RASHTRAPATI BHAWAN BUGGY

AUM
Rashtrapati Bhawan Buggy in Ceremonial Use
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
As an army officer I love to ride horses. Before the armour plated Tanks made a debut at the end of World War I, horses were used for the deadly charge at the gallop to make the enemy infantry flee from the battlefield in mortal fear.
Horses not only used in attack mode, were also used for joy rides by officers and families. Children love horse riding and make use of the opportunity when parents are posted to various military academies. Important institutions like the India Military Academy have horse drawn buggy too. These are made use of ceremonially and for joy rides too.
The most important buggy in service is the one in the Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi. It is indeed enchanting to look at. Its history is equally captivating. The shining long buggy drawn by six horses was a unique object to see. Of course, only the Viceroy of India had the privilege of sitting in it on ceremonial occasions but they were few and far between. Nevertheless the Viceroy’s buggy was always kept well maintained and ready for use whenever the Viceroy wished to go out for a drive along with his lady wife and his personal staff.
15th August 1947. The date brought independence to India. Viceroy shed off the title as a direct representative of the King Emperor of the United Kingdom but continued to be Governor General of India, thanks to Jawaharlal Nehru who was enamoured of the company of the Mountbattens and socialized with them without inhibitions. Pt Nehru loved to ask for and receive political advice on matters of State. Lord Louis Mountbatten even presided over some important cabinet meetings. Lady Edwina Mountbatten and their two daughters too loved to continue staying in the Governor General’s House, the present Rashtrapati Bhawan, as its constitutional occupants.
What about the Buggy? I have an interesting tale to tell. When the British Establishment departed lock stock and barrel for home, along with many other relics of the British Raj, the Viceroy’s Buggy too was left behind in Bharat. When all assets were being divided between India and Pakistan in the ratio of 2:1, came the ticklish issue of the Viceroy’s buggy. It was only one of its kind and no decision about its ownership post independence could be made. The legend has it that the commandant of the Viceroy’s Bodyguard represented India and his second-in command who represented Pakistan chose to toss a coin and name head or tale. In this game amounting to gambling, India won the toss and the buggy. Pakistan was rather sad to lose the iconic buggy but it had no way out.
On 26 January 1950, the President’s Bodyguard was rechristened as Rashtrapati Angrakshak and the Buggy came to be known as the Rashtrapati Bhawan Buggy. By the way, it is the only buggy drawn by six sturdy horses. It has been going on like that since then. Of course, use of the buggy was perforce abandoned for security considerations after the assassination of Smt Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India on 31st October 1984. The terror loomed large on the political firmament of India. The buggy too was confined to its resting place. Nevertheless, it was not the final word on the subject.
Imagine how different and peaceful the scene was on 26 January 1950 when Dr Rajendra Prasad, our first President sat in the buggy elegantly and the Rashtrapati Angrakshak escorted him throughout old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk and New Delhi before he entered the Irwin Stadium to take the salute at the First Republic Day Parade in the afternoon.However, the same buggy disappeared from public view in 1984 for security considerations.Indeed, the common man missed it.
President Pranab Mukherjee made a considered decision to use it in 2014 for ceremonial occasions. Besides going for a buggy ride on the 330 acre President’s Estate off and on, he rode in state to Vijay Chowk for Beating Retreat ceremony to and fro. He also rode in Buggy from the Forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhawan to Gate No 5 of the Sansad Bhawan for addressing the joint session of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha in the Central Hall of the Sansad Bhawan. Indeed the Buggy underwent some important repairs to be roadworthy because it had been off road for a fairly long time for security reasons. It is hoped that it would be put to use when the State occasion requires so that it does not revert to a beyond-Local Repairs state as it once was in.
Shri Ram Nath Kovind, the present President of India had ridden in the Buggy on 25 July 2017 along with Shri Pranab Mukherjee when both went to the Central Hall of the Sansad Bhawan for their handing-taking over ceremony. They had returned together to the Rashtrapati Bhawan in the Buggy, although their status had undergone a sea change.
Turning over pages of history, we once again touch 15th August 1947. The public flag hoisting of the Tricolour of the Independent India was scheduled to be done in C Hexagon near India Gate. The place has been renamed as August Kranti Maidan when the Nation celebrated the golden jubilee of the Quit India Movement. On the Independence Day in 1947, there was a massive crowd on the Rajpath, then called the King’s Way. Viceroy’s Buggy with Lord Mountbatten, Lady Edwina Mountbatten, Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India left the Viceroy’s House at the appointed hour. However the mammoth crowd had occupied the road. The six-horse drawn Buggy could not cross the India Gate to reach the flag hoisting venue where official paraphernalia and the British Government staff had assembled.
Everyone was a bit nervous how to solve the problem and reach the appointed place at the appointed time to hoist the national flag, the Tricolour. Lord Louis Mountbatten made the command decision. He stood in the Buggy in his uniform with full medals and looked at the ADC who stood near the flag post. From that distance, Lord Mountbatten signaled to his ADC to hoist the national flag of India. The ADC did that dutifully. The first hoisting of the national flag in an open public place was done ceremonially as described here, the band struck the national anthem of free India and masses stood to attention as best as they could while jostling had not ceased.
Thus the Rashtrapati Bhawan Buggy has been playing important roles while the history of Bharat had been undergoing changes of historical importance. We hope the important six- horse drawn carriage will continue to be in use every now and then on occasions of ceremonial importance and not be allowed to slip into oblivion.
Email : aumchitranjansawant@gmail.com Mobile: 9811173590.

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About vedicupvan

AUM. I AM 82 YEARS OLD AND BY THE GRACE OF ISHWAR AND GOOD WISHES OF LOVED ONES AM ENJOYING GOOD HEALTH. I AM A RETIRED ARMY BRIGADIER AND HAD HUNG MY SPURS MORE THAN A QUARTER OF A CENTURY AGO. I AM A MEDIA COMMENTATOR AND HAVE BEEN DOING RUNNING COMMENTARY ON THE REPUBLIC DAY PARADE AT RAJPATH NEW DELHI AND INDEPENDENCE DAY CEREMONY AT THE RED FORT FOR OVER FOUR DECADES. I AM HAPPILY MARRIED. OUR TWO DAUGHTERS AND A SON ARE WELL SETTLED IN LIFE. NOW I TRAIN THE NEW GENERATION IN THE ART OF PUBLIC SPEAKING.
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