New Delhi, Jan.26 (ANI): India on Thursday showcased its military might and cultural heritage at its 63rd Republic Day Parade in the heart of the national capital New Delhi.
It was an impressive display of armour and unmanned aerial vehicles, despite the early morning chill.
People from all walks of life gathered along the eight-kilomter-long parade route from the majestic Rajpath to the historic 17th century Red Fort to cheer the armed forces contingents and various tableaux depicting the country's diverse culture.
The parade was led by General Officer Commanding (Delhi area) Lt. Gen. V. K. Pillai. All participating formations proudly marched past the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, President Pratibha Patil, who took the salute.
The chief guest at this year's parade was Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Other dignitaries present on the occasion were Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister A K Antony, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Marshal of Air Force Arjan Singh and top political and military brass.
Earlier, police and other paramilitary forces turned Delhi into a a virtual fortress for the Republic Day celebrations.
Helicpoters were pressed into service, while snipers kept a vigil from rooftops.
Armed personnel were present across the capital as part of the annual ground-to-air security arrangement.
The parade was preceded by Prime Minister Singh, Defence Minister A.K.Antony and the service chiefs paying homage at the Amar Jawan Jyoti, an eternal flame in the memory of martyrs who have laid down their lives while defending the nation.
The parade commenced after the customary 21-gun salute and the unfurling of the tricolour, and President Patil presenting the Ashok Chakra, the highest peacetime gallantry award, posthumously to Lieutenant Navdeep Singh who died while foiling an infiltration attempt by four Pakistan-based terrorists along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir last August.
Four Mi-17 helicopters showered flower petals on thousands of spectators. Winners of the Param Vir Chakra, the highest war-time gallantry award and Ashok Chakra and mounted columns of 61 Cavalry also participated in the parade.
The Indian Army's impressive weaponry was also on display through its T-72 tanks, Carrier Motor Tracked vehicle, Smerch missile Launcher, Multi Barrel Rocket System 'Pinaka' and Full Width Mine Plough.
The Nuclear- Biological-Chemical Purification System and the Jammer Station was also on display.
The Army also conducted a flypast of three indegenously made advanced light helicopters Dhruv.
The Army contingent included the Parachute Regiment, Bengal Engineer Group, The Brigade of the Guards, Kumaon Regiment, Assam Regiment, Mahar Regiment and Gorkha Rifles marched to the tunes of 'Arjuna', Thimmaya, 'Gangotri' and 'Veer Gorkha' military numbers.
Smartly-dressed Navy personnel and an Air Force contingent led by Flight Lieutenant Sneha Shekhawat marching to the tunes of 'Jai Bharati' and 'Air Battle'.
The Navy showcased models of the Delhi Class guided missile destroyer and IL-38 (Sea Dragon) Long-Range Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft.
The 3,000-km-range nuclear-capable Agni-IV missile, successfully flight tested in November last year, stole the limelight as people cheered and clapped when the weapons system's model came near them. Commentaries gave an insight into the capabilities of the sophisticated missile system.
The DRDO also put on display for the first time the 150- km range Prahaar tactical battlefield support missile and the Rustom-1 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).
Other marching contingents were those of camel-mounted BSF, Assam Rifles, Coast Guard, CRPF, ITBP, CISF, SSB, RPF, Delhi Police, NCC and NSS.
States and different departments put up an impressive show of India's rich cultural diversity through 23 tableaux -- 13 from states and ten from ministries.
West Bengal became a part of the parade after 13 years as it showcased the university town of Shantiniketan, the abode of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore.
The Jammu and Kashmir tableaux depicted the architectural heritage of Srinagar during the medieval period, while the Chhatisgarh tableaux showcased the Dondaki art and claywork by artists late Sonabhai Rajwar, Darogaram and Atmadas Manikpuri.
Maharashtra displayed its rich culture, natural wonders and historical monuments and attractive tourist destinations.
Meghalaya depicted the Jaintia Festivals and a colourful dance by a tribal community. Rajasthan brought alive the Amer Fort that lies on the outskirts of state capital Jaipur.
Assam showcased its enthralling Bhortal dance, while the Punjab focussed Maharaja Ranjit Singh atop the Lahore fort.
Goa, Nagaland and Sikkim also showcased their cultural heritage.
There were also tableaux from the textile ministry, the HRD ministry, the Indian Railways and the Election Commission.
Tribal Affairs Ministry, CPWD, Finance Ministry, Agriculture Ministry, Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, and Steel also showcased their achievements.
More than 450 artists, fabricators and designers were involved in the making of these tableaux.
After the tableaux, 21 national bravery award winners drove along Rajpath in gypsies and were greeted by a huge applause.
About 1,200 students enthralled the spectators with a spectacular performance of various dance forms.
A folk ritual from Tamil Nadu to please the goddess of health and rain, fisherman dance from Maharashtra and a ritual related to Odisha were among the highlights of youngsters' performances. (ANI)
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Pankaj SinghJanuary 27, 2012 at 12:16 PM