New Delhi, Jan 26: The nation on Saturday celebrated it's 70th Republic Day, with a customary parade showcasing it's military might and cultural heritage on the historic Rajpath.
The parade marched from Vijay Chowk to the Red Fort, through the traditional route of Rajpath. President Ram Nath Kovind took the salute. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is the chief guest of the Republic Day parade in here on Saturday.
Mr Ramaphosa is accompanied by first lady Dr Tshepo Motsepe and a high-level delegation, including nine ministers, senior officials and a 50-member business contingent, on a two-day India visit. It is Mr Ramaphosa's first Indian tour as the head of the state.
The dignitaries present in the parade were--President Ram Nath Kovind, First Lady Savita Kovind, Vice- President Venkaiah Naidu, his wife Usha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the heads of the three services of Indian Armed Forces-- Chief of the Army Staff General Bipin Rawat, Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba, Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, his wife Dr Singh Gursharan Kaur, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his wife Sunita Kejriwal were among other dignitaries present.
For the first time, the entire nation witnessed an all-women Assam Rifles Contingent marching down the Rajpath on the 70th Republic Day, saluting the President. This year also marks the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi who had a special connection with South Africa.
The parade ceremony commenced at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate where Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the nation in paying homage to the martyrs by laying a wreath.
As per tradition, after unfurling the National Flag, the national anthem was played with a 21 gun salute where the President took the salute. The President awarded Ashoka Chakra posthumously to Lance Naik Nazir Ahmad Wani. His widow Mahajabeen received the honour.
The parade started at 1000 hrs with the national salute, followed by the investiture ceremony. The parade was commanded by Lieutenant General Asit Mistry, General Officer Commanding, Headquarters Delhi Area. Major General Rajpal Punia, Chief of Staff, Headquarters Delhi Area was the parade Second-in-Command.
The 90-minute parade saw 22 larger-than-life tableaux on Mahatma Gandhi, performances by school students and others.
A total of 22 tableau participated in the parade from Sikkim, Maharashtra, Andaman and Nicobar, Assam, Tripura, Goa, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Karanataka, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Ministry of Railways, India Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), CISF and CPWD.
The Indian Army was represented by a Mounted Columns of 61 Cavalry, eight mechanised columns, six marching contingents and a fly past by Rudra and Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters of army Aviation. Three Param Vir Chakra and five Ashok Chakra awardees also participated this year.
Fly past by MI-17 and RUDRA armed helicopters was performed. There was display of latest weapons and equipment--M-777 A2 Ultra-Light Howitzer (ULH), K-9 Vajra T, Surface Mine Clearing System (SMCS), Medium Rg Surface to Air Msl and Arjun Rec and Repair Vehicle.
Sixteen marching contingents from the armed forces, para-military forces, Delhi Police, NCC, NSS along with 16 bands were the highlights of the parade. The Army Services Corps contingent was led by a lady officer, Lt Bhavna Kasturi.
Gravity-defying stunts were performed by Corps of Signals of Indian Army Capt Shikha, a daredevil lady officer during the event. A fly past by a number of aircrafts of the IAF was the another highlight of the parade. 'Sankhnaad-a martial tune' created for the Indian Armed Forces was played for the first time. There was release of balloons by Indian Meteorological Department during the parade. UNI