THE REPUBLIC DAY PARADE
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
The first Republic Day Parade was held on 26 January 1950 at the Irwin Stadium, now known as Major Dhyan Chand Rashtriya Stadium, New Delhi. Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India had taken the salute. The Army Chief, General (later Field Marshal) K.M. Cariappa was the only Indian Service Chief as the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force had British officers as their Chiefs. Obviously the Indian officers in the two services did not have the requisite amount of experience and service to head their respective Force. The spectators and participants were very cheerful and excited about participating in the first ever Republic Day Parade. India had come of age politically and moved away from the British Empire and the Crown. The word Royal was dropped from all military outfits.
The venue of the Parade shifted from the Irwin Stadium to other places in the old Delhi and New Delhi till it found its permanent moorings at the Rajpath, formerly known as the King’s Way. To start with the Presidential Dais was a small wooden platform covered with rich carpets and quite close to the road from where the marching columns and the President had eye contact too. The Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces could assess the morale of officers and men. However, since 1980s in the post assassination of Indira Gandhi period, security considerations moved the saluting dais many meters away from the road and placed the chairs of the Rashtrapati and other distinguished State guests on a higher pedestal. In later years as the terror threat loomed large, a bullet proof glass screen was placed before the front row as a precautionary measure. The eye contact of the Supreme Commander with his officers and soldiers was lost forever. Of course, security of the President, Prime Minister, other senior ministers, the three Service Chiefs, not forgetting the Chief Guest, usually a Head of State or Government of a friendly foreign country, was and continues to be the prime consideration.
LOOK OF THE PARADE
The Rajpath and areas around are neat and clean kept in perfect inspection order. Even leaves of the jamun trees in the background look clean and green. The Tricolour miniatures fly on the lamp post along with the national flag of the country of the Chief Guest. The King of Saudi Arabia, as the Chief Guest of the Republic Day, had made a special request that his country’s flag should not be put on lamp posts because it carried a verse from the holy Qura’an.
The gallantry award ceremony is held immediately after the national flag is hoisted, the national anthem played and 21 gun salute given. Only Param Vir Chakra and Ashok Chakra are awarded by the Rashtrapati to the gallant soldier, if alive, by pinning the coveted medal on his chest. If it is a posthumous award, the medal is received in hand by the next of kin.
The units forming part of the Parade assemble much in advance on the side roads near the Vijay Chowk and march along at the appointed time from the assembly point on the Rajpath towards the India Gate in quick time to beat of drum of various bands placed appropriately after every segment of three units or so.
The Parade Commander, now a Lieutenant General, is the General Officer Commanding of the Delhi Area who leads the Parade standing in an open jeep flying the Taurus flag, a symbol of the formation. He salutes smartly a few meters ahead of the Presidential Dais and remains in that position for a few meters and goes up to the India Gate. The Deputy Parade Commander, now a Major General, stands in the open jeep right behind the Parade Commander and takes over the command pof the Parade from the India Gate right up to the Red Fort where the entire Parade has a lunch break and a well deserved rest.
Param Vir Chakra Vijetas followed by Ashok Chakra winners move behind the Deputy Parade Commander in open jeeps and inspire the new generation of Indians sitting among the throngs in different enclosures made for spectators.. Now there are no awardees of Victoria Cross alive or are able bodied to be a part of the Parade. We miss them.
A mounted contingent of the 61 Cavalry is right in front. The high horses and robust riders in colourful uniform of Jodhpur Lancers attract attention of young and old alike. Lovers of equestrian sports miss their old cavalry regiments that were disbanded after the First Great War. Tanks took their place both in peace and war. Here on parade too they follow the mounted horsed cavalry. It is the T 90 Tanks of Russia, renamed Bhishma, turn their turret and dip their guns in salute to the Supreme Commander. Thereafter move in the Artillery Regiment contingents displaying their modern guns. They are followed by the Engineers and the Signals displaying their roles in battle and helping the armour and infantry to overpower the enemy and be winners.
The Infantry marching contingents put in an appearance by marching smartly in their impressive uniforms and turbans tied with precision. Shining medals on their chest tell tales of their chivalry in battles fought and won in far off lands and on borders of Bharat. Tackling Islamist terrorists in hinterland gets their attention and action and decimation of hidden enemies in dark corners are described by commentators of the parade. Various Regiments get an opportunity to march there on the Republic Day turn by turn.
The Para Military contingents and the Central Police Forces march along the Rajpath as per their seniority. Of late, their deployment in terror infested areas has given them and the Border Security Force an opportunity to wear gallantry medal on their chests on parade.
The school children form an important part of the Republic Day Parade. They are the Gen Next. They carry a heavy responsibility on their soulders. The children’s participation in the Republic Day Parade augurs well for the future of the nation. The school children not only participate and exhibit their talents for song and dance but also interact with other segments of the parade. The school children see the military might from close quarters and draw inspiration to be a part of the military that is tasked to defend the country’s borders but also eliminate the terror from the soil of the motherland.
The tableaux in the Parade reflect the nation’s progress in science and technology, give a glimpse of the freedom movement, the British government’s atrocities on innocent Indians who were participating in peaceful processions demanding freedom from the British raj. It was no treson but the foreign rulers decreed it so. Various ministries of Government of India portray their achievements by putting up dramatic shows in their mobile tableaux and reaching the hearts and minds of citizenry.
The Republic Day celebrations last from 26 January to 29 January and Beating Retreat on the final day held about an hour before the sunset steals the thunder of success of military bands of the three services. Of course, the Modi government has introduced a performance depicting fusion of the Hindustani Sangeet with the Western Music wherein musical instruments vary from flute and table to violin and drums of various sizes. Indeed it is a treat to watch the Beating Retreat from 5 P.M. for an hour and imbibe the Music that is food of love said Shakespeare. Music fills the air with love. The lasting message is : Love One Love All to attain Peace. This is the way to Banish Evil and Imbibe Noble as the Veda enjoin on human beings :
DURITANI PARASUV; BHADRAM AASUV.