Elizabeth’s three visits to India

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The Queen and her royal consort, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, first visited India in January 1961, the first royal British tour of India in 50 years…reports Asian Lite News

Queen Elizabeth II, the head of state of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and Britain’s longest serving monarch died at the age of 96 on Thursday (September 8), after holding the throne for nearly 70 years.

After her father, King George VI died in 1952, Elizabeth ascended to the throne five years after India attained independence from colonial rule, becoming the first British ruler to take the throne after the empire lost its ‘jewel in the crown’. During her reign she undertook three state visits to India, in 1961, 1983, and 1997.

First visit: 1961

The Queen and her royal consort, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, first visited India in January 1961, the first royal British tour of India in 50 years. According to newspapers cited by the BBC, people were so excited to catch a glimpse of her during the visit, that nearly a million people thronged the route that took her from the airport to the official residence of the President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad, in New Delhi.

The royal couple toured Bombay (Mumbai), Madras (Chennai), and Calcutta (Kolkata), and also visited the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Pink Palace in Rajasthan. She paid tribute to Mahatma Gandhi at Raj Ghat in New Delhi.

President Dr Rajendra Prasad invited them as Guests of Honour for the Republic Day parade on January 26 of that year, and the Queen addressed thousands of people at a meeting in Delhi’s Ramlila Ground.

Second visit: 1983

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s next royal visit took place nearly two decades later, upon the invitation of President Giani Zail Singh, and they stayed at the visitors’ suite of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. According to a newspaper cited by the BBC, the Indian furnishings were replaced with Viceregal decor for the visit, and old Western style dishes were prepared for her, since the Queen was said to like “simple meals”.

Her royal visit was at the same time as the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) hosted by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. During her visit, the Queen famously presented Mother Teresa — now Saint Teresa of Calcutta — with the honorary Order of Merit, an extremely exclusive reward that is only limited to 42 living members at one time, for her service to humanity.

Third visit: 1997

Her final and third royal visit to India in October 1997 was to mark the golden jubilee celebrations of India’s Independence. During her stay, Queen Elizabeth touched on the violence unleashed by British colonial rule in India. “It is no secret that there have been some difficult episodes in our past. Jallianwala Bagh is a distressing example,” she said in her banquet address.

Amidst the calls for an apology for the killing of thousands of peaceful protesters upon the orders of General Reginald Dyer for protesting against the Rowlatt Act in 1919, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visited Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar and placed a wreath at the memorial.

While her speech and visit did not satisfy those who had called for an explicit apology, the BBC reported that it seemed to appease the relatives of those who were killed, who had planned a protest at the Amritsar airport during her arrival. The Queen was allowed to enter the Golden Temple after taking off her shoes

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