Pleasant weather and warm sunshine make it an enjoyable outing for the spectators this year

The nation's military might, cultural diversity, technological achievements and ecological challenges were on display at the Rajpath as the country celebrated its 62nd Republic Day here on Wednesday.

The day began with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh leading the nation in paying tribute to martyrs at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate.

President Pratibha Patil and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was the chief guest of the day, arrived at the saluting dais escorted by the President's bodyguards. They were received by Dr. Singh and Defence Minister A.K. Antony. Vice-President Hamid Ansari was also present.

Interestingly, the chief guest at the nation's first Republic Day parade in 1950 was the then Indonesian President Sukarno.

The booming 21-gun salute was followed by hoisting of the tricolour and singing of the national anthem. The Ashok Chakra was conferred posthumously on Army doctor Major Laishram Jyotin Singh of the Army Medical Corps who with his bare hands pinned down a terrorist armed with grenades and saved the lives of five unarmed fellow officers hiding nearby during a suicide attack in Kabul. Major Singh was martyred when the terrorist panicked and detonated his suicide vest.

Unlike last year's Republic Day which was marred by dense fog, clear skies, pleasant weather and warm sunshine made it an enjoyable outing for the spectators this year. The showering of petals which had to be cancelled last year due to fog resumed this year with four Mi-17 helicopters flying in an “inverted-Y” formation dropping petals.

The parade began with the three living Param Vir Chakra and seven Ashok Chakra awardees being driven past the crowds followed by the Army's 61 Cavalry mounted column. The mechanised columns showcased this year to signify technological advances made by the armed forces included the T-90 Battle Tank (Bheeshma); the Brahmos Launcher System; Tejas – light combat aircraft's trainer version; Dhruv – fly-past advanced light helicopters; and Pinaka – a multi-barrel rocket launcher. Naval underwater weapons like the Tal – a lightweight torpedo; Varunastra – a heavyweight torpedo; and Maareech – a decoy system which seduces incoming torpedo, were also on display.

Next were the smartly attired and perfectly synchronised marching contingents led by various regiments of the Army followed by their respective bands.

A special round of applause rang through Rajpath for the 87-year-old ramrod straight World War II veteran M.M. Shukla who effortlessly marched as part of the Ex-Servicemen Marching Contingent. The 23 National Bravery Awards children were also cheered by spectators.

Tribute to Tagore

The cultural segment had 23 tableaux from 13 States and 10 Union Ministries and departments. With 2011 being the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, two tableaux on him and his works were featured. The highlight of the children's pageant was the “Dahal Thungri” dance of Bodo tribeswomen performed with swords and shields by girl students belonging to the North East Zone Cultural Centre, Dimapur.

The “Dare Devils” team of the Corps of Signals then breezed past, one after another atop their motorcycles in formations that kept adding more men, more motorcycles and making more complex formations. With four men on two motorcycles they formed a rocket, with 17 men on three motorcycles they formed a cluster of flying birds and with 35 men on nine motorcycles they formed a human pyramid.

Sukhois form ‘trishul'

The 90-minute parade had a breath-taking culmination with three Sukhoi (SU-30 MKI) aircraft making a ‘trishul' in the sky with vertical and lateral manoeuvres and then disappearing out of sight.

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