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Independence Day (India)

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Independence Day (India)

Independence Day
The national flag of India hoisted on a wall adorned with domes and minarets
The national flag of India hoisted on the Red Fort in Delhi; hoisted flag is a common sight on public and private buildings on this national holiday.
Observed by  India
Type National holiday
Celebrations Flag Hoisting, Parades, Singing Patriotic Songs and the national anthem, Speech by the Prime Minister and President of India.
Date 15 August
Frequency Annual

Independence Day, observed annually on 15 August, is a National Holiday in India commemorating the nation's independence from the British Empire on 15 August 1947. India attained independence following an Independence Movement noted for largely nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience led by the Indian National Congress (INC).[1] Independence coincided with the partition of India, in which the British Indian Empire was divided along religious lines into the Dominions of India and Pakistan; the partition was accompanied by violent riots and mass casualties, and the displacement of nearly 15 million people due to sectarian violence.

On 15 August 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru, who had become the first Prime Minister of India that day, raised the Indian national flag above the Lahore Gate of the Red Fort in Delhi. On each subsequent Independence Day, the Prime Minister has raised the flag and given a speech.[2]

The holiday is observed throughout India with flag-hoisting ceremonies, parades and cultural events. Indians celebrate the day by displaying the national flag on their attire, accessories, homes and vehicles; by listening to patriotic songs, watching patriotic movies; and bonding with family and friends. Books and films feature the independence and partition in their narrative. Separatist and militant organisations have often carried out terrorist attacks on and around 15 August, and others have declared strikes and used black flags to boycott the celebration.


European traders had established outposts on the Indian subcontinent by the 17th century. Through overwhelming military strength, the British East India company subdued local kingdoms and established themselves as the dominant force by the 18th century. Following the Rebellion of 1857, the Government of India Act 1858 led the British Crown to assume direct control of India. In the decades following, civic society gradually emerged across India, most notably the Indian National Congress Party, formed in 1885.[3][4]:123 The period after World War I was marked by British reforms such as the Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms, but it also witnessed the enactment of the repressive Rowlatt Act and calls for self-rule by Indian activists. The discontent of this period crystallized into nationwide non-violent movements of non-cooperation and civil disobedience, led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.[4]:167

During the 1930s, reform was gradually legislated by the British; Congress won victories in the resulting elections.[4]:195–197 The next decade was beset with political turmoil: Indian participation in World War II, the Congress's final push for non-cooperation, and an upsurge of Muslim nationalism led by the All-India Muslim League. The escalating political tension was capped by Independence in 1947. The jubilation was tempered by the bloody partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan.[4]:203

Independence Day before Independence

At the 1929 Lahore session of the Indian National Congress, the Purna Swaraj declaration, or "Declaration of the Independence of India" was promulgated,[5] and 26 January was declared as Independence Day.[5] The Congress called on people to pledge themselves to civil disobedience and "to carry out the Congress instructions issued from time to time" until India attained complete independence.[6] Celebration of such an Independence Day was envisioned to stoke nationalistic fervour among Indian citizens, and to force the British government to consider granting independence.[7]:19

The Congress observed 26 January as the Independence Day between 1930 and 1947.[8][9] The celebration was marked by meetings where the attendants took the "pledge of independence".[7]:19–20 Jawaharlal Nehru described in his autobiography that such meetings were peaceful, solemn, and "without any speeches or exhortation".[10] Gandhi envisaged that besides the meetings, the day would be spent "... in doing some constructive work, whether it is spinning, or service of 'untouchables,' or reunion of Hindus and Mussalmans, or prohibition work, or even all these together".[11] Following actual independence in 1947, the Constitution of India came into effect on and from 26 January 1950; since then 26 January is celebrated as Republic Day.

Immediate background

In 1946, the Labour government in Britain, its exchequer exhausted by the recently concluded World War II, realised that it had neither the mandate at home, the international support, nor the reliability of native forces for continuing to control an increasingly restless India.[4]:203[12][13][14] In February 1947, Prime Minister Clement Attlee announced that the British government would grant full self-governance to British India by June 1948 at the latest.[15]

The new viceroy, Louis Mountbatten, advanced the date for the transfer of power, believing the continuous contention between the Congress and the Muslim League might lead to a collapse of the interim government.[16] He chose the second anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II, 15 August, as the date of power transfer.[16] The British government announced on 3 June 1947 that it had accepted the idea of partitioning British India into two states;[15] the successor governments would be given dominion status and would have an implicit right to secede from the British Commonwealth. The Indian Independence Act 1947 (10 & 11 Geo 6 c. 30) of the Parliament of the United Kingdom partitioned British India into the two new independent dominions of India and Pakistan (including what is now Bangladesh) with effect from 15 August 1947, and granted complete legislative authority upon the respective constituent assemblies of the new countries.[17] The Act received royal assent on 18 July 1947.

