Republic Day is celebrated to mark the implementation of our Constitution after which India formally became a republic. But how many Indians are aware of the real importance of the date 26th January in Indian History. Why specifically 26th January each year?
26 January was chosen as the Republic day because it was on this day in 1930 when the Declaration of Indian Independence was proclaimed by the Indian National Congress as opposed to the Dominion status offered by the British Regime.
The main Republic Day celebration is held in New Delhi before the President of India. On this day, ceremonial parade takes place at the Rajpath, which are performed as a tribute to India; its unity in diversity and rich cultural heritage. Since 1950, India has hosted heads of state or government of another country as the state guest of honour for Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of United Arab Emirates is the guest of honour for Republic Day 2017.
The President of India, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces, takes the salute when different regiments of the Indian Army in addition to the Navy, and the Air Force with their bands march past in all their finery and official decorations.
Republic Day is one of three national holidays in India, the other two being Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti. In this article, we try to decode the historical and cultural importance of the republic day date.
Constitutional importance of 26th January
The Indian Constitution is said to be among the longest in the world, originally with 395 articles and 8 schedules. It was framed over three years and the Constituent Assembly witnessed lively, acrimonious and incisive debates on every clause. The proceedings of the Assembly were published in 11 volumes and with over 1,000 pages.
The Indian Constitution was adopted by the Indian Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949 and came into effect on 26 January 1950 with a federal and democratic governance system. This adoption of the self-drafted constitution system completed the country's transition towards becoming an independent republic.
Republic Day honours the date on which the Constitution of India came into force on 26 January 1950 replacing the Government of India Act (1935) as the governing document of India. On the other hand, Constitution Day or Samvidhan Divas is celebrated in India on 26 November every year to commemorate the adoption of the Constitution of India.
Historic significance of 26th January
January 26 has a specific history. It was on January 26, 1930, that the Indian National Congress at its Lahore session passed a resolution demanding ‘Poorna Swaraj’ or full freedom.
Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose worked together to oppose those in the Congress party who were satisfied with ‘dominion status’, wherein the British monarch would continue to be the head of government.
In 1929, at midnight on New Year's Eve, INC President Jawaharlal Nehru hoisted the tricolour flag of India upon the banks of the Ravi in Lahore, which later became part of Pakistan.
A pledge of independence was read out, which included a readiness to withhold taxes. The massive gathering of public attending the ceremony was asked if they agreed with it, and the vast majority of people raised their hands in approval. One hundred seventy-two Indian members of central and provincial legislatures resigned in support of the resolution and in accordance with the Indian public sentiment.
The Declaration of the Independence of India was promulgated by the Indian National Congress resolving the Congress and Indian nationalists to fight for Purna Swaraj, or complete self-rule and independence from the imperialism of the British Empire.
After the declaration of Independence, Gandhi and other Indian leaders immediately began the planning of a massive national revolt that would encourage the common people to participate and also help involve revolutionaries into a struggle committed to non-violence. The Salt Satyagraha was initiated by Mohandas Gandhi and the Congress as the first struggle for complete independence.
The Indian National Congress asked the people of India to observe 26 January as Independence Day. The flag of India was hoisted publicly across India by Congress volunteers, nationalists and the public. The Congress regularly observed 26 January as the Independence Day of India commemorating those who campaigned for Indian independence. In 1947, the British agreed to transfer power and political finesse to India, and 15 August became the official Independence Day.
However, the new Constitution of India, as drafted and approved by the Constituent Assembly, was mandated to take effect on 26 January 1950, to commemorate the 1930 declaration.