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How India Celebrates Independence Day

The main Independence Day ceremony takes place at the Red Fort in New Delhi, India
The main Independence Day ceremony takes place at the Red Fort in New Delhi, India | © Hindustan Times / REX / Shutterstock
Picture of Poonam Binayak
India Writer
Updated: 14 August 2018
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Every year on August 15, the streets of India are adorned with the tri-colours of the national flag as the country celebrates its day of independence.

In the weeks leading up to the 15th, iconic landmarks and government buildings are lit up in national colours. Shops, malls and houses are decorated in similar colours and shopkeepers can be found selling flags, dupattas and dresses appropriate for the occasion. Documentaries, patriotic films and programmes related to India’s freedom are aired on TV channels to get people in the spirit of Independence Day.

Major government buildings are lit up in the days leading up to India's Independence Day

India fought many hard battles against the British rule, but what started the real freedom fight was the ‘Revolt of 1857’, also known as the Indian Mutiny. It was the first large-scale rebellion against the British East India Company and posed a considerable threat to the British power in India.

During the later decades, many protests were held against the British Empire, including the non-violent resistance and civil disobedience movement – which ultimately liberated the country from Britain. After 200 years of oppressive British rule, India officially gained independence on August 15, 1947. On this day, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of an independent India, hoisted the Indian national flag above the Lahori Gate of the Red Fort in Delhi and addressed the nation, marking the start of a tradition that continues today.

A day marked with a whirlwind of celebrations

Although celebrations take place throughout the country, India’s capital city Delhi, home to the 17th-century Red Fort that used to serve as a political centre, is the main staging area for Independence Day festivities.

On the eve of Independence Day, the president of India delivers an official speech via his office, known as ‘Address to the Nation’, which is broadcast nationally. On the morning of August 15, the celebration kicks off with the arrival of the prime minister of India who receives a general salute from the Guard of Honour, which consists of representatives from the three wings of the Indian Armed Forces (Army, Navy and Air Force) and the Delhi Police.

The main event begins with the hoisting of the national flag by the PM, which is synchronised with an honorary 21 gunshots and followed by a moving rendition of the Jana Gana Mana (India’s national anthem). To remind his people of the country’s struggle for freedom, the PM addresses the nation and reminisces on the events leading up to India’s independence and ends his speech with a note on the country’s future.

Later in the day, celebrations include patriotic parades and pageants focused on honouring the freedom fighters; a march-past led by the Indian Armed Forces and Paramilitary Forces and performances by school children.

Formation of the Indian flag colours by the school children at the Red Fort

Similar events are held across the country. The chief minister of each state capital unfurls the flag while the national anthem is sung. Government and non-government institutions, schools, colleges and housing societies also have flag hoisting ceremonies and cultural programmes that capture India’s diversity. Patriotic songs are played through loudspeakers all day.

In the northern and central cities of India, kite flying is considered to be the day’s main festivity as it is associated with the spirit of freedom and joy. In 1927, Indian revolutionaries and freedom fighters flew kites with the slogan ‘Go Back Simon’ as a mark of protest against the British rule. Since then, kite flying has become a tradition that continues to this day. Kites of different sizes can be seen soaring high in the sky in the colours of the Indian flag, either for fun or as part of a competition.

Also on this day, a special beating retreat ceremony is held at the Wagah Border in Amritsar. It features sword fighting and cultural dances, the ceremonial closing of gates, a parade and a lowering of the flags ceremony.

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