Partition and independence

08.30 am Swearing in of governor general and ministers at
Government House
09.40 am Procession of ministers to Constituent Assembly
09.50 am State drive to Constituent Assembly
09.55 am Royal salute to governor general
10.30 am Hoisting of national flag at Constituent Assembly
10.35 am State drive to Government House
06.00 pm Flag ceremony at India Gate
07.00 pm Illuminations
07.45 pm Fireworks display
08.45 pm Official dinner at Government House
10.15 pm Reception at Government House

The day's programme for 15 August 1947[18]:7

Millions of Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu refugees trekked across the newly drawn borders in the months surrounding independence.[19] In Punjab, where the borders divided the Sikh regions in halves, massive bloodshed followed; in Bengal and Bihar, where Mahatma Gandhi's presence assuaged communal tempers, the violence was mitigated. In all, between 250,000 and 1,000,000 people on both sides of the new borders died in the violence.[20] While the entire nation was celebrating the Independence Day, Gandhi stayed in Calcutta in an attempt to stem the carnage.[21] On 14 August 1947, the Independence Day of Pakistan, the new Dominion of Pakistan came into being; Muhammad Ali Jinnah was sworn in as its first Governor General in Karachi.

The Constituent Assembly of India met for its fifth session at 11 pm on 14 August in the Constitution Hall in New Delhi.[22] The session was chaired by the president Rajendra Prasad. In this session, Jawaharlal Nehru delivered the Tryst with Destiny speech proclaiming India's independence.

The members of the Assembly formally took the pledge of being in the service of the country. A group of women, representing the women of India, formally presented the national flag to the assembly.[22]

The Dominion of India became an independent country as official ceremonies took place in New Delhi. Nehru assumed office as the first prime minister, and the viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, continued as its first governor general.[18]:6 Gandhi's name was invoked by crowds celebrating the occasion; Gandhi himself however took no part in the official events. Instead, he marked the day with a 24-hour fast, during which he spoke to a crowd in Calcutta, encouraging peace between Hindu and Muslim.[18]:10


Several flags mounted on a bicycle parked on a road.
Indian flags on a bicycle on the Independence Day in Siliguri in West Bengal.

Independence Day, one of the three national holidays in India (the other two being the Republic Day on 26 January and Mahatma Gandhi's birthday on 2 October), is observed in all Indian states and union territories. On the eve of Independence Day, the President of India delivers the "Address to the Nation". On 15 August, the prime minister hoists the Indian flag on the ramparts of the historical site Red Fort in Delhi. Twenty-one gun shots are fired in honour of the solemn occasion.[24] In his speech, the prime minister highlights the past year's achievements, raises important issues and calls for further development. He pays tribute to the leaders of the Indian independence movement. The Indian national anthem, "Jana Gana Mana" is sung. The speech is followed by march past of divisions of the Indian Armed Forces and paramilitary forces. Parades and pageants showcase scenes from the independence struggle and India's diverse cultural traditions. Similar events take place in state capitals where the Chief Ministers of individual states unfurl the national flag, followed by parades and pageants.[25][26]

 A child holding a small sized flag
A child holding the Indian national flag.

Flag hoisting ceremonies and cultural programmes take place in governmental and non-governmental institutions throughout the country.[27] Schools and colleges conduct flag hoisting ceremonies and cultural events. Major government buildings are often adorned with strings of lights.[28] In Delhi and some other cities, kite flying adds to the occasion.[24][29] National flags of different sizes are used abundantly to symbolise allegiance to the country.[30] Citizens adorn their clothing, wristbands, cars, household accessories with replicas of the tri-colour.[30] Over a period of time, the celebration has changed emphasis from nationalism to a broader celebration of all things India.[31][32]

The Indian diaspora celebrates Independence Day around the world with parades and pageants, particularly in regions with higher concentrations of Indian immigrants.[33] In some locations, such as New York and other US cities, 15 August has become "India Day" among the diaspora and the local populace. Pageants celebrate "India Day" either on 15 August or an adjoining weekend day.[34] South Korea, is a country which celebrates its Independence Day on fifteenth august

Security threats

As early as three years after independence, the [42][43]

In the anticipation of terrorist attacks, particularly from militants, security measures are intensified, especially in major cities such as Delhi and Mumbai and in troubled states such as Jammu and Kashmir.[44][45] The airspace around the Red Fort is declared a no-fly zone to prevent aerial attacks[46] and additional police forces are deployed in other cities.[47]

