Though India became a free nation on August 15, 1947, it declared itself a Sovereign, Democratic and Republic state with the adoption of the Constitution on January 26, 1950.
A salute of 21 guns and the unfurling of the Indian National Flag by Dr. Rajendra Prasad heralded the historic birth of the Indian Republic on that day. Thereafter 26th of January was decreed a national holiday and was recognised as the Republic Day of India.
The Constitution gave the citizens of India the power to choose their own government and paved the way for democracy. Dr. Rajendra Prasad took oath as the first President of India at the Durbar Hall in Government House and this was followed by the Presidential drive along a five-mile route to the Irwin Stadium, where he unfurled the National Flag.
The seeds of a republican nation were sowed at the Lahore session of the Indian National Congress at the midnight of 31st December 1929. The session was held under the presidency of Pt. Jawarhar Lal Nehru. Those present in the meeting took a pledge to mark January 26 as "Independence Day" in order to march towards realizing the dream of complete independence from the British. The Lahore Session paved way to the Civil Disobedience movement. It was decided that January 26, 1930 would be observed as the Purna Swaraj (complete Independence) Day. Many Indian political parties and Indian revolutionaries from all over the country united to observe the day with honour and pride.
On Republic Day, flag hoisting ceremonies and parades by armed forces and school children are held in different parts of the country. The grandest and most important of these parades is held at Rajpath in New Delhi, which showcases a multi-hued image of the country's rich cultural heritage and military prowess.
This parade is presided over by the President of India. One of the main functions of the Republic Day Parade is to pay tribute to the martyrs who have sacrificed their lives for the country and to confer bravery awards on military persons, citizenry and children for showing courage in the face of adversity.
The Prime Minister of India first lays a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate, in memory of all members of the armed forces who gave up their life for the country. After that there is the 21 gun salute, unfurling of theNational Flag and singing of the National Anthem. Next, awards such as the Paramvir Chakra, Ashok Chakra and Vir Chakra are presented to gallantry award winners.
The parade begins with winners of gallantry awards saluting the President in open military jeeps, followed by the display of various tanks, missiles and other equipment added to the arsenal of the military. After this, is the march-past of different regiments of the armed forces, police, Home Guards and National Cadet Corps. The President of India, being the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces, takes the salute. This is followed by a vibrant parade comprising tableaux from different States and cultural dances by patriotic school children.
Children who have won National Bravery Awards ride past the spectators on colourfully decorated elephants. These children are honoured and awarded by the Indian Council for Child Welfare for performing outstanding deeds of bravery and selfless sacrifice.
The Republic Day Parade is concluded by dare devil motor cycle riding and a flypast by Indian Air Force fighter jets over Rajpath, as spectators look on with their hearts filled with pride.
January 30 is marked as Martyrs Day, to honour and pay homage to those martyrs who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom, welfare and progress of our beloved country. It was on January 30, 1948 when Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated. And, since then every year the nation pays homage to the Mahatma and other martyrs on this day.
The President, the Vice President, the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister, and the three service Chiefs gather at Rajghat and lay wreaths on the Samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi, decorated with multi-colour flowers. The inter-services contingent reverses arms as a mark of respect to the martyrs. A religious prayer ceremony is held and Gandhiji's favourite bhajans are sung.