Republic Day, India’s National Holiday of Sovereign Status
Republic Day Parade starts at India Parliament in New Delhi
January 26, 1950: A young nation fulfills its promise made at midnight of Independence in 1947, to become the Sovereign Democratic Republic with a constitution.
Republic Day is one of the most important days in Indian history as it was on this day the constitution of India came into force and India became a truly sovereign state. India’s national holiday of sovereign status is celebrated every year on the same day. Much attention is also placed on Independence Day, August 14, when India became independent from Great Britain in 1947. But August is a hot, humid time in India, so instead of having its national holiday in steaming heat, India celebrates in the cooler setting of January’s winter skies.
Ceremonies take place in all the state capitals across the country with the largest and most elaborate held in the national capital of New Delhi. Many say it is one of the greatest shows on earth, showcasing India’s tribal traditions and cultures in all their diversity. A grand parade commences near Rashtrapati Bhavan, the President’s residence, moving along Rajpath past India Gate, and finally ending the 8km route at the Red Fort of Old Delhi. Reflecting pools lining Rajpath are covered for the event, replaced with bleachers offering some of the best views of the Republic Day Parade. Reserved seats in this area are highly coveted. On the lawn in front of one of the bleachers are chairs for special guests, including the president, who sits under a gold umbrella as passing military and naval units salute. Buildings near the parade route bulge from their windows with eager viewers.
The Republic Day Parade features many of the iconic animals of India including elephants with their trunks painted with flowers and gilded howdahs on their blanketed backs, camels from the camel corps of the desert region of Bikaner, and troops of red-coated horsemen wearing turbans of gold cloth on the backs of beautifully decorated horses. Different regiments of the army, navy, and air force marching in all their fineries come next followed by colorful and highly decorated floats representing all the states of the Republic of India. Each float is brilliantly designed to illustrate the crops, industries, geography, art, and dances of that state. Cultural programs presented by schoolchildren from various schools around the capitol spend many days preparing for the event; and no expense is spared to see that every detail is taken care of, from their practice for the drills, the essential props, and their uniforms. The parade is telecast on national television and is watched by millions of viewers in every corner of the country.
At twilight, army bands in bright uniforms march and play near the president’s home to honor a free India. Fireworks line the sky with dazzling displays of color and loud pops heard all around the city. The end of the festivities is traditionally marked by the passing of Indian Air Force jet planes who pass overhead leaving a trail of colored smoke. Private gardens of the presidential palace are open to the public for a week after the festival.
State capitals across the country celebrate in a similar fashion with military presentations, dance performances, and local cultural pageantries. To satisfy the needs of all attendees, street vendors play a huge role in supplying tasty snacks, sweets, and beverages as well as toys, balloons, and trinkets for the kids. Private celebrations last for days afterward. National flags of India fly with prominence from the rooftops, windows, and doorways of homes across the country.
Republic Day of India is a gloriously noisy and colorful event that brings the country together after a very divided and markedly dark beginning.
TIPS: Tourists traveling through the country at this time should ensure all accommodations are pre-booked as well as any transportation services. All state capitals as well as Delhi will experience unusually high demand for hotel rooms and car transport. Expect traffic delays and noticeable security enforcement.