Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 November 2019

Republic Day: India celebrates with display of military might

The theme of the 70th republic day was the 150th birthday of India's independence leader Mahatma Gandhi

From displays of bristling military hardware to acrobatic officers in a towering human pyramid on moving motorcycles, national day celebrations attracted thousands of Indians to a ceremonial boulevard.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was the chief guest on Saturday at the parade to mark the 70th Republic Day, which celebrates the anniversary of the adoption of India's Constitution in 1950.

India had first invited President Donald Trump but US officials declined, citing a scheduling issue.

Ahead of celebrations on Friday, Indian President Ramnath Kovind said the day "reaffirms our commitment to liberty, fraternity and equality across our society".

The theme of the parade was the 150th birthday of India's independence leader, Mahatma Gandhi.

Among the columns of tanks and artillery along the Rajpath in New Deli were more traditional displays, including a column of camelry in full ceremonial regalia, as well as cultural participants including schoolchildren and folk dancers.

A group of four Indian army veterans in their 90s also took to the parade in a jeep.

Also for the first time, an all-women's contingent of the Assam Rifles paramilitary force will take part, three years after it began to accept female recruits.

The Times of India quoted Maj Khushboo Kanwar, who led the contingent, as saying that some of the women in the force were the widows of male officers killed in action.

Ornate and elaborate floats also took to the parade route depicting everything from the 39th session of the Indian National Congress in 1924 led by Gandhi to a commemoration of the 1919 Amritsar massacre when British Indian army soldiers fired on a crowd of civilians. Green rock and plant covered floats also represented the Andaman and Nicobar island archipelago.

The spectacle ended with Indian air force aircraft whizzing past the saluting base and for a first in the country, some of the aircraft were powered by biofuels.

The parade took place under heavy security, with authorities saying that commandos – including a women commando unit – mobile teams, anti-aircraft guns, and sharpshooters were all deployed at strategic points along the parade route.

Away from parade streets and thronging crowds, Google marked the day with its own doodle.

Updated: January 27, 2019 03:56 PM