Forrest Brown, CNN • Published 25th January 2020
1/22The date is January 26, 1950, a defining moment in Indian and world history. Krishna Menon, India’s high commissioner in London, signs the Oath of Allegiance to a new constitution at a ceremony at India House. This signing marked India’s new status as a republic. And ever since, the country has celebrated Republic Day on January 26. Click through the gallery for more photos of celebrations through the years:J. A. Hampton/Tropical Press Agency/Getty Images(CNN) — India is the world’s largest democracy, and it’s serious about its constitution. The country goes all out to celebrate its remarkable achievement in self-governing each Republic Day.The biggest focus is on New Delhi’s impressive annual military and cultural parade, but this national holiday is celebrated far and wide.Anyone who plans to travel to India during Republic Day can expect some potential transportation delays and various business closures, especially in Delhi. But you can be promised an amazing spectacle you won’t soon forget. First, a quick history:
What is Republic Day?
India’s high commissioner in London, Krishna Menon, signs the Oath of Allegiance to the Indian constitution on January 26, 1950.J. A. Hampton/Tropical Press Agency/Getty ImagesIndia freed itself from centuries of colonial British rule in August of 1947. They began work on a new governing document for the sprawling nation, and it was adopted in November 1949.But it wasn’t until January 26, 1950, that its new constitution went into effect.And on that day, with an estimated population of about 359 million people, India officially became the world’s largest democracy. (By contrast, the United States with a current population of about 300 million is still catching up to India’s 1950 figure).And from that first January 26 onward, the country celebrates with Republic Day. In 2020, that date falls on a Sunday.
Delhi parade and celebration
Indian soldiers march during the Republic Day parade in Delhi on January 26, 2009.PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty ImagesAs the capital, New Delhi hosts the nation’s biggest parade. It’s quite the spectacle.You’ll see displays of India’s military prowess with tanks, weaponry and precision marching by armed forces members in their finest uniforms. It’s not just a military display, though.You’ll also see elaborate floats and groups of people representing India’s almost unfathomable variety of cultures, religions and climates.Related contentIndia’s 30 most beautiful places for you to visitYou can watch everything from men astride camels and military hardware displays to beautiful floats reflecting India’s many religions — Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and more.It’s a jubilant free-for-all with dancers in colorful, swirling costumes and acrobats on motorcycles.
VIPs join the masses
President Obama received an unprecedented honor during his high-profile visit to India. CNN’s Sumnima Udas reports.This is also an international celebration, with dignitaries from around the world attending.Back at the first Republic Day in 1950, chief guest was Indonesian President Sukarno. US President Barack Obama went in 2015. In 2019, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa had the honor.In 2020, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has accepted the invitation.
Where is Delhi’s parade held?
Indian army soldiers march during the Republic Day parade on the Rajpath in Delhi on January 26, 2012.RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty ImagesThe route is more than 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) long, and it follows the Rajpath, one of the country’s most celebrated roadways.It starts near the Presidential Palace, passes through the famed India Gate and winds up around the Red Fort.Related contentBest Delhi attractions: A delightful dozen for your holiday in IndiaThe Rajpath is lined with lush green spaces, trees and canals. (Travel hint: If you aren’t in the city for the parade, the Rajpath is worth a visit any time of year).The parade lasts about three hours and starts at 9:30 a.m. local time after a ceremonial hoisting of the Indian flag. The website Indianholidays.com has more details for interested travelers, including information on ticket prices.
What about the rest of the nation?
Delhi isn’t the only parade host. These soldiers march in Bangalore on January 26, 2011.DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty ImagesRepublic Day is not just a Delhi affair. Flag ceremonies, parades and celebrations are held all over the country. Here’s a small sampling from some of India’s other cities:— Bangalore (high-tech hub in south-central India): You can enjoy a parade and cultural fair at the Field Marshal Manekshaw Parade Ground.— Chennai (capital of Tamil Nadu on the southeastern coast): India’s fourth-largest city has celebrations along Kamarajar Salai and at Marina Beach.— Kolkata (eastern India and one-time capital under British rule): Its parade winds along Red Road near the Maidan.— Mumbai (financial and entertainment powerhouse on the west coast): The city hosts celebrations at Shivaji Park or along Marine Drive.