India celebrates 63rd Republic Day

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New Delhi: India Thursday celebrated its 63rd Republic Day, showcasing its military might and the nation’s rich cultural heritage.

The main ceremonial parade was held in the capital with Thailand’s first woman Prime Minister Yinluck Shinawatra as the guest of honour.

The ceremony began around 10 a.m. with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh laying a floral wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti to pay tribute to an unknown soldier.

This was followed by a grand parade from on the Rajpath highlighting the might of Indian armed forces as neatly uniformed men and women marched past, shoulder-to-shoulder, saluting President Pratibha Patil on the dais.

Lt. Gen. Vijay Kumar Pillai, general officer commanding, Delhi Area and his deputy Major General Rajbir Singh commanded the parade.

The marching contingents of the Indian Army included horse-mounted columns of the 61st Cavalry, Parachute Regiment, Bengal Engineer Group and Centre, Brigade of the Guards, Kumaon Regiment, Assam Regiment, Mahar Regiment, Gorkha Rifles Regiment and the Corps of Military Police.

The Indian Navy’s contingents was led by Lt Commander Manikandan K. and the Air Force contingent by Flight Lieutenant Sneha Shekhawat – the first woman ever to lead an IAF contingent at the Republic Day parade.

The contingents of paramilitary and other auxiliary forces included those from the Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force, Assam Rifles, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Coast Guard, Sashastra Seema Bal, Central Industrial Security Force, Railway Protection Force, Delhi Police, National Cadet Corps and National Service Scheme.

Tableaux from 23 states and central ministries presented the varied historical, architectural and cultural heritage of the country in the ongoing parade.

The first tableau was from West Bengal depicting Shantiniketan.