Republic Day rehearsals: Behind-the-scenes action that makes the parade a grand spectacle

You must have seen the January 26 parade several times, but how many of you have witnessed the practice that precedes it for months at a stretch? Here are glimpses.

delhi Updated: Jan 12, 2018 12:40 IST
Ruchika Garg
Ruchika Garg
Hindustan Times
January 26,Border Security Force,Delhi Police
Republic Day parade rehearsals underway on a cold, foggy January morning in the heart of New Delhi.(Amal KS/HT Photo)

What concludes in a few hours on January 26 takes months of toil and determination! The finesse of the magnificent Republic Day parade that India watches with pride is the result of lengthy practice sessions starting 5am, and dedication of the participating paramilitary jawans, other particiapants and behind-the-scenes helpers — labourers, cleaners and security staff, among others — who brave the relentless Delhi chill to make the parade a flawless spectacle.

Practice begins in the wee hours, even on days when there’s low visibility. (Amal KS/HT Photo)

Dressed impeccably in their uniforms, and marching in sync to the leading officer’s commands, contingents of Border Security Force (BSF), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Indian Coast Guard, Indian Army, Indian Air Force, Indian Navy and Delhi Police can be seen rehearsing on Mansingh Road (Rajpath) in the wee hours every day, around this time of the year. Patriotic songs filling the air add to the nationalistic vibe.

“It’s a matter of pride to participate in the parade and lead the police cadre of the Capital,” says IPS officer Anant Mittal, admitting that there’s a sense of competition with other forces that adds pressure but also excitement. “We have 148 cops in our contingent: 144 inspectors, 3 senior instructors and one commanding officer,” adds Mittal, who will compete with another officer to lead his contingent and make his debut at the parade.

A nimbu-pani (lemonade) break is essential to stay energetic for hours during rehearsals. (Amal KS/HT Photo )

For some, practice sessions began in the month of November. In the case of SSB, which has 168 commandos, rehearsal starts at 5.30am. “We have 144 commandos in box and 24 in reserve with two assistant commanders and one commander-in-chief,” says Ashok Kumar, Chief Drill Inspector of SSB.

This also means early duty for the maintenance staff. Gardener Ram Kumar reaches at 6am. “I was instructed to clean the area and water the plants everyday without a miss. I like to come here. The patriotic songs and the parade practice boost my energy. I feel happy throughout the day,” Kumar says with a smile.

Soon after, Geeta shows her entry pass, and starts cleaning the benches. “I’ve been coming here for three years. I never say no to R-Day related work, saara din hi kyu na ho (even if it’s all day),” she says.

Preparation for seating arrangement also begins months in advance. (Shivam Saxena/HT Photo)

The energy of rehearsals is palpable. Low visibility, cold winds or tiresome schedules — nothing deters the spirit of those involved. Of course, there are chai-breaks (tea breaks) and light, laidback moments thereafter, but their dedication to the call of duty is salute-worthy.


Sarvesh Kumar Sharma has been looking after the Republic Day arrangements for 18 years.

Meet Sarvesh Kumar Sharma, an inspector with Delhi Police who has been looking after the Republic Day arrangements for 18 years now. “For two-three months every year, a special police station is set up at Rajpath for the parade arrangements. It’s there this time, too,” says Sharma. “This is the biggest celebration of our country and more than 60 agencies work together to make it successful. You need experience to manage the coordination and I feel proud to be a part of this project,” he adds.

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First Published: Jan 11, 2018 17:49 IST