Playing bugles and trumpets in tune with the tinkling bells of their camels, the big moustachioed and royally dressed Border Security Force (BSF) troopers will ride camels that march in precision and regale spectators at the 63rd Republic Day parade.
The BSF boasts of the only camel-mounted music band in the world. The band, which also features in the Guinness World Records, was inspired by the 'Ganga Risala', a camel corps of the princely state of Bikaner which fought in both the world wars.
A hundred BSF riders under the supervision of Amul Rathore, deputy commandant, will present salute to President Pratibha Patil Jan 26. The guards will participate for the 36th year in a row this Republic Day and Beating Retreat ceremony on Jan 29.
"The BSF camel contingent is a scene-stealer at every Republic Day parade. The march showcases our legacy and tradition. We first took part in the parade in 1976. At that time, our men used to mount and parade camels holding lances. Fourteen years later in 1990, we included the musical band in the contingent," said Rathore who leads the camel contingent for the fifth year.
At this year's parade, BSF troopers will divide themselves into two groups. The first group of 50 troopers will carry Insas rifles. They will be followed by 35 riders with musical instruments. There will be a band master and three subordinates, with ten others as reserve.
The band will roll out at least 40 tunes during the 8-km march down Rajpath and to the historic Red Fort ground.
"The band will roll out about 40 tunes during their march down Rajpath and then to the historic Red Fort. The main tunes will be 'Hum hain Seema Suraksha Bal' and 'Vijay Bharat'," Rathore told IANS.
The troopers have been undergoing rigorous training since July for the occasion.
"We start the training in Jodhpur in the month of July itself, particularly for the camels which are usually lazy animals. By November every year, hundreds of camels and BSF troopers camp here in Delhi, undergo rigorous training braving the fog and winter chill," Rathore said.
He also added that the BSF men who are participating in the camel contingent, need a good camel handler and they should give special attention to their moustaches.
"The moustache should be long and thick. It is one of the important criteria if the jawan needs to take part in the parade. The jawans also take special care, they use mustard oil and cream to nourish their moustaches and twirl it upwards which indicates their valour and dignity," Rathore said.
The uniforms the men wear are traditional and have not changed since the camel contingent was raised by Maharaja Ganga Singh, the then ruler of the erstwhile of princely state of Bikaner, in the early 1900s.
"The royal dress code has not changed. It is still what Maharaja Ganga Singh envisioned. The uniform the troopers wear has 18 items, including saffron turbans, a white overcoat and long boots. The camel is decorated with 19 items like 'gorband' and 'ghungrus'," he said.
Meanwhile, a BSF official noted that it was becoming tough to get good camels for the contingent.
"It is getting tough to get good camels into the contingent. But we are not compromising our standards and use only indigenous breeds. We usually get it from the cattle fairs organised in Rajasthan," the official said.
The men are also devoted to their camels which are used for war and transportation.
"We share an intimate relationship with the camels. But the declining camel population is a real concern. In the last ten years, Rajasthan's camel population is estimated to have plunged by about 50 percent to below 400,000 animals as poor breeders sell female animals for slaughter while males are kept for hauling carts," said a BSF official participating in the parade, requesting anonymity.