Celebrating India's Republic Day

History

India was declared a Republic on January 26, 1950 at 10.18am IST. This day commemorates the day when the Indian Constitution was announced to replace the Government of India Act of 1935 as the governing document of India. This particular date was chosen to honour the memory of the Declaration of Independence of 1930, wherein the people of India had declared the mission of 'purna swaraj' or 'complete independence' from British rule.

The Drafting Committee, which drafted the constitution, was appointed on August 29, 1947 with Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar as the Chairman along with six other members. A Draft Constitution was prepared by the committee and submitted to the Assembly on November 4, 1947. While the architects of India's constitution drew on many external sources, they were most heavily influenced by the British model of parliamentary democracy. Additionally a number of principles were adopted from the Constitution of the United States of America, including the separation of power among the major branches of government, the establishment of a Supreme Court and the adoption of a federal structure (division of power between central and state governments).

The Assembly met over 166 days in sessions that were open to the public. The meetings were held over a period of two years, 11 months and 18 days and finally the Indian Constitution was ready to be adopted. The 308 members of the Assembly then signed two hand-written copies of the document, one each in Hindi and English, on January 24, 1950. Two days later, the Constitution of India became the law of all the Indian lands. The Indian Constitution has undergone 94 amendments in the 60 years since its enactment.

To mark the importance of Republic Day, a grand parade is held in New Delhi every year. The parade starts from the Raisina Hill near the Rashtrapati Bhavan, moves along Rajpath, past the India Gate and to the historic Red Fort. The celebrations begin with the Prime Minister laying a floral wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at the India Gate at one end of Rajpath, which is then followed by a two-minute silence in memory of the unknown soldiers who laid down their lives for the country. After this, the Prime Minister proceeds to the main dais at Rajpath to be joined by other dignitaries, who are the honourable state guests for the parade.

Lots of Prime Ministers and Presidents have been part of this grand celebration over the years, with dignitaries from France being present for the maximum number of occasions - four. The historical importance of President Sukarno of Indonesia cannot be forgotten as he was the guest of honour on January 26, 1950, the very day on which the Indian Constitution was adopted. This year too, the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi.

Once the Prime Minister is on the dais, the President of India arrives along with the chief guest of the occasion. The National Flag is then unfurled and the National Anthem is played, followed by a 21-gun salute. Important awards like the Ashok Chakra and Kirti Chakra are given away by the President on this day before the regiments of defence forces start their march past and the colourful floats make their way across Vijaypath. The celebrations end with Beating the Retreat on January 29.

Months of preparation and hard work lead to the spectacular display of the Republic Day parade. Republic Day is a special day in the history of India and watching the Republic Day parade live on television is a treat that everyone looks forward to.

India became a Republic on January 26, 1950 amidst rejoicings, fanfare of trumpets and booming of guns. A Proclamation announcing the new status of India was read out by the last Governor General C Rajagopalachari, heralding that from January 26, 1950 the proclamation said India, that is, Bharat, shall be a Sovereign Democratic Republic. It was a memorable and proud day for the whole nation. The high-domed circular Darbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan (then known as Government House) was brilliantly lit. Over 500 guests had assembled inside the hall. President Sukarno of the Indonesian Republic, his wife and several members of the Diplomatic corps, members of the Constituent Assembly and prominent citizens had graced the occasion. It was a historic occasion when free India's first President, Dr. Rajendra Prasad was administered the oath of his office. The Chief Justice of India, Sir Hiralal Kania, read the oath of office in Hindi. Dr Rajendra Prasad repeated it sentence by sentence. The President was dressed in black achkan, white churidar and a white Gandhi cap.

The outgoing Governor General, C Rajagopalachari, our first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, beaming with pride and joy, the Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Patel, the Ironman of India, Cabinet Ministers, Judges of the Supreme Court and the Auditor- General of India, were present in the hall to witness this biggest national ceremony of the 20th Century. Pandit Nehru and his other Cabinet colleagues were sworn-in soon after. The Speaker of Lok Sabha, G V Mavalankar, the first Speaker, sat in the front row.

Outside the Darbar Hall, there were unforgettable scenes of jubilation. Large crowds of men, women and children had assembled in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan. Many of them had come from the adjoining states to witness the ceremony.

In the Darbar Hall, for the first time the national emblem of Ashoka Pillar with three lions was placed near the throne where in the past the British Viceroys used to sit. Also for the first time a smiling statue of Lord Buddha was placed behind the throne.

The President, Dr Rajendra Prasad, who greeted the large gathering smilingly with folded hands, made a short speech in Hindi and English, stating that it was a memorable day in our annals. He said,"Let us begin with offering our thanks to the Almighty Power that has enabled us to see this day, to the Father of the Nation who showed us and to the world at large his infallible method of Satyagraha and led us on along it to freedom and to the numberless men and women, whose suffering and sacrifice have rendered the attainment of Independence and establishment of this sovereign democratic Republic possible."

The birth of the Republic was celebrated by the masses by organising prabhat pheries. The day dawned with a clear sky and sun was bright throughout the day. It was one of the coldest days in Delhi and men, women and children dressed in their best, came out to participate in this great festival. They exchanged greetings and congratulated each other for the new era that dawned under the new Constitution."

 

Notes from an article written by Sailen Chatterjee, a journalist and freedom fighter, as excerpted from pib.nic.in.