A strong and resurgent India celebrated its 64th Republic Day on Saturday amidst tight security and colourful pageantry.
Presided over by President Pranab Mukherjee for the first time as head of state, the parade, whcih last for over an hour-and-a-half, had the King of Bhutan as its chief guest.
The nation's achievements were highlighted in various fields through its military prowess, a scintillating display of its air power and its rich and diverse cultural heritage.
The parade ceremony commenced at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate where Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh led the nation in paying homage to martyrs by laying a floral wreath.
The event saw the participation of Defence Minister A.K.Antony, Minister of State for Defence Jitendra Singh and the three service chiefs.
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 motherland. The Amar Jawan, the immortal soldier, is symbolised by a reversed rifle topped by a helmet.
The Last Post was sounded by tri-services guard of honour and was followed by a reverse of arms and two minutes silence in honour of the martyred defence personnel.
Thereafter, the tricolour was unfurled and the the national anthem was played.
The parade commenced after President Pranab Mukherjee gave permission to the Presidential Bodyguards to do so.
Mukherjee then took the salute of the parade participants for the first time.
This year's chief guest is Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk.
The parade was commanded by Lt. General Subroto Mitra, General Officer Commanding, Delhi Area. Major General Rajbir Singh, Chief of Staff, Delhi Area was the parade's Second-in-Command.
ParamVir Chakra winners Subedar Major (Hononary Captain) Bana Singh, 8 JAK LI, Naib Subedar Yogendra Singh Yadav, 18 Grenadiers and Havaldar Sanjay Kumar, 13 JAK RIF and Ashok Chakra Winners Major General C. A. Pithawalla, GoC, Andhra Sub Area, Lt Col Jas Ram Singh (retired), Major D. Sree Ram Kumar, 90 Field Regiment, Honorary Naib Subedar Chhering Mutup (retired), Jammu, Hukum Singh and Govind Singh, both from district Chhatarpur, Madhya Pradesh and BhureLal of district Guna, also from Madhya Pradesh followed the Deputy Parade Commander on jeeps.
The highlight of this year's parade was the above 5,000 kms range Agni-V missile.
The advanced long range surface-to-surface ballistic missile capable of being launched from anywhere in any direction and within a few minutes from a self-contained road mobile launcher is being paraded by the Defence Research and Development Organisation. (DRDO)
The state-of-the-art missile, which was successfully flight tested in the month of April last year, has provided the true deterrence capability and brought India at par with the elite group of advanced countries possessing this capability.
A mini version of INS Vikramaditya which will join the Naval fleet by the end of this year, was showcased to highlight Indian Navy's blue water operating capability.
The DRDO also put on display the Armoured Amphibious Dozer (AAD), an indigenously developed versatile combat engineer support equipment with excellent earth moving and amphibious capabilities in varied terrain.
The Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW and C) System and Naval Sonar was also be on display on Rajpath by DRDO.
The weaponry put on display by the Indian Army included the Main Battle Tank 'Arjun', APC Ambulance tracked, the only Super Sonic Cruise Missile Brahmos Weapon System,Pinaka Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher System, Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear (CBRN) Recce Vehicle, Sarvatra Bridge, Mobile Integrated Network Terminal (MINT) and Radio Trunking System Mk-II (RTS Mk-II). The Army's Mechanized Columns will conclude with a fly past by the Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv of the Army Aviation Corps.
The Indian Air Force showcased its latest acquisitions on its tableaux. It comprised the new basic trainer aircraft, the Pilatus PC-7 Mk-II and the new VIP helicopter, the Augusta Westland AW-101. It also showcased the indigenous 'eyes in the sky' atop the Embraer 145, Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft and the strategic heavy lift aircraft, C-17 Globemaster-III, which will enter service by the middle of this year.
The Indian Navy's tableaux depicted a scaled down model of INS Vikramaditya, a large aircraft carrier which will join the naval fleet by the end of this year. The ship is capable of sustaining at sea for more than 45 days at a stretch. She is also equipped to carry over 30 combat aircraft at any time giving her the freedom to operate and strike anywhere at sea. The Navy's tableaux also focussed on INS Chakra, a nuclear propelled submarine.
The marching contingents of Army included the horse-mounted columns of the 61st Cavalry, Mechanized Infantry Regiment, Maratha Light Infantry, Dogra Regiment, Garhwal Rifles, Ladakh Scouts, 8 Gorkha Training Centre, Army Ordnance Corps and Territorial Army (Punjab).
The marching contingents of Navy comprised 144 men were led by Lt. Commander Ajay Kumar Verma and the Air Force contingent, which comprised 144 men was led by Flight Lieutenant Heena Pore.
The marching contingents of paramilitary and other auxiliary civil forces included contingents from the Border Security Force, Assam Rifles, Coast Guard, Central Reserve Police Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Central Industrial Security Force, Sashastra Seema Bal, Railway Protection Force, Delhi Police, National Cadet Corps and National Service Scheme. The camel-mounted band of the BSF and the Ex-Servicemen marching contingent will be another major attraction.
Tableaux from 19 states and Central Ministries and Departments presented the varied historical, architectural and cultural heritage of the country.
They also showcased the country's progress in different fields.
Twenty one of the 22 children selected for the National Bravery Award-2012 also participated in the parade.
One child received the award posthumously. In the children's pageant section, 1,000 boys and girls drawn from Delhi's two schools, one school from KendriyaVidyalayaSangathanand one from Eastern Zone Cultural Centre, Kolkata presented dances and other programmes.
Tornadoes, the motorcycle display by the Army Service Corps were a major attraction of the parade. The tornadoes team consisted of 135 riders on motorcycles performing Standing Salute, Ladder Balance, Fish Riding, Back Riding, Long Arm, Verma Lotus, ASC Special, Balance Seat and Fish, Sudershan Chakra, Balance Ride Standing, Ladder Lotus and Human Pyramid forms under the leadership of Major S S Rathore.
They performed breathtaking stunts in a synchronised and synergetic display of mind, body and machine coordination.
The grand finale of the parade was a spectacular fly past by the IAF. The fly past commenced with the 'Chakra' formation, comprising three Mi-35 helicopters in 'Vic' formation, and was followed by the Hercules formation comprising three C-130J Super Hercules aircraft in 'Vic' formation.
Trailing them were a Big Boy formation comprising of one IL-78, flanked by two AN-32 and two Dorniers.
Next in line were five Jaguars that flew in Arrowhead formation.
They were followed by another five Mig-29 air Superiority Fighter called the "Tridents", which flew in Fulcrum style.
This was followed by the breathtaking Trishul formation comprising three Su-30 MKI that flew over the Rajpath, before splitting upwards, making a Trishul in the sky.
The fly past concluded with another Sukhoi Su-30 MKI carrying out a Vertical Charlie manoeuvre over the saluting dais.
The ceremony culminated with the national anthem and the release of balloons. (ANI)