La in Ladakh. The C Company, valiantly led by Major Shaitan Singh, battled not only the Chinese Army, but also a position of massive disadvantage against the enemy. Major Shaitan Singh was posthumously awarded Param Vir Chakra, the highest gallantry award in India.
The situation in Rezang La was such that the Indian infantry could not be assisted by the artillery because there were peaks between the two. Consequently the C Company had to take on the Chinese without any artillery cover. Everyone knew the outcome of such an endeavor. 114 soldiers of the C Company out a total of 123 were killed in action. But before laying their lives, our soldiers finished more than a thousand Chinese soldiers. Major-General Ian Cardozo, who later visited the battlefield, wrote:
“When Rezang La was later revisited dead jawans were found in the trenches still holding on to their weapons… every single man of this company was found dead in his trench with several bullet or splinter wounds. The 2-inch mortar man died with a bomb still in his hand. The medical orderly had a syringe and bandage in his hands when the Chinese bullet hit him… Of the thousand mortar bombs with the defenders all but seven had been fired and the rest were ready to be fired when the (mortar) section was overrun.”.
Indian soldiers are so brave. These words are the testimony that our soldiers fought until they breathe their last. Most of the recruits of this famous Company were from Ahirwal region in Haryana (which now includes the districts of Rewari and Mahendragarh). Kavi Pradeep paid a timeless homage to the bravery of these soldiers by penning the moving song “Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon”. Music Director C. Ramachandra composed the song and then the Nightingale of India, Lata Mangeshkar, gave it her soulful voice.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, is also visible in this photograph. India celebrates its Republic Day on 26th January. By the time Lata ji finished singing the song, tears had welled up in Pandit Nehru’s eyes and he said to Lata ji, “Beti tune mujhe rula diya” (O my daughter, you’ve made me cry). This incident has now become an often told story in Indian culture.
I am excited to see this rare picture… if you have audio or video recording of Lata’s performance on 26th January 1963 in Ramlila Maidan –please share it with me; I shall be grateful.
Also, I will appeal to my readers to share this article as much as possible so that more and more Indians could see this photograph and salute our soldiers. Now, let’s listen to “Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon” sung by Lata Mangeshkar in a concert many decades after the above mentioned historic performance.
Long live Lata ji!
What do you think of this photograph and the story behind it? Please comment and give your feedback as it helps me in writing better content for my readers. Thank you for reading and stay connected with my website as I will continue to bring stories on more iconic photographs for you.