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Navy Day celebrations thrill onlookers at Gateway of India

Anushka Singh | Mumbai

The Gateway of India promenade in Mumbai’s Colaba precinct was thronged by cheerful crowds who had gathered to witness the much-anticipated Navy Day celebrations in the area. Observed every year on 4 December to commemorate Indian Navy's stunning attack on Karachi that contributed crucially to India's victory in the Indo-Pakistan war 1971, Navy Day celebrations have now become a tradition for the residents of the zone.

GYRATING: Sailor’s Hornpipe Dance by children of the Sea Cadet Corps at the Gateway of India in Mumbai
This year too, local residents, enthusiastic Mumbaikars from all parts of the city and neighbouring areas, domestic and foreign tourists gathered at the promenade to watch the spectacular ceremony. As part of the celebrations, the traditional ‘Beating Retreat and Tattoo Ceremony’ was held at the iconic site in the presence of the Chief Guest Hon'ble Governor of Maharashtra Bharat Singh Koshyari. The event was hosted by the newly-appointed Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Naval Command Vice Admiral Ajendra Bahadur Singh and attended by dignitaries and senior officials from various organisations, serving naval personnel, veterans, as well as members of military families.

TOGETHER: Chief Guest Governor Koshyari, FOC-in-C (WNC) Vice Admiral Singh and other dignitaries at the event
World’s largest national flag unveiled

This year, Navy Day celebrations touched a new milestone when, as part of the ongoing Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, the Western Naval Command exhibited the world’s largest national flag at the Naval Dockyard overlooking the Gateway of India. The flag is made of khadi and measures 225 feet in length and 150 feet in width and weighs about 1,400 kg. As the Indian Navy rededicates itself to the service of the nation on Navy Day, it renews its pledge and commitment to protect and promote national interests and serve the people of India through this small but important gesture of exhibiting the monumental national flag.

MONUMENTAL: An aerial view of the world's largest national flag exhibited by the Western Naval Command
Interestingly, several activities were organised as part of the Navy Week 2021. The Material Organisation (Mumbai) erected a tableau at Phoenix Mall in Kurla, Mumbai to showcase naval activities, invoke patriotic fervour and create awareness about the Indian Navy among the general public. An information enclosure set up at the atrium of the mall comprises a tableau, a selfie point and an audio-video point, open for visitors till 11 pm on 5 December 2021.

EXHIBIT: A tableau erected at a mall in Mumbai to showcase naval activities as part of the Navy Week
Earlier, on 3 December 2021, the newly-appointed Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Naval Command Vice Admiral Ajendra Bahadur Singh interacted with the media at the annual Press Conference of Navy Week 2021 on board the Western Fleet's stealth guided missile destroyer INS Kolkata at Mumbai. The Commander-in-Chief spoke about the ‘Swarnim Vijay Varsh’ celebrations to commemorate the 50th anniversary of India’s glorious victory in the 1971 Indo-Pak war.

He also apprised media personnel of Western Naval Command’s milestones the past year including Indian Navy’s contribution towards maritime security in IOR and SAGAR initiatives, mission-based deployments, exercises with foreign navies, fight against COVID-19, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) including Op Samudra Setu II, commissioning of indigenously built submarines Karanj and Vela and a modern destroyer Visakhapatnam and launching the largest Search and Rescue operation during Cyclone Tauktae in May 2021.

LIT UP: The iconic Gateway of India dons multiple hues during the Navy Day celebrations
Beating Retreat and Tattoo Ceremony at Gateway of India

As part of the Navy Day celebration on 4 December 2021, the onlookers at Gateway of India got a chance to see breath-taking performances by the Naval Band, the Beating Retreat Ceremony, short operational demonstration and fly-past by naval helicopters, Continuity Drill by naval personnel and the Sailor’s Hornpipe Dance by children of the Sea Cadet Corps.

SPECTACULAR: A glimpse from the Beating Retreat Ceremony at Gateway of India
The Beating Retreat Ceremony is a tradition, since early days of military history, when the Retreat was sounded every day as a signal for troops to disengage from combat as daylight faded, ordering them to withdraw to their camps for the night. The Tattoo Ceremony, on the other hand, has the band beating drums to various rhythms within soldiers' billets, ordering them to proceed to their quarters after a long day at the battlefield.

POISED: The performances enthralled the audience and the onlookers during Navy Day celebrations
Continuity Drill, performed by men of Killers Squadron, is a spectacular exhibition of a complex sequence of movements being executed without a single word of command. The higher purpose of drill and parade in the military is to inculcate qualities of good military bearing, pride in oneself, implicit obedience of orders, unity of purpose and esprit de corps.

EXHILARATING: Operational demonstration performed by naval helicopters amused the onlookers
A large gathering in and around the Gateway of India gave a grand applause as they saw in awe the demonstrations exhibiting clockwork precision of naval aviators and daredevilry of the Marine Commandos. The delightful Hornpipe Dance by the young cadets of the Sea Cadet Corps was, however, the crowd’s favourite. Later in the evening, the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command hosted an At Home function at the Navy House.

FLY-PAST: The sounds of naval helicopters filled the air surrounding the venue
The history of Navy Day celebrations

The idea behind celebrating Navy Day is to boost outreach and increase awareness about the Navy among members of the public. Navy Day celebrations, traditionally, witnessed parades at various port cities as well as organising public meetings at inland naval establishments. Navy Day in India was first celebrated on 21 October 1944 by the Royal Indian Navy that coincided with the Royal Navy's Trafalgar Day. In due course of time, Navy Day was being celebrated on 15 December and the week in which 15 December fell was observed as the Navy Week.

DECORATED: The venue of the Navy Day celebrations at Gateway of India in Mumbai 
In 1972, old traditions gave way to new reasons to celebrate the special day. At Senior Naval Officer's Conference in May 1972, it was decided that Navy Day will be celebrated on 4 December every year to commemorate the actions of Indian Navy during the 1971 Indo-Pak War and Navy Week to be observed from 1 December to 7 December.

RHYTHMIC: Naval Band performing during Navy Day 2021 celebrations at Gateway of India
So, today, in India, Navy Day is celebrated to commemorate Operation Trident, which marked the attack by Indian Naval Missile boats on Karachi Harbour during the 1971 Indo-Pak War, as well as in reverence of the bravehearts of that war. In the attack, naval ships, armed to the teeth, stealthily maneuvered off Karachi, and unleashed a lethal missile attack that left the port ablaze and destroyed several enemy warships.

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