Queen Elizabeth's visits to India

The monarch visited the former British colony three times after her coronation — in 1961, 1983 and 1997

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Queen Elizabeth II, who died on Thursday at the age of 96, made three state visits to the former British colony during her 70-year reign and cherished the “warmth and hospitality” she was accorded there.

The queen's visit in 1961 was the first visit by a British monarch since India gained independence in 1947, and was followed by visits in 1983 and in 1997 as the country marked 50 years of independence.

"The warmth and hospitality of the Indian people, and the richness and diversity of India itself have been an inspiration to all of us,” she said in one of her addresses.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are met by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and President Zail Singh at Palam Airport, New Delhi, during a Commonwealth tour of India, November 17, 1983.  Getty Images

On her maiden visit after taking the throne in 1952 after the death of her father and the last emperor of India, King George VI, she laid a wreath at the memorial to India's renowned freedom campaigner Mahatma Gandhi.

The queen and her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, were invited as guests of honour at the Republic Day Parade.

Dressed in a fur coat and hat, the queen addressed a crowd of thousands of people at New Delhi's Ramlila Ground.

The royal couple also formally inaugurated the building of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in the capital — the country’s premier hospital and medical institute — in a ceremony attended by the first President of India, Rajendra Prasad.

Queen Elizabeth and her husband also visited India's other main cities, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, Rajasthan state and the Taj Mahal, the 17th-century Mughal-era mausoleum in Agra, during that trip.

She also took an elephant ride in a royal procession in Varanasi, a sacred Hindu city, while enjoying the hospitality of the erstwhile King of Benaras.

People perched on rooftops and balconies to catch a glimpse of the queen, whose grandfather King George V was the last British monarch to visit India before her in 1911.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visited India again in 1983 at the invitation of President Giani Zail Singh.

The royal couple stayed in the refurbished wing of the opulent Rashtrapati Bhavan, the president's house, which was once the residence of British viceroys.

For their stay, the usual Kashmiri-style furnishings were replaced with viceregal decor, and the bed linen, curtains and tapestries were changed to blend with the regal past, according to a report by The New York Times.

The queen presented Mother Teresa with an Honorary Order of Merit during the visit.

Mother Teresa with Queen Elizabeth II in New Delhi, India, November 1, 1983. PA

On the queen's last visit in 1997, as India celebrated 50 years of independence, she visited the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial at Amritsar in Punjab.

The memorial commemorates those killed when British troops fired on a crowd of 10,000 men, women and children who had gathered to celebrate Baisakhi, a spring festival, in defiance of a ban on gatherings.

The garden had only one exit that was blocked by British soldiers, forcing many people to jump into a well to dodge bullets. The massacre was a turning point in India’s freedom movement.

Queen Elizabeth placed a wreath at the memorial and acknowledged that there were “difficult episodes” in India’s colonial history.

“It is no secret that there have been some difficult episodes in our past. Jallianwala Bagh is a distressing example,” she said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined other world leaders in paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth after her death was announced on Thursday.

Mr Modi, who met the queen in 2015 and 2018, described her as a "stalwart of our times".

"She provided inspiring leadership to her nation and people. She personified dignity and decency in public life," he wrote on Twitter.

Flags lowered to mark the passing of Queen Elizabeth II — in pictures

Updated: September 09, 2022, 12:16 PM
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