Myriad and multi-hued images of India’s rich cultural heritage, its achievements in diverse domains, and its military might were on majestic display at Rajpath, Delhi’s ceremonial boulevard on Sunday the 26th of January, as the nation celebrated its 65th Republic Day amid tight security, and apprehensions about the uncertain weather forcing a ‘call-off’ or ‘curtailment’ of the much anticipated flypast that usually concludes the event. But fortunately the weather god was good enough to dispel the mists that had shrouded everything since morning just before the scheduled time of the fly-past, which did indeed take place to the delight of the attendees.
Minutes before the parade began, the Prime Minister, Defence Minister AK Antony and the Chiefs of the Army, Navy and the Air Force assembled at the ‘Amar Jawan Jyoti,’ the war memorial at India Gate, where an eternal flame burns in memory of those who laid down their lives defending the frontiers of the nation. They paid solemn tribute to the martyrs by laying wreaths at the Jyothi, after which they repaired to the stands especially prepared for them to witness the day’s celebrations from. The parade itself began shortly after President Mukherjee and his guest for the day, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, arrived at the saluting base at Rajpath, escorted by the President’s bodyguards riding their bedecked cavalry horses.
Just prior to the commencement of the parade, Sub Inspector K Prasad Babu of Andhra Pradesh’s Counter-Maoist force was posthumously conferred the highest peacetime gallantry award Ashok Chakra, for his role in an anti-Naxal operation where he led an assault unit of Greyhounds (anti-Naxal force of Andhra Pradesh) near Andhra-Chhattisgarh border and was martyred in the process.
The unfurling of the tricolour by the President and the playing of the national anthem were followed by a customary 21-gun salute, after which the parade was officially kicked off. Marching down from the seat of power at Raisina Hills to the Red Fort, the parade showcased India’s ‘Unity in Diversity’ and defence capability, as thousands of spectators lining the entire 8-km-long route cheered the contingents and the mechanised columns. The well-turned out and synchronised military and police contingents marched proudly to the lilting tunes of bands through Rajpath where the President and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Pranab Mukherjee, took the salute.