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, here today as the nation celebrated its 65th Republic Day amid tight security.
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.
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.
Minutes before the parade began, the Prime Minister, Defence Minister A K 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.
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.
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.
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.
The leap in sophistication of IAF's training aircraft from the early Tiger Moth to the latest Pilatus PC-7 was also on display.
Another exhibit depicted the transformation in the fighter fleet from a Wapiti biplane to the state-of-art, air dominance fighter Sukhoi-30 MKI. Similar transformation in the transport fleet of IAF from the Dakota DC-3 to the C-17 Globe Master was also shown.
The navy's tableau depicted a scaled-down model of a submarine, one of the most potent and deadly military platforms in its arsenal.
Over the years, the submarine operations have grown in scope and complexity and today the Indian Navy operates nuclear-powered submarines which have greater punch and reach and can remain under water for longer durations.
The marching contingents of the navy was led by Surgeon Lieutenant Ambika Nautiyal while the air force contingent was headed by Squadron Leader Manvender Singh.
The marching contingents of paramilitary and other forces included those from BSF, Assam Rifles, Coast Guard, CRPF, Indo -Tibetan Border Police, CISF, Sashastra Seema Bal, Railway Protection Force, Delhi Police, National Cadet Corps and National Service Scheme.
The camel-mounted band of BSF and the ex-servicemen marching contingent was another major attraction.
After the armed forces and police formations came the country's rich cultural part which was depicted in 18 tableaux — 13 from states and five from ministries.
From the construction of the Pir Panjal Railway Tunnel in Kashmir to a tribute to Assamese singer Bhupen Hazarika, and from the story of the valiant Tipu Sultan to celebration of Pongal, the themes of the tableaux reflected the country's cultural heritage, diversity and its achievements.
The first tableau to roll down the Rajpath was from Uttar Pradesh, titled 'Subah-e-Banaras'. It showcased the rich heritage of the holy city of Benaras (Varanasi).
The tableau from Meghalaya highlighted the importance of arecanut, the popular cash crop of the state and its role in boosting the livelihood of the locals.
The Jammu and Kashmir tableau displayed the multi- cultural landscape and conflux of nomadic communities. The tableau carried a reference to the world's first cloned pashmina goat, 'Noori', and the pashmina-making process.
The Assam tableau highlighted contribution of Bhupen Hazarika, the 'Golden Voice of Assam' while the tableau from Tamil Nadu celebrated Pongal, the harvest festival.
The tableau from Maharashtra was a life-size boat celebrating 'Narali Poornima', the coconut festival of the Koli (fisherman) community.
One of the engrossing concepts this year was from Karnataka, which through its tableau paid tribute to Tipu Sultan, who was also called 'Mysore Tiger'.
Known for being a treasure house of medicinal herbs, Uttarakhand's tableau recounted the role of herbal medicine dating back to the 'Sanjeevani Booti' from the Hindu epic Ramayana.
'Purulia Chhau', the dance form using masks, featured on West Bengal's tableau while Rajasthan highlighted 'Terah Taali' dance, which is performed in the Mewar and Marwar regions of the state.
The Ministry of Earth Sciences showcased Indian scientists carrying out research work in Antarctica while Ministries of Agriculture and Tribal Affairs highlighted their achievements.
Twenty of the 25 children selected for the National Bravery Award–2013 also participate in the parade. Five children were awarded posthumously.
In the children's pageant section, nearly 1,000 boys and girls drawn from four schools in Delhi and one from North-East Zonal Cultural Centre, Arunachal Pradesh, presented dances and other items.
A breath-taking performance by BSF's motorcycle team 'Janbaz' enthralled the spectators as they performed 'side riding', 'ladder double', 'neck riding', 'harmony', 'human pyramid' and other exercises.
The grand finale of the parade was a spectacular flypast by IAF. The flypast commenced with 'chakra' formation, comprising three Mi-35 helicopters in 'vic' formation, followed by another 'vic' formation by three C-130J Super Hercules aircraft.
Trailing them was a 'globe' formation comprising one C-17 Globemaster flanked by two Su-30s fighter aircraft.
Then came five Jaguars flying in 'arrowhead' formation, another five Mig-29 air superiority fighters called 'tridents' flew in 'fulcrum' style.
The Mig-29s were followed by three Su-30 MKI which, while flying over the saluting base split the formation, making a 'trishul' in the sky.
The finale to the flypast was a 'vertical charlie' manoeuvre by a Su-30 MKI over the saluting base.