When did India become a Republic?
Republic Day in India is celebrated on January 26 to commemorate the day on which the Constitution of India came into effect. The Indian Constitution was put into effect in the year 1950 in place of the Government of India Act. Even though India obtained independence from British rule in 1947, it took a special Drafting Committee headed by Babasahed Ambedkar, 166 sessions over the next 3 years to finalise the document and put it into effect.
The newly established Indian nation chose to adopt the constitution on January 26 because it is a symbol for the Indian Freedom Struggle. In 1930, well before Indian independence the Indian National Congress led by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru declared Purna Swaraj or complete independence. He did this by hoisting the Indian flag on the banks of the Ravi river (now in Pakistan).
Why did they choose 26th January?
The date of 26th January was important to the Indian struggle for independence. In 1930, the Indian National Congress had delcared ‘Purna Swaraj’ or complete independence on this day, by hoisting the Indian flag on the banks of the Ravi river.
Republic Day Celebrations in India
In Delhi, the seat of the Indian government, there is a grand parade to mark the importance of Republic Day. Before the parade begins the Prime Minister places a wreath at a memorial called Amar Jawan Jyoti, dedicated to the unknown soldiers that died fighting for India’s freedom. This act is followed by 2 minutes of silence in honour of these unnamed soldiers.
The Prime Minister then takes his place in the president’s box along with other Indian officials and foreign dignitaries to witness the parade. The ceremonies begin with a 21 gun salute once the flag is hoisted accompanied by the Indian National Anthem.
The Indian National Anthem
The Indian National Anthem was written in a highly Sanskritized form of Bengali called Tatsama. It is taken from the Brahmo hymn composed by Guru Rabindranath Tagore and was first sung as in a session by the Indian National Congress in Calcutta in 1911. Jana Gana Mana was only officially adopted as the national anthem years later in 1950.
After the national anthem is played the President gives awards for bravery and varied acts of valour to men and women in the armed forces. This is finally followed by a parade of regiments from the armed forces and floats representing the various cultures of India. The parade ends with a fly-past by Indian Air Force jets.
Ceremonies are also held in all the state capitals and flag-hoisting ceremonies are organised by all schools that are compulsory for all children to attend.
Beating of the Retreat
The words beating and retreat in the same sentence sounds very un-republic day-like but actually has nothing to do with beating or retreating. The beating of the retreat which takes place on the 29th of January at Raisina Hill and the adjacent Vijay Chork in New Delhi marks the end of the Republic day celebrations. The chief guest to the event is always the President of India who arrives with a cavalry unit. The ceremony and fanfare involves dispalys by the bands of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. There is also a drummer’s solo, followed by a solemn ceremony where the Indian national flag is taken down to the hymn Abide With Me. The procession ends with a bugle call to retreat where all other flags are taken down and the bands march out to the tune of Sare Jahan Se Achcha.
The Indian Flag
Before the British Raj, India was ruled by different princely states which all had their own symbols to represent the kingdom. However after the rebellion of 1857, which resulted in the establishment of direct imperial rule in the colony of India, the first flag reflected the fact that India was very much under British rule. It was a regular Union Jack defaced in the center with the Star of India with the image of the Tudor crown above it.
There were many variations of a flag that represented the Indian people put forth by various factions of the Indian freedom struggle. By the time of the Non-cooperation movement of the early 1920’s a full-fledged campaign had taken shape surrounding the right of Indians to hoist their own flag thereby challenging British rule and the laws that prohibited flying nationalist flags. This was a tricolour with the charkha or spinning wheel at its center.
The rendering of the Indian flag as we see it today was a modified version of the the earlier tricolour. The charkha in the center was replaced with the Chakra to borrow from the idea of law and dharma that it represents on the Lion capital of Ashoka. The chakra has 24 spokes to represent the 24 hours of progress within the day; the saffron colour represents courage and sacrifice; white – truth and purity; green – peace and prosperity.
There are rules that govern how and for what an Indian flag can be used for. Here are some of them:
- There is currently only one licensed flag production and supply unit in India that follow the strict guidelines of producing an Indian flag. An Indian flag must be made of khadi cloth of silk or cotton and each roll of cloth that eventually turns into a flag is sent to a lab to be tested for quality.
- The flag must never touch the ground or water, or be used as a drapery in any form.
- The flag may not be placed intentionally upside down, dipped in anything or hold any objects other than flower petals before unfurling. When the flag is flown horizontally it must also be flipped 90 degrees so that it reads left to right, like a book.
- The original flag code restricted private citizens to flying the flag only on national holidays such as Republic day and Independence day. In 2001 Naveen Jindal flew an Indian flag outside his office building, which was promptly foniscated and he was warned of prosecution. Mr. Jindal filed suit in the High Court of Delhi seeking to strike down the restriction on the use of the flag by private citizens, arguing that it was his right as a citizen of India to hoist his national colours.
- No complete representation of the flag can appear below the waist on clothing, or on undergarments.
- Damaged flags must be disposed of in private by burning or any other method consistent with the dignity of the flag.
Did you know that there are many monuments dedicated to soldiers who died in battle. Can you find such monuments around the world?