New Delhi | Reviving a 250-year-old tradition on the 75th Republic Day, President Droupadi Murmu and her French counterpart Emmanual Macron arrived on Kartavya Path in a traditional buggy, which made a comeback after 40 years.
They were escorted by the President's Bodyguard -- "Rashtrapati Ke Angrakshak". The President's Bodyguard is the senior-most regiment of the Indian Army.
This Republic Day is special for this elite regiment, with the "Angrakshak" completing 250 years of service since its raising in 1773, and for India's old tradition where Murmu let go of the modern sedan in favour of the quaint horse-drawn buggy.
"President Droupadi Murmu and the French President Emmanuel Macron arrived at the Kartavya Path in the traditional buggy which made a comeback after 40 years," the Rashtrapati Bhawan said in a post on X.
The gold-plated, horse-drawn buggy is a black carriage with the national emblem embossed in gold. The buggy, drawn by a mixed breed of Indian and Austrian horses, has gold-plated rims.
The presidential buggy was in use for Republic Day functions till 1984 but was discontinued after the assassination of the-then prime minister Indira Gandhi.
The buggy was last used by Giani Zail Singh in 1984. It was discontinued due to security reasons and presidents began using limousines for travel.
It was only in 2014 when former president Pranab Mukherjee used it again for the beating retreat ceremony. His successor Ram Nath Kovind continued the tradition of riding the buggy. He inspected the Guard of Honour in the presidential buggy after taking oath in 2017.
During the British era, the buggy belonged to the Viceroy of India. After India's independence in 1947, a row erupted between India and Pakistan regarding claims over the carriage.
With no immediate solution and higher authority to decide on the row, India's then Lt Colonel Thakur Govind Sing and the Pakistan Army's Sahabzada Yaqub Khan took full responsibility for the fact that the ownership of the buggy would depend on a coin toss.
India is believed to have won the toss and the buggy has been with the country since then. The same carriage has been used by several presidents on various occasions.
Almost three decades ago, former president Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed used the buggy to reach the exit gate of the Rashtrapati Bhavan from where he took a car to attend the Republic Day ceremony.
The carriage was also used by presidents to pay homage at the Amar Jawan Jyoti during Republic Day celebrations. Besides, the heads of the country used the buggy to move around in their 320-acre residential space.