Thousands of Indians have braved chilly morning temperatures to gather on a ceremonial boulevard in the capital New Delhi to watch a display of the country’s military power and cultural diversity, though the colourful spectacle was curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nearly 500 schoolchildren, folk dancers, police and military battalions, floats and stunt performers on motorbikes paraded from the presidential palace through the refurbished, tree-lined Rajpath Boulevard on Wednesday.
President Ram Nath Kovind took the salute from the marching columns, which also included a camel-mounted Border Security Force regiment, its moustachioed riders led by shiny brass bands with tubas.
The 90-minute parade ended with a flypast featuring 75 air force fighters, including Rafale jets, transport planes and helicopters.
Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the National War Memorial in New Delhi, where he laid a wreath as he paid his respects during a ceremony also attended by military personnel.
Only double-vaccinated adults and single-dose vaccinated children of 15 and above were allowed to attend the parade.
With COVID-19 cases surging around the country, attendance was slashed to between 5,000 and 8,000 from last year’s 25,000, and there were no foreign guests of honour.
Republic Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the country’s constitution on January 26, 1950. India won independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
To allow the parade to go ahead, workers also rushed to complete construction work on a multibillion-dollar revamp of a government complex in the heart of New Delhi that will include a new parliament building.
Critics have called the overhaul of the area lined with colonial-era buildings and trees a needless and wasteful vanity project for Modi.