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Incredible India: The Republic Day Parade of India, Rajpath near India Gate, New Delhi!I have been watching India’s Republic Day parade on TV since childhood. Celebrated every year on 26th January, the Republic Day parade of India is spectacular. What I didn’t know was that watching it live would be a different experience altogether. A better one rather!
DISCLAIMER: All the photographs I have shared except two group selfies are issued by DPR (Defence PR).
I attended my first (and India’s 68th) Republic Day parade on 26th January, 2017. It was a cold morning but not as cold as it should have been by New Delhi winter standards. Blame the global warming, I was told, New Delhi used to be very cold and misty on 26th January not so long ago. We reached early to grab our seats. It was easier for us since we had the Press pass. Scores of regular people filled the roads near the Rajpath. As our car maneuvered through tsunami of humanity who were heading for the parade early morning, I couldn’t help but admire the enthusiasm people had for the Republic Day celebrations. Delhi Traffic Police had made special arrangements to ensure smooth traffic.
People across the classes filled each and every seat on the two seating enclosures on either side of the road which was transformed into a grand ramp for the parades which would follow shortly. Despite the bifurcation in the seating arrangements (Press/Diplomats/Politicians/Regular People), the Republic Day parade is a big leveller. I realized this few minutes later when all of them cheered in the same tone at the processions which passed the respective seating enclosures.
We reached early morning, much before the scheduled program, so that we could grab the best possible seats. We were in the media enclosure. Exactly opposite us were the VIP enclosures of Indian diplomats, politicians and the contingent of the Chief Guest. The Chief Guest at the 68th Republic Day celebrations of India was His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi accompanied by Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Armed Forces. Some of the members from the UAE contingent sat next to us in the media enclosure.
There was still time for the parades to start. I was overhearing others in the enclosure to while away time. I was amused to see that most of the people were eager to see the very popular Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi. As much as Indians were excited to see the parades, they were equally charged up to get a glimpse of Mr. Modi. In India, we have termed his immense popularity as ‘Modi Wave’. I realized that Modi wave is for real when thousands of Indians started chanting ‘Modi, Modi’ as soon as a pink turban grabbed all the attention at the VIP enclosure, right opposite us. The brightly colored turban which Mr. Modi wore, made it easy for all to identify and track his movement. After exchanging greetings, the Prime Minister received the President and the chief guest.
The P.M., president and the chief guest then proceeded to the rostrum to unfurl the National Flag. Every one stood when the band started playing Indian National Anthem Jan Gan Man and a 21 gun salute is fired. (No. There were no up-nosed pretentious intellectual types who had problem in standing up for the National Anthem. Not even one!) The spectacular Republic Day parades commences right after this. What followed next will forever remain etched in my memory. The magnitude of it all numbed me with joy!
There is this stupid (in my opinion) debate going on in India about why we should not be a nationalist. I have always taken pride in being an Indian. The parade showcased all that which makes India a great nation and an unmistakable force in not just Asia but world. The parade rises above the sensationalist newspaper headlines and vacuous viral sites click baits and reaffirms strongly what India is actually all about. The thumping, the sound of National Anthem, the synchronized steps, the glimpses of prominent states of India, the music of the bands and the muscle power of the military filled in me a sense of pride which I never felt before. It was refreshing to feel proud of your country and chant Jai Hind along-with thousands of others without any guilt. According to the silly and pretentious intellectual class of India, even feeling patriotic is regressive!
It was like a flashback of my 10 years of travel in to the heart and soul of 22 states and Union Territories of India. It was a reassurance that India is above all the petty politics, orchestrated controversies, inane debates and simplistic generalization. India is not easy to understand even for its inhabitants. It is a complex case study a glimpse of which I enjoyed during the overwhelming parades.
WHY I MISSED SHAKING HANDS WITH MR. NARENDRA MODI:
Being a travel writer and blogger, I get easy access to celebrities. Those are the perks of my job. However, you will hardly see me taking selfies with celebrities. I don’t even get a high standing next to celebs anymore. That said, the moment I saw the first glimpse of India’s popular Prime Minister Mr. Modi, I turned in to a hyper teenager. I was literally shaking with joy and had real goose bumps! I think the last time that happened was when I saw Amitabh Bachchan and talked to Juhi Chawla many years ago. I joined the crowd and chanted ‘Modi, Modi’ expecting him to cross the road and shake hands with me. He didn’t. He moved on to complete the Republic Day formalities until….
Once the awe inspiring parade got over, the crowd started to leave. Mr. Modi, I assumed had left as well. The pink turban was nowhere to be seen. Expecting a mad rush at the exit gate, I decided to leave too. Just when I was relieving myself in a makeshift loo nearby, I heard a ‘Modi, Modi’ cry once again. It was too late for me. I had hard earned that 2 minute spot in the loo. Holding myself since winter morning, I had to make justice of the spot I usurped from the hundreds of others in the queue, who had waged a battle with their bladders.
By the time I was out, the wave had plummeted but not the sunshine smile on people’s face. I was heart-broken to know that the exact enclosure where I was seated was chosen by Mr. Modi for a handshake. I had missed this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and hated myself (and my enthusiastic bladder) at that moment. He was there, up, close and personal while I was caged in a dark cubicle some metres away. I resolved in that very moment that I will be back next year, for another heart stopping parade and of course a hand shake.
