New Delhi (IANS): An eclectic display of military might, rising women's power, tableaux depicting different aspects of Mahatma Gandhi's life and cultural performances by school children marked the celebrations of the 70th Republic Day at Rajpath here.
Ahead of the parade, Prime Minister Narendra Modi drove down Rajpath to the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate where he paid homage to the Unknown Soldier before returning to the saluting base to receive President Ram Nath Kovind and his South African counterpart, Cyril Ramaphosa, the chief guest on the occasion.
The national anthem was then played and the tricolour unfurled as a 21-gun-salute boomed.
The parade then commenced under the command of Lt General Asit Mistry, the General Officer Commanding of the Delhi Area, with his deputy, Major General Rajpal Punia, following.
As in the past, the parade was led by the Lancers of the 61 Cavalry in their blue and black uniforms, astride powerful steeds - the only active serving horse cavalry regiment in the world.
And in a departure from tradition, right behind them came the Indian Army's Main Battle Tank (MBT), the T-90 Bhishma followed by Infantry Combat Vehicles and the track-mounted Surface Mine Clearing System (SMCS).
Next up was the newly-inducted K-9 Vajra self-propelled howitzer and the M 777 A2 Ultra Light Howitzer (ULH), which were inducted last year. Both were making their debut at the Republic Day parade.
The Transportable Satellite Terminal (TST) that can transmit high-quality data and is the mainstay of military communication, as also the Akash missile weapon system were the other attractions in the mechanised columns.
It was then the turn of the marching contingents to take centre-stage -- drawn from, among others, the Madras Regiment, the Rajputana Rifles, the Sikh Regiment, the Gorkha Brigade, the Army Service Corps and the Territorial Army.
In between them was the massed band of the Sikh Light Infantry, the Mahar Regimental Centre and Ladakh Scouts, playing the tune 'Shankhnaad', also for the first time in the parade.
The focus then shifted to the Indian Navy contingent, comprising 144 young sailors and led by Lt Commander Ambika Sudhakarn that gave a cracking salute to President Kovind, the Supreme Commander of the Indian armed forces.
The naval tableau depicted the combat potential of the multi-dimensional Indian Navy of the 21st century.
The Indian Air Force marching contingent also consisted of 144 air warriors. It was followed by a tableau showcasing scaled-down models of aircraft, radar and missile system which have been indigenously designed and manufactured.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) displayed its Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MRSAM) developed in collaboration with Israel and Armoured Recovery and Repair Vehicle mounted on the chassis of an indigenously-developed Arjun MBT.
In a powerful statement of empowerment, the all-women's contingent of the Assam Rifles, another first at the parade, was led by Major Khushboo Kanwar.
Among the other marching contingents were those of the Indian Coast Guard, Central Reserve Police Force, Railway Protection Force, Delhi Police, Border Security Force, the National Cadet Corps and the National Service Scheme.
Twenty-two tableaux, comprising 16 from different states and Union Territories and six ministries, departments and other institutions, displaying the life, times and ideals of Mahatma Gandhi.
Providing the grand finale was the flypast led by the Rudra Advanced Light Helicopter Weapon System Integrated (WSI) and two Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters of Army Aviation Corps in a 'Diamond' formation.
The IAF's Su-30 MKI than enthralled the audience with a Vertical Charlie, zooming up into the sky and disappearing from sight.
Balloons were released and the national anthem was played to mark the culmination of the 90-minute ceremony.