Apart from the date, there are these subtle things that remind you that Independence Day is around the corner. You’ll start seeing miniature flags being sold on traffic signals, social media will be flooded with Independence day posts and contests, you’ll be bombarded with messages about special Independence Day sales and whatnot.
We all know the relevance and importance of the special day. Throughout our childhood, we’ve studied the freedom struggle and are well versed with the significance of Independence Day. However, did you know why exactly is Independence Day celebrated at the stroke of midnight hour? And why of all the days, Independence Day came to be celebrated on 15th August 1947?
The process to grant India freedom was set rolling at the end of 1945, when World War II came to an end. At this point of time, the British were in a precarious position, with them not having enough resources to rule their colonies. In addition to this the victory of the Labour Party, which had promised to grant Independence to English colonies, set the wheels in motion for India to finally become a free nation.
To facilitate the transfer powers from Britain to India, Lord Mountbatten was appointed as the last viceroy of India. The target was to complete the transfer by June 1948. However numerous differences arose between Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Jawaharlal Nehru regarding the decision of partition. As communal disturbances and tension grew across the country, Mountbatten was forced to bring the date forward for the transfer of power by almost a year.
Why 15th August?
With the year for Independence being finalized by Mountbatten under the “June 3 Mountbatten plan”, the next topic of discussion came to be the date for the occasion. The date of 15th August was one that was personally chosen by Lord Mountbatten as he considered the date to be lucky for him. It was on this day that the Japanese Army had surrendered before Mountbatten, who was then acting as a commander of the allied forces.
Why Independence Day at Midnight?
The final decision that was left to be taken was the time for the declaration of Independence. It was ultimately chosen to be midnight, and this is where the story gets interesting. After the date of 15th August 1947 was announced to the public, it was met with widespread outrage as the date was considered to be unlucky and unholy, according to astrologers. However, despite multiple alternate suggestions, Lord Mountbatten refused to budge.
But the astrologers and the British were eventually able to find a middle ground. It was decided that the time kept would be the midnight hour between August 14 and August 15, simply owing to the fact that while the British calendar starts from 12 am, the day in the Hindu calendar begins at sunrise. The declaration couldn’t be done a day earlier, because Mountbatten was in Karachi, delivering the King’s message of Independence to Pakistan. It is believed to be one of the reasons why Pakistan changed its date from 15 to 14 August from 1948.
This decision brought logical issues of its own. The astrologers instructed that the speech for the transfer of power had to be completed between 11:51 pm & 12:39 am, during the window of “Abhijeet Muhurta”. Not only this, Pandit Nehru had to finish the speech within this stipulated period, while at the same time ensuring his speech ends by 12 am. This was done to ensure that the holy conch (Shanka) could be blown right at the stroke of the midnight hour!