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Republic Day: A rainy beginning and an array of colours

US President Barack Obama was welcomed with a cool breeze and light rains at Rajpath on Monday, but even the rains could not act as a spoiler to the 66th Republic Day celebrations.

Even as everyone was battling the rains with umbrellas, hats and raincoats, nothing could dampen the excitement around the US President’s visit. Obama is the first US President to attend the Republic Day parade.

Following tradition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was seen in a hand-tied colourful turban, began the ceremony after paying homage to martyrs at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate. Soon after signing the ceremonial book, he headed towards the Rajpath to welcome Obama.

Obama, who arrived at the Rajpath in his highly-secured official vehicle ‘Beast’, along with his wife Michelle, was welcomed with huge cheer from the crowd.

Soon, Obama – wearing a black overcoat — took out his umbrella. He could be seen talking to India’s President Pranab Mukherjee as he walked towards the dias waving and grinning at the crowd. 

Everyone had their own way of tackling the rains – Muherjee was seen in a long woolen hat, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Bhartiya Janata Party’s President Amit Shah, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi had their umbrellas out while Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu donned a raincoat.

The show-stoppers undoubtedly were the all-women contingent from the Army, Navy and the Air Force. In a first, the parade’s central theme was ‘Nari Shakti’ or ‘Women’s Power.’

Amidst reports that the scheduled Indian Airforce flypast may be affected due to bad weather, the advanced light helicopter “Dhruv” was soon seen in the sky. It seemed rain only lightened up the mood as the Indian military was upbeat in their march at the 66th Republic Day parade.

Thereafter, the US President got a snapshot of Indian culture in all its diversity and colour. 

The smart contingent of the Gorkha Rifles was seen marching to clockwork precision. The Marshal music accompanying each column of the parade heightened the pomp and splendor of the event. Also adding to the grandeur were the aerial shots provided by Doordarshan for viewers witnessing it from their homes.  

In keeping with the theme of women empowerment, the naval contingent was led by Lt Commander Sandhya Chauhan followed by the Naval brass band. Their naval tableau also reflected the theme and depicted the bravery of its officers. Again for the first time, the all women contingent from the Air Force was led by Squadron leader Sneha Shekhawat. The 50 year anniversary of the 1965 Indo-Pak war was the theme of the tableaux from the IAF.  

Displaying India’s Self reliance and indigenization, the DRDO equipment column had on display ‘Akash’, the surface to air weapon system. 

Next on the Rajpath were the Border Security Forces’s exquisitely caparisoned camels as well as the Camel-mounted band of the BSF – it’s the only such in the world. The Coast Guard guarding our sea face marched through next with President Pranab Mukherjee taking salute.  

President Obama could be seen enjoying the rhythmic music of the marching bands nodding in tune to Saare Jahan Se Accha. That was followed by the CRPF contingent, the Indo Tibetan Border Police marching contingent and band, then the CISF contingent with their bright yellow head gear and subsequently the Delhi Police band, the NCC cadets and the NSS contingent.  

Adding a riot of colours on the Rajpath was the first state tableaux from Karnataka displaying its bright hued wooden toys. This was then followed by Andhra Pradesh showcasing the festival of “Sankranti”. 

The tableaux from Goa had Defence minister Mohan Parrikar smiling all the way. This was followed by the states of MP and Uttarakhand displaying the glory of the Kedarnath temple. Cultural pagentary of India was rolled out in full force for the American delegation.  

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