Like other memorial sites, Vijay Ghat is also situated on the main Ring Road named Mahatma Gandhi Marg near Raj Ghat located on the banks of the Yamuna River towards the south eastern region of Red Fort. It is easily reachable by local taxis and auto rickshaws or you can alternatively take a ride on the Metro Rail and de-board at Kashmiri Gate which is the nearest point to this site.
Vijay Ghat which means ‘Victory bank’ is the memorial grounds of Lal Bahadur Shastri who was the second Prime Minister of India. It lies next to an artificial lake that adds a charming ambience to this site coupled with well trimmed landscaped gardens and lawns fringed with green trees that helps in keeping the serenity of the area intact and undisturbed.
Lal Bahadur Shrivastav Prasad was born on 2nd October 1904 to a very poor Teacher named Sharada Shrivastav Prasad in Mughal Sarai which was under the United Province of the British Rule in India. As a 3-month old infant, he slipped from his mother’s arms into a basket that belonged to a Cow herder lying on the banks of the Ganga River and when the child was found by the poor Cow herder, he embraced him as a Gift from God. Later, Prasad’s parent lodged a missing child complaint at a Police Station nearby and the boy was found. This one incident may have actually changed the fate of this great leader.
After the demise of Prasad’s father at a young age of one and a half years old, his mother shifted to her maternal house and stayed with her father, Hazari Lal up till Prasad was 10 years old. Prasad was a gifted child and displayed a great interest in education because of which he was shifted to Varanasi where he stayed with his maternal uncle and attended the Harishchandra High School. Another example of Prasad’s unique personality was displayed when he had once gone to a Fair with his friends and had no money for the boat ride across the Ganges River. Most people would have borrowed the money but instead Prasad swam across the River to the other side.
In 1915, he heard Mahatma Gandhi Ji’s speech and was so impressed with his philosophies that Prasad decided to dedicate his entire life towards serving his Country. To show his dislike of the caste system and discrimination in India, Prasad dropped his last-name ‘Shrivastav’ and actively participated in the non-cooperation movement campaign led by Mahatma Gandhi Ji in 1921 and was arrested by the British who later released him on the grounds of still being a Minor in age. He then enrolled in Kashi Vidya Peeth in Varanasi and completed his graduation in 1926. He was also awarded the ‘Scholar’ or ‘Shastri’ Bachelor degree for his excellent academic accomplishments which became a part of his name even today. He also got actively involved in fighting against prejudice and worked towards the upliftment of the Harijans and later was also appointed as the President of this Society named ‘Servants of the People’. In 1927, he married Lalita Devi from Mirzapur and took only a Charka and a few measures of Khadi as dowry since he was extremely against the prevailing hefty dowry system in India and they had a daughter and son. His daughter became ill when he was in prison and he had to request the British for a special permission to visit her. The permission was granted only on the grounds that he would return. His daughter, however, died before he reached home and Shastri returned to prison after performing the rituals and funeral. The second time when his son was ill, he again requested to visit his son only for a week and before his son got well, he returned to prison keeping his word and hence this clearly displayed an excellent example of a man who kept his word against all odds. Later, he occupied important positions within the seat of the Indian government serving the country before he became the Head of India.
Before Independence, he immensely contributed as a strong willed freedom fighter by leading many campaigns against the British Rule and for these revolutionary acts; he was prisoned by the British Army for a total period of seven years and during his stay in prison, he would spend time reading books of western philosophers, social reformers and revolutionists. During his term as the Prime Minister of India, he constructively and competently governed the Country with great integrity and loyalty towards a progressive social and economic condition. His inherent determination coupled with an intelligent mind, quick decisions, plan, execution and resolve assisted in the victory of India in the 1965 Indo-Pak war. He will also be infinitely remembered as the ‘little dynamo man’ and for his slogan ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisaan’ that echoes with pride within the country even today. He was also the first person to be honoured by the ‘Bharat Ratna’ award and was known by all his followers and citizens as a very honest, down to earth and humble person in his way of living and thinking and hence led by example in showing everyone that as the Head of the Country, one can live in the simplest way that reflects the life of a common man. He even translated Marie Curie’s autobiography from English to the Hindi language.
During Shastri’s ‘Peace Mission’ trip to Tashkent in Russia, on the night of 11th January 1966, Shastri suffered a serious cough and his personal physician Dr. R. N. Chugh attended to him. He could hardly speak and pointed to a jug of water. After he had a sip of the water given by is Butler, he became unconscious and passed away after repeated attempts to revive him. Some believe that Shastri was killed and did not die of a heart attack as it was stated by the Doctors. His widow also believed that her husband was poisoned. The English Butler who attended to Shastri that fateful night was arrested as a suspect but was later released due to no evidence. Even today, mystery still shrouds around the death of this great personality and many have requested and tried to seek the truth after repeated failed attempts and non contribution of the Government who wish not to comment and to close this case.
The last rituals and religious rites of Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri were conducted at Vijay Ghat where he was also cremated and a memorial site was created over the place where his funeral was held. Prayer sessions are organised on the 2nd of October (Birthday) and on the 11th of January (Death Anniversary) every year attended by many state leaders who visit the shrine to pay their homage and respect and remind us all of this great personality.