Colour, pomp, canines and camels, daredevilry and a sharp display of India’s military strength; the 67th Republic Day was a spectacle that didn’t fail to impress. French president Francois Hollande was the chief guest at this year’s parade, representing a nation that has now become the most invited foreign country for the January 26 spectacle that celebrates the adoption of the constitution in 1950.
The parade that last almost two hours started with Prime Minister Narendra Modi paying tribute at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate to the many soldiers who died in the line of duty since World War I. Modi then received President Pranab Mukherjee and President Francois Hollande at the saluting base.
The parade this year had quite a few differences that the previous years, including a lesser number of marching contingents, a tableau dedicated to ex-servicemen instead of a marching contingent, awarding the young recipients of the National Awards for Bravery towards the end, followed by the children’s pageant, a daredevil motorcycle display by the Corps of Signals, and the flypast and heavy-lift transports and helicopters of the Indian Air Force.
A total of 23 tableaux were on display at the 67th Republic Day parade with 17 of them belonging to various states and Union Territories. Six tableaux from Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, New and Renewable energy, Drinking Water and Sanitation, Communication and IT, Panchayati Raj and Election Commission also found their place at the ceremonial parade on the Rajpath. Sates which registered their presence this year include Assam, Goa, Sikkim, Rajasthan, Chandigarh, Tripura, Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Gujarat. However, there was no tableau from national capital Delhi for the third consecutive year.
Here are five highlights of the parade that saw quite a few firsts:
-- After a gap of 26 years, the Indian army’s dog squad was part of the parade. Drawn from the Army’s Remount Veterinary Corps, the canines marched in the striped coats of their unit’s colours of maroon and gold. The Labradors and German Shepherds usually work in the restive northern region of Kashmir detecting explosives and landmines or tracking in avalanches. Reportedly just 36 dogs of the 1,200 were chosen for the contingent and underwent weeks of training.
-- For the first time ever, a foreign contingent joined the celebrations as soldiers from France’s 35th Infantry Regiment, one of the country’s oldest active regiments, marched alongside their Indian counterparts. It was a reciprocal gesture after Indian troops marched down Paris’s Champs d’Elysees on Bastille Day in 2009. The Frenchmen had faced a little trouble during rehearsals as Indian troopers march at a slightly faster pace. However, they managed to sync with the rest of contingents. The infantry was preceded by a pipes and drums band and were seen saluting in an unusual style with the right hand held straight across the chest.
Members of the Men Daredevils Central Reserve Police Force and Rapid Action Force formed human pyramids and the lotus on Royal Enfields while in motion at Rajpath.
-- There was a small outcry after it was suggested the camel contingent, usually a mainstay of the parade, may be dropped this year. However, officials lived up to their reassurance that the brightly coloured dromedaries would march as they do every year. The camels, which patrol the Thar Desert near the border with Pakistan, make the journey from Rajasthan every year to participate in the parade, accompanied by their moustachioed border guards. Google also had its Republic Day-themed doodle designed around the brightly decked-out camels carrying bandsmen.
-- The finale of the parade was also the most anticipated part of it -- the flypast by the Indian Air Force starting with the Chakra formation with three Mi-35 helicopters. The showcase also included the Hercules-Vic formations by the C-130Jsuper Hercules aircrafts, and the Trishul by three Su-30 MKI. The VVIP enclosure was fitted with a sliding glass roof that was pushed back during the flypast to avoid a repeat of last year; US President Barack Obama was sheltered under a large umbrella when it suddenly began raining on unprepared organizers.