The Grand Military Parade at Rajpath

Kamal Baruah *

We survived, thrived with great enthusiasm and patriotism. It is a matter of pride in participating parade. The grand military parade is not just soldiers marching and tanks rolling down on Rajpath, it marks the highest levels of military discipline, cohesion, showcases India’s Armed Forces strength and displaying military might. Today I put aside those profound feelings of disquiet at camping while my memories reminisce with Republic Day.

India celebrates Republic Day in a very colourful fashion in order to make it memorable and special for every Indian Citizen. It exhibits India’s military might and its cultural and social heritage. Our joy knew no bounds as our Entry RT-152 had been selected for RD Parade 90. And soon after POP at Jalahali, we moved to Air Force Station Race Course in October 1989 after a month long Annual Leave. There were other contingents from Tambaram, Avadi and Sambra base. Since the billets were fully occupied by P Staff, we had been allocated military camping tents and sleeping bag to survive harsh winter in New Delhi.

The contingent set off at health run before it dawn. After a month of rigorous marching on the grass, IAF moved to Shanti Path. The squadrons drilled across the embassy, where traffic usually restricted in the wee hours. The boots and the bands went synchronised along with great coordination at close-order manoeuvring.

Very soon the place became a festive look; even passerby thronged our rehearsal that boosted our energy. The parade underwent gruelling schedule spanning nearly nine hours a day. But our dedication to the call of duty was salute-worthy for the nation. During breaks, a mug of chai and aloo poori appeased our hunger.

We were making progress, albeit rather slowly that made our instructors worried. But the energy of rehearsals was palpable. The final practices were at Mansingh Road. The entire Vijay Chowk had been occupied by hundred of Contingents for that great occasion. They were squadrons of coloured uniform personnel from armed forces to paramilitaries and NCCs. The boating at Boat Club was just incredible in the evening. We even climbed up India Gate to have an aerial view of surrounding Mantralaya from Rail to Udyog, Krishi, Seva, Sena and National Museum. Those days were simply unforgettable.

January was the month for serious drill at Rajpath. Our steps are measured for 30-inch and timing was synchronized digitally for 120 steps per minute. New ceremonial dresses arrived. The sole of combat boots were hobnailed to provide great sound. 12X12 formation went with the command of shoulder arms on one set of heel marching.

The French Bayonets were fitted underneath the muzzle of AK-47. Blanco and Bull for the webbing and boot were polished and shinned. After all, the men in blue took great pride in its unfirom. They were in the same height maintaining a steady heel beat and cadence. The other contingents felt a twinge of envy for our appearance.

And the final day had arrived. What concludes in a few hours took months of toil and determination! It was successfully done as per plan and well coordinated. The full dress rehearsal on 23 Jan was just another great day occasion where visitors got opportunity to watch parade for who failed to get a pass. We reached Rajpath for the final day at 6 o’clock morning on 26 January.

The patriotic songs were filling the air at the capital, which added to the nationalistic vibe. People stood in serpentine queue to their turn to precede India Gate. There was sense of patriotism to competition with other contingents that put in pressure and excitement. The Mauritius Prime Minister Aberiid Jugnauth was the Chief Guest. The parade looked festive from the Raisina Hill Rashtrapati Bhavan along with the Rajpath, past India Gate.

Then Prime Minister VP Singh laid a floral wreath at the war memorial Amar Jawan Jyoti followed by two minutes silence in the memory of fallen soldiers at India Gate. The President of India escorted on horseback by the cavalry unit of President’s Body Guard. The flag hoisted at 9 a.m. at Rajpath followed by the National anthem with 21-gun salute.

India’s highest military decoration Param Vir Chakra (war), Ashok Chakra (peace), Kirti Chakra are awarded for displaying distinguished acts of valour, courageous action or self-sacrifice away from the battlefield. National Bravery Award Children ride past the spectators on colourfully decorated elephants.

And the military parade had begun at 9.30 a.m. to showcase India’s Armed Forces strength and displaying military might. There are missiles, radars and huge weaponised system. The President R Venkataraman took the salutes to twelve different regiments of Indian Army in addition to Air Force, Navy and twelve contingents of Para Military Forces with their respective bands of official decorations that lasted for three hours.

The pipe and drum bands, buglers and trumpet are played with popular tunes like Abide with me, and Saare Jahan Se Achcha behind the marching contingent. There was low visibility, cold winds, tiresome schedules but nothing deters the spirit of our mind. Marching is an integral part of military life. We were marching along Raj Path. We saw nothing but our chin was up for marching.

The Daredevils Motorcycle Team, BSF Camel Contingent and performance of school children have always been the centre of attraction. Besides parades, there are flagship programmes of administration, and the most spectacular is the final flypast of IAF Aerobatics Team displaying tricolour – touch the sky with glory. The state tableaux highlighted cultural and religious heritage to attract visitors.

The parade concluded at historic Red Fort followed by a Bara Khana (big feast) at Airmen Mess. We had a mouthful of everything from the buffet and enjoyed every bite at banquet. They were sumptuous, luxurious meal indeed with our Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Surinder Mehra.

We survived, thrived with great enthusiasm and patriotism. It is a matter of pride in participating parade. The grand military parade is not just soldiers marching and tanks rolling down on Rajpath, it marks the highest levels of military discipline, cohesion, showcases India’s Armed Forces strength and displaying military might.

Today I put aside those profound feelings of disquiet at camping while my memories reminisce with Republic day. We adjusted the best marching contingent for the first time that brought proud moments to Air Force. The celebration concludes with a Beating Retreat Ceremony performed by three Armed Forces at Vijay Chowk, the adjacent square of Raisana Hill on 29 Jan.

Now India is celebrating her 70th Republic Day. South African President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa is the Chief Guest to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. To honour our soldier, PM Narendra Modi is going to inaugurate the National War Memorial near India Gate. Besides safeguarding the Indian Skies by the Victory of IAF, Indian Army stands with guns and artilleries along with M777 Howitzer and K9 Vajra. The first ever all women contingent of Assam Rifles, will take part.

17 tableaux from states/UTs and 6 from the ministries have been shortlisted. January 26 is a day to honour our Constitution where India become Republic in 1949. It is the day to salute the Amar Jawan Jyoti to commemorate all the sacrifices of soldiers. It is the day to proudly fly the Tricolour and bring people together under it. It is a symbol of true spirit for the Independent India as well as love for our country.

Jai Hind.

* Kamal Baruah wrote this article for
The writer is a resident of Guwahati and can be reached at kamal(DOT)baruah(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on January 25 2019.

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