Factbox - India's Republic Day: history, pomp and a parade

  • World
  • Monday, 26 Jan 2015

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Barack Obama is the first U.S. president to be guest of honour at India's annual Republic Day parade, a flamboyant display of the South Asian nation's military might and cultural diversity in the heart of the capital, New Delhi.

Despite intermittent rain, large crowds flocked to see the show on Monday morning and catch a glimpse of the U.S. president and his hosts, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee.


India won independence from British rule on August 15, 1947, but it was not until January 26, 1950, that the nation declared itself a sovereign republic state with the adoption of its constitution. On that day, Rajendra Prasad, India's first president, unfurled the national flag, and thereafter January 26 became a national holiday, Republic Day.


India's military forces go on full display during the two-hour parade, with troops, rows of tanks, missiles and formations of horses and camels manoeuvring down the wide Rajpath (King's Way) boulevard. During the event, bravery awards are given to military personnel, civilians and children for showing "courage in the face of adversity". The event is presided over by the president, commander-in-chief of the armed forces.


Several days before the parade, India's various armed forces units can be spotted along the route, practising for the big day. India's Border Security Force are regular favourites in the show, with their "Daredevil" motorcycle riders appearing in gravity-defying balancing acts and their camel contingents toting guns and musical instruments.


Throughout the morning, children from across the country perform in the parade and in past years, "tableaux", or floats, from different states and ministries have shown off everything from India's agriculture to its research in the Antarctic.

(Reporting by Krista Mahr; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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