New Delhi, Jan 26: Hidden in the backdrop of elaborate display of India's military prowess at the Republic Day parade were seven vintage cannons which fired the 21-gun salute to herald the unveiling of the celebrations.
The artillery is maintained by the gunners of the elite 871 Field Regiment (SHINGO) and are kept at Delhi Cantonment.
"Obsolete as they are, the cannons have consistently risen to every occasion when their services have been called for in post Independent India," a senior army officer of the regiment said.
The vintage artillery is brought out only on a few selected days including Independence Day, Republic Day and Martyrs' Day. The honour is also conferred to visiting Heads of States at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
"They are old British guns from the pre-Independence era passed on to us. The country now has modern defence ammunitions, so these guns have been preserved to be used for ceremonial functions. They are not capable of fighting war," the officer added.
Apart from performing the 21-gun salute, the seven cannons are fired twice on Martyrs' Day (Jan 30), a solemn occasion, to mark the start and end of the two-minute silence.
The firing of the cannons are done in a controlled manner to maintain appropriate decibel levels. "The propellant is loaded into the cannons and that is followed by the blank firing.
The sound is produced due to the extreme pressure as the propellant burns and gases are produced," he said.
Interestingly, in pre-Independence India, the 21-gun salute was given to few selected rulers of princely states on the basis of prosperity rather than giving preference to military might.