Independence Day is Annually Celebrated on 15 August
“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom…” said Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, as he rose to give his speech in the Parliament on August 14th 1947. It would go down as one of the best speeches ever in world history. But that’s another story.
The now famous “Tryst with Destiny” speech marks the end of what has been a fantastic movement – the close to two hundred years of struggle for Independence from British colonial rule, in which, thousands of people, from all walks of life sacrificed their lives.
The next day, which is August 15th 1947, or as Nehru put it, “at the stroke of Midnight” on August 14th, marks the Independence Day of India. This is definitely the most important day in the Indian calendar ever, one that would change the course of what would go down as the world’s second populous nation. It’s an important day for Great Britain too, because it signifies their biggest loss ever – India was their biggest colony. “The Sun never sets on the British empire” – that phrase would never be used again.
Unfurling the National Flag
Independence Day of India was a huge occasion then, and it’s a huge occasion now. It will always go down as that, for as long as India remains as a sovereign state on the world map. Naturally, the day is celebrated amid a lot of fanfare across the country.
The tricolor – saffron, white and green, India’s national flag, is hoisted in the capital city, New Delhi, and everywhere else in the country. You will see it outside the Prime Minister’s house and at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, and in both houses of India’s Parliament. The flag is hoisted across the country, outside the Assembly Houses and Secretariats in all states of the country, and also outside all important government offices and buildings. The Prime Minister, President, and the Chief Minister’s and Governor’s of each state would hoist the national flag on August 15th with the national anthem playing in the background. This is both an emotional moment, as well as a moment to feel proud of being Indians.
The national flag is also hoisted in all prominent spots across the country, such as the Jalianwalah Bagh, Red Fort, India Gate, Gateway of India, and such others. It is hoisted by innumerable private citizens too across India. You will see it furling high above their homes, in balconies, and in courtyards.
And not just in the country, the Independence Day is celebrated across the world too, in all embassies and consulates and India’s administrative offices in all corners of the world. Of course, it is a bigger occasion wherever there is a significant Indian population.
August 15th is a national holiday in the country. Schools, colleges, and all government institutions, and even private offices remain closed, as dictated by the NI Act. But many schools, colleges and businesses would ask their students, teachers and employees to come for the celebration where the national flag would be unfurled. This is followed by a speech and some sweet distribution to honor the day, respect the freedom fighters, and celebrate the momentous occasion. Most of them would gladly come to attend the occasion, out of love and respect for the day, even though officially it is a holiday. Kids are seen wearing the flag and badges of national hero on their chest. But the national flag is, of course, the star attraction of the day always.
Independence Day of India Celebrations
Everybody in India, and everyone of Indian origin everywhere in the world, celebrates the Independence Day, irrespective of his or her caste, sex, religion or age. This is one occasion that truly unites the country. That is one reason why it’s such an important occasion.
Special celebrations are held throughout India to celebrate the Independence Day. But it all starts with the Prime Minister and President remembering the days of the British Raj and how the “shahids” (martyrs) laid down their lives trying to achieve freedom from British rule. The speech recounts several harrowing tales. Statues and pictures of great icons from the freedom movement are garlanded – Gandhi, Nehru, Subhash Bose, Bhagat Singh, Rani Laxmi Bai, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Bipin Chandra Pal, Vallabhbhai Patel, Lala Lajpat Rai, Madan Mohan Malviya and others.
The Prime Minister would also touch upon the major issues facing the country at this time, and what the government is trying to do to achieve freedom from them.
Then throughout the day, there are countless programs across the country in local neighborhoods, associations, clubs and small colonies. Kite flying ceremonies are held. The most popular kite design is of course the saffron, white and green national flag. People like to fly this kite on at least one day of the year. There are costume parties too. And not just the kids, even the adults dress up for this day. The most popular dress is of course the depiction of some nationalist hero, such as the loin cloth of Gandhi, or the military uniform of Subhash Bose (Netaji).
Everybody does something on this day. After all, it is an occasion to showcase your love for the country and tell people that you are proud to be an Indian.
Independence Day Celebrations in Popular Media
Switch on the television, and you can choose from a plethora of Independence Day specials in virtually all the channels. And these programs run throughout the day too from the morning till prime time in the night. There are panel discussions, patriotic songs, old documentary screenings, speeches of Gandhi and the other famous freedom fighters, talk shows about the sacrifices they have made, and of course there are movies as well. Indeed, Bollywood and the regional movie industries have given us a lot of films on the freedom struggle. And not just about the freedom struggle, television channels would often show general patriotic films as well on the Kargil conflict, terrorism and such other issues. The television stations will also show Independence Day celebrations as they are held everywhere in the country.
The newspapers are busy too celebrating the big day. And this includes both the national dailies and the vernaculars. Many of them would often publish Nehru’s “Tryst with Destiny” speech in full. Center spreads and special supplements are brought out with anecdotes, stories and pictures from the freedom struggle. It’s an even bigger occasion for those that are running continuously from the pre-independence days, because they have a lot more in their files that they can take out and publish. These publications eventually become collector’s items, as people like to store these special supplements and spreads.
The magazines are not far behind as well. Many of them would often bring out special Independence Day issues to mark the day.
Television, newspapers, magazines and even the radio stations would also discuss how much India has progressed since the big day in 1947. India’s achievements and challenges would both be highlighted. There is social, cultural, economic and political commentary.
Independence Day Celebrations on Social Media
And finally, it’s time for social media to celebrate the Independence Day. It’s buzzing always. People would change their Facebook covers and post status updates telling everybody they are so happy to be celebrating the day. There are hundreds of Likes and Shares. Similarly the Twitter space is buzzing too. Both commoners and famous personalities would post tweets telling us what they think of the Independence day and how they are celebrating it.
Why Was August 15th 1947 and the Midnight Hour Chosen?
The British Empire had become extremely weak financially by the end of World War II. On the verge of bankruptcy, it had become impossible to rule the colonies. The Labour party came to power in Britain in 1945 and decided to work towards granting India independence. They really had no other option.
Photo Credit: First Independence Day
Initially, the plan was to transfer power to India by June 1948. But there were complications as Jinnah wanted a separate state. Communal violence was brewing through the states. Everybody became alarmed including Lord Mountbatten. He decided to pre-pone the date of Independence from 1948 to 1947 – by almost a year. The August 15th 1947 date was finally picked on June 3rd of the same year. This is popularly known as the “June 3 Mountbatten plan”.
But how did he decide on the date? The truth is, that was just an accident. The history books tell us that the August 15th date was chosen because it was supposed to be a lucky day of Lord Mountbatten. The Japanese Army had surrendered to Lord Mountbatten on August 15th 1945. Lord Mountbatten was then the commander of the allied forces in Japan.
There is an interesting story behind the selection of the “midnight” hour as well.
The astrologers were outraged when the date was first declared. They were convinced that August 15th 1947 would be an unfortunate and unholy date for India. They suggested alternatives, but Lord Mountbatten would have nothing of it. However, finally a consensus was reached.
The midnight hour was selected, because according to Hindu astrology, a new day begins at daybreak and not at 12 AM. So technically for them, it would not be the inauspicious August 15th 1947. They also suggested that the power be transferred in the “Abhijeet Muhurta” or a 48 minute window – 24 minutes before midnight, and 24 minutes after this. Mountbatten agreed.
And that’s how the midnight hour, August 15th 1947 was selected which is now OUR Independence Day, one of our three National Festivals!
Read about Gandhi Jayanti, another National Festival of India!