We all know that India celebrated its first Republic Day on January 26, 1950, as the Indian Constitution came into effect that day. But, do you know what the streets of the nation's capital looked like back then? Check out below the major instances of this day, that year!
Going to schools with flags in hand, remembering the great leaders of the country while witnessing the flag hoisting and parade at Rajpath on T.V, go synonymous with the nostalgia of Republic Day. However, as India welcomes the 73rd Republic Day this year, we go back to 1950 when India was declared 'Republic' for the first time and celebrated the first Republic Day.
The brief history of this significant day is attached with November 26, 1949, when the Indian Constitution was finally adopted. However, it was only on January 26, 1950, that Constitution came into effect. The reason for choosing this specific date was to mark the 20th year of the country demanding 'Purna Swaraj'.
On the other hand, just two days before, on January 24, Rajendra Prasad got elected as the first President of the Independent India. Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhai Patel were elected as the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime minister of the country, respectively. On January 25, landed the first Indonesian President, Sukarno, with his wife, and were greeted by his close friend and ally, Nehru and C Rajagopalachari. Sukarno was the first Chief Guest at the celebration.
Then came the big day for the country. The cold waves had surrounded Delhi but the enthusiasm of people knew no boundaries as they had gathered in the large number to see their country becoming 'Republic'! Exactly at 10:18 a.m., the last Governor-General, C Rajagopalachari, announced India to be a Sovereign, Democratic, and Republic inside the Government House, now known as the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Six minutes later, Dr. Rajendra Prasad was sworn in as the President of the Indian Republic and delivered a speech, first in Hindi and then in English.
On the left of Dr. Prasad was Pandit Nehru sitting along with the Indonesian President. According to the reports, he was the first to get up and shake hands with Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, and then he went on to congratulate Dr. Prasad. The national emblem of the Ashoka Pillar with three lions was placed near the throne of former British Viceroys. And, it happened with an announcement of a two-day national holiday, as part of the celebration.
A look at Delhi streets
At that time, over 500 guests were present in the hall. However, there were many more who were waiting outside to meet the new President and the ministers. The celebrations reached beyond India Gate, where lay, Irwin Amphitheatre (now Major Dhyanchand National Stadium), named after a former Viceroy where 15,000 people had gathered for the big parade that was going to happen in front of them.
The wait was finally over when Dr. Rajendra Prasad was seen along with President Sukarno, in a 35-year-old open state coach adorned with Ashoka Emblem. The coach was drawn by six Australian horses from Rashtrapati Bhavan to the Amphitheatre, and a few bodyguards escorted them. As the coach moved, the roads full of people with a tricolour in their hands were seen cheering with "Jai". Not only on the roads, but the people could also be seen peeping from the neighbouring buildings, houses, roofs, and treetops. Dr. Prasad responded with his hands folded and a smile on his face.
As he arrived at the Amphitheatre, a 31-gun salute was offered, marking the day and the event as one of the biggest historical moments for India, after which Dr. Prasad took a round of the amphitheater in a jeep, saluting the 3,000 armed forces gathered there. He later hoisted the Indian National Flag for the first time, which was followed by the parade.
Unlike now, where various tableau participates, there were no performances on the first Republic Day. Till 1954, the places for the parade were the Red Fort, National Stadium, Kingsway Camp, and the Ramlila ground. However, in 1955, the venue changed, and Rajpath continued to experience the spectacular parade of the Indian armed forces.
The reports also show there was no strict security at the venue, and a few police personnel were guarding the VIPs inside the stadium. That must not have included Pandit Nehru, who could be seen interacting with the common people. It has been reported that people from the nearby states had also gathered to take part in the celebrations and were congratulating each other and raised slogans like “Gandhiji ki Jai” and “Vande Mataram”.
A few people, reportedly, visited Mahatma Gandhi's resting place, Rajghat to pay tribute. One of the most popular places of the present Delhi, Connaught Place, also saw a large gathering, inclusive of all age groups that filled the restaurants and the streets. The shops in the area were decorated for the whole day, and the Rashtrapati Bhavan was lit up for the whole night, a sight that has been common every year.
Last but not the least, we suppose that there would have been a different kind of happiness in the atmosphere and among the people, who got the privilege to watch their motherland receiving the honour of being called 'Sovereign, Democratic and Republic'.
Source: The Quint and The Times of Ind