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Daresi Ground, Ludhiana

Daresi Ground witnessed the Indian freedom struggle and even carried some part of the movement in its lap. It also provided a pedestal to leaders like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, who addressed rallies of national importance from here. The Hindi agitation movement is said to have been launched from here and for the past so many decades, it has been ‘the place’ for several political rallies.

The reference is to Daresi Ground, located in Old Ludhiana. It is one of the largest open spaces that has survived industrialization in this mega city and had immense contribution in shaping the history of not only the state but also the country.

A number of historic events took place at these grounds. Its reference in the Indian freedom struggle dates back to the War of Independence of 1857 when angry British forces razed houses of Indian nationalists located on the ground. After Independence, it became a prime spot for organizing national and state-level movements and political activities.

In fact so short has been the public memory that conflicting versions were available on the genesis of the name Daresi. According to one view, the ground was used for morning parades and drills by British forces after dressing up in complete uniforms. The word ‘Dressing’ with the passage of time became ‘Daresi’ and is still in use. Some persons claimed that the ground was used for dressing up horses of the British forces and was thus coined ‘ Dressing Ground ’ but the local lingo popularized it as Daresi.

However, another school of thought links the name to the razing of houses of Indian freedom fighters, which used to exist where the ground is seen today. According to this view, after the 1857 revolt British forces which were housed in the Lodhi Fort just opposite the Daresi Ground, always faced a security threat from a cluster of houses existing in front of the main entrance.

To end it, they decided to demolish one full colony where they suspected that Indian freedom fighters used to meet and planned attack on the fort. In Persian language, Daresi word means leveling a ground and thus after that incident the place became popular by this name.

The conflict on the genesis of its name notwithstanding, the different versions themselves reflect the various activities associated with the place. Enquiries revealed that after 1925 when the freedom struggle resumed feverish pitch, it became the cent restage of rallies and movements. The popularity of the place did not wane even after the Independence. Several important political rallies were organized at this place.

Prominent persons who addressed the Ludhianvis from here included Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Lok Nayak Jai Parkash Narayan, Dr Kalicharan, Ram Monohar Lohia and Vijay Lakshmi Pandit. Apart from these the place has witnessed regular rallies of state leaders.

Besides, the place was also popular for cultural and religious activities. The celebration of Dushera and Ramlila at these grounds is well known. And to cap it all, it was from this ground that acclaimed actor Balraj Sahni collected huge funds for the benefit of Indian soldiers after the Indo-China war.

But today Daresi ground, which was lush green just a few years ago, now presents a bald picture. There was a time, a few years ago when a beautiful park used to exist here. People from the old city would come here for evening strolls. Some even brought their dinner with them and dined in the cool air. Alas, this beautiful picture seems difficult to resurrect now.

Not only the greenery has become a thing of the past but the ground has also lost its attraction for political rallies. Due to its location well inside the crowded old city, modern politicians avoid it for security reasons and hold rallies at other open places outside the city.