(This story was first published on 26 January 2019. It has been reposted from The Quint's archives on the occasion of Republic Day.)
Each year, 26 January is celebrated as the Republic Day of India. The day is marked to celebrate and honour the Constitution of India, and its drafters.
The document, considered the very fabric of our democracy, was prepared by a drafting committee headed by BR Ambedkar.
Republic Day honours the date 26 January 1950 on which the Constitution of India came into effect, replacing the Government of India Act (1935) as the governing document of the country.
The Constitution was formed taking into consideration the diverse nature of India, its multitude of ethnic communities, religions, and languages. Thus, with its adoption, India became a sovereign democratic republic.
Why 26 January is Celebrated as Republic Day
Shortly after independence, a Drafting Committee was appointed on 28 August 1947, and tasked with drafting a permanent constitution. Dr BR Ambedkar was appointed as its chairperson.
Upon its completion, the Constitution was adopted by the Indian Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949, but it did not come into effect till 26 January 1950.
It is a little known fact that the date 26 January has a historical significance in India’s freedom struggle as well.
It was chosen as the date for the first Republic day as it was on this day back in 1930 that the Indian National Congress had declared ‘full’ independence (purna swaraj) as its demand, as opposed to the dominion status offered by the British regime.
It was celebrated as ‘purna swaraj” day for the next 17 years. When India did achieve independence, however, the date set by the British was 15 August.
So, when the Constitution was finally completed, the makers of the document felt it necessary to celebrate it on a day associated with national pride.
The best choice available was that of ‘poorna swaraj” day, that is 26 January.