Last year, when PM Narendra Modi visited Uttarakhand, he announced
that the coming decade will be the decade of the state. On the
occasion of India's 73rd Republic Day, PM Modi, known for wearing
headgears symbolic of different states and cultures, on Republic
and Independence Days, wore a cap from Uttarakhand. The cap bore a
brooch depicting brahmakamal -- the sacred flower found in Uttarakhand
(and Himachal Pradesh). The brahmakamal is Uttarakhand's state flower
and synonymous with the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. It is offered to
the deities in Devbhoomi.
The brahmakamal was a leading element in the tableau from Uttarakhand
in 2021 that stood out for its depiction of Shri Kedarnath Dham and
Shiva's Nandi, along with the monal and musk deer. PM Modi himself
offers the brahmakamal when he visits Shri Kedarnath Dham. The brahmakamal-inspired brooch on a cap from Uttarakhand seemed to
build a symbolic combination with the hill state's tableau this year.
The flower enriches the region which is visited by Sikh and Hindu devotees for pilgrimage to Gurudwara Hemkund Sahib and Shri Badrinath Dham. These are the two two religious sites that were depicted on Uttarakhand's tableau this year. The middle part of the tableau from Uttarakhand represented the Dobra Chanti bridge -- India's longest motorable single lane suspension bridge built over the Tehri Lake.
All these elements seemed to combine a response to Modi's attention
towards Uttarakhand, which is woven over his emotion for pilgrimage
and religious centres in the hill state, and development. These two
aspects and everything surrounding them serves as the base for his
vision towards the promise of the "decade of Uttarakhand."
Along with the Uttarakhandi cap, he wore a stole woven in Manipur.
This year's Republic Day Parade at Rajpath has made a mark for how PM
Modi-led government and the ministries steering the celebrations and
contributing to the facets of the creative expression on Rajpath, have
raised, energised, sharpened, sculpted and evolved the presentation.
It is as if the Narendra Modi-led government ran a piece of sandpaper over the script and minutes of the RD celebration, making the finer layers of cultural diversity, storytelling, regional pride and state representation appear and reveal from within. Maturity has set in, nascent footprints of it, in the cultural facets of the Parade. The visual messages are crispier, even hard-hitting. Rajpath seemed widened for a pan-India voice for a global narrative in those tail minutes that gave the Parade the dances from different states.
The Armed Forces, the CAPF, and the defense ministry, together, as
each year, are the single hero of this year's Parade.
Here are the highlights that indicate a game-changing approach:
1) Curation and theatre in the skies: The cockpit view and the aerial shots of action in the sky during the flypast at the end of the parade have marked a splendid beginning to a heroic story-telling that's scripted over paper and enacted above the sheet of clouds.
An insider's view to how the Rafale, Sukhoi, Jaguar, Mi-17, Sarang, Apache and their fellow birds begin and flow over the fly past was earlier left to word-heavy descriptions that journalists managed to write over details and facts that came from those in the know and those guiding and conduction the fly past.
This time, the birds told their own story.
The cameras on land and in air worked like music conductors -- leaving on a note, catching another, over different speeds and rhythm and heights in brilliant snippets of curation-inspired sequences before the fly past reached Rajpath.
'Netra', 'Tiranga', 'Trishul' and 'Varuna' and other formations seen where they bud and birth -- is art in itself. Rafale, Sukhoi, Jaguar, Mi-17, Sarang, Apache and Dakota aircraft, the instruments of the art.
That the art was used on a day India gives a glimpse to its military pride, strengths and heritage has turned the fly past into a working script.
Each village and nook and corner of India was able to see how the aircrafts work up those streaks of Tiranga. The script that evolves itself.
2) The dances at the tail end of the Parade were a departure from the
presentations during the previous years. This presentation was mature,
more pleasing to the eyes and ears, and represented cultural aspects
and traditions from the different states and regions.
The cultural ministry contributed to this change. Dance presentations selected at a competition under the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav cultural facets made it to Rajpath. They fused together to give a glimpse that was pan-Indian.
Kathak featured at Rajpath. This happened a week after Pandit Birju
Maharaj -- the powerhouse of the classical art form, passed away. The tribute wasn't planned this way, but it definitely played out that way.
Folk and forest narratives, percussion, footwork found feet on
the platform that matters. It is a beginning towards what can be thematically richer across dimensions of the Indian performing arts, sounds, musicality, musical instruments and people.
3) The tableaus from Arunachal Pradesh and Gujarat -- winners in story-telling, visual boldness, aesthetics, sound and people representation.
Arunachal Pradesh tableau echoed the story of indigenous resistance to the British in a moving parallel to the story from Gujarat. It showcased the Anglo-Abor (Adi) wars. Look at the beautiful coincidence here. Two states -- one in the west and one in the north east -- narrate two different stories under a single theme.
Brave stories of forest dwellers who stood up for their communities against the British against all odds. The sound of gunshots leading to a small rendition of the folk voices -- wanting to be heard.
Let's be honest and admit that these stories would have not come out for children and adults -- in the same boldness and visual boldness had it not been under a compelling theme for the Republic Day Parade. These stories are not found in history books for children at Indian schools. They have reached home and heart. Still want to doubt or debate on the cultural power that state tableaus hold?
4) The tableau from Meghalaya marked the 50 years of statehood in a
dream-like depiction of lives, livelihood and women's contribution to the sahkarita aandolan. The tableau, for this author, becomes the whetstone for story-telling using simplicity and material that's natural heritage, that's character, that's Northeast.
The haldi/turmeric in the front part of the tableau, bamboo stubs, the
colour yellow, the rolled up floor mats moving up and down, the woven basket -- revolving -- as if to reflect the chakra of time, labour and hard work; the diversity of weaves, -- the strengths and their breathtaking presence.
5) The affectionate farewell to Virat - the trusted steed and the special horse among the President's bodyguard (PBG) team - from President Ram Nath Kovind, PM Modi, and Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh was a moment that ended in unseen emotion in the final moments of the display of military and cultural might.
Virat retired after taking part in the RD Parade 13 times. Bharat's brave warriors of the past have defeated invaders and aggressors saddled to and riding on Ashvashakti. In a new and resurgent India, Virat's presence on Rajpath was connecting past with present. The PBG steed, better known as 'Charger', received commendation for exceptional service and abilities. His farewell at Rajpath, with PM Modi landing gentle pats on his body, is a sight that might have tucked itself into the minds and hearts of children who watched the Parade today.
6) On the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, PM Modi paid his tributes to the brave soldiers of India standing before the newly merged jyoti -- the flame at the National War memorial which became one with the Amar Jawan Jyoti. Meanings and movement of this flame will today and forever stand stronger than the blames as Netaji celebration reclaims its space.
7) The presence of sportsmen from Haryana on the state tableau. A lesson in how to make inspiration real, solid, representational, local, global, and well, spectacular. Ek aur latth gaadh diya.
This Republic Day Parade celebration was a departure towards a future that will demand creative diversity and not just regional representation alone, on Rajpath. You give credit to PM Modi, or not, he has succeeded in making another meaningful cultural intervention.
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