ABU DHABI //Thousands of students, parents, teachers and embassy officials gathered at the Indian School Abu Dhabi to celebrate India's 64th Republic Day yesterday.
From traditional dancing to patriotic songs and marching quartets, 1,000 children aged between eight and 16 performed dressed in green, white and orange.
Millions of Indian flags adorned the stadium, while children dressed in rainbow-coloured saris, turbans and sarongs chanted national songs.
"They put a lot of hard work into this, they've been practising from 7.30am to 8.30am every day for the past two weeks," said Fatima Miraj, a physics teacher. "This is our republic and independence day and we are all extremely proud."
As dozens of green, white and orange balloons were released into the sky, the ambassador, Lokesh Mysore Kapanaiah, praised India's progress.
"In the last six decades, there is much we can be proud of," he said. "Our economic growth rate has more than tripled and the literacy rate has increased by over four times."
But it was not all so positive, he said, citing the gang rape of the 23-year-old medical student on a bus in New Delhi last month that sparked nationwide outrage and protests.
"[She] was a symbol of all that new India strives to be. We lost more than a valuable life, we lost a dream," Mr Kapanaiah said. "When we brutalise a woman, we wound the soul of our civilisation. It is time for the nation to reset its moral compass."
For the second consecutive year, the school's pupils celebrated the day India became a sovereign democratic republic. The ceremony kicked off with six quartets marching to live music.
"Today is the day the heart of every Indian fills with joy, pride and a sense of achievement," said NC Vijayachandra, the school's principal.
About 20 boys sang Bharat Anokha Raag Hai, a patriotic national integration song that talks about Indians being "all one" despite their different communities and religions.
It was followed by a Hey Mitwa (Hey Friend) dance performed by 10-year-old girls dressed in long red, green, yellow and purple skirts with shimmering silver cape-like veils. Others wore classical Indian dance costumes.
"They represent south and north India combined," Ms Miraj said. "They are surrounding a girl which holds the flag. She represents the mother of India."
Other traditional performances included Yehi Mera Lakshya Hai, a patriotic song, the Chale-Chalo dance and Taqat Watan Ki, a song about India's strength.
At the Indian High School Dubai, the theme of the celebrations was equality. The event, held on the grounds of one of the oldest Indian schools, began with the consul general, Sanjay Verma, reading out a message from the president.
Grade 11 pupils danced to display their feelings on the issue of women's status in India, followed by several other performances highlighting the country's diversity.
Ruchita Chanchlani, 16, who danced in the Jago India (Wake Up India) performance, said it was a great platform to highlight the issue and encourage people to stand against injustice.
"It's necessary that we have this awareness now," she said. "The news of the rape affected me, just like it did every other girl. Now if I want to go back to India to study, it does cause panic."
Vinod Neethan, who takes the day off every year to celebrate Republic Day, said seeing the community celebrate together energised him.
"We are all in high spirits today," said the father of a pupil in Grade five. "My daughter is very sick but still insisted on performing for Republic Day. That's the spirt I see everywhere."