New Delhi: A pleasant morning with clear sky lifted the patriotic spirits of Delhiites on Wednesday as they enthusiastically turned up in large numbers to celebrate the country`s 66th Independence Day.
The clouds gave way to a brighter sky and the Sun rose from its slumber at around 7.15 am as the celebration was reaching its peak at the majestic Red Fort here, in sharp contrast to last year when it was marred by heavy downpour.
Unprecedented security cover, that included tight vigil by gun-totting security personnel in and around the venue, did not dampen the spirits of the people.
At 7.20 am, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s cavalcade reached the Lahore Gate where he was received by Defence Minister A K Antony, Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju and Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma.
The Defence Secretary introduced the General Officer Commanding, Delhi Area, Lt General Vijay Kumar Pillai, to the Prime Minister.
Then Singh, accompanied by the General Officer Commanding, Delhi Area, Manvendra Singh, proceeded towards the saluting base where he unfurled the national tricolour from a closed enclosure.
There were no rains this time and the weather was pleasant, making the atmosphere more pleasant as school children jostled with each other to catch a glimpse of Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur.
Dressed in track suits, about 5,000 children from several schools of the national capital attended the celebrations which saw the participation of leaders like Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and senior BJP leader L K Advani among others.
As soon as the cavalcade of the Prime Minister arrived at the venue, the children got up from their seats and waved excitedly at him.
The children cheered when a large number of balloons were released in the sky at the end of the function to signal the spirit of true freedom.
Gun-totting security personnel were all over the Red Fort keeping a tight vigil on the area to thwart any untoward incident.
Ankita, 11, who came to the venue at around 4.30 am, said she was "very much" excited to be part of the Independence Day celebrations and was "very lucky" to see the Prime Minister and other leaders.
"I have been excited about this for over a month. Though I had to get up as early as 2 AM, I am overwhelmed to be here to be part of the ceremony," she said.
Around 3,500 girls from 40 schools in saffron, white and green -- representing the national flag -- were seated in front of the ramparts of the Red Fort.
"This is the second time I am participating in the Independence Day celebrations," said 12-year-old Shruti.
"We are very excited to participate in this function. It is a dream come true. We got up at 3 am and reached here by 5 am," said Anmol Gupta, a Class VIII student of a Government school in the capital.