India celebrated its 74th Republic Day with enthusiasm, patriotic fervour and a display of its cultural diversity and military might on Thursday.
The nation's constitution — the longest in the world — came into effect on January 26, 1950, making India a republic more than two years after it gained independence from the British.
President Draupadi Murmu, India’s first tribal president, led the nation in celebrating the day from Kartavya Path — the newly refurbished 3km boulevard in capital New Delhi.
The event took place after a two-year pause due to the pandemic and was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his cabinet colleagues, opposition leaders and foreign diplomats.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi was the chief guest at the parade.
A group of “Shramyogis” — the workers involved in the construction of Central Vista, Mr Modi’s ambitious $2.8 billion parliament revamp project — were invited as special guests, along with milk, vegetable and street traders.
Mr Modi, who wore multicoloured headgear intended to symbolise the diversity of the country of 1.4 billion people, was welcomed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
He visited the National War Memorial to pay his respects to fallen soldiers before the start of the parade.
“I wish that we move forward unitedly to fulfil the dreams of the country's great freedom fighters. Happy Republic Day to all fellow Indians!” Mr Modi said.
He also thanked Mr Sisi for “gracing” the celebrations.
About 65,000 people braved the cold as they witnessed the parade — a unique mix of military and cultural diversity, and a showcase of “New India”.
Approximately 6,000 security personnel attended the parade and 150 surveillance cameras were installed.
The annual event began with a 21-gun salute during the national anthem.
The ceremonial salute featured 105mm Indian field guns firing as President Murmu unfurled the national flag. The guns replaced the British-era 25-pounders, reflecting India’s policy of “Aatmanirbharta”, or self-reliance in defence.
The parade kicked off with a march by 144 soldiers from the Egyptian Armed Forces led by Col Mahmoud El Kharasawy.
India’s military — including army, navy, air force and paratroopers — also displayed their might. The country's military is the fourth most powerful in the world.
Four military helicopters showered flower petals on the audience.
Other members of the military showcased acrobatic skills and the Indian army performed stunts on motorbikes, including human pyramids and riding through fire rings.
An all-female contingent from the Central Reserve Police Force was one of the highlights at this year's parade.
In a first, female personnel participated in the camel contingent of the paramilitary Border Security Force in the parade, dressed in specially-designed uniforms and mounted on decorated camels.
The camel contingent that usually comprises 90 camels — 54 with troops and the rest with band personnel — has been participating in the parade since 1976.
India’s first passenger drone named Varuna was also unveiled. The drone can carry one passenger about 25km and stay aloft for about half an hour.
More than 400 gallantry awards were also given out.
The parade featured more than 470 dancers from across the country.
Vibrant floats from different states on various themes such as spiritualism, the empowerment of women and tribal culture showcased the diversity and history of the country.
Religious shrines also dominated the tableaux, while several government departments had floats celebrating the country's achievements in the fields of agriculture, science and technology.
The grand finale was the fly-past, a display by 45 Indian Air Force planes, one from the navy and four army helicopters.
India’s new French-made Rafale fighter aircraft performed the concluding Vertical Charlie manoeuvre.