The tradition of a salute has huge importance in the army. But do you know how the tradition begun or what a salute means? When a soldier salutes his superiors, his right hand goes up on his forehead with his palm showing. What this means is that he has no weapon hidden up anywhere and that his intentions are good.

The practice started with the soldiers of the defeated forces, who would greet soldiers of the victorious army in this manner. To begin with, the forces of the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force would keep their palms open while doing the salute, the soldiers of the Indian Navy would turn their palms slightly inwards.

The reason for this was that the palms of the naval soldiers were usually soiled by oil or dirt on the ship deck and they did not want to show their dirty palms to their superiors. Now the IAF soldiers have also started turning their palms slightly inwards – akin to the manner in which the US Air Force personnel do the salute.

Not for an individual, the salute is for the uniform

A salute is a form of respect not to an individual, but to the uniform and the designation of the officer concerned. Elaborate rules have been laid down to define the manner in which an official would do the salute ; and about the protocol of rank for officers who will accept the salute. If a junior officer salutes his seniors, only the senior-most of the officers will acknowledge and return the gesture. If officials of all the three forces are present, the senior-most of them will return the salute. The Indian Army is considered the senior-most, followed by the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force.

What a Guns Salute means

In the olden times, a guns salute was given to a very important person; or by the defeated ship to the victorious one. The meaning of a guns salute was that the defeated ship had fired off and exhausted all its fire-power. A guns salute is usually of odd numbers, as even numbers were considered inauspicious.

Until a few years after Independence, there was the tradition of giving a 31-guns salute to the President. Later, the numbers were reduced to 21. On important occasions, the national flag is also given a 21-guns salute.


The military honors of giving a guns salute at the last rites of a deceased officer started with the belief that the evil spirits emanating out of the dead body would be pushed off into a distance.

Women and the Ship

The Navy has a tradition of getting commercial ships inaugurated at the hands of a recognized woman. You may remember that when India's first indigenously developed submarine was launched off at the Vishakhapatnam port in July, 2009; the honors had been done by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s wife Gursharan Kaur.

A ship is considered to be a female form. This is the reason that in the English language, a ship is referred to she and her. In the Western countries, ships are launched by opening champagne bottles, but in India the honors are done in a traditional way by breaking coconuts and offering flowers to the gods.

Another interesting aspect is that the front part of ships has two eyes designed on them. Ships that do not have the eye design are considered inauspicious.

Ships are not launched off on Thursdays in the Western countries, as that day is considered inauspicious. Varun is considered the God of Water. The Indian Navy's slogan is this: May Varuna the lord of the sea bless us.

source : Bharat Defence Kavach