As many as 22 tableaux took part in the parade.NEW DELHI: India’s cultural diversity and military prowess were on full display during the 71st Republic Day celebrations on Sunday: a blanket of thick fog that engulfed the city in the morning and tight security restrictions could not deter the enthusiastic crowd from gathering at Rajpath. Like every year, the armed forces took centre stage, parading an array of weapons and the state-of-the-art technology at their disposal. As many as 22 tableaux — 16 from states and union territories and the rest from various ministries and departments — took part in the parade. The day saw many firsts: Brazil president Jair Messias Bolsonaro, the chief guest, was received by Prime Minister Modi, sporting a free-flowing orange turban, at the ceremony itself. Bolsonaro, the third Brazilian head of state to grace a Republic Day parade, was accompanied by his Indian counterpart, Ram Nath Kovind. This was followed by the customary 21-gun salute and hoisting of the tricolour. Earlier, in another break from tradition, PM Modi — accompanied by newly-appointed chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat and the three service chiefs, General M M Naravane, Admiral Karambir Singh and Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria, paid tributes to the country’s fallen soldiers at National War Memorial, instead of Amar Jawan Jyoti, ahead of the parade. Indigenously-developed battle tank T-90 Bhishma tank, infantry combat vehicle Ballway Machine Pikate, self-propelled K-9 Vajra gun and the Akash weapon system were the main attractions in the mechanised columns. Indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, which is under development at Kochi Shipyard, and the newly-inducted Chinook heavy lift and Apache choppers were the other major attractions. Captain Tania Sher Gill, an officer serving with Army’s Corps of Signals, led an all-male marching contingent during the 90-minute parade, drawing admiration from the audience. Sher Gill had recently made history by becoming the first woman parade adjutant to lead an all-men contingent during the Army Day function. Major Sheena Nayyar, the first Army officer in her family, led a contingent of the transportable satellite terminal. The satellite system provides fail-safe secure communication to the forces on the move. Women personnel were also part of the navy and air force marching contingents. At the end of the parade, an all-women team of CRPF showcased their daredevil skills on motorcycles. For the first time, a DRDO missile used during ‘Mission Shakti’ anti-satellite weapon test, which put India in the elite counter-space capability club, was shown during the parade. A 155mm “make-in-India” Dhanush gun, developed by Ordnance Factory Board, was also displayed for the first time during the parade. Initial clearance has been given for bulk production of the 155mm indigenous gun. A model of fourth-generation multirole fighter jet Rafale, which France will be delivering to India in phases as per the Rs 59,000-crore deal for 36 aircraft, was part of the parade. A “Saravatra Bridge” system, a five-metre short span bridge system and an air defence tactical control radar made their debut at the parade. In all, there were 16 marching contingents, six from Army and the rest from Navy, Air Force, Central Armed Police Forces, Delhi Police, National Cadet Corps and National Service Scheme. Apart from this, the 61st Cavalry in the uniform of the erstwhile Gwalior Lancers, the only active horse cavalry regiment in the world that was raised in 1953, took part. The flypast by IAF aircraft was unique this time as US-manufactured heavy-lift Chinook helicopters and deadliest attack helicopters Apaches, which were used in Iraq and Afghanistan war, made their debut. Both the imported helicopters, recently inducted into the IAF, flew in different formations over Rajpath. They were followed by Dornier aircraft, C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, an Airborne Early Warning and Control System aircraft and the “Globe” formation comprising three C-17 Globemasters, which left the viewers spellbound. Five Jaguar deep penetration strike aircraft and five upgraded MiG-29 air superiority fighters in “Arrowhead” formation displayed their aerial manoeuvres. At the end, a fleet of Sukhoi-30 MKI jets split the sky with a breathtaking “Vertical Charlie” aerobatic manoeuvre.