Like many things in India, the Republic Day Parade was an extreme version of what one would normally expect. Celebrating the birth of the Indian republic (with the completion of the 1950 constitution), Republic Day is the subcontinent’s version of the 4th of July- with orange, green and white in place of red, white, and blue. January 26 is a full-fledged celebration for the world’s largest democracy.
Whereas a 4th of July celebration tends to be patriotism light (with parades tending more towards mobile barbeques than pomp), Republic Day is extra strength dose of patriotism. Perhaps no place is this unabashed patriotism more concentrated than at the Delhi’s official parade, which we were fortunate enough to attend as official guests of the Indian Ministry of Defence (insert invitation pic).
First, the fact that the Defence Ministry is the host of the event (as opposed some more civilian organization) tells you a lot about the nature of patriotism that was on display. To get an image of the parade (since the invitation was very clear about the prohibition on cameras and any other device of any kind inclusive of essentially everything but a toothpick) think of a photo of a Soviet era parade with a missile being pulled down the street. In fact, items on display included a “Smerch Launcher”, a “Multiple Rocket Launch System”, an “Armoured Engineer Recce Vehicle” and an “ICV BMP-II”.
After the armored vehicle and missile display, the parade consisted of troop after troop of military men marching in perfect unison (with their arms also waving backward and forward in perfect time). It was really quite an impressive spectacle. Aside from the BSF Camel Contingent Band, which is literally a band that plays while riding on camel back (we felt a little sorry for the camel that had the big bass drum being banged in its ear), the highlight was the wide array of regiments that marched past- including the Rajputana Rifles Band playing “Gen Tappy”; the Assam Rifles Marching Contingent playing the (aptly titled) “Assam Rifles Song; the Central Industrial Security Force band playing ”Seva Bhatki Ka Yeh Prateek”; and the Delhi Police Band playing “Delhi Police”. Each regiment had more ornate uniforms and progressively more splashy head gear. The hats started with simple turbans with insignias on the front . We thought the headgear had reached the climax when the men with 2 foot high fans on top of the hats marched by, but they were outdone by the addition of troops with 2 foot long ribbons cascading down their backs and in turn by the troop that added foot long tassels of the side that hung over their ears. It really was a Technicolor military fashion of the highest order.
The only thing that could match the costuming was the accompanying narration by the disembodied voice coming from the speakers lining the parade route. The announcer was using 100% pure soaring government oratory (known in non-democracies as propaganda). Some nuggets off his silver tipped tongue included things along the lines of:
- “While there may be fog in the air, our national pride shines like the sun in our hearts”
- “Overhead fly the great planes of the stalwart Indian Air Force, proving that the sky is no longer the limit for our great nation”
- “And there they march, a rejoicing, regal, and resplendent troop that is but a small sign of our nation’s continued strength and endurance”
In all, it was great to join the nation in a celebratory display of their national pride and for a truly glorious parade.