Why was the midnight of 15th August 1947 chosen as the date & time for Indian Independence?
(Dont forget to watch the rare color video mini documentary at the end of this article)
We can divide the above question into 3 sub-questions:
- Why 1947?
- Why 15th Aug?
- Why midnight?
Let us pick each of the above and find out the answers
The awakening of masses by Gandhi and the activities of Bose behind the scenes (of strengthening Indian National Army) which had intensified during 1940s were already a cause of concern for the British.
By the time the World War II had come to an end in 1945, the British were financially weak (sources indicate they were in the verge of bankruptcy) and were struggling to rule their own country, let alone their colonies. The victory of Labour party in the Britain elections of 1945 was received very well by our freedom fighters because the Labour party had promised to work on granting independence to English colonies including India.
Here is the link to their 1945 election manifesto:
Lord Wavell initiated talks with Indian leaders for Indian Independence and inspite of several disagreements and disruptions, it was gaining momentum and in Feb 1947, Lord Mountbatten was appointed as the last viceroy of India to oversee the transfer of power.
The plan initially was to transfer power from Britain to India by June 1948. Immediately after assuming power in Feb 1947, Lord Mountbatten had begun a series of talks with Indian leaders for a consensus. But things were not so simple especially due to conflicts between Jinnah & Nehru on the matter of partition. Jinnah’s demand for a separate nation had instigated large scale communal disturbances across India and upon passing of each day, situation was going out of control. This was certainly not something expected by Mountbatten and hence such circumstances forced him to prepone the date of independence by almost an year, from 1948 to 1947. It was decided in the meeting (related to independence & partition) on June 3, 1947 which was aptly titled “June 3 Mountbatten plan”.
Why 15th Aug?
It was Lord Mountbatten who had personally decided the date of Aug 15 because he had considered that date to be “very lucky” for his career. During the World War II, it was on Aug 15, 1945 (Japan timezone) that the Japanese Army had surrendered before him (Lord Mountbatten was the commander of the allied forces).
When the date of independence was decided in “June 3 plan” and announced to public, there was an outrage among astrologers across the country because 15-Aug-1947 was an “unfortunate & unholy” date according to astrological calculations. Alternative dates were suggested but Lord Mountbatten was adamant on Aug 15 (since it was his lucky date). As a workaround, the astrologers suggested the midnight hour between Aug 14 and 15 due to the simple reason that the day according to English starts at 12 AM, but according to Hindu calendar, starts at sunrise.
Detailed reasons can be found in this astrological analysis:
The astrologers had insisted that the speech of acknowledgement of transfer of power be done within the 48 minutes window (referred to as “Abhijeet Muhurta”) which lasted between 24 minutes before and after 12:15am i.e between 11:51pm & 12:39am. Nehru had to deliver a speech only within that timeframe and an additional constraint was that the speech had to end by 12 AM, so that the holy conch (Shanka) be blown to herald the birth of a new nation at the stroke of midnight hour, and the rest is history.
More about Nehru’s speech of 15th Aug 1947:
Here is a very rare, color video mini-documentary (6 mins) covering the events of 1947 leading to Indian Independence:
Click the following link if the above embedded video shows error message:
Today is a day of celebration and to realize our freedom. Thousands of freedom fighters sacrificed their lives and millions of them struggled in order to drive away British rulers and constituted a system of democracy centered around us i.e voters, so that we have a say in the Govt. How our nation has fared over the last 66 years is something we cannot change but the future is in our hands. Let us ensure that we exercise our rights in the right way so that our nation heads in the right direction.
Happy Independence Day.
“Freedom at Midnight” by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre