26th January, 1950 is a red letter day in Indian history. On this day, India became a Sovereign Democratic Republic. Since then, 26th January is celebrated as our Republic Day every year. Sovereign means a country which is not only internally supreme but is also independent of any outside control. Democracy is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. In a Republic, the Head of a State is not hereditary. He is elected by the people or their representatives.
The day of 26th January is important from another angle also. The Constitution of India was also promulgated on this very day. In fact, the Constitution was ready on 26th November, 1949 but its promulgation was deferred to coincide with 26th January, 1950.
26th January has played a very important role in the history of India’s struggle for independence. On 26th January, 1930, the All-India Congress Committee at its Lahore Session held under the Presidentship of late Pt. Jawahar Lai Nehru pledged that India’s aim was “Purna Swaraj” i.e., complete independence from British rule.
Republic Day reminds us of the great sacrifices made by the Indian people to realise their pledge of complete independence from British rule. This day is celebrated throughout the country with great enthusiasm. It is our national festival. All colleges, schools, offices, shops, factories and other business establishments remain closed on this day. It is treated as a National Holiday.
In Delhi, the Republic Day is celebrated every year with great pomp and show. Thousands of people from all over the country visit Delhi to see the Republic Day Parade. A number of foreign dignitaries and tourists also come to Delhi to watch these celebrations.
The preparations for this great event of national importance commence many weeks in advance. On 24th January, a full dress rehearsal of the Republic Day Parade is held to ensure that there is no loophole left in any of the arrangements. Some people see this rehearsal because they know that they will not be able to see the parade well on 26th January when there will be a great rush of the people. On 26th January, people reach India Gate in the early hours of the morning to occupy good seats. People from rural areas come in their tempos and tractors. Some people come by trucks and buses from far away places. Some people living in Delhi reach India Gate on foot. However, nowadays many people prefer to watch the Republic Day celebrations on their television sets.
This year, I went to India Gate with my friends to see the Republic Day Parade. The Parade was to start at 9.30 A.M. but we reached India Gate at 7.00 A.M. We got a very good place to sit and watch the Parade.
The colourful Parade started from Rajpath at 9.30 A.M. First of all our President came there. He was followed by his colourful bodyguards on beautiful horses. He was received at the Saluting Base by the Prime Minister of India. The President unfurled the National Flag. After this the army parade started. The President took salute from about 15,000 men of the Army, Navy, Air Force and the boys and girls of NCC. The army band accompanied the marching soldiers.
In the Parade, various types of tanks, guns, missiles, rockets, bombs etc. were shown. The names and particulars of each weapon were written on both sides of the carriers. People were very impressed to see these sophisticated weapons. They were proud that these weapons had been produced in India itself.
This was followed by contingents of school girls and boys. They were wearing colourful dresses. They all sang in chorus the famous patriotic song “Sare Jahan se Achcha, Hindustan Hamara”.
Then came the cultural pageants of different states each pageant displayed the dress, language and culture of the state. Teams of folk dancers from different states of India, wearing colourful and distinctive regional dresses passed before us and presented folk dances of their states. The Bhangra dance of Punjab won applause from the audience.
The last item of the Republic Day Parade was the flypast by the I.A.F. pilots. They flew Thunderbolts and MIG aeroplanes at a great speed. One aeroplane left a trail of three colours, the colours of our national flag, behind it. People were forewarned that they should not throw about any food or eatables because this might attract birds which are a great hazard for aeroplanes. Therefore, we took our lunch after the flypast was over. Thereafter, we came back to our homes by bus.
In the night, all Government buildings like Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Central Secretariat, Parliament House, India Gate, etc. were illuminated. After three days, a “Beating Retreat” ceremony was held at Rajpath in which the bands of the three services played melodious tunes and presented thrilling formations.