President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday revived a presidential tradition by riding a six-horse buggy (carriage) to attend the Beating Retreat ceremony.
When the Rashtrapati Bhavan first suggested use of the buggy for the Beating Retreat ceremony, it led to a fierce debate in security circles.
The use of the buggy was discontinued almost 30 years ago due to security reasons and presidents began using limousines for travels including Republic Day functions.
“The Delhi Police, responsible for the President’s security, was not at all in favour of using the buggy, but were told by Union home ministry officials looking after VIP security that the Beating Retreat ceremony takes place in a high-security zone surrounded by buildings that are also extremely secure. Ultimately, the police agreed to the suggestion from the Rashtrapati Bhavan,” said a MHA official who did not want to be named.
The horse-drawn buggy has gold plated rims and is extremely comfortable. It was used by the Viceroy in the pre-Independence era and later remained with the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
“A mixed breed of Indian and Austrian horses are used because they perfectly fit the relatively short height of the buggy,” said the official.
The Beating Retreat ceremony, that marks the traditional closure of Republic Day celebrations, takes place at Vijay Chowk, on Rajpath, the road that leads to Rashtrapati Bhavan.
“Vijay Chowk is surrounded by Parliament Building, North Block, South Block, and Sena Bhawan. All of them are highly secured. Besides, the gathering for the ceremony is also sanitised with background security checks,” said the official.
The presidential buggy was in use for Republic Day functions till 1984, but was discontinued after the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Earlier, presidents used to travel in the buggy till India Gate to pay homage at Amar Jawan Jyoti on the day of the parade and also for Beating Retreat, said security sources.