New Delhi: India celebrated its 70th Republic Day with Prime Minister Narendra Modi paying homage to martyrs at Amar Jawan Jyoti (India Gate). Meanwhile, the Republic Day 2019 parade at Rajpath was marked with the dazzling display of country’s military might and rich cultural diversity. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was the chief guest at the ceremony.

Many senior leaders, including Home Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, and former prime ministers Manmohan Singh and Deve Gowda, Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Ghulam Nabi Azad were among those present at the event.

Officially, the parade kicked off with the President conferring Ashoka Chakra on posthumously to Lance Naik Nazir Ahmad Wani’s wife and mother. The 38-year-old terrorist-turned-soldier had lost his life in a counter-terror operation against six terrorists in Hirapur village near Batgund, in Shopian on November 25.

Among many firsts, the parade witnessed the participation of four Indian National Army (INA) veterans, aged over 90 years. While, Lieutenant Bhavana Kasturi, Contingent commander, Army Service Corps became the first woman to script history by leading all men army contingent at the parade, Major Khusboo Kanwar led an all women marching contingent of the Assam Rifles, participating in the ceremony for the first time.

India’s military might was also on display, with the artillery gun system M777 American Ultra Light Howitzers, recently acquired from the US and K9 Vajra, a self-propelled artillery gun, showcased on Rajpath, being new additions this year.

The overall theme for the Republic Day celebrations this year was the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and the tableaux of Sikkim, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, West Bengal, Tripura, Goa, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Uttarakhand portrayed it well.

The marching contingents of the Sikh Light Infantry, Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry, Gorkha Brigade, Army Service Corps, Army Supply Corps (North), Territorial Army Battalion participated in the parade, along with the Indian Navy’s brass band, marching contingent and tableau, Air Force’s band and marching contingent, National Cadet Corps and National Service Scheme.

Twenty six children who won the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar also passed through the parade in an open jeep followed by dance presentations by school children.

The culmination of the parade was marked by a lone Su-30 MKI flying at a speed of 900 km/hr splitting the sky with a ‘Vertical Charlie’ manoeuvre over the saluting dais.

(Inputs from agency)