For the 14th time in India’s history, a new president stepped into the Rashtrapati Bhavan today, on a day of ceremony and regalia that started with a gentle knock on the door of Ram Nath Kovind’s Akbar Road residence in the morning. It was Military Secretary to the President, Major General Anil Khosla, inviting 71-year-old Kovind and his wife Savita to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, where President Pranab Mukherjee was waiting for them in the study. A few hours later, the roles had reversed and President Kovind escorted Mukherjee out of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Earlier, the then president-elect and the outgoing president had gone to the grand Rashtrapati Bhavan forecourt where they were escorted to the saluting dais.
Mukherjee took the last salute of the President’s Bodyguard (PBG), the cavalry regiment of the Indian Army, with Kovind standing to his left. He and his successor drove down Raisina Hill to the Central Hall of the Parliament in a black limousine, with Mukherjee in the right and Kovind on the left. Escorting them was a grand equestrian procession by the PBG, dressed in white ceremonial uniforms and blue turbans with gold ornamental work. The road from Rashtrapati Bhavan to Parliament was lined with 1,000 jawans from all three services of the armed forces offering the traditional ‘hazaar salaam’ to the president — the supreme commander of the defence forces.
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The procession reached gate five of Parliament where Vice President Hamid Ansari, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Chief Justice of India J S Kehar received President Mukherjee and President-elect Kovind who were then taken to the Central Hall. After the oath ceremony, Kovind met leaders in Central Hall before leaving for the Rashtrapati Bhavan in the presidential limousine, this time with Mukherjee in the left and India’s new president on the right. The skies opened up as the procession made its way from Parliament to Rashtrapati Bhavan. The black tarmac of Rajpath seemed washed clean as the PBG marched with military precision in the pouring rain. Kovind and Mukherjee reached the Rashtrapati Bhavan where the former took charge after signing the register.
After taking charge, Kovind came out to the forecourt in the Presidential buggy, a black carriage with national emblem–the Ashoka insignia–embossed in gold and drawn by six horses. It was Mukherjee who had revived the tradition of the buggy ride. Kovind inspected the Guard of Honour and returned inside. He then escorted Mukherjee to the forecourt in the buggy where the former president was given the last Guard of Honour.Kovind then accompanied Mukherjee in the Presidential limousine to see him off to his new residence at 10, Rajaji Marg which was once occupied by former president A P J Abdul Kalam.