India became a republic 66 years ago!
(The passage below is a small extract from my book The Puffin History of India , vol 2, 1947 to the Present. This book tells the story of the new nation and its ongoing journey, and this passage is part of Chapter 1, on India’s first Republic Day.)
‘In August 1947, India had full independence, but acknowledged the British king as the symbolic head. On 26 January 1950, India became a republic and a sovereign nation. Her own constitution, which had been completed on 26 November 1949, was formally adopted. From now on the government of India, and many of India’s programmes and policies would be based on this constitution.
A great day
It was a great day and celebrations in Delhi began the previous night, with a mile and a half long torch-light procession. The whole city was decorated with arches, flowers and flags, and with multi-coloured electric lights on bushes and trees, it was transformed into a fairy-land.
In the morning a grand ceremony took place in the Darbar Hall. There the outgoing governor general, Rajagopalachari, and the new president-to-be, Rajendra Prasad, sat on golden chairs crowned with Ashokan capitals, with a stone statue of the Buddha behind them. Watched by 700 distinguished guests from India and abroad, the governor general read the proclamation announcing the birth of the new republic. Then the chief justice administered the oath of office to the new president, 31 guns boomed in celebration, and the Presidential flag unfurled on Government House, now renamed Rashtrapati Bhavan.
One journey is over, another begins
In a message to the nation on this day, Jawaharlal Nehru said, “Undoubtedly, January 26, 1950, is a day of high significance for India and the Indian people. It does mean the consummation of one important phase of our national struggle. That journey is over, to give place to another and more arduous journey”. Nehru saw the struggle to build a new nation as a journey, a road to be travelled on. ‘