India displays military precision, glimpses of heritage at majestic R-Day parade
New Delhi: Over the years, the Republic Day parade in the national capital has come to be associated with an equal mix of military precision and a glimpse of the country's diverse cultural heritage and so it was on Tuesday - except that everything this year was rather business-like and minimalistic.
The display of military prowess was without flourish. President Pranab Mukherjee took the salute from an enclosed podium on the magnificent Rajpath boulevard as the chief guest on the occasion, French President Francois Hollande, looked on at the passing men and machines of the services.
For the first time, a contingent from the French 35th Infantry Regiment - elements of which had served in India in 1781-84 - was given the honour of leading the marching contingents and it performed with panache, preceded by a pipes and drums band and saluting in a rather unusual style with the right hand held straight across the chest.
The celebrations began with Prime Minister Narendra Modi - dressed in a brown bandgalla suit and sporting a saffron Gujarati turban - driving to the Amar Jawan Jyoti memorial to the Unknown Soldier at India Gate and laying a wreath in honour of the countless Indian soldiers who have died in battles since World War I.
Modi then drove up to the saluting base to receive Mukherjee and the visiting French president.
The President's Bodyguard presented the national salute, the tricolour was unfurled and the national anthem was played to set the tone for a rather poignant moment - the posthumous presentation of the Ashok Chakra, the country's highest gallantry award in peacetime. It was presented this year to the widow of Lance Naik Mohan Nath Goswami of the Parachute Regiment, who laid down his life while fighting terrorists in the Kashmir Valley last Septmeber.
The emotion on Mukherjee's face was visible as he presented the medal and the citation to Goswami's widow.
The French contingent apart, there was much that was different this time around. The armoured element was bare-boned - just the T-90 Bhishma main battle tank and the BMP infantry combat vehicle - the marching contingents were fewer, as were the massed bands.
Then, instead of a marching continent of ex-servicemen, there was a tableau dedicated to them in the first part of the parade, an army dog squad with handlers made an appearance after 26 years, and the camel-mounted troopers of the Border Security Force brought up the rear of the parade's military element.
Still, there were the perennials, most notably soldiers of the Parachute Regiment trotting down in quick time in full battle gear, tableaux and marching contingents of the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force, and also a representation of the central paramilitary forces like the CRPF and the Assam Rifles.
There was, of course, the stirring martial music: Â“Jai BharatiÂ”, Â“Galaxy RidersÂ”, Â“Desh Hamara Anmol HaiÂ”, Â“Vijay BharatÂ”, Â“Deshon Ka Sartaj BharatÂ”, Â“Kadam Kadam Badhaye JaÂ” and Â“Assam Rifles Ka Sipahi Desh Ka Shan BadhayeÂ”, to mention just a few.
But, in another break with tradition, the young recipients of the National Awards for Bravery came up towards the end, followed by the children's pageant, a daredevil motorcycle display by the Corps of Signals, and a grand flypast by fighters, heavy-lift transports and helicopters of the Indian Air Force.
In between all this were the tableaux, 23 of them, representing 17 states and six central ministries, showcasing among others the government's flagship Digital India and Swachh Bharat initiatives.
The tableaux, presenting India's varied historical, architectural and cultural heritage, came as a welcome relief as they showcased the country's progress in different spheres. What particularly caught the eye were floats from Goa, Gujarat, Odisha, West Bengal and Assam but one surely what the Central Public Works Department offers year after year - fully fabricated out of flowers and depicting a variety of themes.
Vice President Hamid Ansari, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, the three service chiefs, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, cabinet ministers, a host of dignitaries and a group of women achievers seated in a special enclosure were on hand to witness the hour-and-half long parade.
As the event ended, the stands quickly emptied out, with many perhaps wondering what Beating Retreat ceremony on Saturday, the precision display by the massed bands of the three services which brings the Republic Day celebrations to a close, would have in store.
Here are the highlights of the Republic day celebration
After a gap of 26 years, an Army dog squad drawn from the Remount Veterinary Corps (RVC) will also take part, along with their handlers
Trishul formation by air force
Motor cycle display team of Corps of Signals, popularly known as the “Dare Devils”
Dance representing everlasting sparkle of national river NirmalGanga
Songi Mukhota dance of Maharashtra
Panchayati Raj Tableau
Swachh Bharat Tableau
Election Commission Tableau
Tableau from Bihar
Tableau from Rajasthan
Tableau from West Bengal
BSF and Pak rangers official exchange sweets
#Brahmos WPN system goes past the saluting base
#Akash Weapon System of 27 Air Defence Regiment led by Major Neha Singh.
Close-up of the French contingent marching in the parade
The Akash Weapon System of 27 Air Defence Regiment led by Major Neha Singh.
Major Neha Singh leads Defence Regiment
President Pranab Mukherjee, Francois Hollande arrive at Rajpath
Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave President Mukherjee and Hollande a warm welcome as they arrived at the main viewing gallery along Rajpath.
President Hollande is the chief guest for the 67th Republic Day celebrations.
President Pranab Mukherjee, French President Francois Hollande, and Vice President Hamid Ansari have left Rashtrapati Bhavan for Republic Day celebrations at Rajpath.
PM pays tribute at Amar Jawan Jyoti
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh hoists national flag at his residence in Delhi
Google's Republic Day Tribute
Renowned Sand Artist Sudarsan Pattnaik too created a sand art on the occasion of India's 67th Republic Day today.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended Republic Day greetings to the Nation
PM Modi took to Twitter early this morning paying tribute to Babasaheb Ambedkar, the father of India's constitution.
RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat hoists national flag at Nagpur
Meanwhile, BJP President Amit Shah hoisted the national flag at party headquarters in Delhi
President Pranab Mukherjee offers warm greetings to people of India and Australia