In popular culture

On Independence Day and Republic Day, patriotic songs in Hindi and regional languages are broadcast on television and radio channels.[48] They are also played alongside flag hoisting ceremonies.[48] Patriotic films are broadcast.[27] Over the decades, according to The Times of India, the number of such films broadcast has decreased as channels report that audiences are oversaturated with patriotic films.[49] The population cohort that belong to the Generation Next often combine nationalism with popular culture during the celebrations. This mixture is exemplified by outfits and savouries dyed with the tricolour and designer garments that represent India's various cultural traditions.[31][50] Retail stores offer Independence Day sales promotions.[51][52] Some news reports have decried the commercialism.[51][53][54]

Indian Postal Service publishes commemorative stamps depicting independence movement leaders, nationalistic themes and defence-related themes on 15 August.[55] Independence and partition inspired literary and other artistic creations in many languages.[56] Such creations mostly describe the human cost of partition, limiting the holiday to a small part of their narrative.[57][58] Salman Rushdie's novel Midnight's Children (1980), which won the Booker Prize and the Booker of Bookers, wove its narrative around children born at midnight of 14–15 August 1947 with magical abilities.[58] Freedom at Midnight (1975) is a non-fiction work by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre that chronicled the events surrounding the first Independence Day celebrations in 1947. Few films center on the moment of independence,[59][60][61] instead highlighting the circumstances of partition and its aftermath.[59][62][63] On the Internet, Google has commemorated Independence Day since 2003 with a special doodle on its Indian homepage.[64]

See also


  1. ^ "Indian National Congress by Encyclopædia Britannica". 
  2. ^ PTI (15 August 2013). "Manmohan first PM outside Nehru-Gandhi clan to hoist flag for 10th time". The Hindu. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  3. ^  
  4. ^ a b c d e  
  5. ^ a b  
  6. ^ Datta, V. N. (2006). "India's Independence Pledge". In Gandhi, Kishore. India's Date with Destiny.  
  7. ^ a b Guha, Ramachandra (12 August 2008). India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy. Harper Collins.  
  8. ^ Vohra, Ranbir (2001). The Making of India: a Historical Survey. M. E. Sharpe. p. 148.  
  9. ^ Ramaseshan, Radhika (26 January 2012). "Why January 26: the History of the Day".  
  10. ^ Nehru, Jawaharlal (1989). Jawaharlal Nehru, An Autobiography: With Musings on Recent Events in India. Bodley Head. p. 209.  
  11. ^ Gandhi, (Mahatma) (1970). Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi 42. Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. pp. 398–400. Retrieved 26 August 2012. 
  12. ^ Hyam, Ronald (2006). Britain's Declining Empire: the Road to Decolonisation, 1918–1968. Cambridge University Press. p. 106. ISBN . By the end of 1945, he and the Commander-in-chief, General Auckinleck were advising that there was a real threat in 1946 of large-scale anti-British disorder amounting to even a well-organized rising aiming to expel the British by paralysing the administration. was clear to Attlee that everything depended on the spirit and reliability of the Indian Army:"Provided that they do their duty, armed insurrection in India would not be an insoluble problem. If, however, the Indian Army was to go the other way, the picture would be very different.
  13. ^  
  14. ^  
  15. ^ a b  
  16. ^ a b Read, Anthony; Fisher, David (1 July 1999). The Proudest Day: India's Long Road to Independence. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 459–60.  
  17. ^ "Indian Independence Act 1947".  
  18. ^ a b c Guha, Ramachandra (2007). India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy. London: Macmillan.  
  19. ^ Keay, John (2000). India: A History. Grove Press. p. 508.  
  20. ^ DeRouen, Karl; Heo, Uk. Civil Wars of the World: Major Conflicts since World War II.  
  21. ^  
  22. ^ a b "Constituent Assembly of India Volume V". Parliament of India. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 
  23. ^ "Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964): Speech On the Granting of Indian Independence, August 14, 1947".  
  24. ^ a b "Independence Day". Government of India. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
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  26. ^ "Barring Northeast, Peaceful I-Day Celebrations across India (State Roundup, Combining Different Series)".  
  27. ^ a b Gupta, K. R.; Gupta, Amita (1 January 2006). Concise Encyclopaedia of India. Atlantic Publishers. p. 1002.  
  28. ^ "Independence Day Celebration". Government of India. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  29. ^ Bhattacharya, Suryatapa (15 August 2011). "Indians Still Battling it out on Independence Day".  
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  31. ^ a b Ansari, Shabana (15 August 2011). "Independence Day: For GenNext, It’s Cool to Flaunt Patriotism". DNA. Retrieved 20 July 2012. 
  32. ^ Dutta Sachdeva, Sujata; Mathur, Neha (14 August 2005). "It's Cool to Be Patriotic: GenNow".  
  33. ^ "Indian-Americans Celebrate Independence Day".  
  34. ^ Ghosh, Ajay (2008). "India's Independence Day Celebrations across the United States—Showcasing India’s Cultural Diversity and Growing Economic Growth". NRI Today. Retrieved 20 July 2012. 
  35. ^ Sharma, Suresh K. (2006). Documents on North-East India: Nagaland. Mittal Publications. pp. 146, 165.  
  36. ^ Mazumdar, Prasanta (11 August 2011). "ULFA’s Independence Day Gift for India: Blasts". DNA. Retrieved 21 July 2012. 
    Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism. Country Reports on Terrorism 2004. United States Department of State. p. 129. Retrieved 22 July 2012. 
    Schendel, Willem Van; Abraham, Itty (2005). Illicit Flows and Criminal Things: States, Borders, and the Other Side of Globalization.  
    "Rebels Call for I-Day Boycott in Northeast".

