By Birat Krishna Thapa

India celebrates its 72nd Republic Day today amidst memories that relive the country’s struggle for freedom. The day commemorates sacrifices from numerous individuals through various walks of life whose ultimate aim was to see a free India. It is a day of significance not only of celebration but also of thoughts and deeds that enabled the people to believe in their leaders who dreamed of an independent India.

The foremost fact of Indian Republic Day begins with the ideation of a free India from the clutches of the British Empire. The struggle of the pre-Independence movement under the Indian National Congress (INC) declared “Poorna Swaraj” which meant complete self-rule as against a dominion status offered by the Britain Empire back in 1929. It was extremely symbolic for Jawaharlal Nehru, who would also go on to be India’s first Prime Minister post-independence, to hoist the Indian flag at the banks of the Ravi river on this day.

Since this day for the next 17 years, Republic Day would also be celebrated as the Poorna Swaraj day until India finally received Independence after the end of World War 2. This day was then chosen as an honor when India drafted her Constitution to govern its independent nation under the guidance of Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar. It scrapped the Government of India Act 1935 and set forth India’s own Sovereign Republic. It was on 26 January, 1950 that India’s first President Dr. Rajendra Prasad began his term in office.

This day is marked by pouring tributes in memory of all those freedom fighters and post-independence martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the country. The celebrations are magnanimous in the capital city of New Delhi with a grand march past and yearly programs which are attended by the general public attends along with the President of India.

Similarly, India’s highest civilian awards — namely the Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, and the Padma Shri are distributed on the occasion. Various gallantry awards are also presented to armed personnel for their bravery and service. Air shows and various other commemorative programs are also held across the country to mark the occasion.

India also marks this day by inviting special guests and dignitaries from abroad. Queen Elizabeth II back in 1961, Former President of the United States Barack Obama in 2015, President Vladimir Putin in 2007, and various other top dignitaries have attended the Republic Day celebrations as guests of honor in New Delhi.

Former kings had also attended the programs on two occasions as guests of honors — the first-ever was then King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah in 1951 and King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah in 1999.

This day not only marks the historic sacrifices made by leaders who chose independence over servitude, but also celebrates India’s diversity in terms of language, culture, and religious affiliations. There is unity in this diversity which has amalgamated the Indian consciousness toward making a stronger, democratic, and culturally thriving nation.

Birat Krishna Thapa is the co-founder of Literary Aisle and Executive Director of Soul of Healing Trust. He occasionally contributes his commentary to Aawaaj News.