Custom reborn: Murmu, Macron reach in carriage on Public Holiday

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Reviving Republic Day Traditions: The Presidential Buggy Debuts After 40 Years

In a seemingly long-forgotten Republic Day tradition, President Droupadi Murmu arrived at the 75th Republic Day celebrations in a colonial-era horse-drawn carriage. This marked a historic revival, as the use of the buggy took place after a hiatus of 40 years, a throwback to India’s legacy.

Presidential Debut on Republic Day

New Delhi witnessed a distinctive visual as President Murmu and French President Emanuel Macron proudly rode in the historic buggy. Macron’s presence at the event as the Chief Guest a record sixth time from France, only enhanced the spectacle.

Despite the presidential buggy’s appearances at events like the “Beating the Retreat” ceremony in recent years, this marked the first use of the carriage for Republic Day since 1984.

Upcoming Parliamentary Engagement

Pending cooperative weather, President Murmu plans to travel in the horse-drawn carriage to the newly minted Parliament building on January 31st. This formal appearance awaits as she prepares to address the joint session of the Parliament’s Houses in the Lok Sabha chamber, as determined by Lok Sabha officials.

The secretariat has already received communication about these plans, and rehearsals for the President’s travel in the horse carriage are scheduled for January 27 – including a meticulously timed exercise commencing from the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Noteworthy Origin of the Buggy

This presidential buggy owes its existence to an intriguing coin-toss incident post the partition of India and Pakistan. Both countries sought custody of the buggy, and the issue was resolved with a coin flip between India’s Lt. Colonel Govind Singh and Pakistan Army’s Yaqub Khan. The buggy owed its continued existence in India to Singh’s triumph.

While the buggy served as a mode of transport for the Presidents for induction ceremonies and on Republic Day, its use for a collective parliamentary session marks a novelty.

First Visit to the New Parliament Building

This occasion also sees President Murmu’s inaugural visit to the newly established Parliament building. The Prime Minister inaugurated this monumental structure on May 28, 2023. The President will access the building through the Gaja Dwar, a route exclusively allocated to the PM.

However, rain forecasts might necessitate a switch from the traditional buggy to her limousine, as per protocol.

The Presidential Buggy: A Symbol of Tradition?

Although once a frequent mode of transport for past Presidents, the buggy’s use saw a decline due to evolving security protocols. A government official commented on the time-consuming nature of the buggy journey, which may have contributed to its diminished use.

The buggy’s recent appearance was accompanied by the elite President’s Bodyguard regiment’s escort, India’s oldest cavalry unit. This ceremonial procession harks back to the Republic Day of the 1980s, before concerns over Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination led to the discontinuation of the buggy’s usage.

The decorative presidential buggy has made frequent appearances at swearing-in ceremonies of President Murmu’s predecessors – Presidents Ram Nath Kovind, Pranab Mukherjee and Pratibha Patil. President Mukherjee was instrumental in reviving the presidential tradition in 2014, attending the ceremony marking the closure of Republic Day celebrations in a horse-drawn carriage.

The buggy stands adorned with traditional motifs, the national emblem Ashoka Chakra in gold and is drawn by Indian and Austrian mixed-breed horses.

A Future for the Presidential Buggy?

Although discontinued for security reasons, the continued use of the buggy at ceremonial events had been advocated by SM Khan, who served as press secretary to President APJ Abdul Kalam. He added that the relevant authorities must have conducted a rigorous review for its usage and taken the necessary precautions.

Khan felt that the return of the horse-drawn carriage is a colorful and attractive symbol of the President’s arrival at celebrations, as opposed to a typical limousine. He concluded that he hopes that this practice will continue, advocating for upholding the traditional ceremony it offers.

John Kerry

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