Every year a grand parade is held in the capital, New
Delhi, to mark the importance of this occasion, starting from the Raisina
Hill near the Rashtrapati Bhavan (President's Palace), along the
Rajpath, past India Gate and on to the historic Red Fort. The different regiments
of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force march past in all their finery and
official decorations. The President of India who is the Commander-in-Chief
of the Indian Armed Forces, takes the salute. Floats exhibiting the cultures
of the various states and regions of India are in the grand parade, which
is broadcast nationwide on television and radio. Also part of the parade are
children who win the National Bravery Award for the year. The parade also
includes other vibrant displays and floats and traditionally ends with a flypast
by Indian Air Force jets.
On Republic Day regional identity gives way to national
identity. Neither caste, creed nor religion matter. What is predominant is
the Indianness of the people. Celebrations are also held in state capitals,
where the Governor of the state unfurls the national flag. If the Governor
of the state is unwell, or is unavailable for some reason, the Chief Minister
of the state assumes the honour of unfurling the National Flag of India. As
has been described by a famous source:
"26th January 1950 is one of the most important
days in Indian history as it was on this day the constitution of India came
into force and India became a truly sovereign state. In this day India became
a totally republican unit. The country finally realized the dream of Mahatma
Gandhi and the numerous freedom fighters who, fought for and sacrificed their
lives for the Independence of their country. So, the 26th of January was decreed
a national holiday and has been recognized and celebrated as the Republic
Day of India, ever since.
Today, the Republic Day is celebrated with much
enthusiasm all over the country and especially in the capital, New Delhi where
the celebrations start with the Presidential address to the nation. The beginning
of the occasion is always a solemn reminder of the sacrifice of the martyrs
who died for the country in the freedom movement and the succeeding wars for
the defence of sovereignty of their country. Then, the President comes forward
to award the medals of bravery to the people from the armed forces for their
exceptional courage in the field and also the civilians, who have distinguished
themselves by their different acts of valour in different situations.
To mark the importance of this occasion, every
year a grand parade is held in the capital, from the Rajghat, along the Vijaypath.
The different regiments of the army, the Navy and the Air force march past
in all their finery and official decorations even the horses of the cavalry
are attractively caparisoned to suit the occasion. The crème of N.C.C
cadets, selected from all over the country consider it an honour to participate
in this event, as do the school children from various schools in the capital.
They spend many days preparing for the event and no expense is spared to see
that every detail is taken care of, from their practice for the drills, the
essential props and their uniforms.
The parade is followed by a pageant of spectacular
displays from the different states of the country. These moving exhibits depict
scenes of activities of people in those states and the music and songs of
that particular state accompany each display. Each display brings out the
diversity and richness of the culture of India and the whole show lends a
festive air to the occasion. The parade and the ensuing pageantry is telecast
by the National Television and is watched by millions of viewers in every
corner of the country.
The patriotic fervour of the people on this day
brings the whole country together even in her essential diversity. Every part
of the country is represented in occasion, which makes the Republic Day the
most popular of all the national holidays of India."
Two events are associated with India’s freedom from colonial
rule. One is Independence Day (15th August) and the other, Republic Day (26th
January). The former is a historical even when India gained independence in
1947 and freed herself from the foreign yoke after a protracted campaign for
freedom, whereas the latter bestowed historicity on the day when India became
a Sovereign Democratic Republic with a constitution to guide her destiny.
Republic Day reminds us of the fulfillment of the pledge that
was made on the midnight of Independence as a “tryst with destiny”.
It is future-oriented, a vision of India that we nourish, an acceptance of responsibility
and making of promises as well as recapitulation of the achievements. The act
of framing the Constitution puts a spotlight on B.R. Ambedkar whose indefatigable
labour and sharp insights helped the preparation of the document.
The difference in significance marks the variation in the pattern
of celebration of these two national days. On Independence Day, the past is
recalled whereas, on Republic Day, the pledge is renewed. Independence Day has
rhetoric built in the celebration; Republic Day is without speeches. It is the
only ceremony in which rhetoric is in the background and visuals are given priority.
Republic Day is celebrated all over the country at all the
administrative units like the capital cities, district headquarters, sub divisions,
talukas, and panchayats. The major ceremonies at Delhi and the state capitals
revolve around the parade in which all the defence services police contingents,
Home guards and Civil Defence, NCC, school children and cultural troupes participate
followed by a display of tableaux and folk dances.
The celebration mood lasts for one week. It consists of the
ground preparations, rehearsals, the main display and spills over to the ‘Beating
of Retreat’ on January 29, a day before Martyrs Day which marks the assassination
of Mahatma Gandhi. The mass media, All India Radio, Doordarshan and TV channels
are agog with a variety of programmes.
The day has acquired the status of a social celebration in
which people participate whole-heartedly as spectators. The celebrational mosaic
is studded with activities. Though the parade is the main ceremony, various
activities spill over from early morning when prabhat pheris (morning
rounds) are held followed by a homage to Gandhi. The parade is succeeded by
sports events in the afternoon. ‘At Home’ functions at the Raj Bhavan,
at the District Magistrate’s and at the SDM’s are followed by illumination
of public buildings of the state capitals and administrative headquarters.
It is a people’s day in more senses than one. Firstly,
the constitution whose promulgation is celebrated is highly symbolic of the
aspirations which ‘we the people of India’ cherish. It ushered in
a social revolution silently by changing the status of the individual from a
subject of a colonial empire to a citizen of a free country. It laid down the
method of governance and established the relationship of the citizen to the
state. It endeavours to secure justice, liberty, equality and fraternity and
assures the dignity of the individual by conferring fundamental rights upon
the citizen. With one stroke, it abolished all distinctions of status, rank,
creed, colour and sex. It outlawed untouchability, an abominable social practice
that had created discrimination and tensions in society.
Secondly, much of the social change consequent upon the new
legislation has its roots in the Directive Principles of State Policy. The Constitution
is the Supreme law. Hence Republic Day is sacrosanct as its significance is
deep-rooted. India at present owes its programmes to the Constitution. She can
build her future on the basis of the tenets enshrined therein.
Thirdly, it is a day of the citizen of the country when he
is supreme. Symbolically, he can fly the national flag on his vehicle and at
the top of his house. It is a great privilege.
Fourthly, it is a paid holiday when everyone has a right to
celebrate, enjoy, relax. No wonder the mood is festive and recreational. Picnics
are common, a movie with a message is telecast besides the parade on Rajpath
in Delhi and the patriotic group songs with visuals.
Republic Day is gradually acquiring the celebrational status
as that of the 4th of July in USA. The celebrations are universal, total and
participatory, children take part in a big way. Variations in culture are displayed
through colourful attires and folk dances. The traditional predominates along
with a touch of modernity reflected in the display of might (latest defence
gadgetry and acquisitions), technology and capabilities of growth in various
sectors. The parade symbolizes the might; the tableaux are predominated by cultural
motifs. The touch of the local highlights the identity of the area. The celebration
is thus a homage to the past, the region and the nation that is a true republic
and imposes nothing.