India's military prowess, infused with a spirit of aatmanirbharta and vibrant cultural heritage, was showcased on Kartavya Path as the nation celebrated its 74th Republic Day on Thursday with an ode to nari shakti.
This year's ceremonial parade saw many firsts -- participation of Agniveers, women camel riders, who were part of the Border Security Force's camel-mounted contingent, and a women pipe band from Delhi Police
Nari shakti was predominantly the theme of the celebrations with President Droupadi Murmu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a host of other dignitaries joining people and members of the armed forces in marking the august occasion.
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was the chief guest at the ceremonial event.
Also, in a first, a combined band and marching contingent of the Egyptian Armed Forces also took part in the parade that started around 10:30 am and ended close to noon after a fly-past.
The Egyptian contingent included 144 soldiers representing the main branches of the Egyptian Armed Forces and it was led by Col Mahmoud Mohamed Abdelfattah Elkharasawy.
The ceremony commenced with Prime Minister Modi visiting the National War Memorial and paying tributes to the fallen heroes by laying a wreath.
According to tradition, the national flag was unfurled followed by the national anthem with a booming 21-gun salute.
However, the ceremonial salute this year was given with 105-mm Indian field guns, which replaced the vintage 25-pounder guns, reflecting upon the growing "aatmanirbharta" in defence.
Nine Agniveers -- six men and three women -- were part of the Navy's marching contingent during the celebrations. Two women Agniveers were also part of the Navy's tableau, a senior official said.
Shallow fog lowered visibility at the Kartavya Path as spectators strained their eyes to watch aerial manoeuvres by a battery of 50 aircraft, including 45 from the Indian Air Force.
They flew in different formations such as 'Bheem', 'Vajraang', 'Baaz', 'Tiranga', 'Garuda', 'Amrit' and 'Trishul'.
The fly-past included MiG-29, Su-30 MKI and Rafale fighters as well as C-130 Super Hercules and C-17 Globemaster transport planes.
The Navy's IL-38 was also showcased at the event for the first and perhaps the last time
IL-38 is a maritime reconnaissance aircraft of the Indian Navy that has served for nearly 42 years.
The IL-38 is likely to be de-commissioned by the end of this year, sources said.
Prime Minister Modi, who wore a multi-coloured headgear on the occasion, after the end of the parade, went towards the spectators and acknowledged their greetings.
Riding the footboard of his official vehicle for a while as it slowly moved ahead, he waved at them to reciprocate their cheers.
In a tweet, he later said, "I am grateful to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for gracing this year's Republic Day celebrations with his august presence. @AlsisiOfficial."
He also shared pictures from the celebrations.
The military assets which were displayed during the parade included made-in-India equipment, showing the spirit of aatmanirbhar Bharat, officials said.
The main battle tank Arjun, the Nag Missile System and the K-9 Vajra were also showcased.
All equipment from the Army which were part of the Republic Day celebrations are made-in-India, Chief of Staff Delhi Area Maj Gen Bhavnish Kumar had earlier said.
With nari shakti being the theme, the Akash weapon system display had Lt Chetana Sharma at the forefront.
The marching contingents from the Army included one each from the mechanised infantry, the Dogra Regiment, the Punjab Regiment, the Maratha Light Infantry, the Bihar Regiment and the Gorkha Brigade. A camel band from the Border Security Force also took part in the parade.
The Republic Day celebrations were held on the revamped Central Vista avenue and was the first at the ceremonial boulevard after Rajpath was renamed to Kartavya Path last year.
Lt Commander Disha Amrith, a woman naval air operations official posted at a strategic base, led the Indian Navy's contingent of 144 young sailors.
The naval tableau, designed on the theme 'Indian Navy - Combat Ready, Credible, Cohesive and Future Proof', showcased the multi-dimensional capabilities of the force, "Nari Shakti" and key indigenously designed and built assets under "aatmanirbhar bharat", officials said.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) showcased one tableau and equipment. The theme of the tableau was "Securing Nation with Effective Surveillance, Communication and Neutralising Threats".
Indigenously-developed Wheeled Armoured Platform (WhAP), a modular 8X8 wheeled combat platform, carried on a 70-ton trailer was displayed by the DRDO.
Three Param Vir Chakra awardees and three Ashok Chkara awardees also took part in the parade, and a "veterans' tableau" with the theme -- "Towards India's Amrit Kaal with a Resolve of Veterans' Commitment" was also part of it.
The Indian Air Force contingent comprising 144 air warriors and four officers, was led by Sqn Ldr Sindhu Reddy. The air force tableau, designed on the theme "Indian Air Force Power Beyond Boundaries", displayed a rotating globe highlighting IAF's expanded reach, whereby it has been able to provide humanitarian assistance across borders, as also exercises conducted with friendly countries.
A group of "Shramyogis" involved in the construction of the Central Vista, the Kartavya Path, the new Parliament Building along with milk, vegetable and street vendors were specially invited for the parade.
A total of 23 tableaux -- 17 from states and union territories and six from various ministries and departments -- depicting India's vibrant cultural heritage, economic and social progress took part in the ceremonial parade with 'Nari Shakti' as the theme for majority of the floats.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt, defence secretary Giridhar Aramane, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari, Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar and Army chief Gen Manoj Pande also attended the celebrations
Singh tweeted in Hindi his Republic Day greetings and said, "This day is an opportunity for all Indian citizens to strengthen the country's constitutional traditions and rededicate ourselves to the resolve to build a new India. Salute to all the Constitution makers and freedom fighters of India."