India has grown magnificently as a democratic nation since its first Republic Day in 1950, yet many are not fully aware of its significance. The 48hrs Team tells you about the history of the Constitution and how you can celebrate Republic Day, and brings you less well known facts about the historic day
India is the world’s largest democracy. But not just that; India is a democratic republic. We have a system in which the ultimate power lies with its citizens. And that’s reason to celebrate. Here we tell you about the events held on this day, bring you facts related to the day and talk about how you can join in the celebrations.
THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION — HOW IT CAME TO BE
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When, at the stroke of midnight, Jawaharlal Nehru delivered the speech of Independence, and India became a free nation, a need to lay a solid foundation of law and rights surfaced. A 398-member team called the Constituent Assembly was formed and after almost three years of hard work, they successfully drafted the Constitution of India.
This long process started with an Assembly meeting on August 14, 1947, and proposed to form various committees in order to draft the constitution. On August 29, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar was appointed the chairperson of the drafting committee. The committee put forward a draft Constitution to the Assembly few months later, on November 4. The first draft was debated, and two years and 2,000 amendments later, on November 26, 1949, the Assembly accepted the Constitution. The Constitution of India was influenced by various other constitutions from across the world. The committee took inspiration from the Constitutions of England, the United States of America, Ireland, Australia, Canada and a few others. The assembly signed the copies of the constitution both in Hindi and English on January 24, 1950 and, two days later, the constitution became law in India.
Sitting huddled around a TV set on the mornings of Republic Day, watching the colourful parade in Delhi, is still fresh in our minds. Inaugurated in 1950, the Delhi Republic Day Parade is treasured by every Indian as it marks the celebration in honour of our constitution. It is usually followed by the hoisting of the Indian flag and starts at 9.30am, running for three hours, as nine to twelve regiments of the Indian Army, in addition to the Navy and the Air Force, march along Rajpath in Delhi with their official decorations. The route being more than five kilometres long, the parade commences from the gates of Rashtrapati Bhavan proceeding towards Raisina Hill on Rajpath past India Gate. It was only from 1954 onwards that this became the permanent destination for the Republic Day parade.
Before the parade starts, the Prime Minister places a wreath at Amar Jawan Jyoti to honour those who have lost their lives in war. The parade proudly showcases our country’s defence capability and cultural and social heritage. The various regiments from the defence forces take pride in displaying their skills and devotion towards the country. The camel-mounted Border Security Force contingent is unique to our country since it is the only camel-mounted armed force in the world and a delight to watch. And, if this wasn’t enough, 22-30 floats showcase the cultures of various states and union territories. The parade ends with the armed forces showing their talent through motorcycle stunts and a flypast done by the Indian Air Force Jets.
The Republic Day festivities come to an end with the Beating Retreat ceremony that is conducted on the evening of January 29. The ceremony is performed by the three wings of our country’s defence systems — the Army, the Navy and the Air Force — at Raisina Hill. This ceremony is also celebrated in jest with a military band playing popular tunes and ends with the hymn Abide by Me, which, it is said, was Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite. The Republic Day Parade in the capital allows us to fully explore our unity in diversity.
GUESTS OF HONOUR
Since the start of the Republic Day celebrations back in 1950, India has been hosting the head of state or government of another country as a guest of honour. The tradition of inviting a guest of honour started only in 1955, when the parade was organised to march on the Rajpath. The guest of honour is chosen carefully after strategic deliberation of economic and political interests. We have foregone our differences and invited leaders from the Eastern Bloc and from countries such as China, Pakistan and Sri Lanka over the years.
For this year’s Republic Day parade, we will be hosting the Heads of ASEAN states, which include leaders from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam as our guests of honour.
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As the nation celebrates its 69th Republic Day, we bring you a few less well known facts surrounding the day
- Republic Day celebrations last for three days, ending with the ‘Beating Retreat’, a military ceremony held on January 29 every year.
- In 1930, January 26 was celebrated as India’s Independence Day or Purna Swaraj Day, as it is on this very day that India decided to fight for complete freedom.
- Before the Constitution of India came into force in 1950, India followed the British Government’s Government of India Act, 1935.
- The Constitution of India came into a legal circulation at 10.18am on January 26, 1950.
- There are just two original copies of the Constitution of India in the country, written in Hindi and English. Surprisingly only 1,000 copies of Indian constitution have been made to date. They have been preserved in helium-filled cases in the library of the Parliament House of India. The Constitution is hand-written and not printed.
- Did you know that the 21-gun salute is a fixture each year when the President of India hoists the national flag on Republic Day?
- The Constitution of India is the longest written constitution in the world. It has incorporated 448 Articles in 22 Parts, 12 Schedules and 97 Amendments, and cannot be read in a single day.
- The idea of the division of power between Union and State has been taken from the Canadian Constitution, the concept of Fundamental Duty from the Soviet Union, the directorial elements from the Constitution of Ireland, the republican administration system from French Constitution, and the emergency carriage system from the German Constitution.
- Dr. Rajendra Prasad took an oath in the Durbar Hall of the Government House as India’s first President. The flag was hoisted in the Irwin Stadium on January 26, 1950. This was the first Republic Day celebration and President Sukarno of Indonesia was the chief guest.
- It is on Republic Day that bravery awards are handed out to deserving candidates. The awards handed out are the Veer Chakra, the Maha Veer Chakra, the Param Veer Chakra, the Kirti Chakra and the Ashoka Chakra.
REPUBLIC DAY PARADES ACROSS THE COUNTRY
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Mumbai: In 2016, the Government of Maharashtra held a parade on the lines of what happens in Delhi, which is now shifted to Shivaji Park.
Bangalore: This parade is more on the lines of a cultural fair that takes place in the Marshal Manekshaw Parade Ground.
Kolkata: The parade sees various participants from across the state and is held at Red Road near the Maidan.
Chennai: A beach parade in honour of our Constitution is held at Kamaraj Salai and the Marina Beach.