    Biswas, Prasenjit; Suklabaidya, Chandan (6 February 2008). Ethnic Life-Worlds in North-East India: an Analysis.
    Thakuria, Nava (5 September 2011). "Appreciating the Spirit of India's Independence Day".
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  38. ^ "Kashmir Independence Day Clashes". BBC. 15 August 2008. Retrieved 21 July 2012. 
  39. ^ Behera, Navnita Chadha. Demystifying Kashmir.  
  40. ^ Das, Suranjan (1 August 2001). Kashmir and Sindh: Nation-Building, Ethnicity and Regional Politics in South Asia. Anthem Press. p. 49.  
  41. ^ "LeT, JeM Plan Suicide Attacks in J&K on I-Day".  
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    "Two Hizbul Militants Held in Delhi".
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  43. ^ Verma, Bharat (1 June 2012). Indian Defence Review Vol. 26.2: Apr–Jun 2011.  
  44. ^ Ramgopal, Ram (14 August 2002). "India Braces for Independence Day". CNN. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  45. ^ "US Warns of India Terror Attacks". BBC. 11 August 2006. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  46. ^ "Rain Brings Children Cheer, Gives Securitymen a Tough Time". The Hindu. 16 August 2011. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  47. ^ "India Heightens Security ahead of I-Day". The Times of India. 14 August 2006. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  48. ^ a b Nayar, Pramod K. (14 June 2006). Reading Culture: Theory, Praxis, Politics. SAGE. p. 57.  
  49. ^ Pant, Nikhila; Pasricha, Pallavi (26 January 2008). "Patriotic Films, Anyone?". The Times of India. Retrieved 21 July 2012. 
  50. ^ Vohra, Meera; Shashank Tripathi (14 August 2012). "Fashion fervour gets tri-coloured!". The Times of India. Retrieved 15 August 2012. 
  51. ^ a b Sharma, Kalpana (13 August 2010). on Sale?"Azaadi"Pop Patriotism—Is Our . The Times of India. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  52. ^ Basu, Sreeradha D; Mukherjee, Writankar (14 August 2010). "Retail Majors Flag Off I-Day Offers to Push Sales".  
  53. ^ Chatterjee, Sudeshna (16 August 1997). "The Business of Patriotism".  
  54. ^ Sinha, Partha (18 September 2007). "Commercial Patriotism Rides New Wave of Optimism". The Economic Times. Retrieved 22 July 2012. 
  55. ^ "Indian Postage Stamps Catalogue 1947–2011" (PDF). India Post. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  56. ^ Cleary, Joseph N. (3 January 2002). Literature, Partition and the Nation-State: Culture and Conflict in Ireland, Israel and Palestine. Cambridge University Press. p. 104.  
  57. ^ Bhatia, Nandi (1996). "Twentieth Century Hindi Literature". In Natarajan, Nalini. Handbook of Twentieth-Century Literatures of India.  
  58. ^ a b Roy, Rituparna (15 July 2011). South Asian Partition Fiction in English: From Khushwant Singh to Amitav Ghosh.  
  59. ^ a b Mandal, Somdatta (2008). "Constructing Post-partition Bengali Cultural Identity through Films". In Bhatia, Nandi; Roy, Anjali Gera. Partitioned Lives: Narratives of Home, Displacement, and Resettlement. Pearson Education India. pp. 66–69.  
  60. ^ Dwyer, R. (2010). "Bollywood's India: Hindi Cinema as a Guide to Modern India". Asian Affairs 41 (3): 381–398.   (subscription required)
  61. ^ Sarkar, Bhaskar (29 April 2009). Mourning the Nation: Indian Cinema in the Wake of Partition.  
  62. ^ Vishwanath, Gita; Malik, Salma (2009). "Revisiting 1947 through Popular Cinema: a Comparative Study of India and Pakistan" (PDF).  
  63. ^ Raychaudhuri, Anindya (2009). "Resisting the Resistible: Re-writing Myths of Partition in the Works of Ritwik Ghatak". Social Semiotics 19 (4): 469–481.  (subscription required)
  64. ^ "Google doodles Independence Day India". CNN-IBN. 15 August 2012. Retrieved 15 August 2012. 

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