January 26 is a momentous day for Indians the world over. It is a day to celebrate our status as a sovereign, democratic, republic state.
The 64th Republic Day is just around the corner. And it’s been a long journey from the past. Let’s revisit it.
Though India got its independence on August 15, 1947, it declared itself a sovereign, democratic and republic state with the adoption of the Constitution on January 26, 1950. After a 21-gun salute and the unfurling of the national flag, the Indian Republic came into existence. January 26 was recognised as the Republic Day of India, and the day a national day.
With the Constitution, Indians got the power to choose their own government. Dr. Rajendra Prasad took oath as the first President of India at the Durbar Hall in Government House. After this, he drove to the Irwin Stadium, where he unfurled the National Flag.
In his special message he said: “We must re-dedicate ourselves on this day to the peaceful but sure realisation of the dream that had inspired the Father of our Nation and the other captains and soldiers of our freedom struggle, the dream of establishing a classless, co-operative, free and happy society .... We must remember that this is more a day of dedications than of rejoicing ...”
In many ways, the Republic Day is a people’s day with a lot of importance being given to visual forms of India’s greatness. It is a grand celebration and a holiday with a difference. There are flag hoisting ceremonies and parades by the armed forces and school children across the country. And there is one event that many of us watch the TV and listen to the radio for — the grandest and most important of these, the Republic Day parade at Rajpath in New Delhi. It’s an experience to watch some aspects of India’s rich cultural heritage and military greatness in the form of State-wise presentations, tableaus and march-pasts by different regiments of the Armed Forces. Well-known radio and television commentators of All India Radio and Doordarshan enrich it even further.
There is also the Beating Retreat Ceremony or the “Watch Setting” at the Vijay Chowk on January 29 that marks the end of the Republic Day celebrations. The chief guest of the function is the President of India. On this day, the military bands from the Armed forces perform during the solemn ceremony. The Republic Day celebrates “we the people — from being the subjects of an Empire to becoming the citizens of a free country.” It is also the time when achievements are rewarded, especially with the gallantry awards and the national bravery awards for children. “The spirit behind the Republic Day celebrations is to make us feel proud of our culture, languages, traditions, religions … all of which make India such a wonderful country. It is this spirit that turns the celebrations all the more interesting.”
Excerpts from a former President’s speech
On January 25, 2012, in her speech to the nation, then President of India, Pratibha Devisingh Patil said: “On the eve of our 63rd Republic Day, I convey my warmest greetings to all of you, from every walk of life and in different parts of the world. I convey my special greetings to the Armed Forces and the Para-Military Forces who guard our frontiers with great vigil and valour…I also convey my best wishes to our internal security forces and to our civil services.
“We must build a strong, prosperous nation, based upon a firm system of values. As we remove poverty, let us also enrich our thoughts. As we remove disease, let us all remove ill-will towards others. As our youth study more and acquire more knowledge, let them also learn to be more involved in activities for the progress of the nation, other than only self advancement. As we legislate, let us also understand that the most effective law is the conscience of citizens. As we advance in science and technology, let us realise and understand that it is more for human welfare. As we use the Earth’s resources, let us not forget to replenish and renew its vitality.”
This year, India will wait to hear what President Pranab Mukherjee has to say.
Greetings for the day
There are now a range of options for us to greet each other on Republic Day — from sporting badges to logos, flags and pins to sending electronic greetings. Indian communities across the world also use the day to highlight their progress.
On the 63rd Republic Day, Google had doodle images of elephants and tri-coloured umbrellas decorating the word “Google”. There were three jolly elephants which denoted the health of Indian culture and the Indian economy. The three umbrellas had saffron, white and green on them that gave the look and feel of the Indian flag. The letter “O” appeared like the Ashoka Chakra.