Republic Day 2021: India showcases military might, cultural heritage at Delhi's Rajpath amid tight COVID-19 restrictions

FP Staff
·8-min read

India celebrated its 72nd Republic Day on Tuesday with a shortened programme in view of the coronavirus pandemic. In a display of India's military might, Rafale fighter jets took part in the Republic Day flypast for the first time as the armed forces showcased its T-90 tanks, the Samvijay electronic warfare system and Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jets on the Rajpath on Tuesday.

The Republic Day parade ceremony commenced with Prime Minister Narendra Modi visiting the National War Memorial in the morning. The Tricolour was unfurled at Delhi's Rajpath in presence of President Ram Nath Kovind, Narendra Modi and other dignitaries including Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

A total of 32 tableaux €" 17 of various states and UTs, nine of ministries and six from the defence arm €" were seen going down Rajpath. Among these, the tableaux of Ladakh €" the Union Territory that was created in 2019 after bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir €" were included for the first time. The parade culminated with a single Rafale aircraft flying at a speed of 900km/hr carrying out a 'Vertical Charlie'.

Schoolchildren also performed folk arts and crafts displaying skills and dexterity handed down from generations. Bajasal, a folk dance from Kalahandi in Odisha, the Fit India Movement and Aatmanirbhar Bharat were also displayed on the Rajpath.

A 122-member contingent of the Bangladesh armed forces marched on Rajpath. They carried the legacy of legendary muktijoddhas of Bangladesh, who fought against "oppression and mass atrocities" and liberated the country in 1971. India is currently celebrating the Swarnim Vijay Varsh €" the Golden Jubilee year €" commemorating the country's victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war that led to the creation of Bangladesh.

On the other hand, chaos prevailed at Delhi's Singhu border as police resorted to lathicharge after protesting farmers broke the remaining police barricades. Groups of protesting farmers broke police barricades on Tuesday morning to force their way into the city, much ahead of the time they were granted permission by Delhi Police for their tractor parade.

Smaller crowds, no chief guest, no motorcycle stunts

However, this year's parade was different from previous years as it is for the first time that it will be held amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, the attendance to the Republic Day parade was limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those below 15 years of age and above 65 were not allowed among the visitors at the venue.

The parade also witnessed several major changes. The contingents only marched a distance of 3.5 km instead of the usual 8.5 km and for the first time in 55 years, no foreign dignitary attended the parade.

While gravity-defying stunts by motorcycle-borne men were missing, the spectator size too had been reduced to 25,000 from around 1.25 lakh last year.

The parade of children who receive bravery awards were also missing.

Keeping in mind social distancing, the size of marching contingents were reduced from 144 to 96. Also, all members of the tableaux contingents from various states, ministries and government departments underwent COVID-19 testing.

32 tableaux take part in parade

A total of 32 tableaux €" 17 of various states and UTs, nine of ministries and six from the defence arm €" were seen going down Rajpath

Seventeen tableaux from various states and union territories, namely, Gujarat, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Tripura, West Bengal, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi and Ladakh were showcased during the parade, depicting the geographical and rich cultural diversity of the country.

The tableaux highlighted the vision for Ladakh to be carbon neutral, the Sun temple at Modhera in Mehsana District of Gujarat, tea-tribes of Assam, shore temple and other monuments of Pallava Dynasty in Tamil Nadu, Bhakti Movement and saints of Maharashtra, among others.

Cultural heritage of ancient holy town Ayodhya, replica of a Ram temple, glimpse of ''Deepotsav'' and various stories from Ramayana epic were depicted in the tableau of Uttar Pradesh in the Republic Day parade on Rajpath on Tuesday.

A sitting model of Maharishi Valmiki fronted the bedecked tableau and the temple model occupied a large portion on the rear side.

A group of artists, including many dressed as saints, accompanied the tableaux.

Armed forces showcase their military might

The Indian Army showcased its main battle tank T-90 Bhishma, infantry combat vehicle BMP-II-Sarath, mobile autonomous launcher of the BrahMos missile system, multi-launcher rocket system Pinaka, electronic warfare system Samvijay among others during the parade on Tuesday.

The Navy's tableau at the Republic Day parade this year displayed models of Indian naval ship (INS) Vikrant and naval operations that were conducted during the 1971 India-Pakistan war.

The Air Force exhibited models of light combat aircraft Tejas and indigenously developed anti-tank guided missile Dhruvastra on its tableaus during the parade. Scaled-down models of the Light Combat Helicopter, Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jet and Rohini radar were also part of the IAF tableaux.

Rafale aircraft makes debut on R-Day flypast

The newly inducted Rafale fighter aircraft featured for the first time in India's Republic Day flypast as it carried out the 'Brahmastra' formation alone and was part of the 'Eklavya' formation with four other fighter jets. A total of 38 IAF aircraft, include Rafale, and four planes of the Indian Army participated in the flypast.

The fighter jet conducted Eklavya formation by flying at a height of around 300 metres along with two Jagaur and two MIG-29 aircraft. The five jets resembled a V shape with Rafale leading the pack.

The 25,000 strong audience was able to see Rafale fighter jet again when it culminated the flypast by conducting the Brahmastra formation wherein it traversed at a low altitude for some distance, then pulled up vertically at 90 degrees and conducted rolls before stabilising at a higher altitude.

In a major boost to India's air power capability, five French-made multirole Rafale fighter jets were inducted into the IAF on September 10 last year.

A total of 38 IAF aircraft and four planes of the Indian Army participated in the flypast on Tuesday.

As is traditionally the case on Republic Day, flypast was divided into two blocks: the first was along with the parade and the second was after the parade.

In the first block, there were three formations. The first was the 'Nishan' formation comprising of four Mi17V5 aircraft that carried the national flag and logos of all three services.

It was followed by the 'Dhruv' formation by four helicopters of Army Aviation Corps.

DRDO presents 2 tableaux showcasing anti-tank guided missiles, Tejas take-off

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) presented two tableaus at this year's parade, one showcasing light combat aircraft Tejas' successful take off from aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya in 2020, and another displaying full complement of the anti-tank guided missile systems.

Galwan martyr Colonel B Santosh Babu posthumously awarded Mahavir Chakra

Colonel Bikumalla Santosh Babu, who led his troops against the "vicious" Chinese attack in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh in June last year, has been posthumously named for the second-highest military award, Mahavir Chakra, for acts of gallantry in the presence of the enemy, according to an official announcement on Monday.

Twenty Indian Army personnel laid down their lives in the fierce hand-to-hand combat on 15 June in Galwan Valley, an incident that marked the most serious military conflicts between the two sides in decades.

Four other soldiers - Naib Subedar Nuduram Soren, Havildar (Gunner) K Palani, Naik Deepak Singh and Sepoy Gurtej Singh - who also laid down their lives valiantly fighting the Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley clash have been named for Vir Chakra awards posthumously.

Havildar Tejinder Singh from the 3 Medium Regiment and was a member of the Indian Army team at Galwan Valley clash, has also been named for Vir Chakra award.

Col Babu, the commanding officer of the 16 Bihar regiment, was undaunted by the "violent and aggressive" action and the overwhelming strength of enemy soldiers, and he continued to resist their attempt to pushback the Indian troops, displaying the true spirit of service before self, the official release said.

With inputs from PTI

Also See: Republic Day 2021 Updates: India showcases military might, cultural heritage at Rajpath; parade ends with Rafale flypast

President Ram Nath Kovind, in address on Republic Day eve, says armed forces 'adequately mobilised' to thwart bid

Republic Day 2021: Galwan martyr Colonel B Santosh Babu posthumously awarded Mahavir Chakra

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