Lights, march-past, action: The story behind the R-Day parade
The Republic Day celebrations last a little over two hours but behind the mega show is a huge logistical exercise that cuts across India, much away from the public eye. Over 6,000 marchers, 5,000 artistes, 1,200 students, 1.11 lakh seats, 1.4 lakh bulbs and six months—all that and much more goes into making the ceremony a spectacular success.
This will be Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first Republic Day and the first one to be attended by a US President.
Nearly 3,200 officials across 33 departments are working round-the-clock to ensure fool-proof security and glitch-free celebrations.
Forty-two contingents of 144 soldiers (12 in each row and column) each march down Rajpath every year. This time, three additional contingents of women officers from the Army, Navy and Air Force will join the parade. All contingents arrive by January 1. A special camp at Parade Ground, Delhi Cantonment becomes home to nearly 10,000 personnel during this period. The actual exercise of selecting participants begins at least six months in advance.
The Border Security Force’s ‘camelry’ is a show-stopper. The BSF trains about 1,200 camels in Jodhpur to guard the frontiers in Rajasthan and Gujarat. About 100 males aged around five years are brought to Delhi in early November in trucks filled with desert sand and lodged at a camp in Palam.
There is the sturdy Jaisalmeri, the Bikaneri fast runners and the graceful and haughty Nachna. Sangram, a 16-year-old regular at the parade, will perform for the 12th and the last time.
“He’s like my son,” said his handler. The camels are taken around the city to get acclimatised to the crowds and noise.
Nearly 5,000 artistes and fabricators create the fabled ‘jhaanki’ or tableau at the Artistes’ Village in Delhi Cantonment on the defence ministry’s invitation. “This year, 16 states and nine ministries are showcasing their tableau based on themes like women empowerment, environment, Make in India, communal harmony and Swachh Bharat,” said D Mohanty, public relation officer, defence ministry.
States go through multiple rounds to get their tableau selected. They send in their nominations around six months in advance and a high-level committee headed by the defence secretary takes the final call.
The defence ministry makes seating arrangements along with Delhi Police. There are 35 enclosures with 1,11,240 seats of which nearly 19,000 are open to the general public this time and priced at Rs 300, Rs 50 and Rs 10. Two separate enclosures will be reserved for children.
Sound and light
The CPWD installs lights on buildings around the venue. The sheer number of bulbs makes the process spectacular. “Around 1.40 lakh bulbs are installed. Technicians make sure not even a single bulb stops working,” Mohanty said.
The sound system has to be faultless too and the Army’s Signal Regiment makes sure of that. Cables as long as 38 kilometres are laid to put an impeccable sound system in place.