How and where India celebrated its first Republic Day
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The historical Rajpath avenue has over time become synonymous with the Republic Day anniversary ceremony, but the boulevard that runs from Rashtrapati Bhavan on Raisina Hill through Vijay Chowk and India Gate was not the venue of first celebrations marking the birth of the Republic.
Exactly 63 years ago, after having thrown off the British colonial yoke, a free India assumed the mantle of a "Sovereign Democratic Republic" on January 26, and an amphi theatre named after an erstwhile Viceroy, became the venue for the festivities after the country got its first President.
The chain of events marking the birth of a landmark in the annals of India's Independence movement make for a fascinating read.
"At the most solemn ceremony, held in the brilliantly lit and high domes of Durbar Hall at Government House, India was declared a Sovereign Democratic Republic exactly at eighteen minutes past ten on the morning of Thursday, January 26, 1950.
Six minutes later, Dr Rajendra Prasad was sworn in as ,President," reported "Fauji Akhbar" (now 'Sainik Samachar') in, its article titled 'Birth of a Republic' on February 4, the same year.
"The birth of Indian Republic and the installation of its first President were announced by a salute of 31 guns shortly after 10:30 am," reports the publication. In an impressive swearing-in ceremony, the retiring Governor-General, C Rajagopalachari, read out the proclamation of the Republic of "India, that is, Bharat".
And whereas it has been declared by the said Constitution that India, that is, Bharat, shall be a Union of States comprising within the Union the territories which were hitherto the Governor's provinces, the Indian states and the Chief Commissioners' provinces," the military journal quoted the last Governor-General's speech.
The President then took the oath and made a brief speech, first in Hindi and then in English. "Today for the first time in our long and chequered history we find the whole of this vast land from Kashmir in the north to Cape Comorin in the South, from Kathiawad and Kutch in the west Coconada and Kamrup in the east, brought together under the jurisdiction of one Constitution and one Union which takes over the responsibility for the welfare of more than 320 million men and women that inhabit it," President Prasad said in his historic speech. Though India had been used to pomp and pageantry having witnessed three imperial durbars before Independence, but the ceremonial splendour of that occasion was very special as the President's procession wound through the Delhi streets in a symbolic gesture of coming-of-age of a nation.