NEW DELHI, Jan 26 (IANS): The 68th Republic Day was celebrated on Thursday across the nation, from Jammu and Kashmir to Tamil Nadu and Gujarat to the northeastern states, with pomp and pageantry, with the grand function in the national capital being the cynosure of all eyes. Seven bomb blasts occurred in Assam, in a dampner to the Republic Day function there.
In New Delhi, an overcast sky drizzling intermittently, led to some moments of anxiousness -- but the rain gods were kind enough to relent till after the event was over.
On both sides of Rajpath, a crowd of about 50,000 people -- including Indian and foreign dignitaries -- and jubilant children dressed in colourful dresses cheering and waving the Indian flag -- set the tone for a perfect start to the Republic Day celebration.
The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who was the Chief Guest, watched the parade alongside President Pranab Mukherjee, from inside a special enclousure. President Mukherjee, who is commander-in-chief of the armed forces, took the salute at his last Republic Day parade, as his term is due to end in July.
The proceedings began with President Mukherjee unfurling the Tricolour at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and Prime Minister Narendra Modi paying tributes to the fallen soldiers at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate.
A 149-member UAE military contingent participated in the parade this time. Led by Lt Col Abood Musabeh Abood Musabeh Alghfeli, it comprised of the UAE Presidential Guard, the Air Force, the Navy, the Army and a band of 35 musicians.
This was followed by military and paramilitary contingents, including mounted troops from the 61st Cavalry and mechanised columns. Martial music belted out by military bands filled the air as soldiers drawn from some of the finest military units marched with clockwork precision.
Making its debut were India's Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas and Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&C), both developed indigenously. Despite overcast conditions, three of the fighter jets flew at a height of 300 metres from the ground at a speed of 780 km per hour in 'VIC' formation, leaving the spectators in awe.
The maiden appearance of the elite counter-terrorism force, National Security Guard (NSG), was an added charm to this year's celebration.
After the armed forces came the state tableaux, displaying India's oneness amid a rich diversity.
The parade ended with a spectacular fly-past by the Air Force, with aircraft and helicopters setting the skies ablaze. Mi-17 V5 helicopters flew with the Indian flag and showered flower petals.
The President presented a posthumous Ashok Chakra, the highest peacetime gallantry award, to the wife of Havildar Hangpan Dada of Assam Regiment, who killed four terrorists before dying in Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir.
Elsewhere in the country, Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik unfurled the national flag at the Vidhan Sabha building in Lucknow. He also urged the people to vote in the upcoming state assembly elections, starting from February 11.
The Republic Day was celebrated across Bihar, with Governor Ram Nath Kovind hoisting the tricolour at Patna, while in Rajasthan, Governor Kalyan Singh unfurled the national flag at the Umaid Stadium of Jodhpur.
In Jharkhand capital of Ranchi, Governor Droupadi Murmu hoisted the tricolour. Addressing the gathering, he recounted the government's steps to bring straying youths back into the mainstream of society.
In the cultural capital Kolkata, Governor K.N. Tripathi took the salute, while Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and others joined him in the celebration.
In the technology hub of India and capital of Karnataka, Bengaluru, the Republic Day was celebrated with pomp and show, with Governor Vajubahia Vala unfurling the tricolour, while in Odisha capital Bhubaneswar, Governor S.C. Jamir unfurled the tricolour and took the salute.
In Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala Governor P. Sathasivam hoisted the national flag and described the state as the "thought leader" for the rest of India, while in Maharashtra, Governor C.H. Vidyasagar Rao unfurled the tricolour and took salute at a ceremonial parade at the historic Shivaji Park in Mumbai.
In Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam hoisted the tricolour during the Republic Day function at the Marina beach, that had been overtaken by thousands of protesting youth till a few days ago to demand the holding of Jallikattu. As Maharashtra Governor C.H. Vidyasagar Rao is holding additional charge in Tamil Nadu, Panneerselvam hoisted the tricolour here.
In Andhra Pradesh, Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan unfurled the national flag in Vijayawada's Indira Gandhi Stadium, while Narasimhan unfurled the flag in capital city Hyderabad for Telangana.
Uttarakhand Governor K.K. Paul unfurled the tricolor at the Parade Ground in Dehradun amid tight security.
Punjab and Haryana celebrated the Day despite rain in some parts of both states. Chandigarh and its surrounding areas had been experiencing rain since Wednesday evening itself. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal unfurled the national flag in Mohali, adjoining Chandigarh.
In Arunachal Pradesh's capital Itangar, Governor V. Shanmuganathan unfurled the flag, and said the state is determined to achieve unprecedented growth. There were reports of Republic Day celebrations from the other northeastern states also.
In Assam, seven explosions took place in three districts, with police blaming the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). No one was injured in any of the blasts which took place in four locations of Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Charaideo districts of eastern Assam almost simultaneously.
Militant groups had called for a boycott of Republic Day celebrations in the northeastern region.
Braving bone-chilling weather amid snowfall and rain, people celebrated Republic Day across Himachal Pradesh.