Colourful tableaux depicting the myriad hues of country's diversity, a vibrant performance by students and armed forces in full battle regalia -- the Republic Day parade on Wednesday had 'mini-India' in itself.
Marching down from the Raisina Hills to Red Fort, the parade showcased India's 'unity in diversity' and the military might as thousands of spectators along the eight km long route cheered the marching contingents and the mechanised columns.
The well turned out and synchronised military and police contingents led by General Officer Commanding (Delhi) Maj Gen Manvendra Singh marched proudly to the lilting tunes of bands through the Rajpath where President and Supreme Commander of Armed Forces Pratibha Patil took the salute.
The march-past was watched by the Republic Day chief guest Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister A K Antony and the country's top political and military brass.
The capital had turned into a security fortress for the event as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and helicopters scanned the capital from air, snipers kept a hawk-eye vigil from rooftops and armed personnel at "every corner" provided a ground-to-air security apparatus.
Minutes before the parade began, Singh, Antony and chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force laid wreaths at 'Amar Jawan Jyoti', the British-era World War-I memorial at India Gate, where an eternal flame burns in memory of those who laid down their lives while defending the nation's frontiers.
The parade began shortly after Patil and her Indonesian counterpart arrived at the Rajpath escorted by the President's 46 bodyguards riding well-trained and impeccably-bedecked horses.
After the President unfurled the tricolour and a customary 21-gun salute, an Army doctor Major Laishram Jyotin Singh was awarded posthumously the highest peacetime gallantry award -- the Ashok Chakra -- for his bravery while fighting militants during an attack on Indians in Kabul. He was the first Army doctor receiving Ashok Chakra.
Four Mi-17 helicopters then zoomed in from the western skies and showered flower petals on the spectators, signalling the beginning of the parade followed by the winners of the Param Vir Chakra and Ashok Chakra and mounted columns of 61 Cavalry.
The grand finale of the parade was as usual a spectacular flypast by the IAF, the Mi-25 attack helicopter participating for the first time. Three Mi-25 in Chakra formation led the flypast, followed by the Big Boy formation of one IL-78 refueller, flanked by two AN-32 and two Dornier. After this came the fighter jets, with five Jaguars flying in Arrowhead formation, followed by five MiG-29s flying in Fulcrum formation.
The flypast concluded with the breathtaking Trishul formation as three Sukhoi Su-30 MKI performed the Vertical Charlie manoeuvre in front of the Saluting Base.
The ceremony culminated with the National Anthem and release of orange, white and green balloons.