Tuesday, January 25, 2011

26 January, The Republic Day of India, Celebrations on Republic Day, List of Chief guests on Republic Day since 1971, Vande Mataram is the national song, sung by Lata Mangeshkar, composed by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee

The Republic Day of India commemorates the date on which the Constitution of India came into force replacing the Government of India Act 1935 as the governing document of India on 26 January 1950. The date 26 January was chosen to honour the memory of the declaration of independence of 1930. It is one of the three national holidays in India, and while the main parade, Republic Day Parade takes place at the Rajpath, in the national capital New Delhi, where the president views the parade, state capitals also have their state celebrations.

Although India obtained its independence on 15 August 1947, it did not yet have a permanent constitution; instead, its laws were based on the modified colonial Government of India Act 1935, and the country was a Dominion, with George VI as head of state and Earl Mountbatten as Governor General. On 28 August 1947, the Drafting Committee was appointed to draft a permanent constitution, with Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar as chairman. While India's Independence Day celebrates its freedom from British Rule, the Republic Day celebrates the coming into force of its constitution.

To mark the importance of the occasion, every year a grand parade is held in the capital, New Delhi, from the Raisina Hill near the Rashtrapati Bhavan (President's Palace), along the Rajpath, past India Gate and on to the historic Red Fort. Prior to its commencement, the Prime Minister lays a floral wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti, a memorial to unknown soldiers at the India Gate at one end of Rajpath, which is followed by two minutes silence in the memory of unknown soldiers. Thereafter he reaches the main dais at Rajpath to join other dignitaries, subsequently the President arrives along with the chief guest of the occasion. First he unfurls the National flag, as the National Anthem is played, and a 21-gun salute is given. Next, important awards like the Ashok Chakra and Kirti Chakra are given away by the President, before the regiments of Armed Forces start their march past.
 The different regiments of the Indian Army, Navy the Air Force march past in all their finery and official decorations. The President of India who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces, takes the salute. Floats exhibiting the cultures of the various states and regions of India are in the grand parade, which is broadcast nationwide on television and radio. Also part of the parade are children who win the National Bravery Award for the year. The parade also includes other vibrant displays and floats and traditionally ends with a flypast by Indian Air Force jets.

Celebrations are also held in state capitals, where the Governor of the state unfurls the national flag. If the Governor of the state is unwell, or is unavailable for some reason, the Chief Minister of the state assumes the honour of unfurling the National Flag of India.

Since 1950, India has been hosting head of state or government of another country as the state guest of honour for Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi. During 1950-1954, Republic Day celebrations were organized at different venues (like Irwin Stadium, Kingsway, Red Fort and Ramlila Grounds). It was only starting 1955 when the parade in its present form was organized at Rajpath. The guest country is chosen after a deliberation of strategic, economic and political interests. During 1950s-1970s, a number of NAM and Eastern Bloc countries were hosted by India. In the post-Cold War era, India has also invited several Western leaders on a state visit during the Republic Day. It is notable that before India fought bloody wars with China and Pakistan, leaders from these countries were invited as state guests for the Republic Day celebrations. Interestingly, Pakistan Food and Agriculture Minister was the second state guest from that country for Republic Day in 1965, a few days after which the two countries went to a war. Countries which have been invited multiple times include India's neighbours (Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Mauritius), defence allies (Russia/USSR, France and Britain), trade partners (Brazil) and NAM allies (Nigeria and erstwhile Yugoslavia). France has the distinction of being the guest of honour for the maximum (four) number of times followed by three visits each from Bhutan, Mauritius and USSR/Russia.

1971 President Julius Nyerere  Tanzania
1972 Prime Minister Seewoosagur Ramgoolam  Mauritius
1973 President Mobutu Sese Seko  Zaire
1974 President Josip Broz Tito and Prime Minister Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike  Yugoslavia Sri Lanka
1975 President Kenneth Kaunda  Zambia
1976 Prime Minister Jacques Chirac  France
1977 First Secretary Edward Gierek  Poland
1978 President Patrick Hillery  Ireland
1979 Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser  Australia
1980 President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing  France
1981 President Jose Lopez Portillo  Mexico
1982 King Juan Carlos   Spain
1983 President Shehu Shagari  Nigeria
1984 King Jigme Singye Wangchuck  Bhutan
1985 President Raúl Alfonsín  Argentina
1986 Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou  Greece
1987 President Alan Garcia  Peru
1988 President Junius Jayewardene  Sri Lanka
1989 General Secretary Nguyen Van Linh  Vietnam
1990 Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth  Mauritius
1991 President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom  Maldives
1992 President Mário Soares  Portugal
1993 Prime Minister John Major  United Kingdom
1994 Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong  Singapore
1995 President Nelson Mandela  South Africa
1996 President Dr. Fernando Henrique Cardoso  Brazil
1997 Prime Minister Basdeo Panday  Trinidad and Tobago
1998 President Jacques Chirac  France
1999 King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev  Nepal
2000 President Olusegun Obasanjo  Nigeria
2001 President Abdelaziz Bouteflika  Algeria
2002 President Cassam Uteem  Mauritius
2003 President Mohammed Khatami  Iran
2004 President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva  Brazil
2005 King Jigme Singye Wangchuck  Bhutan
2006 King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud  Saudi Arabia
2007 President Vladimir Putin  Russia
2008 President Nicolas Sarkozy  France
2009 President Nursultan Nazarbayev  Kazakhstan
2010 President Lee Myung Bak  Republic of Korea
2011 President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono  Indonesia

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