Indian Army Day is observed on January 15 every year to recognize the day the British commander-in-chief handed over the reins of the Indian army to Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa. While India got its independence in 1947, this handover only took place in 1949.
History of Indian Army Day
India has had military capabilities from the time of the Indus Valley Civilization that flourished between 3300 B.C. to 1300 B.C. Many succeeding dynasties during the time of Alexander and beyond used their military strengths to fight wars and expand their territory across the sub-continent. Some of the most famous of these dynasties were Maurya, Satavahana, Gupta, Vijayanagara, Chalukya, and Chola.
These dynasties were followed by a series of wars waged between central Asian armies, which the Mughals, considered to originate from present-day Uzbekistan, eventually won. They went on to establish their empire on the sub-continent. When the East India Company was set up, the territory was divided into presidencies, and each had its own army unit. These were Madras, Calcutta, and Bombay. Independent, regional kingdoms, like Mysore, were able to defeat the British Army at war and hold on to their territory until the ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, was finally defeated in 1799.
During the First World War, one million Indians volunteered to fight in the British Army and around 90,000 lost their lives. Similarly, almost half of the officers in the battles fought during World War II were Indian. As the Indian Independence movement gained traction in 1946, the loyalties of Indian soldiers became conflicted. Many mutinied against or resigned from the British-led army and navy units. While the ‘Indianization’ of the armed forces under the British continued well into the country’s independence, the final handover took place on January 15, 1949, and this is the day we celebrate.
Indian Army Day timeline
This text translates to the “science of archery” and is considered an ancient classic in the field of martial arts, and of course, archery.
Kodandera M. Cariappa becomes India’s first field marshal, taking over from his British counterpart, General Francis Bucher.
India fights its first war against China, which ends after China declares a unilateral ceasefire.
India’s most recent war is fought at Kargil when Pakistani troops cross the Line of Control and capture territories belonging to India.
Indian Army Day FAQs
Is there an International Army Day?
While there are many countries that celebrate their army or armed forces on special days, there is no record of a specific day or date internationally.
Who is the commander of the Indian Army?
The Chief of the Army Staff is commanded by a general, with Manoj Mukund Naravane holding the rank since 2019.
Who is the commander of the Indian Armed Forces?
The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, formally served as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. India appointed its first Chief of Defence Staff only in 2020, with General Bipin Rawat holding the post.
How to Observe Indian Army Day
Watch the parade
The Indian Army puts on a military parade and gives out gallantry awards at Cariappa Parade Ground in Delhi Cantonment. The ceremony is streamed live on the public broadcasting service, Doordarshan. It is also streamed on YouTube and Twitter.
Read about India’s contribution to the World Wars
There have been a few acclaimed books published recently that delve into the more neglected, detailed aspects of Indian troops’ engagement in the World Wars. One such book is “India’s War: World War II and the Making of Modern South Asia” written by Srinath Raghavan. Another is “Farthest Field: An Indian Story of the Second World War” written by Raghu Karnad.
Read about India’s military history
While we have provided a glimpse here, there is so much to uncover about India’s long military history and its evolution across civilizations, dynasties and conquests. Choose your favorite period in Indian history, or the one you know the least about and look up the political and military history of that time.
5 Fascinating Facts About Indian Army Day
Cholas first established a navy
The Chola dynasty, with its seat in present-day South India, was the first in the Indian subcontinent to have naval powers from the 9th century A.D.
Mysore first developed iron-cased rockets
The Mysore Army commanded by Tipu Sultan developed iron-cased and metal-cylinder rockets, which were successfully deployed against the British East India Company.
India has had two field marshals
While the title of general denotes the head of the army in India, a field marshal is a special ‘five-star’ rank that has only been awarded to Sam Manekshaw, and later to K.M Cariappa.
A woman-led parade
Captain Tania Shergill is the first Indian woman to be the Parade Adjutant at the 2020 Army Day function.
Indian soldiers are international peacekeepers
India is a major Troop-Contributing Country to peacekeeping missions of the United Nations, and has participated in 49 of 71 missions.
Why Indian Army Day is Important
It reminds us of the lengthy process of independence
Even though India got its independence in 1947, the official handover of the Indian Army did not take place until two years later in 1949. India also declared its own constitution and became a republic in 1950. This reminds us that independence was not won in a day and was part of a lengthy process.
We can pay our respects to the country’s military leaders
India’s military leaders have bravely fought wars along the borders and have kept the country’s security intact. One of the reasons Field Marshal Cariappa was awarded his special rank even after retirement was due to the stellar leadership and service he provided in the territorial battles for Kashmir after independence.
It is a chance to read up on the army
The Indian army has a rich history of contributing to international warfare and security issues even before independence. The region has a rich military history even before India was a British colony, when it was a collection of different kingdoms and states. There is a wealth of material available in various formats that we can consume both online and offline.
Indian Army Day dates