Cannon salute

21-gun salute

This article is about the cannon salute. For the three-shot rifle salute given at military and law enforcement funerals, see 3-volley salute.


The tradition of saluting can be traced to the Middle Ages practice of placing oneself in an unarmed position and, therefore, in the power of those being honored. This may be noted in the dropping of the point of the sword, presenting arms, firing cannon and small arms, lowering sails, manning the yards, removing the headdress or laying on oars.

By country


In Bangladesh the salute consists of 21 cannon fires where it is assumed that the number '21' mostly hails the legacy of the 21 February Martyr's Day (presently known as International Mother Language Day). In fact the number '21' gets a special honor in the culture and heritage of Bengali speaking population as their language got honor to be the state language of Pakistan through a popular campus procession on 21 February 1952. The procession saw an armed police barricading where demonstrators including five students where martyred at indiscriminate police firing to crowd. Since then along with the trend of 21-gun salute, many cultural customs in Bangladesh and West Bengal consist of contents largely related to the mentioned event as well as the number '21'.

21-gun salute in Bangladesh is generally used in cases,


As a member of the Commonwealth, the gun salutes are used at special holidays, state funerals and visits by the Royal Family in Canada.

21 guns salutes are used for these people and holidays:

Republic of China

The 21-gun salute is used in the Republic of China in honor of the President during National Day celebrations. After three trumpets blow, the audience is asked to stand up as the President enters. After he stands in the podium, the gun salute starts while the gun salute music is played. In some celebrations, it is done while the National Anthem is played.


During the British Raj, India developed a formal hierarchical system of gun salutes. Apart from the 101 gun Imperial salute reserved for the British monarch, the more important of the hundreds of vassal rulers of princely states involved in indirect rule were classified by the number of guns used when paying honours to them, signifying their prestige in the eyes of the British. The highest of these so-called "salute states" (also in some other parts of the British Empire) enjoyed 21 guns (Hyderabad & Berar, Mysore, Jammu and Kashmir, Baroda, and Gwalior). For years, a few rulers not formally under the control of the British were granted 21 guns (Nepal, Muscat & Oman, Mosquito Coast and Zanzibar) or even 31 guns (Afghanistan and Siam).

Salute for President of India consists of 21 cannon fires.

During colonial British rule in India the following head of states had 21 gun salutes based on prosperity rather than military capability:

  1. Hyderabad
  2. Mysore
  3. Jammu & Kashmir
  4. Baroda
  5. Gwalior

And the following heads of states had 19 gun salutes, (21 locally)

  1. Bhopal
  2. Kolhapur
  3. Indore
  4. Travancore
  5. Udaipur


In Israel the practice of gun salute has been eliminated since Israel has suffered many terror attacks and thus the firing of arms has a negative connotation. The 3-volley salute is still used in military funerals.


In Poland the 21 gun salute is used in military funerals and funerals of fallen leaders and heroes.


In Pakistan a 21 gun salute is used on occasions such as on Pakistan Day (23 March), on which a 21 gun salute is given in provincial capitals and 31 in Islamabad, the federal capital. It is also given on Independence Day (14 August) and Defense Day (6 September). A 31 gun salute in Islamabad and a 21 gun salute in provincial capitals is also given on the birth date of Prophet Muhammad. It is also given when a foreign president or prime minister visits Pakistan.


A 21-gun salute is carried out for National Day Parades in Singapore by the Singapore Artillery during the presidential inspection of parade contingents.


The Swedish navy of old used a gun salute consisting of two rapid gun shots. This salute was fired when ever a Swedish ship would enter a harbour in order to identify the ship as Swedish. For festivity events a double salute was given. Four gun shots fired two and two. Here by the Swedish tradition of a fourfold cheer instead of a threefold.

United Kingdom

21-gun salutes mark special royal occasions throughout the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, referred to as a "Royal Salute" (in the British Empire it was reserved, mainly among colonial princely states, for the most prestigious category of native rulers of so-called salute states), unless rendered to the president or flag of a republic; nonetheless salutes rendered to all heads of state regardless of title are casually referred to as "royal" salutes.

The number of rounds fired in a salute depends on the place and occasion. The basic salute is 21 rounds. In Hyde Park and Green Park an extra 20 rounds are added because they are Royal Parks. At the Tower of London 62 rounds are fired on royal anniversaries (the basic 21, plus a further 20 because the Tower is a Royal Palace and Fortress, plus another 21 'for the City of London') and 41 on other occasions. The Tower of London probably holds the record for the most rounds fired in a single salute — 124 are fired whenever the Duke of Edinburgh's birthday (62 rounds) coincides with the Saturday designated as the Queen's official birthday (also 62 rounds).

Gun salutes occur on:

United States

A myth common in the United States of America relative to the origin of this tradition is that the year 1776 inspired the 21-gun salute. Beginning in the colonial period, the United States fired one shot for each state in the Union as its national salute.

On November 16, 1776, the West Indian port of St. Eustatius returned a 9 gun salute for the 13 gun salute given by the American brigantine Andrew Doria. At the time, nine guns was the customary salute to an independent republic. This First Salute was specifically ordered by the Dutch governor of the island, and marks the first formal international recognition of the United States as independent republic. The flag flown by the Andrew Doria was the Grand Union Flag, 13 alternating red and white stripes with the British Flag in the union. The Stars and Stripes received its first salute when John Paul Jones saluted France with 13 guns at Quiberon Bay in 1778 (The Stars and Stripes was not adopted as the national flag until June 14, 1777).

The practice of firing one gun for each state in the union was not officially authorized until 1810, when the United States Department of War declared the number of rounds fired in the 'National Salute' to be equivalent to the number of states—which, at the time was 17. The tradition continued until 1841 when it was reduced from 26 to 21.

Deaths of presidents


Cultural references

The title of the Green Day song 21 Guns is a reference to a 21-gun salute.

In the song For Those About to Rock by AC/DC 21-gun salutes are also mentioned.

The 21-gun salute are also mentioned in the song named Methods to your Madness by heavy metal band Metal Church

The 2000 U.S. Open Golf Championship, held at the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links, saw a unique twist on the 21-gun salute. The tournament's defending champion, Payne Stewart, had died in a plane crash the previous October. Before the tournament began, a ceremony was held in Stewart's memory in which 21 golfers lined up on the 18th fairway and hit drives into the Pacific Ocean.

See also


External links

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