Multi-hued images of India's rich cultural heritage, its achievements in diverse fields and military prowess were on majestic display at the magnificent Rajpath, the ceremonial boulevard, in New Delhi on Sunday as the nation celebrated its 65th Republic Day amid tight security.
There were apprehensions that the uncertain weather might force the cancellation or curtailment of the flypast that concludes the event but the mist lifted almost at the last minute.
Marching down from the seat of power at Raisina Hills to Red Fort, the parade showcased India's 'unity in diversity' and defence capability as thousands of spectators along the 8-km-long route cheered the contingents and the mechanised columns.
The well-turned out and synchronised military and police contingents led by General Officer Commanding (Delhi), Lt General Subroto Mitra, marched proudly to the lilting tunes of bands through Rajpath where President and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces Pranab Mukherjee took the salute.
The march past was watched by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the chief guest of the Republic Day celebration, vice-president Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and the country's top political and military brass, besides the diplomatic community.
It was the coldest Republic Day in a decade at a minimum of 9.9 degrees Celsius, forcing spectators - commoners and dignitaries alike - to swathe themselves in layers of protective clothing.
Braving the winter chill, a large number of enthusiastic people came to witness the parade that culminated at the historic Mughal monument of Red Fort.
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Minutes before the parade began, the Prime Minister, defence minister AK Antony and chiefs of army, navy and air force laid wreaths at 'Amar Jawan Jyoti', the war memorial at the India Gate where an eternal flame burns in memory of those who laid down their lives defending the frontiers of the nation.
A massive ground-to-air security apparatus was put in place in the national capital to ensure an incident-free Republic Day celebrations. Snipers of National Security Guard were deployed at all high-rises along the parade route.
Around 25,000 security personnel were deployed across the city while the commandos of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and Delhi Police kept vigil at important locations.
School students painted in the colours of the tricolour perform a dance during Republic Day celebrations in Secunderabad. (AFP photo)
The unfurling of the tricolour by the President and playing of the national anthem were followed by a customary 21-gun salute. Among others who witnessed the parade at Rajpath was Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
The parade began shortly after Mukherjee and Abe arrived at the saluting base at Rajpath escorted by the President's bodyguards riding bedecked horses.
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Before commencement of the parade, Sub Inspector K Prasad Babu of Andhra Pradesh's counter-Maoist force was posthumously conferred the highest peacetime gallantry award Ashok Chakra. Babu was honoured for an anti-Naxal operation during which he led an assault unit of Greyhounds (anti-Naxal force of Andhra Pradesh) near Andhra-Chhattisgarh border.
The main attractions of the parade were scintillating show of air power, fascinating tableaux depicting the diverse culture and dance by colourfully dressed schoolchildren.
A highlight of this year's parade was the display of India's first indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft Tejas. Tejas is a fourth generation, supersonic, multi-role combat aircraft designed and developed by DRDO.
Main battle tank Arjun MK-II, the first indigenously designed and developed tank, also referred to as 'Desert Ferrari' for its excellent mobility, was also on display.
The recently inducted transport aircraft C-130J Super Hercules, which is optimised for undertaking special operations, and the gigantic C-17 Globemaster, a heavy lift, long-range aircraft, were major attractions of this year's flypast.
Traditional dancers from Odisha perform the Tiger Dance during Republic Day celebrations in Bhubaneswar. (AFP photo)
DRDO displayed the 'Astra' and 'Helina' missiles, models of an underwater vehicle, mini UAV-NETRA, tracked surveillance vehicle Muntra S and unmanned aerial vehicle-'Nishant'.
The weaponry put on display by the Indian Army included T-90 tank 'Bheeshma', multi-launcher rocket system Smerch, Brahmos weapon system and transportable satellite terminals.
A flypast by the Advanced Light Helicopter 'Dhruv' of the Army Aviation Corps drew loud cheers from the spectators.
The marching contingents of the army included horse-mounted columns of the 61st Cavalry, the Parachute Regiment, Punjab Regiment, Madras Regiment, Rajputana Rifles, Mahar Regiment, Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry Regiment, 9 Gorkha Rifles and 103 Infantry Battalion.
The Indian Air Force tableau presented the story of its transformation over the past eight decades, highlighting its fighting prowess.
In a first, national broadcaster Doordarshan broadcast high definition live streaming of the Republic Day parade on the internet.
The crystal clear picture quality arrived on computers, laptops and mobile phones, barely a few seconds behind the actual proceedings.
It was a welcome development for those unable to watch it on television screens.
(With inputs from IANS)