The word ‘republic’ is used to denote a country where the supreme power is held by the people or their elected representatives or by an elected or nominated President, not by a permanent head like a monarch.
In India, January 26 is the day when Republic Day is celebrated as it was on this day in 1950 that the Constitution came into force. Although India attained independence on August 15, 1947, it did not have a permanent constitution of its own, functioning under the laws enacted by the British. After many amendments the Constitution was approved and accepted on November 26, 1949, and came into full force on January 26, 1950.
Nehru signing the Constitution at the final session of the Constituent Assembly on January 24, 1950
The parade on January 26
Republic Day is celebrated with great pomp and fervour all over the country, by the central and state governments, government and private institutions, schools, colleges, etc. January 26 is a national holiday in India, therefore, all institutions, be it public or private, are closed. The tricolour is unfurled and parades are held. New Delhi is where the most exciting and memorable celebrations are held. A grand parade is held that starts form Vijay Chowk near Rashtrapati Bhavan, goes down Rajpath to India Gate, and then winds its way along Tilak Marg, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg and Netaji Subhash Marg to finally end at Red Fort. However, it is the march past along Rajpath that draws the most crowds, and is televised live by Doordarshan all over the country every year. People buy tickets to seat on both sides of Rajpath. The parade would start approximately from 9.50 am.
The President, Prime Minister and government officials of high rank make their presence on Rajpath to celebrate the occasion. The President unfurls the national flag as soon as the national anthem is played, and a 21-gun salute is given as the President’s Bodyguard (PBG, which happens to be the seniormost regiment of the Indian Army) renders the National Salute. Following this, the President addresses the nation. Various regiments of the Army, Navy, Air Force, paramilitary forces and state police take part in the march past. Then comes the display of weapon systems like tanks, missiles and even fighter jets. These are followed by lively displays and exhibits of India's rich and colouful culture through tableaus on vehicles slowly moving along Rajpath. This year, the tableau of West Bengal would depict the indigenous chhau dance from the district of Purulia.
The parade concludes with the flypast by Indian Air Force jets. The parade is meant to bring the entire nation together. Martyrs and heroes who showed great courage and bravery for the sake of the country sake without bothering for their own lives, both from the military and civilians, are remembered, and conferred prestigious awards including Kirti Chakra and Ashok Chakra by the President. This happens before the march past begins. Every year a foreign guest of honour is invited to attend the parade, usually a head of state or government. This year it is going to be Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan.
Sikh Light Infantry at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi
NehPara Commandos at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi
Sikh regiment at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi
Gurkha Rifles at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi
A CISF regiment at the Delhi parade
A Border Security Force regiment at the parade in New Delhi
Motorcycle stunt riders on Rajpath
Chhau tableau of West Bengal at the Republic Day parade
Beating Retreat ceremony
The festivity of Republic Day concludes officially with the intriguing Beating Retreat ceremony on the evening of January 29. The Beating Retreat dates back to 16th-century England when troops were called back inside the castle at sunset but in India it denotes the official end of the Republic Day festivities. It follows the same route but in reverse order; that is, starting from Red Fort and ending at Vijay Chowk on Raisina Hill. The ceremony sees more than 30 bands from the three armed services (Army, Navy, Air Force) in their colourful ensembles playing tunes like 'Sare Jahan se Achha', penned by Iqbal, and 'Abide with Me', the eternally enchanting hymn which was a favourite tune of Mahatma Gandhi. After the parades end, as night falls, colourful lighting decorations illuminate the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament House and India Gate; it is a beautiful sight to behold.
Beating Retreat: Army, Navy and Air Force bands play at Vijay Chowk
Beating Retreat: PBG stand in formation at Vijay Chowk with the lit up Rashtrapati Bhavan in the background
India Gate lit up with the colours of the flag, at the end of the ceremony
Patriotic fervour … now through SMS
The patriotic fervor of the people is witnessed not only in the programmes and activities but also in the inspirational Republic Day SMSs and Republic Day messages. On this day people send warm wishes about Republic Day to their dear ones that lend a festive ambience to the historic occasion. Short and lovely text messages are also a wonderful way to spread the importance of Republic Day.
Everywhere in India, parades, speeches, and military and cultural displays mark Republic Day.
- In Kolkata, the Republic Day parade takes place along Red Road near the Maidan.
- In Mumbai, it is held on Marine Drive, along the Arabian Sea.
- In Chennai, Kamaraj Salai and Marina Beach are the venues for Republic Day celebrations.
- In Bangalore, a parade and cultural fair is held at the Field Marshal Manekshaw Parade Ground.
Mountain regiment soldiers at the Kolkata parade
Roller skating display on Red Road during Republic Day functions
Cultural celebrations on Red Road after the Republic Day parade
Military chopper sprinkling flowers at the Red Road function in Kolkata