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City Monument – War Wall, Mehrauli

The unknown soldiers.

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

It does not look like a place worth stopping for. This is just a yellowing wall, albeit in historic Mehrauli.

But stop.

An inscribed marble plaque is embedded in the wall.

The Zails Of
And Badarpur
1261 Men
Went To
The Great War
Of These 92
Gave Up
Their Lives

A star is carved on each side of the plaque. A blackened earthen lamp lies at the bottom. The wall itself protects a health care center, which is said to be originally a Lodhi-era tomb. An adjacent poster provides phone numbers for applying government-issued identity cards. But there is no clue on the identity of these 1,262 men who went to fight in the First World War from the Delhi districts of Mehrauli and Badapur.

And where were these men sent?

Who put up this memorial?

A shop called Drishti Optics stands across the road. Its owner, an authorized dealer of Rayban sunglasses, doesn’t know the name of even one of the 92 men who gave up their lives in the war.

Google too turned out to be of no use.

Centuries ago, a Roman poet had said, “It is sweet and right to die for one’s country.” English poet and soldier Wilfred Owen had memorably called that an old lie.

Owen knew better. He was killed in the Great War.

Where Near Mehruali Bus Stand Nearest Metro Station Qutub Minar Best Time Later afternoon

The great casualty







2 thoughts on “City Monument – War Wall, Mehrauli

    1. Nope, inscription is accurate and it is meant to be ZAIL and not ZILA. During the British Raj, a ZAIL was a REVENUE UNIT, which was a collection of several revenue villages.

      Head of the Zail was ZAILDAR (, my grandfather use to be a ZAILDAR of 90 villages in Loharu Princely state and underneath him he had several LAMBARDAR (
      each responsible for revenue collection for their respective village.

      LAMBARDARS is usually the ZAMIDAR with largest landholding/ownership in their village. A grouping of the related villages then became a ZAIL. Largest ZAMIDNAR (landlord) in the ZAIL and/or the one with the largest influence within the ZAIL was appointed as ZAILDAR.

      ZAILDARI system has been abolished. LAMBARDARI system still continues, one of my uncle is still a LAMBARDAR.

      A Lambardar (largest landlord) is different from SARPANCH (elected head of the village). LAMBARDAR is usually hereditary, appointed by the Land and Revenue department of the state, Lambardar works closely with PATWARI and PANCHAYAT SECRETARY). LAMBARDAR get a small percentage of land revenue (farming land tax, which govt then spends on building canals, irrigation system, etc), the cut is not much but it carries a lot of prestige/CHAWDHAR/social-standing in the rural areas.

      Hope this helps.


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