NEW DELHI, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- India displayed its military might and cultural heritage Thursday at a grand parade in the heart of the national capital to mark the country's 68th Republic Day.
The parade was witnessed by President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who was the chief guest at this year's Republic Day ceremony.
A flypast by Indian Air Force choppers marked the commencement of the parade. Subsequently, a number of contingents from three wings of the Indian armed forces -- the Indian Army, Navy and the Air Force -- marched past the parade.
For the first time, a contingent of the elite National Security Guard (NSG), which guards the country's VIPs and stages high-security operations, took part in the parade in its black gear and gave President Mukherjee a ceremonial salute.
The NSG's anti-hijacking van - Sherpa - a bulletproof armored vehicle that can withstand powerful explosions and can be driven underwater - also made its debut at the parade.
The parade also saw India showcasing its indigenous military aircraft and missiles as three Tejas light combat aircraft flied past at a height of 300 metres. The display was followed by the Indian Army's missile firing capability T-90 Bhishma tank and mobile launcher of BrahMos missiles.
The eye-catching display was by the daredevils on motorbikes who showcased their talent and skill by doing acrobatics on moving bikes on Rjapath, where the parade took place.
As a special gesture, a military contingent of the United Arab Emirates also marched at the grand parade, becoming the first to participate in such an event in India. The 149-member contingent from the UAE comprised of personnel from Presidential Guards, the Air Force, the Navy, and the Army.
At the parade, India also showcased its culture from across the country as tableaux from 17 out of 29 states and central government-controlled territories went past Rajpath. The tableaux showcased the country's progress in different fields. The Finance Ministry also displayed a tableaux at the event.
Minutes before the parade began, Modi, Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar and heads of the Indian Army, Navy and the Air Force laid wreaths at Amar Jawan Jyoti, the war memorial at iconic India Gate where an eternal flame burns in memory of those who died defending the country's frontiers.
The Republic Day celebrations went off peacefully across the country, particularly in Delhi and Indian-controlled Kashmir, except in the northeastern state of Assam, where some seven low-intensity bomb blasts took place. However, there have been no casualties in the blasts.
India became a republic on Jan. 26, 1950, when its constitution came into force. On this day in 1950, the first President of India, Rajendra Prasad took the oath of office.