The elaborate “Change of Guard” ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan can now be witnessed by hundreds of visitors on the forecourt lawns of the Presidential residence every Saturday.
Following President Pranab Mukherjee’s orders to lift restrictions and make the ceremony more accessible to visitors, the grandiose exercise can now be viewed by up to 200 people, including foreign nationals.
The duration and location of the ceremony have been changed too — it will be shorter, just 30 minutes, and be held in the forecourt.
“The ceremony will be held every Saturday at 10 a.m. It will be open to the public, who will only have to produce a photo identity card at the place of entry to Rashtrapati Bhavan from gate no.2, near the Prime Minister’s Office,” said an official.
The “Change of Guard” ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan was first opened to the public in 2007.
“After Mr. Mukherjee assumed office, the ceremony has been revamped and relocated to make it more visually appealing and public friendly. An equestrian display by the Presidents’ Body Guard [PBG] in their ceremonial regalia has been added and the venue has been shifted to the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan with easier public access,” the official said.
“The 30-minute ceremony commences with PBG troops, astride their caparisoned, sleekly-muscled, powerful and well-groomed steeds, advancing from behind the Jaipur column to the tune of ‘ Maa Tujhe Salaam ’ played by the Army Brass Band. The Army Guard contingent then marches in and the new guard replaces the old guard,” the official said describing the ceremony.
The day’s ceremony ends with an equestrian display by the PBG before they ride away towards the Rashtrapati Bhavan and with the playing of the National Anthem. The “Change of Guard” is a military tradition carried out by guards and sentries at palaces, forts and defence establishments. It allows the guards on duty to be replaced by a fresh set of troops.
While the PBG is permanently based in the President’s Estate, the Army Guard Battalion — currently the 28th Battalion of the Madras Regiment — is selected from among the elite infantry regiments of the Army and is turned over every three years, the official added.