New Delhi: India celebrated its 75th Republic Day on Friday with a grand display of its women’s power, rich cultural heritage, and military might comprising missiles, warplanes, surveillance gadgets, and lethal weapon systems with French President Emmanuel Macron gracing the occasion as the chief guest.
The Republic Day Parade at the Kartavya Path in the heart of the national capital commenced with President Droupadi Murmu taking the salute shortly after she and Macron, flanked by the Indian president’s bodyguards, arrived in a ‘traditional buggy’.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, several other Union ministers, the country’s top military brass, foreign diplomats, and senior officials were among those who witnessed the impressive show that also included a gravity-defying fly-past by helicopters and planes, with even a dense fog failing to dampen the spirits of the spectators.
Soon after Murmu and Macron left from Kartavya Path in a traditional buggy, which made a comeback after 40 years, after the end of the parade, Modi, wearing a multi-coloured ‘bandhani’ print safa, mingled with the excited crowd as people clicked pictures and welcomed him with claps and slogans of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai”.
Nari Shakti & military might
For the first time, an all-women tri-services contingent marched down the Kartavya Path, reflecting the country’s growing ‘Nari Shakti’ (women power).
In another first, the parade was heralded by over 100 women artists playing Indian musical instruments such as sankh, naadswaram and nagada instead of traditional military bands kickstarting the celebrations.
The first Army contingent leading the mechanised column was the 61 Cavalry, which was raised in 1953. It was followed by 11 mechanised columns, 12 marching contingents and a fly-past by advanced light helicopters of the Army Aviation Corps.
T-90 Bhishma tanks, NAG missile systems, infantry combat vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, weapon locating radar system ‘Swathi’, drone jammer system, and medium-range surface-to-air missiles were among the key displays by the mechanised columns.
The all-women tri-service contingent, led by Captain Sandhya of Army Military Police, with three supernumerary officers Captain Sharanya Rao, Sub Lieutenant Anshu Yadav and Flight Lieutenant Shrishti Rao, drew huge applause.
Another all-women Armed Forces Medical Services contingent, headed by Major Srishti Khullar with Captain Amba Samant of the Army Dental Corps, Surgeon Lieutenant Kanchana of the Indian Navy and Flight Lieutenant Dhivya Priya of the Indian Air Force, also marched down the ceremonial boulevard.
The Army’s marching contingents included the Madras Regiment, the Grenadiers, the Rajputana Rifles, the Sikh Regiment and the Kumaon Regiment.
The Indian Navy’s contingent consisted of 144 men and women Agniveers, led by Lt Prajwal M as contingent commander and Lt Mudita Goyal, Lt Sharvani Supreiya and Lt Devika H as platoon commanders.
It was followed by a naval tableau, depicting the themes ‘Nari Shakti’ and ‘Sea Power Across the Oceans Through Indigenisation’.
Quick reaction surface-to-air missile (QRSAM), Astra, Light Combat Aircraft ‘Tejas’, Uttam active electronically scanned array radar (AESAR), advanced electronic warfare systems and Shakti Cyber Security systems were also on display.
‘Viksit Bharat, Bharat- Loktantra Ki Matruka’
The themes of the celebrations were — ‘Viksit Bharat’ and ‘Bharat — Loktantra Ki Matruka’ (India–Mother of Democracy). A 95-member marching contingent and a 30-member band contingent from France also took part in the parade.
Two Rafale fighters and an Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport aircraft of the French air force also featured in the celebrations.
The celebrations ended with a jaw-dropping fly-past by 46 aircraft of the Indian Air Force.
The IAF fleet included 29 fighter jets, seven transport aircraft, nine helicopters and a heritage plane. All these aircraft operated from six different bases.
Fifteen women pilots, including six from the fighter streams, operated the IAF platforms during the fly-past.
Tejas aircrafts featured
For the first time, indigenously-built Tejas aircraft flew in a formation of four aircraft. There was a previous occasion of one Tejas jet being part of the Republic Day parade but this was the first time that the aircraft flew in a formation.
The ceremony started with the prime minister’s visit to the National War Memorial, where he led the nation in paying solemn tributes to the fallen heroes by laying a wreath.
Minutes later, President Murmu and her French counterpart Macron arrived in the ‘traditional buggy’.
The national flag was then unfurled, followed by the national anthem with a 21-gun salute using the indigenous 105-mm Indian Field Guns.
Four Mi-17 IV helicopters of the 105 Helicopter Unit showered flower petals on the audience present at Kartavya Path. This was followed by ‘Aavaahan’, a band performance by over 100 women artistes playing various types of percussion instruments.
The parade then commenced with President Murmu taking the salute. It was commanded by Lieutenant General Bhavnish Kumar, General Officer Commanding, Delhi Area.
The Kartavya Path also witnessed a march past by a combined band and marching contingent of the French armed forces.
A total of 16 tableaux from states and Union territories and nine from central ministries and departments rolled down the Kartavya Path during the parade.
The states and Union territories from where the tableaux took part in the parade are Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana, Manipur, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Ladakh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Meghalaya, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana.