India defined its future on January 26, 1950, by adopting the longest written Constitution in the world and marked itself a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic country as we know it today. But do you how this country celebrated the first-ever Republic Day?

In 1949, the Constituent Assembly, which was responsible for the construction of the constitution, finally finished the draft consisting the ideals such as justice, liberty, equality, unity, integrity and democracy. However, President Rajendra Prasad, the then President of the Constituent Assembly, suggested that the country should celebrate the motion on January 26, the day when the Indian National Congress first demanded ‘Purna Swaraj’ from the British Raj in 1930.

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To witness the historic day, first Indonesian President Sukarno, arrived in Delhi on January 25 and was warmly greeted by his close allies Jawaharlal Nehru and C Rajagopalachari.

On January 26, at 10.18 am, the last Governor-General, Rajagopalachari, had officially proclaimed India, that is Bharat, to be a sovereign, democratic republic.

Breathing life into the newly-born independent India, Dr Rajendra Prasad stood in a radiant, high-domed circular Durbar Hall in Rashtrapati Bhawan and delivered speech first in Hindi and then English, shortly after taking oath as the first President of India. He had spent the morning paying his respects to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat.

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“Let us begin with offering our thanks to the Almighty Power that has enabled us to see this day, to the Father of the Nation who showed us and to the world at large his infallible method of Satyagraha and led us on along it to freedom and to the numberless men and women, whose suffering and sacrifice have rendered the attainment of Independence and establishment of this sovereign democratic republic possible,” he said joyfully.

More than 500 guests were invited at the hall, including members of the Constituent Assembly, President Sukarno and his wife, Cabinet Ministers, Supreme Court Judges, the Auditor-General of India, political leaders and other prominent citizens.

Soon after, Nehru other Cabinet members took the oath. It was a two-day public holiday in the country.

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Seventy-two years into the national festival, we Indians can never imagine Republic Day parade somewhere else but Rajpath. However, it was not the first choice for the 1950 mega event.  Beyond India Gate lay, Irwin Amphitheatre (now Major Dhyanchand National Stadium), seen at least 15,000 people gathered for the first-ever Republic Day parade.

Prasad, along with Sukarno, took a slow celebratory ride from Rashtrapati Bhavan to the amphitheatre in a 35-year-old open state coach bearing the Ashoka Emblem. It was drawn by six Australian horses along the five-mile road to the Amphitheatre, escorted by the President’s bodyguards.

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The roads were lined with exuberant crowds with the tricolour in their hands, cheering and chanting “Jai”.

At the Amphitheatre, the President was welcomed with a 31-gun salute. He then took a round of the amphitheatre in an open jeep, while saluting the 3,000 armed forces after which he hoisted the national flag for the very first time.

“Today, for the first time in our long and chequered history, we find the whole of this vast land…brought together under the jurisdiction of one constitution and one union which takes over responsibility for the…men and women who inhabit it,” Prasad proudly said in his speech.

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Four Param Vir Chakras were awarded to soldiers for their bravery during the Kashmir Operation in 1947-48, two of which were posthumous. The whole event lasted two hours.

Outside the Rashtrapati Bhawan, thousands of people cheerfully raised slogans of “Gandhiji ki Jai” and “Vande Mataram” and visited Rajghat.

Our constitution is what makes India and its citizens unique in all the ways. A very happy Republic Day!