The word ‘Republic’ is derived from the Latin word ‘res publica’ which means a public affair. A state in which the main power is held by its people and their elected representatives, without a king, is known as a republic.
26 January, 1950 is the day the Constitution of India came into force and India became a republic. This day marked the end of the Government of India Act 1935 adapted from the British Parliament.
The significance of 26 January in India’s history goes back to 1930 two decades before we celebrated our first Republic Day. Purna Swaraj or Declaration of the Independence of India was declared on 26 January, 1930. The Indian National Congress observed this day as the Independence Day of India, in honour of the people who fought for the nation’s freedom.
After we achieved freedom from British rule in 1947, 15 August became our official Independence Day. However, as the laws were still based on the Government of India Act 1935, a drafting committee was formed with Dr. B R Ambedkar as its chairman. The committee took about three years to prepare the document framework for laws, government powers, duties and the fundamental political code. It also laid out the fundamental rights and duties of the citizens.
Two copies (English and Hindi) of the handwritten constitution were signed by 308 Assembly members on 24 January, 1950 and two day later, the Constitution of India, the longest in the world, came into existence.
The original handwritten constitution is still preserved in the Parliament.
Dr. Rajendra Prasad was the first President of the Republic of India and addressed the nation as is customary for the President of India on the eve of Republic Day.
Every year, leaders from various nations are invited to the spectacular Republic Day parade in Delhi. The first parade was held in 1955 in Rajpath and Pakistan’s first Governor-General Malik Gulam Mohammed was invited as the chief guest.
On this day, the President recognises the citizens for their service to the nation. Military personnel are honoured with Param Vir Chakra, Ashoka Chakra, Maha Vir Chakra, Vir Chakra, Kirti Chakra and Shaurya Chakra for displaying valour during wartime.
The President also awards the police and law enforcement personnel with three medals for gallantry, distinguished service and meritorious service.
Fire personnel are awarded Fire Medals for their distinguished service. Children with exceptional achievements in science, sports, bravery, innovation and social service are given the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar.
The Government of India also recognises civilians, defence and law enforcement personnel who save citizens from fire accidents, drowning, electrocution and rescue operations.