India marked its 71st Republic Day with many firsts as it displayed its military might and cultural diversity during the 90-minute parade at Rajpath, in the heart of New Delhi, with multi-layered security in place.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was attendance as the guest of honour with President Ram Nath Kovind, vice-president M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defence minister Rajnath Singh among others watching the parade and tableaus on Rajpath.
Prime Minister Modi greeted the nation early in the morning before the Republic Day ceremony started.
"Wishing everyone a happy #RepublicDay," PM Modi wrote on Twitter.
The Prime Minister in a saffron turban, breaking from tradition, visited the National War Memorial instead of the Amar Jawan Jyoti, where he lead the nation in paying tributes to the martyrs by laying a wreath.
The National War Memorial was built in the memory of the soldiers killed in action since Independence near India Gate.
Amidst the celebrations, several low-intensity blasts suspected to be carried out by the banned United Liberation Front of Assam-Independent (ULFA-I) using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) rocked parts of upper Assam.
Militant outfits in Assam and rest of the northeast routinely call for a boycott on Republic Day and Independence Day and carry out minor blasts to register their presence and create panic.
India's armed forces took centre-stage at the grand parade as they displayed the army's battle tank Bhishma, Infantry Combat Vehicle Ballway Machine Pikate and the air force's brand new Rafale fighter jet and the newly inducted Chinook and Apache helicopters.
The long-range artillery gun Dhanush, commanded by Indian Army Captain Mrigank Bharadwaj, was a part of the Republic Day celebrations at Rajpath for the first time.
The 155mm/45 Caliber Dhanush gun system is a towed Howitzer designed indigenously by the Ordnance Factory Board. The gun with a maximum range of 36.5km has the capability of automatic gun alignment and positioning.
An all-woman bikers contingent of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) also made its debut at the 71st Republic Day. Inspector Seema Nag, who is posted with the Rapid Action Force (RAF), commanded the contingent and was seen saluting while standing on top of a moving motorcycle.
The women bikers wowed the audience with several daredevil stunts and concluded by forming a human pyramid of 21 personnel on five motorcycles.
Another highlight was the marching contingent of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) that showcased the anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) - Mission Shakti.
Mission Shakti, India's first anti-satellite mission, was a major breakthrough in demonstrating the nation's capability to bring down hostile satellites.
The newly-inducted Chinook heavy lift and Apache attack choppers were also displayed for the first time during the parade at the majestic Rajpath.
The marching contingent of the Corps of Army Air Defence, led by Capt Vikas Kumar Sahu of Army Air Defence Centre, also made its debut on Rajpath during the Republic Day parade.
The Republic Day parade was commanded by parade commander Lt General Asit Mistry, General Officer Commanding, Delhi Area. Major General Alok Kacker, Chief of Staff of Delhi Area, will be the second-in-command.
The first contingent in the uniform of the erstwhile Gwalior Lancers was 61 Cavalry – the only active serving horse cavalry regiment in the world. It was raised on August 1, 1953, with the amalgamation of six state forces' cavalry units.
The Indian Army was represented by a mounted column of 61 Cavalry, eight mechanised columns, six marching contingents and fly-past by Rudra and Dhruv Advanced Light helicopters of its aviation wing.
The other marching contingents of the army included the Parachute regiment, the Grenadiers Regiment, the Sikh Light Infantry Regiment, the Kumaon Regiment and the Corps of Signals.
Indigenously-developed Main Battle Tank of the Indian Army, T-90 Bhishma tank, infantry combat vehicle Ballway Machine Pikate, K-9 Vajra and Dhanush guns, transportable satellite terminal and Akash weapon system were the main attractions in the mechanised columns.
The Indian Navy contingent comprised 144 sailors led by Lieutenant Jitin Malkat. It was followed by the naval tableau – 'Indian Navy - Silent, Strong, and Swift'.
The IAF contingent, comprising 144 air warriors, will be led by Flight Lt Shrikant Sharma. The air force tableau will showcase scaled-down models of the Rafale and Tejas aircraft, the Light Combat Helicopter, the Akash missiles system and the Astra missiles.
Tableaux and fly-pasts
Sixteen tableaux from various states and Union territories, including from the newly-created Jammu and Kashmir, depicted rich cultural diversity of the country.
Several reforms of the government, including Start-up India and Jal Jeevan Mission, were also showcased in six tableaux from different ministries and departments.
School children from Delhi performed yoga and several dances, including on a song by Rabindranath Tagore, during the parade.
The recipients of Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puruskar 2020 also participated in the Republic Day parade.
There were 49 children, including 18 girls and 31 boys, who received the award in the fields of bravery, innovation, scholastic, sports, arts, culture, social service and music.
The fly-past – the grand finale and the most keenly awaited segment of the parade – comprised the 'Trishul' formation by three advanced light helicopters.
This Republic Day parade also had a "tri-service formation" for the first time. It was followed by the 'Vic' formation of Chinook helicopters, used for airlifting diverse loads to remote locations.
Apache helicopters, Dornier aircraft, C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, an Airborne Early Warning and Control System aircraft and the "globe formation" comprising three C-17 Globemasters also enthralled the audience.
Five Jaguar Deep penetration strike aircraft and five MiG-29 upgrade air superiority fighters in 'Arrowhead' formation displayed their aerial manoeuvre.
A fleet of Sukhoi-30 MKI jets splitting the sky with a breathtaking 'Vertical Charlie' aerobatic manoeuvre was last attraction of the Republic Day parade.