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Jab Dil Hai Hindustani!

Suparna Sunil, IIK Young Reporter
Wednesday, January 22, 2020

“Vandeeeeee Maaaaaaataram……Vande Maataram…….

Sujalaam, Suphalam, Malayaja Sheetalaam……”,

was what I heard when I got up on the 26 of January, I wanted to sleep in but couldn’t with the persuadably melodious cacophony of the Republic day procession on TV. “Oh, Really? I can’t even sleep in today?”, I said, reacting to my mom’s nationalism with the TV on full blast. I was persuaded to be on my feet at 6 a.m., cause India was 2 and a half hours ahead of Kuwait.

What a great way to start the day! Yaay! *SARCASM* Then, after I was done freshening up, I sat down to watch the TV, guess what? The looooooong speeches were concluded, now the military award ceremony was going on. Now, this was a time when curiosity killed the cat. “What were these awards? Which is the highest military award in India?” I listened carefully,

well, to be honest I researched about them too.

The Armed Forces of India are eligible for a myriad of military awards (also called decorations.). Decorations are awarded for extraordinary bravery and courage, as well as distinguished service during times of war and peace.

An order issued on 11 July 2019 by the Indian Army's "Ceremonial and Welfare Adjutant General's Branch" made it permissible for the close relatives of the deceased military personnel to wear their medals on the right side of chest while attending homage ceremonies at war memorials, cemeteries and funerals. These gallantry or service awards of deceased can be worn by their family members, such as, children, parents while wearing civil clothes.

Well, now curiosity was at it’s deepest, I heard of the Param Vir Chakra – “The highest military award in India.” It has been conferred only 21 times, and there are only three living recipients of this impressive award.

The Param Vir Chakra (PVC) is India's highest military decoration, awarded for displaying distinguished acts of valour during wartime. Param Vir Chakra translates as the "Wheel of the Ultimate Brave" and the award is granted for the most conspicuous bravery in the presence of the enemy. The medal of the PVC was designed by Savitri Khanolkar, whose daughter's brother-in-law, Major Somnath Sharma, was coincidentally awarded the first Chakra.

Well, something so precious must not be the only item in the procession. I was also fascinated by the Tableaux of various states, the creativity, the effort, the dances, etc. I wondered if I could be a part of a Tableaux sometime. The selection process of the tableaux is conducted by the Ministry of Defence, which involves a number of guidelines. The minstry recommends that tableaux represent a historical event, heritage, culture,development progammes and environment. The tableaux must not carry any logos and should carry some animation and sound.

Proposals are invited from Ministries and departments of the Indian government, and from states and union territories of India within a fixed deadline. The proposals are examined by a committee of experts from arts fields. The examination process involves 2 rounds. The first round provides suggestions for modifications, after evaluating the sketches and designs. The second round evaluates three-dimensional models, after which a final judgement is passed by the committee.

Phew! That must be hectic for the states.

Then, it comes to the chief guest. The guest country is chosen after a deliberation of strategic, economic and political interests. Before India fought wars with China and Pakistan, leaders from these countries were invited as state guests for the Republic Day celebrations. The 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, Indonesia and erstwhile Yugoslavia). France has the distinction of being the guest of honour for the maximum (five) number of times followed by four visits from Bhutan and three visits each from Mauritius and USSR/Russia.

In 2015, the US President Barack Obama was the Chief Guest at Republic Day celebrations, followed by French president François Hollande during the 2016 Republic Day parade. In 2017, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan from the United Arab Emirates was the Chief Guest of the parade.
Well, all good things have to come to an end, so does the parade. At the end of the parade there is the beating retreat. It is conducted on the evening of 29 January, the third day after the Republic Day. It is performed by the bands of the three wings of the military, the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force. The venue is Raisina Hills and an adjacent square, Vijay Chowk, flanked by the north and south lock of the Rashtrapati Bhavan towards the end of Rajpath.

The Chief Guest of the function is the President of India who arrives escorted by the Presidential Body Guard (PBG), a cavalry unit. When the President arrives, the PBG commander asks the unit to give the National Salute, which is followed by playing of the Indian National Anthem, Jana Gana Mana, by the Army developed the ceremony of display by the massed bands in which Military Bands, Pipe and Drum Bands, Buglers and Trumpeters from various Army Regiments besides bands from the Navy and Air Force take part which play popular tunes like Abide With Me, Mahatma Gandhi's favourite hymn, and Saare Jahan Se Achcha at the end.

Well, for me I had just crept deep into the world of our rich culture and tradition and would totally be a part of the republic day celebrations.


Suparna Sunil
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