Listening, in its truest sense, is an act of discovery. For a long time, All India Radio (AIR), was a sole catalyst in fostering India’s listening culture. From the powerful appeals of new leaders to the dulcet melodies of the Mangeshkars, our airwaves resonated with the collective pride and follies of an emerging nation.
To mark World Radio Day, on 13 February, SouthWord. presents India’s history as heard on the airwaves, in an attempt to celebrate the contributions of radio and reclaim the culture of listening that is part of our identities.
We begin with the decade of the 1940s, when India became Independent and went through various important landmarks in our political, social and cultural history as a nation.
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru delivers the historic ‘Tryst with destiny’ speech to a free India on the eve of Independence.
Mahatma Gandhi delivers a speech to the refugees fleeing Pakistan and camping in Kurukshetra. November 12 is observed as Public Service Broadcasting Day to commemorate Gandhi’s sole visit to the AIR studios (in Delhi).
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru announces Mahatma Gandhi’s death. He said memorably and unforgettably that “the light has gone out of our lives”.
Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s 1948 address to the nation marks the first year since India’s independence.
Rajendra Prasad addresses the nation as its first President when India becomes a full-fledged Republic on 26 January 1950.
Vallabhbhai Patel dies of a heart attack. An earlier speech to the nation by the man who was instrumental in India’s territorial integration.
Dr BR Ambedkar on the BBC about the 1932 Poona Pact, the agreement between MK Gandhi and himself on the reservation of electoral seats for the depressed classes in the legislature of British India; and his adversarial assessment of Gandhi.
AIR officially adopts its on-air name Akashvani (Voice from the sky), a word coined by MV Gopalaswamy of Mysore. This is the popular AIR signature tune.
Hirakud dam, then the longest dam in the world, is inaugurated by Nehru on this day.
Wrestler Lila Ram Sangwan becomes the first Indian to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. Milkha Singh won a gold medal in athletics at the same games.
On this day, the 14th Dalai Lama who fled Tibet, crosses the McMahon line, and reaches Tezpur, Assam, on 18 April.
India annexes the former Portuguese Indian territory of Goa.
Nehru's speech a few days into the Sino-Indian war that began on October 20, 1962.
Lata Mangeshkar sings the famous patriotic song, Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo for the first time, written by Kavi Pradeep and composed by C Ramchandra.
Jawaharla Nehru dies at age 74. It’s the end of the ‘Nehru era’ in India.
China tests a nuclear device. Soon after, Dr Homi Bhabha gives a talk on AIR suggesting that India should develop a nuclear deterrent of its own. Bhabha’s speech at the first conference on the peaceful use of atomic energy.
Legendary radio broadcaster Melville de Mellow’s commentary on the occasion of India’s 19th Independence Day. Indira Gandhi delivered her first Independence Day speech as the prime minister from the ramparts of the Red Fort.
President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan speaks on AIR about the importance of education for progress in a democratic society.
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi addresses Parliament after the Indian victory in the 1971 war with Pakistan, in the context of the creation of Bangladesh.
The JP Movement was a movement against the authoritarianism and corruption of the Indira Gandhi regime. He talks about the ideals of the movement here.
Indira Gandhi speaks to the press about India's first successful nuclear bomb test, called Smiling Buddha or Pokhran I.
Ek Anek Aur Ekta (also known as Ek Chidiya, Anek Chidiyan after the title song), an international award-winning animated video on finding unity in diversity is aired on TV and radio, and still remains popular.
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declares a state of Internal Emergency across the country.
Indira Gandhi defends the Emergency and talks about the possibility of suspending it on National Broadcasting Company’s (NBC) famous program, Meet the Press.
India's first non-Congress Prime Minister Morarji Desai is elected after Emergency is suspended.
Former Jana Sangh members band together to form the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with AB Vajpayee as its first president.
The 9th Asian Games were held from November 19 to December 4, in Delhi, India. Swagatam Shubh Swagatam, written by Pt. Narendra Sharma and composed by Pt. Ravishankar, was first sung at the opening ceremony.
India wins the cricket World Cup for the first time.
Operation Bluestar, the military operation to enter the Golden Temple in Amritsar, ordered by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on this day. Hear what Gandhi had to say about the operation in the aftermath.
After Indira Gandhi’s death, her son Rajiv, addresses the nation appealing for peace, and announces that he will head the next government.
This date marks the day of the Bhopal Gas tragedy. This is from Witness, a BBC World Service show, that spoke to witnesses of the tragedy, 20 years after the tragic night.
The popular national integration song, Ek Sur or Mile Sur Mera Tumhara releases this day on radio and TV.
On this day, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi is assassinated. Here is a Witness report from the BBC World Service radio.
Economic liberalisation in India is initiated by Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao and his Finance Minister Manmohan Singh, with the goal of opening up the economy to foreign investment and dismantling the old licence-quota-permit raj.
After the 1996 general election, AB Vajpayee is invited by President Shankar Dayal Sharma to form the government. After 13 days in office, he fails to prove his majority on the floor of the Parliament and resigns. Here he speaks in the Lok Sabha before handing in his resignation.
Pokhran II (Operation Shakti) was a series of five nuclear bomb test explosions initiated on this day, making India the sixth country to join the nuclear superpower club.
An armed conflict between India and Pakistan broke out in Kargil and elsewhere along the International Line of Control (LoC) in May, after Pakistani operatives infiltrated Indian posts. The war continued till July 1999.
Sonia Gandhi, widely expected to have been named as India's new prime minister, stunned her supporters by "humbly declining" to take up the post.
Abhinav Bindra wins the gold in the 10 m Air Rifle event at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, becoming the first Indian to win an individual gold medal at the Olympic Games.
The Aadhaar Act, 2016, is passed on this day by the Lok Sabha. Here is a panel discussion on the subject on AIR.
Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also called Mangalyaan, is successfully launched by ISRO, making India the first Asian nation to reach Mars orbit. Listen to this AIR news report of Mangalyaan entering orbit.
On this day, the Government of India announces the demonetisation of all ₹500 and ₹1,000 banknotes of the Mahatma Gandhi series. Listen to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s on his monthly radio address to the nation Mann Ki Baat.
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) came into effect on this day, through the implementation of One Hundred and First Amendment of the Constitution of India by the Government of India. Here is an All India Radio report.