India marked its Diamond Jubilee as a republic today with nation-wide celebrations that included an impressive parade down Raj Path in the capital depicting the country's military prowess, its air power, its development in various fields and its rich and diverse cultural heritage.
It was on this day in 1950, three years after attaining independence from British rule, that the nation had adopted its Constitution.
The main event of the day - the Republic Day Parade down Rajpath - began under a blanket of dense fog over the capital that had reduced visibility to less than a hundred metres. Similar parades and various cultural events were held in all state capitals and all other cities and towns to mark the occasion.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak was the Chief Guest at the parade in Delhi, at which President Pratibha Patil took the salute. Vice-President M Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Union Ministers, ruling United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, diplomats, senior officials and thousands of people were present.
Millions more watched the parade live on television, with most channels telecasting the event live.
The entire city was under a tight security umbrella given intelligence warnings of possible by terrorist groups.
The parade ceremony began at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate where Dr Singh led the nation in paying homage to martyrs by laying a wreath.
An eternal flame burns at the Amar Jawan Jyoti to commemorate the indomitable courage of the Armed Forces personnel who have made the supreme sacrifice for the country. The Amar Jawan, the immortal soldier, is symbolised by a reversed rifle topped by a helmet.
Dr Singh was received by Defence Minister A K Antony when he arrived at the venue of the parade. Later, the Prime Minister received the President and Mr Lee when they arrived together.
After the National Tricolour was unfurled and the National Anthem was played as per tradition, the President conferred the Ashok Chakra, the nation's highest peacetime gallantry award, on Major D. Sreeram Kumar of 39 Assam Rifles, Major Mohit Sharma (posthumous) of 1st Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (Special Forces) and Havildar Rajesh Kumar (posthumous) of 11th Battalion, The Rajputana Rifles.
The President then took the salute at the parade, which was commanded by Lt. General Kanwal Jeet Singh Oberoi, General Officer Commanding, Delhi Area. Brig Kuldip Singh was the parade Second-in-Command.
Param Vir Chakra winners Subedar Major (Honorary captain) Bana Singh (retd), Havildar Sanjay Kumar, 13 JAK RIF and Havildar Yogendra Singh Yadav, 18 Grenadiers and Ashok Chakra Winners Lt Col Jas Ram Singh (retd), Brigadier C A Pithawalla, Cdr, HQ 3 Sect Rashtriya Rifles and Hony Naib subedar Chhering Mutup (retd) followed the Deputy Parade Commander on Jeeps.
The highlight of this year’s parade were the indigenous main battle tank Arjun, Smerch Multiple Launch Rocket System, Armoured Engineer Recce Vehicle, Sarvatra Bridge, Electronic Warfare System, Samyukta, ICV BMP-II Sarath, Ambulance Tracked and advanced light helicopter Dhruv.
The Armed Forces also displayed the indigenous systems being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRD), including the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, Agni-III Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile, Shourya Surface-to-Surface Strategic Missile and the Rohini Radar.
There were loud cheers as a bevy of the country's best-known sportspersons, including boxer Vijender Singh, wrestler Sushil Kumar, weightlifter K Malleshwari, athlete P T Usha, shooter Samresh Jung, badminton player Pullela Gopichand, former hockey captains AjitPal Singh and Zafar Iqbal, swimmer Khajan Singh and veteran Olympian Milkha Singh passed by on the tableau of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.
The marching contingents of the Army included the horse-mounted columns of the 61st Cavalry, the Brigade of the Guards, Madras Regiment, Jat Regiment, Sikh Regiment, Dogra Regiment, Bihar Regiment, Gorkha Regiment and the Territorial Army.
The marching contingents of the Navy comprising 144 men were led by Lt. Commander Ajay Verma and the Air Force contingent comprising 148 men by Sq. Ldr. R. Katoch.
The marching contingents of paramilitary and other auxiliary civil forces included contingents from the Border Security Force (BSF), Assam Rifles, Coast Guard, Central Reserve Police Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Central Industrial Security Force, Sashastra Seema Bal, Railway Protection Force, Delhi Police, National Cadet Corps and National Service Scheme. The camel-mounted band of the BSF was, as usual, a major attraction.
Tableaux from 21 states and Central Ministries and Departments presented the varied historical, architectural and cultural heritage of the country and showcased country’s progress in different fields.
Nineteen of the 21 children selected for the National Bravery Award – 2009 also participated in the parade. Two children have got the award posthumously.
In the children’s pageant section, 750 boys and girls drawn from Kamal Model Senior Secondary School, Mohan Garden, Vandana International School, Dwarka, Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya Yamuna Vihar, Government Girls’ Senior Secondary School, Maujpur, Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya Samlaka, Delhi and North-East Zone Cultural Centre, Dimapur different school of Delhi and regional cultural zones presented dances and other programmes.
Jaanbaz, the motorcycle display by men of the BSF drew big cheers. It consisted of 178 riders on 34 motorcycles performing Border Man Salute, Back Riding, Ladder Balancing, Guldasta, Operation Tawar, Seema Chowki Buland, Seema Prahari and Flag March under the leadership of Inspector Gurpreet Singh. They performed breathtaking stunts in a synchronised and synergetic display of coordination of mind, body and machine.
The grand finale was a spectacular flypast by the IAF, despite the foggy conditions, with the AWACS participating in the parade for the first time. One IL-78, flanked by two AN-32 and two Dornier, flying in Big Boy formation, led the flypast. This was followed by one AWACS, flanked by two Su-30 MKI, flying in Sentry formation. Five Jaguars followed by five MiG-29 flew in Arrowhead formation. The breathtaking Trishul formation comprising three Su-30 MKI flew over Rajpath and, when in front of the saluting dais, the Su-30MKI aircraft at the centre carried out a Vertical Charlie manoeuvre.
The ceremony ended with the National Anthem and release of colourful balloons that brightened up the overcast sky