THE COLORFUL TABLEAUX AKA JHANKIS OF REPUBLIC DAY, INDIA
Everyone’s favourite part, the popular ‘jhankis’ of Indian Republic Day celebrations display the social, cultural, technological and economic facets of present day India. Not only does it present a glimpse of India’s rich traditions, diversity and culture, it also highlights India’s glorious past while keeping an eye on its future advancements and progress. Apart from the state tableaux, the other Tableaux on display were Khadi, Model Schools of Delhi, Ministry of Finance, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) – Housing for all, CSIR at 75: Touching lives, Clean India-Green India, Transforming India through Skill Development.
Below is a list of state tableaux during the India Republic Day celebrations, 26th January 2017
ODISHA- The theme was Dola Jatra. It is a popular festival which signifies the ultimate journey of Goddess Radha and Lord Krishna for ultimate union in tradition of Bhakti Cult.
ARUNACHAL PRADESH- It presented the Yak dance performed by the Monpa tribe during the LOsar Festival (February-March)
MAHARASHTRA – My favourite tableaux it displayed the mind blowing malla-khamb. A huge statue of noted freedom fighter Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak celebrated his 160th birth anniversary
MANIPUR- It presented the Lai Haraoba (‘Happiness of the Gods)- touted as one of the world’s oldest ritualistic theatres of the world, preserved by Meitiei community of the state.
GUJARAT- It showcased one of my favourite region of India- Kutch. It reflected the local crafts and the colorful lifestyle.
LAKSHADWEEP- It showed the fragile eco system of the remote Indian island and the water sports activities possible here.
KARNATAKA- It displayed the traditional ritualistic folk dance of Goravas, the worshippers of Lord Shiva.
HIMACHAL PRADESH – It focused on Chamba Rumal It is a pahari handkerchief making art with its roots in the 18th century.
HARYANA- ‘Beti Bachao- Beti Padhao’ (Save daughter-Educate Daughter) was the main theme.
WEST BENGAL- It showcased ‘Sharod Utsav’ the autumn festival and Durga Puja. Dhunuchi aarti, dance and songs completed the Bengal experience.
PUNJAB- Vibrant and energetic ‘Jago Aaiya’ dance and a display of rural Punjabi lifestyle marked this tableau.
TAMIL NADU- This tableau presented the Karakattam dance, an ancient dance form where dancers hold ‘Karakam’ on their heads. It is performed during the Amman temple festivals in the rural part of Tamil Nadu.
GOA – Rich musical and cultural heritage of Goa was presented in this tableau. A peacock shaped Sangodd carried a lady playing guitar and a man playing a ghumat.
TRIPURA- Not much is known about Tripura to the outside world. This tableau displayed their Reang Tribal dance using a combination of live and sculptural forms. This dance is performed on the occasion of Hojagiri festival
JAMMU AND KASHMIR-It was one of the most visually appealing tableaux. It displayed the winter sports of Kashmir with a snow clad Gulmarg as its center of attraction.
ASSAM- The Kamakhya Temple was the main theme of the tableau. Situated in Guwahati, it is one of the most prominent Shaktipeeths of India.
Below is a chronological flow of events as they unfolded before my eyes post the inaugural showering of flower petals by Helicopters:
- United Arab Emirates’ Band and Marching Contingent.
- Mounted Columns- 61 cavalry
- Mechanised Columns – Tanl T- 90 (Bhishma)
- Ballway Machine Pikate
- Weapon locating RADAR Swathi
- Chemical, Biological, Radiological & Nuclear Recce Vehicle.
- Tranportable Satellite Terminal (DCN)
- DHANUSH Gun System
- Fly Past by Advanced Light Helicopters.
- Mechanised Infantry Contingent
- Armoured Cops Centre and School Mechanised Infantry Regiment Centre
- Bihar Regiment Centre Contingent
- 39 Gorkha Training Centre Contingent.
- Punjab Regiment Centre, Sikh Regiment Centre
- 58 Gorkha Training Centre Contingent.
- Madras Engineers Group Contingent.
- Bihar Regiment Centre Ladakh Scouts.
- Territorial Army Contingent (103 Infantry Bn. SIKH LI)
- Veterans’ Tableau
- Naval Brass band
- Navy Marching Contingent
- Tableau (Indian Navy- Professional Force- Anchoring Stability, Security and National Prosperity)
- Air Force Marching contingent.
- Air force band
- Tableau (Air Dominance through Network Centric Operations)
- Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System
- Medium Power RADAR – Arudhra
PARA- MILITARY AND OTHER AUXILIARY CIVIL FORCES
- BSF Camel Contingent
- BSF Camel band
- Coast Guard Marching Contingent
- CRPF Band
- CRPF Marching contingent
- CISF Band
- CISF Marching Contingent
- Delhi Police Band
- Delhi Police Marching Contingent
- National Security Guard Contingent & Mounted Column
NATIONAL CADET CORPS (NCC)
- Band: Boys (NCC)
- Boys’ marching Contingent
- Band: Girls (NCC)
- Girls’ Marching Contingent
NATIONAL SERVICE SCHEME (NSS)
- Massed Pipes and Drums Band
- National service Scheme Marching Contingent
THE CULTURAL PAGEANT
- Tableaux: 23 ‘jhanki’ performed this year.
- National Bravery Award Winning Children In Open Jeeps
- School Children’s performance
- Motor Cycle Display (Army- CMP)
- Fly Past
- Release of Balloons
Picture Credit: All the photographs I have shared except two selfies are issued by DPR (Defence PR).
Special Thanks to Mrs. Alka Kaushik and Mr. Mukesh kaushik for making this dream a reality for me. Mrs. Alka runs a vibrant group dedicated to Travl called TCBG aka Travel Correspondents and Bloggers group.
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