New Delhi: India on January 26 celebrated its 62nd Republic Day, displaying its military might and vibrant cultural diversity, a spectacle witnessed by the country’s who’s who and tens of thousands of enthusiastic commoners on a grand boulevard in the heart of Delhi.
Among those, who watched the parade at Rajpath with visible delight was Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. He was the second Indonesian chief guest on the occasion after Sukarno, who graced the event in 1950, on the first Republic Day.
President Pratibha Patil, Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, took salute as military and paramilitary contingents, including mounted troops from the 61st Cavalry, mechanized columns and eight regiments of the army marched down Rajpath during the 100-minute immaculate parade.
As a bright sun shone down on the city, the country’s cultural and religious diversity was represented by folk artists and dancers, who came on colorful tableaus. Many won huge applause from the Indonesian President as well as the mass of Indians, the children in particular.
Martial music from various military contingents — including the ever popular Sare Jahan Se Achcha — filled the air.
The event displayed indigenous military hardware. Taking center stage and vying for attention were Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, T-90 main battle tank Bheeshma, BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, advance light helicopter Dhruv, armored vehicle, multi-barrel rocket launcher Pinaka and state-of-art radar.
The two-seater Tejas aircraft’s trainer version was unveiled for the first time. It is likely to be inducted by December 2012. The tableaux unfolded a cultural spectacle from various parts of India — from Jammu and Kashmir in the north to Kerala in the deep south.
The Central Public Works Department float had giant flower sculptures of two tigers along with two cubs. The entire central boulevard resounded with the roar of the tiger, underlining the threat to the national animal.
Yudhoyono, President of the world’s most populous Muslim nation, watched with fascination, as Karnataka and Bihar showcased India’s rich Islamic heritage. The country’s Buddhist roots came alive on the Gujarat tableau.
Schoolchildren put up colorful dances. The daredevil bikers from the army’s Corps of Signals displayed breath-taking formations on motorcycles, as tens of thousands watched in awe.
Before the parade began, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh paid tribute to the unknown soldier at the Amar Jawan Jyoti memorial at India Gates, a World War I monument.
As he reached the parade venue, several children came forward and shook hands with him.
Across the capital, security was tight, with police and paramilitary personnel checking motorists. Helicopters hovered in the sky at the parade venue while sharpshooters were deployed on buildings near Rajpath.