New Delhi: India on Saturday celebrated the 70th Republic Day with a grand military parade and exhibition of its history, cultural diversity and strategic weaponry at the Rajpath — the city’s centrepiece boulevard — in presence of thousands of spectators including foreign dignitaries and the country’s top political and military brass.
South African President Ramaphosa was the chief guest at the 90-minute celebrations marking the anniversary of the day when the world’s biggest democracy was proclaimed as a republic in 1950.
The Republic Day parade ceremony commenced with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, wearing a yellowish orange turban, leading the nation in paying homage to the fallen soldiers by laying a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti under India Gate.
An eternal flame burns at the Amar Jawan Jyoti to commemorate the indomitable courage of our armed forces personnel who have made the supreme sacrifice in the service of the country.
As per tradition, after unfurling the tricolour, the national anthem was played with a 21 gun salute following which President Ram Nath Kovind took the salute of marching contingents.
Alongside Ramphosa, the ceremonial parade was watched by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and the country’s top political and military brass.
Gandhi dominates Republic Day parade
A total of 22 tableaux, 16 from states and union territories and six from central government ministries and departments, were part of the cultural parade overall theme of which was life and ideals of Mahatma Gandhi. This year, India is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of the father of the nation.
Ramphosa’s presence at the celebrations was significant as Gandhi’s 21-year stay in South Africa played a pivotal role in moulding him into the strongest advocate of non-violence of his time.
The tableau of Gujarat depicted Mahatma Gandhi’s historical ‘Dandi March’, which shook the foundation of the British empire. Karnataka showcased his momentous efforts at the Belagavi Congress session on 26-27 December 1924 while the tableau of Uttarakhand depicted Anashakti ashram. India’s cultural diversity was also on full display at the celebrations.
The tableau of Maharashtra portrayed the ‘Quit India movement’ while the tableau of Andaman and Nicobar showcased Mahatma Gandhi’s message to the inmates of the cellular jail in Andaman.
A major highlight of the parade was participation of four Indian National Army (INA) veterans — Parmanand, Lalti Ram, Hira Singh and Bhagmal, all aged over 90 years, for the first time. The other highlights include the display of American howitzers M777, the Main Battle Tank (MBT) T-90 and indigenously developed Akash weapons system.
While the rulers of the country based in New Delhi are finally recognising the contribution of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose under the Modi regime, the simultaneous celebration of Gandhi and his bête noire in the Congress raised many eyebrows, with people questioning what path Modi is choosing for the country.
‘Nari Shakti’ (women power) was on full display at the Rajpath with an all-woman Assam Rifles contingent creating history by participating for the first time in the parade, which was led by Maj Khushboo Kanwar.
Contingents of the Navy, Army Service Corps and a unit of Corps of Signals (transportable satellite terminal) were led by women officers.
The all-women Assam Rifles contingent created history this year by participating for the first time in a Republic Day parade.
Contingents of the Navy, India Army Service Corps and a unit of Corps of Signals (transportable satellite terminal) were all led by women officers.
Capt Shikha Surabhi from the Corps of Signals became the first woman to perform bike stunts, alongside her male teammates as part of daredevils, a major attraction every Republic Day. Her standing salute from the bike drew loud applause from the audience.
For the first time, a lady officer, Lt. Bhavana Kasturi. led a contingent of the India Army Service Corps and Capt Bhavna Syal, a third-generation officer in the armed forces, led the transportable satellite terminal’s contingent.
Jallianwala Bagh was the theme of Punjab tableau, which evoked memories of the watershed moment in the independence struggle. Assam came out with a tableau depicting Mahatma Gandhi’s movement in the state and his dream of rebuilding the rural economy by encouraging the growth of cottage industry.
Twenty-six children including six girls and 20 boys awardees of Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puruskar for their “exceptional achievement” also graced the occasion.
The children awarded with Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar were all smiles as they greeted President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi with folded hands as they passed the Rajpath during the Republic Day parade.
