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Every year on December 4th, India celebrates Navy Day to commemorate the valorous Indian Navy's attack on the Karachi harbor during the 1971 war against Pakistan.
September 14, 2023: This year’s Navy Day celebration will take place at the majestic Sindhudurg Fort, perched along the Maharashtra coast, breaking tradition. As the backdrop for a significant shift in India’s military ceremonial events, this iconic fort, built by the Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the 17th century, coincides with the trend of the tri-services to hold flagship events outside of Delhi.
Tri-Services’ new tradition: Celebrating beyond New Delhi
There has been a noticeable shift in the location of the ceremonial events of the tri-services in recent times. Navy Day was celebrated for the first time outside New Delhi last year in Visakhapatnam. Bengaluru and Chandigarh, respectively, held their annual parades for the Indian Army and Indian Air Force. A parade celebrating Air Force Day will be held on October 8 in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh.
Sindhudurg Fort: The perfect setting
Officials involved in the decision-making process have explained that Sindhudurg Fort was a well-considered venue for Navy Day celebrations. The historic site is ideally suited to showcase the navy’s frontline assets through operational demonstrations. Its maritime history makes it an ideal backdrop for this significant event, in addition to its suitability.
A glimpse into history: The Sindhudurg Fort
Indian architecture and history are represented by Sindhudurg Fort. It was constructed during the 1660s under the visionary leadership of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Its solid structure, which is surrounded by picturesque coastal scenery, has fascinated both historians and tourists.
Modernisation and adopting Indian customs
The move to celebrate Navy Day at Sindhudurg Fort is part of a broader effort to modernize India’s armed forces and shed colonial practices. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during the commissioning ceremony of the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant last year, unveiled the navy’s new ensign, inspired by the seal of the Maratha king. The move symbolized shedding colonialism and embracing India’s rich heritage.
Promoting indigenisation in Armed Forces
In recent years, India’s armed forces have shown a renewed focus on indigenisation, not only in terms of military hardware but also in customs and practices. The call to eliminate colonial customs and adopt Indian traditions was emphasized by the Prime Minister during the Combined Commanders’ Conference in 2021. This focus on indigenisation extends beyond equipment and weapons to doctrines, procedures, and customs as well.
A symbolic shift: No more ceremonial batons
The Indian Navy announced in July that its personnel would no longer carry ceremonial batons. Prior to this, captains, commanders, and commanding officers of warships, naval bases, and other establishments held these batons. It was seen as a step away from colonial legacies to abandon these symbols of power.
The road ahead: Adapting to change
In his Independence Day speech in 2022, Prime Minister Modi outlined the “panch pran” or five pledges, one of which is uprooting all signs of colonial slavery from India’s mindset and habits. It is reflected in the navy’s decision to abandon colonial customs in favor of traditional Indian clothing in naval officers’ mess halls.
Transforming cantonments into Military Stations
The Defense Ministry is also renaming British-era cantonments as military stations, with Yol in Himachal Pradesh leading the way in April 2023. The goal is to merge civilian areas within cantonments with municipal corporations and municipalities, streamlining municipal laws in these areas.
In keeping with India’s commitment to modernisation and indigenisation of its armed forces, Sindhudurg Fort will be the venue for Navy Day 2023, a departure from tradition. By celebrating Navy Day at sea, India reinforces the idea that its heritage and history shape its future.