India's women power was on full display on Monday as India showcased its military might at the 66th Republic Day parade in the capital. For the first time, all-women contingents of the Army, Navy and Air Force marched on Rajpath, a rare spectacle that was in line with this year's theme, "Nari Shakti". Nearly 150,000 people witnessed this grand ceremony showing India's achievements in various fields.
The parade, led by GoC Delhi area Lt General Subroto Mitra, began at 10.15am. As soon as the names of the women officers leading the contingents were announced, there were cheers and thunderous applause from spectators as well as thumbs up from the chief guest, US President Barack Obama.
The women contingent of the Army was led by Captain Divya A. Divya had created history by becoming the first woman in Army to have won the coveted "Sword of Honour", awarded to the best cadet, in 2010 at the passing out parade ceremony at the Officers' Training Academy in Chennai.
The Naval tableau titled "Bhartiya Nau Sena aur Nari Shakti" was led by Lt Commander Swetha Kapoor and Lt Varthika Joshi. It portrayed the extraordinary accomplishments of four of Indian Navy's women officers, who participated in an ocean voyage from Goa to Rio de Janerio on board the Indian naval sailing vessel, Mhadei.
The IAF contingent was led by squadron leader Sneha Shekhawat. The T-90 Bhishma column, which had a woman officer, Captain Urvashi, commanding one of the tanks enthralled the crowd as well. The commemoration of the 50 years of the 1965 Indo-Pak war was led by Squadron Leader Garima Dixit. Union ministers Smriti Irani and Nirmala Sitharaman were found cheering for the women officers.
Stories of conquests kept coming along as a tableau on women personnel climbing the Mount Everest drew perhaps the loudest cheer from the crowd, with many even saluting the brave officers from the stands.
Lines from Rabindranath Tagore's poems found mention in the parade commentary that focused on empowerment of youth and women. Commentators also recounted the rich heritage of India and the achievements in the past year, including the launch of the Swachh Bharat campaign.
Apart from the BSF camel contingent, the anti-Naxal force, Cobra, drew the maximum round of applause from the crowd during the parade.
Colourful tableaux from 16 states showcased the cultural diversity of the country. The newly-created state, Telangana, drew people's attention with is celebration of Bonaalu festival. The Gujarat tableau displayed the construction of Sardar Sarovar Dam and the Statue of Unity, touted to be the world's tallest statue.
The department of industrial policy and promotion put up a "Make in India" tableaux while the finance ministry highlighted the successful implementation of "Jan Dhan Yojna".