The country’s vibrant cultural heritage, its impressive achievements and military might were on a majestic display today as the country celebrated the 61st Republic Day.

Marching down from the Raisina Hills, the Republic Day parade showcased the country’s ‘unity in diversity’ as well as the armed forces in full battle regalia.

Despite the heavy fog, well turned out and synchronised military contingents marched proudly through the Rajpath where President and Supreme Commander of armed forces Pratibha Patil took the salute.

Delegates

The march-past was watched by the Republic Day chief guest South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister A K Antony and the country’s top political and military brass, including UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

Patil and her South Korean counterpart arrived at the Rajpath escorted by the President’s 46 bodyguards riding well-trained, impeccably-bedecked horses.

Minutes before the parade began, Dr. Singh, Mr. Antony and chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force laid wreaths at ‘Amar Jawan Jyoti’, the British-era World War-I memorial at India Gate, where an eternal flame burns in memory of those who laid down their lives while defending the nation’s frontiers.

Tight security

A heavy security blanket was thrown around the capital for the Republic Day celebrations in the backdrop of intelligence inputs about militant outfit LeT acquiring over 50 para-gliding equipment which could be used to launch an air-borne suicide attack.

After the President unfurled the tricolour and a customary 21-gun salute, the parade led by Major General KJS Oberoi, General Officer Commanding of Delhi Area of the Army, started.

The fog played spoilsport as four Mi-17 helicopters, which were scheduled to shower flower petals on the spectators, failed to do so due to the weather conditions.

The first to walk were the winners of the Param Vir Chakra and Ashok Chakra followed by mounted columns of 61 Cavalry.

Army

The Army then showcased its impressive armoury before the nation which included the indigenous MBT Arjun, SMERCH Multiple Launch Rocket System and Armoured Engineer Recce Vehicle and Sarvatra Bridge.

The army also brought its state-of-the-art ICV Communication Vehicle besides Samyukta Electronic Warfare System, Infantry Fighting Vehicle ‘Sarath’ and Ambulance Tracked to the parade.

The army contingent included personnel from Madras Regiment, Jat Regimentry, Sikh Regiment, Dogra Regiment, Garhwal Regiment, Bihar Regiment, Gorkha Regiment and Territorial Army.

They marched to the tunes ‘Pragati’, ‘Sam Bahadur’, Hanste Lushai and General Tappy played by several bands drawn from various regiments of the Army.

Navy

Smartly-dressed 148 Navy personnel then marched to the tunes of ‘Jai Bharati’ along with a tableau of INS Shivalik, which will be inducted shortly into the Indian Navy.

The Air Force contingent followed the Navy men marching to the tunes of ‘Space Flight’ played by its band. A tableau of ‘The Air Warrior’ was also displayed.

DRDO’s Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, Agni-III missile, surface-to-surface Shourya missile and Rohini Radar were also displayed.

Other marching contingents included camel-mounted BSF, Assam Rifles, Coast Guard, CRPF, ITBP, CISF, SSB, RPF, Delhi Police, NCC and NSS.

Police forces

Following the country’s armed and police forces came the country’s rich cultural diversity in full display in 21 tableaux -- 13 from states and eight from ministries.

Rajasthan came out with the Jantar Mantar astronomical observatory in Jaipur displaying sophisticated instruments while Manipur came up with Hiyang Tanaba -- the traditional boat race of Meiteis tribe.

The lovely silk from Bhagalpur was what Bihar brought to the parade. Bihar’s ‘Bhagalpur Ki Lok Sanskriti: Resham Udyog’ tableau displayed the sleek and lustrous silk made by Bhagalpur weavers.

Eye-catchers

One of the eye-catchers was Maharashtra’s float ‘Dabbawala’, a common sight in Mumbai which showcases the life of Mumbai’s signature office tiffin suppliers. Dabbawala in CST railway station and an MBA student learning the working skills from the Dabbawala are some of themes in the tableau.

Karnataka showcased ‘Pattada Kal’, a world heritage site which is a fine example of temple architecture while Meghalaya’s tableau showed its ingenious system of tapping of stream and spring water by using bamboo pipes.

India’s melody maestro S D Burman was Tripura’s theme eulogising the musician’s contributions to the world of music while Jammu and Kashmir came up with a tableau depicting its handicraft, wood carving, willow-work and carpet weaving.

States

Goa chose to showcase the international film festival in its tableau while 2,500—million—years—old stalagmite caves in Kotumsar was showcased by Chhattisgarh.

Padayani, a ritualistic festival of central Kerala dedicated to Goddess Kali Padayani was Kerala’s theme. A combination of music, dance, painting and satire, the folk form had its origin in the ancient Dravidian concept of God.

Mizoram’s tableau was about its handicrafts.

Uttarakhand has ‘samudra-manthan’ or the churning of the divine sea, Har-ki-Pauri and Kumbh Mela as its theme.

Culture Ministry and Sangeet Natak Akademi showcased the rich tradition of Indian music through musical instruments veena, shankha, dhumsa etc.

Rural Development depicted Indira Awaas Yojana through Gujarati style house under construction besides low cost homes from various parts of the country while Railways displayed its glorious past and triumph of new era through its steam locos and the latest Duronto Express trains.

CPWD highlighted the concerns about global warming through its tableau while Power Ministry focussed on Green energy through its tableau.

Agriculture Ministry had traditional ploughing to modern farm implements in its tableau while Tribal Affairs Ministry had come up with a float on Forest Rights Act, 2006 and empowerment of tribal people.