The children, awarded by President Kovind on Tuesday, stood up in a decked-up open jeep and gleefully waved at the crowd gathered to celebrate the 70th Republic Day.
President Kovind and Prime Minister Modi waved back at the children.
The Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar was given to 26 children and under two main categories Bal Shakti Puraskar and Bal Kalyan Puraskar.
The Bal Shakti Puraskar was given to boys and girls for their outstanding work in the fields of innovation, scholastic, sports, arts and culture, social service and bravery.
The Bal Kalyan Puraskar was given to individuals and institutions for their commendable contribution and service in the field of child welfare.
The youngest awardee was seven-year-old Eiha Dixit, who waved excitedly at the crowd as she paraded in front of them.
Among other Bal Shakti Puraskar awardees in the field of innovation were Mohammad Suhail Chinya Salimpasha, Arunima Sen, Aswath Suryanarayanan Sen, Naisargik Lenka, A U Nachiketh Kumar and Madhav Lavakare.
In the field of social service, Aryamaan Lakhotia, Prathyaksha B R and Eiha Dixit were awarded.
In scholastics, Ayushman Tripathy, Megha Bose and Nishant Dhankhar bagged the award.
In art and culture, Raam M, Dev Dushyant Kumar Joshi, Vinayaka M, Aryaman Agarwal and Truptraj Atul Pandya were awarded.
In sports, Shivangi Pathak, Esow, Priyam Tated, Anish and Vijay Deokule were given the award.
Kartik Kumar Goyal, Adrika Goyal and Nikhil Dayanand Jituri were given bravery awards.
As many as 616 schoolchildren also performed during the Republic Day event in Delhi.
Three schools were selected by the Directorate of Education and the Defence Ministry to perform at the function and children from East Zone Cultural Centre also participated in the event.
India celebrated the Republic Day with a grand display of its military might and rich cultural diversity as the ceremonial parade rolled down the majestic Rajpath here in presence of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa as the chief guest.
The theme of this year’s celebrations was principles of Mahatma Gandhi.
Thousands of restless people were stunned into a brief silence, their eyes rolled towards skies and ears buzzing to the humming sound as the Indian Air Force planes roared over the majestic Rajpath during the 70th Republic Day parade on Saturday.
Imaginations flew as people stood motionless.
A huge round of applause broke the silence when four helicopters in inverted Y/Wine glass formation carried the national flag and respective service ensigns, marking the beginning of the flypast, a sought-after event during the annual Republic Day parade.
The Rudra formation, comprising three ALH Mk IV WSI helicopters, flew in ‘Vic’ formation. The ‘Dhruv’ formation consisting of two advanced light helicopters and two armed versions of the ALH named ‘RUDRA’ of Army aviation flew in ‘Diamond formation’.
The Hercules formation, comprising three C-130J Super Hercules, roared past the Rudra helicopters, with people yelling and cheering the mighty aircraft.
A C-17 Globemaster flanked by two SU-30 MKIs of the Indian Air Force flew in globe formation at a speed of 500kmph while five Jaguar deep-penetration strike aircraft in arrowhead formation flew at a speed of 780kmph.
The airborne early-warning and control system aircraft ‘Netra’ with state-of-the-art early warning radar and a host of advanced electronic warfare equipment also made its presence felt during the flypast.
The flypast culminated with a lone Su-30 MKI, flying at a speed of 900 kmph, splitting the sky with ‘vertical charlie.’
Other aircraft that participated in the flypast were MiG-29 Upgrade Air Superiority Fighters and AN-32 aircraft.
The ceremony culminated with the national anthem and release of balloons.
Modi waved to the crowd after the conclusion of the ceremony and was greeted with loud cheers.
The marching contingents of the Army included the Madras Regiment, the Rajputana Rifles, the Sikh Regiment and the Gorkha Brigade.
The naval contingent comprised of 144 young sailors led by Lieutenant Commander Ambika Sudhakarn. It was followed by naval tableau titled, ‘Indian Navy – Combat Ready Force for National Security’.
The national capital was brought under a massive security cover for the event as it took place days after two suspected Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists were arrested.