Indian Army

Explained: The Tradition Of 21 Gun salute In India

Hello defence lovers! Every year during Independence day and republic day the Indian Tricolour is given a 21 gun salute. In this article, we are going to discuss what 21 gun salute is, how this tradition evolved and what significance it has in the modern world.

What Is 21 Gun Salute?

The 21 gun salute is a type of military salute that is performed by firing guns or Artillery. It is a type of military honour offered to different people and objects on a variety of occasions. This salute is used worldwide. All the commonwealth nations adopted it from the British Empire. Now let us discuss how this tradition evolved over time.

Evolution Of 21 Gun Salute

The tradition of salutes can be traced back to the middle ages. The concept of Saluting was disarming oneself, thus those who were saluted were honoured with the power of being armed. Pointing the sword downwards and presenting arms were the most common traditions which can be seen even today. That is the reason why the leader of every marching contingent points his/ her sword down while passing by the saluting base in any parade. Firing guns or cannons also developed as a method of saluting during those times. The initial cannon and guns were single shot and it took a considerable amount of time to load them. Thus firing them symbolised disarming them.

The 21 guns salute evolved from a naval tradition during the 16th century. At those times, whenever a ship entered a port, it used to fire all its cannons while the coastline was out of its range. As reloading was a time-consuming process, it gave the coastal defenders sufficient time to destroy the ship if they desired to do so. Thus this signified that the ship was effectively disarmed and thus lacked any hostile intent.

The British navy ships used to fire their 7 cannons. The coastal defence used to fire 3 cannons in response to each cannon from the ship to greet it. That to use signify that the port also lacks any hostile intent and welcomes the ship. In those days the gunpowder was made from sodium nitrate which was easier to keep dry on land compared to at sea. Thus the guns on land used to fire thrice in response to each of the 7 shots from the sea taking the total number to 21.

How this number “7” was chosen is unclear and historians have contrasting opinions regarding it. Some believe that the British Ships had standard 7 guns. Some believe that the number “7” had some significance from the Holy Bible. According to some historians, the odd numbers were considered lucky by the sailors, thus the number 7 was chosen adhering to the superstitious beliefs.

Over time as the quality of gunpowder improved, a gun for gun method was followed where each side fired a total of 21 shots. This tradition was adopted by the other services as well

21 Gun Salute In India

India inherited the 21-Gun salute tradition from the British Empire. In the pre Independence era, the highest salute was the 101 gun salute also known as the Imperial Salute which was only offered to the Emperor of India ( The British Crown). It was followed by 31 Gun salute or the Royal Salute. It was offered to the Empress and the members of the Royal Family. It was also offered to the Viceroy and Governor-General of India. 21 gun salute comes next in the hierarchy. It was offered to the head of State and Foreign sovereigns and members of their families.

There were also 19 Gun salutes, 17 gun salutes and so on. During the British Raj the head of Hyderabad, Mysore, Jammu and Kashmir, Baroda and Gwalior state received the 21 Gun salute.

The Republic of India Inherited the tradition from British India. As President is Head of State of the Republic of India, he/She is honoured with the 21 Gun-salute on several occasions. Every new president is honoured with this salute after the swearing ceremony. The Indian National Flag and the President, both are honoured with the 21-gun salute during Independence day and Republic day. It is the most popular instance when this salute is offered.

When a foreign head of state or head of government visits India, a formal reception is held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, and the head of state is given a 21-gun salute, with a 19-gun salute given to a foreign head of government.

So this was all about the tradition of the 21-gun salute. We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Follow our website DefenceXP for more such interesting articles.



Sheershoo Deb

I am a defense aspirant preparing to be an officer in the prestigious Indian armed forces. Earning the prestigious blue uniform is my dream.

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