Sounds, sights and an important slice of history of Punjab will be showcased in the National Capital as the Republic Day parade traverses its pre-determined route at the historic Rajpath on January 26.
The Ministry of Defence that conducts the annual parade in Lutyens Delhi today said the Punjab tableau will have a depiction of Maharaja Ranjit Singh standing in his fort in Lahore while the Railways will showcase the 100th year of the Punjab Mail that once connected Mumbai and Peshawar, some 2,496 km apart. Both the tableaux will, in a way, touch upon the British times and also showcase things and cities which are now in Pakistan.
The ministry said a total of 23 tableaux will be seen in the parade where India traditionally showcases its military might, cultural diversity, developments in science and technology and economic strength. This year’s tableaux component comprises 13 from the states and 10 from Union Territories. Each tableau depicts its own story to portray themes concerning heritage, culture, art and crafts, biotechnology, sustainable agriculture and environment. More than 450 artists, fabricators and designers living in the special artist village are involved in the making of these tableaux.
The centrepiece will be the larger than life, green-turbaned figure of Maharaja Ranjit Singh atop the Lahore fort - his capital for more than four decades of his rule. Maybe, the depiction of the Lahore fort, along the banks of the Ravi, could be unique as India will be showing something that is now in Pakistan, its edgy neighbour. Historically, it will also mean a tribute to the founder for the Sikh Empire, who ruled over undivided Punjab and went on to annex Jammu and Kashmir between 1801 and 1839. It was only after his death that the British annexed Punjab. In 1831, the then Governor General of India Lord William Bentick established friendship with Ranjit Singh and the two held the historic meeting at Ropar on the banks of the Sutlej.
The other flavour of Punjab will be the iconic Punjab Mail that has featured in several movies and is seen almost as a part of the freedom struggle. The Railways tableau will depict the train in its present avatar as also in its original form. The train now runs between Ferozepore and Mumbai CST, covering a distance of 1930 km in about 34 hours.
Ajay Banerjee/TNS, New Delhi, January 21