Indian Independence occurred on the 15th of August 1947 as a dominion of the British Empire. It was not until 1950 that a new constitution officially proclaimed the Republic of India, breaking with British rule completely. The Constitution came into effect on January 26th, 1950 as a commemoration to the Indian National Congress that had declared independence 20 years earlier in 1930.
In 2015, the guest of honor for the Republic Day celebrations was U.S. President Barack Obama. This however made getting around Delhi all the more troublesome as heightened security in the form of machine gun and assault rifle toting-police officers became an increasingly common sight as the days began to lead up to the 26th of January. After coming from Japan where guns are hardly even carried by the police, the sight of heavy caliber weapons was particular jarring and not something that I ever got used to. To add to the inconvenience of the U.S. President’s visit, several metro stations were closed and the areas around India Gate where the main parade takes places were fully sealed off unless a ticket had been bought ahead of time. Alas I was unable to see the parade in person and had to watch on the computer instead where a live-stream was being hosted.
Despite being the first U.S. president to partake in Republic Day celebrations, President Obama’s visit was in now way unexpected; he was invited at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who seeks warmer relations and cooperation with the U.S. especially due to Chinese competition in the region as well as continued frustrations with Pakistan and radical Islamic groups.
As is customary in the lavish extravagance of Republic Day parades, thousands of soldiers dawning bright marshal uniforms with bright crimson reds and golden yellows and riding horses and camels also ordained with bright colors invoking the full spectrum of India’s vibrance. Regiments from all over India participate in the spectacle with the Gurkha Brigades, Sikh Regiment and Rajputana Rifles being some of the most notable army bands. Despite the overcast day and rainy weather thousands of people poured into the streets to see everything from tanks to jets, later followed by civilian floats representing different organizations and ministries. Each display brings out the diversity and richness of the culture of India and the whole show lends a festive air to the occasion with around 1200 schoolchildren present cultural dances as part of the parade.