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College students dressed in the colours of India's national flag rehearse for the Republic Day. Photo: Reuters   | Photo Credit: AMIT DAVE

It is a very cold morning. You wear a white uniform or a colourful dance costume to school and pin the national flag to your shirt. At school, you take part in flag hoisting, speeches, songs and march-past. You get sweets in the end. Across the country there are parades, dances and floats in capital cities; the best one is on Rajpath, Delhi. A Prime Minister or President of another country is the Guest of Honour. What day is it?

You know it is our Republic Day (Ganthantra Divas). After we became free from British rule in 1947, we needed our own government, our own laws and rules. Great men of India wrote a book of rules called the “Constitution”, and on January 26, 1950, it came into force. This day was chosen because the Declaration of Indian Independence (Purna Swaraj) was announced by the Indian National Congress on January 26, 1930. Every year on Republic Day we honour the Indian Constitution that says we are all equal, tells us of our rights and responsibilities and gives us the right to vote/elect people to make laws for us.

Grand celebrations

Some special events mark this day. Before the parade begins, the Prime Minister goes to Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate to place flowers for soldiers who gave their life for our freedom. The President, the Chief Guest at the parade, arrive escorted by a special unit of soldiers on horse-back. Tribal dancers and school children sing and dance as they follow beautiful floats and military equipment down Rajpath. Military bands play powerful music. Spectators include Ministers, artists and diplomats from foreign countries. For the first Republic Day parade in 1950, the President came in a horse-drawn carriage. Do you know who that was?

The Republic Day festivities come to an end with the Beating-the-Retreat ceremony. On the evening of January 29, bands from the Army/Navy/Air-Force gather at Raisina Hills and Vijay Chowk and present a spectacular drum concert.

Bravery awards

Once when Jawaharlal Nehru was watching a performance, fire broke out in a shamiana. Harish Chandra, a 14-year-old scout, promptly ripped open the burning tent with his knife and saved the lives of people trapped inside. Nehruji immediately asked officials to establish an award for brave Indian children. He gave the first official National Bravery Awards to Harish Chandra and another child on February 4,1958. The five bravery awards today are Bharat, Sanjay Chopra, Geeta Chopra, Bapu Gaidhani and National Bravery. Each includes a medal, certificate and cash. Children who receive these awards take part in the Republic Day parade and get to meet the PM and President.

Find out who won the awards this year!

Chief guest 2015

According to the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, President Barack Obama is “very excited and particularly pleased with the fact that he will be the first US President to be honoured as the chief guest on Republic Day commemoration.” Every year India invites a head of state to participate as chief guest during the Republic Day celebrations that ends in a military parade. Last year the chief guest was Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Special effects

The Constitution was hand-written.

The 308 members of the Assembly signed two copies (Hindi and English) on January 24, 1950.

The Rashtrapati Bhavan is grandly lit up on Republic Day.

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Printable version | Jun 9, 2021 11:17:21 AM |

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