Monstrous ready-for-battle artillery, perfectly synchronised marching contingents, familiar sounds and scenes from far-off places, pride, colour and lots of sunshine marked the 64th Republic Day parade at the majestic Rajpath here on Saturday.

As is the custom, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh paid tributes to the immortal soldiers or Amar Jawan Jyoti at the India Gate before the start of the parade.

A few minutes before the clock struck 10 a.m., the sound of horses’ hooves could be heard and shortly thereafter President Pranab Mukherjee arrived. He was accompanied by his bodyguards, 46 magnificent men, all over six-foot tall, dressed in red and mounted atop huge horses. The chief guest, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk of Bhutan, took his place alongside the President.

The grand parade was preceded by the 21-gun salute, the hoisting of the tricolour with the national anthem playing in the background. Four MI-17 V5 helicopters came thundering in a ‘Y’ formation, hovered awhile before showering pink petals, eliciting a collective gasp from the audience.

The upbeat mood continued as the audience looked back at the Rajpath where Parade Commander Subroto Mitra was passing by, straight-backed and smartly saluting. He was followed by the four brave Param Vir Chakra and seven Ashok Chakra awardees, all in open jeeps.

The Indian Army’s 61st Cavalry Regiment, one of the few remaining horsed cavalry regiments in the world, was the first of the Army columns.

Brute-looking Army tanks and missiles were followed by the Navy and Air Force columns. The Air Force’s marching contingent was led by a lady, Flight Lieutenant Heena Pore, eliciting admiring whistles and claps. The Navy’s mini version of INS Vikramaditya, which will join the naval fleet by the end of this year, was also displayed.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation’s equipment columns with the over 5,000 km ballistic Agni V missile mounted on a road mobile launcher was another major attraction.

The ex-servicemen marching contingent, all ramrod-straight and serious-faced, were led by Honorary Captain Chain Singh Chib (retd.) and received a thunderous applause, which was outdone only by the colourful BSF camel contingent. The tune of the accompanying BSF camel-mounted band was almost drowned out by the tinkle of the camels’ bells and the shouts of the audience as they watched the mustachioed men atop the graceful camels stare straight ahead, big guns in hand.

Among the other paramilitary and auxiliary civil forces the Delhi Police contingent received many claps, as they impressed with their silver-edged rifles sparkling in the sun. The Delhi Police band playing the so-familiar, “Delhi Police,” met with instant approval from the city’s denizens, even as the girls’ NCC band, dressed in red and black checked skirts, white boots and feathered hats drew loud cheers.

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