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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Why and how India celebrates its Republic Day – Everything you need to know

Republic Day signifies the day when India proclaimed self-governance for the first time. Thus, it's perfectly suitable for the country to display its para-military strength and the cultural diversity that makes India a true republic, rather than being just another free nation.

From celebrating its bravest children to displaying its military might to honoring heads of various countries, India celebrates its republic day like no other country in the world.

Why India celebrates its Republic Day:

Every year on the 26th day of January, India celebrates its Republic Day. The day marks the date on which the Constitution of India came into effect on 26 January 1950 replacing the Government of India Act (1935) as the governing document of India. Even though India obtained its independence on 15 August 1947, the country, though, did not yet have a permanent constitution; instead its laws were based on the modified colonial Government of India Act 1935. Hence India needed a supreme governing document on its own.

As Dr B.R Ambedkar as the chairman, 14 days after India’s Independence, on 29th of August 1947, a constitution drafting committee was appointed. This committee met in 166 sessions including public during a a period of two years, 11 months and 18 days and created the draft Constitution of India. 26 January 1950 is the day that replaced the Government of India Act (1935) and brought Constitution of India came into effect. This change in the governing principles for the country made India a Republic on its own.

How the Republic Day celebrations evolved over time:

Between 1950–1954, Republic Day celebrations were organized at different venues including Ramlilla grounds. But it was only starting 1955, the celebrations took shape at Delhi’s Rajpath in a way that we recognize today.

why India celebrates republic day
President Rajendra Prasad (in the horse-drawn carriage) readies to take part in the first Republic Day parade on Rajpath, New Delhi, in 1950. Source – Wikipedia

In this age, the celebrations are held in different parts of the country. The events range from flag hoisting ceremonies and parades by armed forces and school children. The grandest and most important of these parades is held at Rajpath in New Delhi. Delhi’s parade showcases a multi-hued image of the country’s rich cultural heritage and military prowess.

The structure of present day Republic Day celebrations:

Gallantry & bravery awards:

The conclusion of British Rule in India saw the end of the old institution of British honors and awards. Independent India saw the introduction of awards such as Param Vir Chakra, Maha Vir Chakra, Ashoka Chakra, Shaurya Chakra etc. These awards form one of the most important constituents of a nation’s stability.

The Ashok Chakra series of awards are open to civilians also.

The parade begins with winners of gallantry awards saluting the President in open military jeeps, followed by the display of various tanks, missiles and other equipment added to the arsenal of the military.

The National Bravery Awards are a set of awards given annually to about 25 Indian children below 16 years of age for “meritorious acts of bravery against all odds.” The bravery awards we not originally part of the Republic Day celebrations. These are given in recognition of a 14-year-old scout, Harish Chandra, who acted swiftly to save people from a fire break out. This event inspired Jawarharlal Nehru to set up the National Bravery Awards a part of Republic day tradition.

The Parade:

India’s Republic Day parades feature our latest, best and most successful war machines and artillery, stunts by military personnel. This instills a sense of trust and pride in our nation.

The parade which Nine to twelve different regiments of the Indian Army in addition to the Navy, and Air Force with their bands march past in all their finery and official decorations. One of the unique sights of the parade is the camel mounted Border Security Force contingent, which is the only camel mounted military force in the world.

The BSF Camel Band
The BSF Camel Band during the annual Republic Day Parade in 2004. Image Wiki Commons.

The parade additionally sees march pasts from different regiments of the armed forces, police, Home Guards and National Cadet Corps. India’s president being the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces, takes the salute. The parade ends with the iconic dare devil motor cycle riding display by motorcycle units of the Armed Forces. The parade is followed by a series of tableaux display. These visually appealing cultural icons represent a historical event, heritage, culture, of a state of the Indian union or any entity (private or public).

Beating Retreat: 

On the evening of 29th of January, India officially denotes the end of Republic Day ceremonies with a Beating retreat. The retreat is performed by the bands of Indian Army, Navy and Air Force. Delhi Police and Central Armed Police Forces also contribute with a pipe band.

From an awe inspiring display of military might to honoring the valuable contributions from its own citizens including children and army personnel, India takes the Republic day as an opportunity to bring the nation together with a sense of pride.

State of heads attending India’s celebration: 

And since 1950, India has been hosting head of state or government of another country as the state guest of honor for Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi. However, it is reported that there will be no chief guest to attend 2021 Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi. British PM Boris Johnson was supposed to attend this year celebrations. But Covid-19 disrupted India’s plans. Interestingly there is a recommendation to invite Dalai Lama to attend the celebrations this year.

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