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Republic Day

On Republic Day regional identity gives way to national identity. Neither caste, creed nor religion matter. What is predominant is the Indian's of the people.

Two events are associated with India’s freedom from colonial rule. One is Independence Day (15th August) and the other, Republic Day (26th January). The former is a historical even when India gained independence in 1947 and freed herself from the foreign yoke after a protracted campaign for freedom, whereas the latter bestowed historicity on the day when India became a Sovereign Democratic Republic with a constitution to guide her destiny.

Republic Day reminds us of the fulfillment of the pledge that was made on the midnight of Independence as a “tryst with destiny”. It is future-oriented, a vision of India that we nourish, an acceptance of responsibility and making of promises as well as recapitulation of the achievements. The act of framing the Constitution puts a spotlight on B.R. Ambedkar whose indefatigable labour and sharp insights helped the preparation of the document.

The difference in significance marks the variation in the pattern of celebration of these two national days. On Independence Day, the past is recalled whereas, on Republic Day, the pledge is renewed. Independence Day has rhetoric built in the celebration; Republic Day is without speeches. It is the only ceremony in which rhetoric is in the background and visuals are given priority.

Republic Day is celebrated all over the country at all the administrative units like the capital cities, district headquarters, sub divisions, talukas, and panchayats. The major ceremonies at Delhi and the state capitals revolve around the parade in which all the defence services police contingents, Home guards and Civil Defence, NCC, school children and cultural troupes participate followed by a display of tableaux and folk dances.

The celebration mood lasts for one week. It consists of the ground preparations, rehearsals, the main display and spills over to the ‘Beating of Retreat’ on January 29, a day before Martyrs Day which marks the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The mass media, All India Radio, Doordarshan and TV channels are agog with a variety of programmes.

The day has acquired the status of a social celebration in which people participate whole-heartedly as spectators. The celebration mosaic is studded with activities. Though the parade is the main ceremony, various activities spill over from early morning when prabhat pheris (morning rounds) are held followed by a homage to Gandhi. The parade is succeeded by sports events in the afternoon. ‘At Home’ functions at the Raj Bhavan, at the District Magistrate’s and at the SDM’s are followed by illumination of public buildings of the state capitals and administrative headquarters.

It is a people’s day in more senses than one. Firstly, the constitution whose promulgation is celebrated is highly symbolic of the aspirations which ‘we the people of India’ cherish. It ushered in a social revolution silently by changing the status of the individual from a subject of a colonial empire to a citizen of a free country. It laid down the method of governance and established the relationship of the citizen to the state. It endeavors to secure justice, liberty, equality and fraternity and assures the dignity of the individual by conferring fundamental rights upon the citizen. With one stroke, it abolished all distinctions of status, rank, creed, colour and sex. It outlawed untouchables, an abominable social practice that had created discrimination and tensions in society.

Secondly, much of the social change consequent upon the new legislation has its roots in the Directive Principles of State Policy. The Constitution is the Supreme law. Hence Republic Day is sacrosanct as its significance is deep-rooted. India at present owes its programmes to the Constitution. She can build her future on the basis of the tenets enshrined therein.

Thirdly, it is a day of the citizen of the country when he is supreme. Symbolically, he can fly the national flag on his vehicle and at the top of his house. It is a great privilege.

Fourthly, it is a paid holiday when everyone has a right to celebrate, enjoy, relax. No wonder the mood is festive and recreational. Picnics are common, a movie with a message is telecast besides the parade on Rajpath in Delhi and the patriotic group songs with visuals.

Republic Day is gradually acquiring the celebrational status as that of the 4th of July in USA. The celebrations are universal, total and participatory, children take part in a big way. Variations in culture are displayed through colourful attires and folk dances. The traditional predominates along with a touch of modernity reflected in the display of might (latest defense gadgetry and acquisitions), technology and capabilities of growth in various sectors. The parade symbolizes the might; the tableaux are predominated by cultural motifs. The touch of the local highlights the identity of the area. The celebration is thus a homage to the past, the region and the nation that is a true republic and imposes nothing.