Excerpts from Dr Rajendra Prasad’s address on January 26, 1950 after taking the oath as the first President of the Republic of India
It is a great day for our country. India has had a long and chequered history; parts of it were cloudy and parts bright and sunlit. At no period, even during the most glorious eras of which we have record, was this whole country brought under one Constitution and one rule.
We have mention of many Republics in our books and our historians have been able to make out a more or less connected and co-ordinated piece out of the incidents and the places which are mentioned in these records. But these Republics were small and tiny and their shape and size was perhaps the same as that of the Greek Republics of that period. We have mention of Kings and Princes, some of whom are described as Chakravarty, that is, a monarch whose suzerainty was acknowledged by other Princes. During the British period, while acknowledging the suzerainty of Britain, the Indian Princes continued to carry on the administration of their territories in their own way. It is for the first time today that we have inaugurated a Constitution which extends to the whole of this country and we see the birth of a federal republic having States which have no sovereignty of their own and which are really members and parts of one federation and one administration.
Our Constitution is a democratic instrument seeking to ensure to the individual citizens the freedoms which are so invaluable. India has never prescribed or prosecuted opinion and faith and our philosophy has room as much for a devotee of a personal god, as for an agnostic or an atheist.
We shall, therefore, be only implementing in practice under our Constitution what we have inherited from our traditions, namely, freedom of opinion and expression. Under the new set-up, which we are inaugurating today, we hope to live up to the teachings of our Master and help in our own humble way in the establishment of peace in the world.
I know the world today is passing through a most uncertain and anxious period. Two world wars within one generation, with all their devastation and aftermath of suffering and sorrow, have not been able to convince it that a war can never bring about the end of wars. It is, therefore, necessary to seek the end of wars in positive acts of goodness towards all and the world must learn to utilise all its resources for productive and beneficial purposes and not for destruction. We do venture to think that this country may have a past to play in establishing this goodwill and atmosphere of confidence and co-operation.
We have inherited no old enmities. Our republic enters the world stage, therefore, free from pride and prejudice, humbly
believing and striving that in international as well as internal affairs our statesmen may be guided by the teachings of the
Father of our Nation — tolerance,
understanding non-violence and resistance to aggression.