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A silver trumpet and banner for the president's men

New Delhi, March 26 - Come March 30, the President's Bodyguard, the cavalry regiment of the Indian Army mounted on caparisoned and well-groomed steeds, will be accorded an honour that every president bestows on them - a silver trumpet and banner.

The President's Bodyguard (PBG), the oldest regiment of the Indian Army, celebrates its 240th raising day in September this year.

The trumpet ceremony has been in existence since 1923 when Lord Reading had awarded this elite force with two trumpets on its completion of 150 years.

"It is going to be a spectacular and breathtaking ceremony on March 30. The horsemen will display a variety of traditional Indian equestrian skills," Major Amit Bhardwaj, one of the top officers in the unit, told IANS.

The origin of this force goes back to 1773 when the first Governor General of India, Warren Hastings, chose 50 hand-picked troopers to fight the marauders in Benaras.

"The significance of the ceremony is that once the trumpet is presented to the bodyguard and blown, then it is sounded whenever the President is taking the ceremonial salute," said Bhardwaj.

The ceremony will kick start with the national salute to the President who will review the parade from a vehicle.

"We form a hollow square. He is requested to give the trumpet to one of the non-commissioned officers. He comes back to his earlier position," he said.

Astride their sleek and shiny 80 steeds, the men canter past the president smartly.

"We move in the review order, then the silver trumpet is blown for the first time of the parade," he said.

The banner which is mounted on the silver trumpet bears the symbols of the Ashoka Lions with the initials of the president in the centre.

To earn the distinction of serving the supreme commander of Indian Armed Forces, one has to be six feet tall and go through a rigorous selection process.

The PBG force comprises four officers, 14 Junior Commissioned Officers and 161 Bodyguards - backed up by administrative support personnel.

"It is a privilege and matter of honour to serve the President of India. It is a feeling of pride. The men in this elite force are handpicked troopers, tank men and paratroopers," Colonel T. S. Mundi told IANS.

"The force which used to accompany the Viceroy in the battle has now its role expanded which also entails peace keeping," Thomas Mathew, Joint Secretary to the President, told IANS.

Every president, being the supreme commander of the Indian forces, presents the trumpet to the PBG once in his or her tenure.

Pranab Mukherjee will become the country's 12th head of state to present the award to the elite force. Former president Zakir Hussain could not bestow the honour due to his untimely demise.

The ceremony will be conducted in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan March 30.

The enthralling spectacle of horses trotting in line to the music of the military band will make it a ceremonial occasion indeed. (IANS)