The Sikh regiment is one of the most decorated infantry regiments in the Indian army. As India gears up to celebrate the 71st Republic Day, here is one unique and fascinating tradition of the regiment. While every contingent of the Indian armed forces salutes only once, the Sikh regiment does it twice.
The saga began 42 years ago on January 24, 1979. During the rehearsal of the Republic Day Parade, the Sikh contingent marched from Vijay Chowk to Red Fort. The regiment, led by Brigadier Injo Gakhal, passed through Rajpath, followed by KG Marg, Connaught Place, Minto bridge, Ram Lila ground, Chawri Bazar, Kinari Bazar, Sis Ganj Gurdwara Sahib, Chandni Chowk, and finally stopped at Red Fort.
When the army contingent crossed Sis Ganj Gurdwara Sahib, Brigadier Injo Gakhal ordered his troops to look right (Dhainay Dekh) and he lowered his sword (the mark of salute). This took the Gurdwara authorities by surprise, who then followed the contingent till Red Fort. As a mark of respect, they offered refreshments and ‘Karah prasad’ to the troops.
Two days later on the scheduled Republic Day parade of 1979, Brigadier Injo Gakhal again ordered his regiment to look right (Dhainay Dekh) as he lowered his sword. However, this time, the Gurdwara authorities were prepared in advance. Amidst loud chants of ‘Sat Sri Akal, they showered rose petals on the troops as they marched towards the Red Fort. And thus began a tradition of saluting twice, once to the President of India, and the other to Sis Ganj Gurdwara Sahib.
The significance of Sis Ganj Gurdwara Sahib
Guru Tegh Bahadur was the ninth of the ten Sikh Gurus of the Sikh religion. He not only prevented forceful religious conversion of Kashmiri Pandits to Islam but was also publicly beheaded by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in Delhi for refusing to convert to Islam. He was condemned for ‘waging a war’ and was told only Islam could save him. When he refused, he was beheaded. In Delhi, Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib is built at the exact site where Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed. His ‘sis’ (the severed head) was brought to Anandpur Sahib by his disciple Bhai Jaita and cremated by 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Rai.