New Delhi: India showcased its military prowess and a glimpse of the country's diverse cultural heritage on the occasion of 67th Republic Day, which was graced by French President Francois Hollande as the chief guest.
Thousands of people on both sides of the imposing Rajpath, India's ceremonial boulevard facing the seat of power Raisina Hills, braved the winter chill and cheered loudly as the marching contingents and tableaux went past them.
The synchronised military and police contingents led by General Officer Commanding (Delhi), Lt General Rajan Ravindran marched proudly to the lilting tunes of the bands through Rajpath where President Pranab Mukherjee, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, took the salute from a specially erected dais.
Earlier, Hollande, who is on a three-day state visit, arrived with Mukherjee and was received by Modi who introduced him to the three services chief -- Army, Air Force and Navy.
For the first time, a contingent from the French 35th Infantry Regiment - elements of which had served in India in 1781-84 - was given the honour of leading the marching contingents and it performed with panache, preceded by a pipes and drums band and saluting in a rather unusual style with the right hand held straight across the chest.
After a gap of 26 years, Army's dog squad drawn from the Remount Veterinary Corps also took part in the parade.
For the first time, the tableau of ex-servicemen of Army veterans also showcased in the parade.
Apart from India's missile firing capability T-90 'Bhishma' tank, Infantry Combat Vehicle BMP II (Sarath), Mobile Autonomous Launcher of the BrahMos Missile System, Akash Weapon System, Smerch Launcher Vehicles, the highlights of the parade also included a canine squad.
In between all this were the tableaux, 23 of them, representing 17 states and six central ministries, showcasing among others the government's flagship Digital India and Swachh Bharat initiatives.
The tableaux, presenting India's varied historical, architectural and cultural heritage, came as a welcome relief as they showcased the country's progress in different spheres. What particularly caught the eye were floats from Goa, Gujarat, Odisha, West Bengal and Assam but one surely what the Central Public Works Department offers year after year - fully fabricated out of flowers and depicting a variety of themes.