The weather may have played a bit of a spoilsport at the Republic Day parade on Rajpath but the ceremonial artillery unit fired the traditional 21-Gun Salute on Thursday with “clockwork precision” despite the rains.
“We did 10 days of physical practice, both on the site and in Delhi Cantt, which included rehearsing both with and without ammunition. And, today, the first round was fired on the first note of the National Anthem and the 21st round was shot on the 52nd second. Although it rained but the whole team worked in a well-coordinated manner and I reckon it was fired with possibly the best precision in last few years,” Lt Col Aditya Devrani of the ceremonial battery said.
Part of the 2281 Field Regiment, seven cannons of 1940s era form part of the artillery that on Thursday fired the ceremonial salute in the backdrop of the Republic Day celebrations on Rajpath.
The duration of the 21-Gun Salute coincides with the length of the National Anthem (‘Jana Gana Mana’). “Each gun, (25-pounder) is handled by a team of three personnel, and ideally all seven fire in a cyclical fashion until the 21st round is fired when ‘hay’ of ‘…jay jay hay’ is being sung or played.”
“For exact precision, we use special clocks to measure time in smaller units. And, in some situations, a gun may not fire, but we have to keep the other one as a back up and then continue with the cycle without losing time. Today, it rained but we still fired the 21 rounds in 52 seconds. We also fire on other ceremonial and sombre occasions and luckily we haven’t had the situation so far, where any guns didn’t fire. But, it takes a high-level of coordination to achieve the perfect 21,” a senior official of the artillery unit said.
Besides, Republic Day, the guns are used for firing salutes during Independence Day (August 15), Army Day (January 15), Martyr’s Day (January 30) and for welcoming heads of states of other countries at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. “Tomorrow we are practicing for the Martyr’s Day (January 30). On this occasion, we only fire two rounds from five guns, kept at five different locations, and fired simultaneously within a gap of two minutes.
“A two minute silence is observed on death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi (Martyr’s Day) from 11 am to 11:02 am. The salute is fired bracketing this duration,” another official of the regiment said.
The five locations are Rajghat, Connaught Place, Nehru Park, Buddha Garden and Vijay Chowk.
“We keep two cannons, one as a back-up, at Rajghat as dignitaries gather there, but at other four places only one gun. We coordinate through wireless communication and mobile phones to execute it in synchrony,” he added.
“It is a matter of pride for us and for the country. We cannot afford to lose even one micro-second,” he said.