Ever since I was little, I have been racing to the terrace as soon as the clock strikes 12 pm on 26th January. Why? To see the Republic Day fly past, of course, as I have been extremely lucky to live in a place directly below the flight path! I usually wake up at 9-10 in the morning on a holiday, but that day, I’m very careful to get up by 8 to watch the parade. There is something about the soldiers with guns and all the mean machines that travel down Rajpath that fascinates me every time I see them on TV. The Delhi parade is so big and famous that everyone in the whole wide country knows about it. It is not my intention to babble about what all happens on this big day and why we celebrate it because we all know that. Instead, I am going to focus this blog on some interesting facts about the R-Day parade that even I didn’t know until recently. Check these out below:
- The Rajpath has always hosted the parade, right? Wrong. The first few venues for the parade were National Stadium, Red Fort and Ramlila Maidan.
- At the first parade in Rajpath at 1955, the chief guest was Malik Ghulam Mohammad, the Governor-General of Pakistan! Unbelievable, right? Well, it is true.
- When the National Anthem is sung to signal the start of the parade, 21 guns are sounded as salute. While it is 21 shots that are heard, it is only seven guns that are actually fired, each 3 times. For a long time, I actually thought that 21 guns were positioned near Rajpath!
- The entire celebration is a musical affair, with several songs played throughout the parade. Most songs change, but one, which remains constant year after year, is Abide With Me. It is a Christian hymn, which was apparently the favourite song of MK Gandhi.
- Ever thought how many people actually turn up at India Gate to watch the spectacular display? I always knew the number was large, but could have never guessed it was close to a whopping 2 Lakh! Yikes.
- Providing security to the participants, attendees and dignitary is as Herculean a task as organising the grand parade itself. From up to a week before the R-Day, the personnel strength at metro stations is heightened; policemen are stationed at every nook and corner of the city. The total security personnel deployed across Delhi can be anything between 35000 to 55000!
- You must be aware that every year, the president or prime minister of an overseas country serves as the chief guest for the Republic Day Parade. Beginning with the President of Indonesia in 1950 to the chief guest at the 2017 event, the Crown Prince of the UAE, the heads of 44 states have attended the event.
- If you are thinking that how this number can be 44, when we have celebrated 68 Republic Days so far, here is the answer. No guests were invited in 1952, 1953 and 1966, whereas several countries have been represented more than once. We have received the President of France the most number of times (5).
- This year, heads of state of not one, not two, but 10 countries will be gracing the Republic Day Parade! It will be the first time such a large number of countries are represented at the event at once. These are Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. All these are members of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations), with whom India shares warm relations.
- Every Republic Day, school children present traditional music and dance from different Indian states. This time, they will perform the music and dance of the 10 ASEAN countries being represented, too.
- From the looks of it, the parading seems simple; just marching down the road. But, it is a lot harder than it seems; believe me, I have done it. Putting the right foot forward and stretching the opposite arm just as the drum sounds is not easy. And, to think that every person in the marching column must do it at the same damn time…That’s why the rehearsals start way back in July!
- Another interesting fact is that Indian soldiers march significantly faster than those from other countries. When the French practised last year, they marched at the rate of 106 beats per minute as against 120 beats per minute of the Indian soldiers. The French were actually asked to increase their speed.
Amazing, right?! All these facts have certainly enriched my knowledge and given me a new appreciation for the day. Hope it does the same for you.