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AP PHOTOS: Marchers rehearse for India's Republic Day parade

Wielding a sword and wearing a turban in the colors of his regiment, Indian army Maj. Piyush Sharma thundered, "Troops, prepare to march."

On his order, the camel-mounted regiment — its mustachioed riders led by shiny brass bands with glimmering tubas — swiftly moved down a boulevard in the Indian capital on Friday in a rehearsal for the annual Republic Day parade.

“I cannot describe my feelings in words. It is such an honor to lead my contingent,” said Sharma, 28.

An Indian Air Force soldier stretches during a break in between practice for the upcoming Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Republic Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the country's constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. Thousands congregate on Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard in New Delhi, to watch a flamboyant display of the country’s military power and cultural diversity. (AP PhotoManish Swarup)

Republic Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the country's constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. Thousands congregate on Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard in New Delhi, to watch a flamboyant display of the country’s military power and cultural diversity. Schoolchildren, folk dancers, police and military battalions march along the parade route, followed by a display of military hardware.

But what goes behind the high-precision parade — broadcast live and watched by millions of Indians across the country — is weeks and weeks of practice in the biting winter cold.

Due to a fervent nationwide campaign to fend off the coronavirus, participants in this year’s rehearsals marched with their faces covered in masks.

An Indian Border Security Force soldier rehearses during a brass band practice for the upcoming Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Republic Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the country's constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. Thousands congregate on Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard in New Delhi, to watch a flamboyant display of the country’s military power and cultural diversity. (AP PhotoManish Swarup)

The crowd that came to watch was thin, braving a fog and chill as they stood along the sides of the boulevard.

Because of the pandemic, spectators at next Tuesday's Republic Day parade will be limited to enforce social distancing, and some events will be canceled.

India won independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

An instructor of National Security Guard watches as his colleagues prepare for a parade for the upcoming Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Republic Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the country's constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. Thousands congregate on Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard in New Delhi, to watch a flamboyant display of the country’s military power and cultural diversity. (AP PhotoManish Swarup)

Indian army soldiers march during rehearsals for the upcoming Republic Day parade at the Raisina hills, the government seat of power, in New Delhi, India, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Republic Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the country's constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. Thousands congregate on Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard in New Delhi, to watch a flamboyant display of the country’s military power and cultural diversity. (AP PhotoManish Swarup)

An Army instructor briefs national Cadet Corp students as they prepare for the upcoming Republic Day parade at the Raisina hills, the government seat of power, in New Delhi, India, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Republic Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the country's constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. Thousands congregate on Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard in New Delhi, to watch a flamboyant display of the country’s military power and cultural diversity. (AP PhotoManish Swarup)

Musical instruments of a brass band are kept by the side of a road, as members of the army band take a brief rest during rehearsals for the upcoming Republic Day parade at the Raisina hills, the government seat of power, in New Delhi, India, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Republic Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the country's constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. Thousands congregate on Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard in New Delhi, to watch a flamboyant display of the country’s military power and cultural diversity. (AP PhotoManish Swarup)

An officer of the Indian Air Force marching contingent practices her salute during rehearsals for the upcoming Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Republic Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the country's constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. Thousands congregate on Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard in New Delhi, to watch a flamboyant display of the country’s military power and cultural diversity. (AP PhotoManish Swarup)

Indian Navy sailors do push-ups to keep themselves warm during rehearsals for the upcoming Republic Day parade at the Raisina hills, the government seat of power, in New Delhi, India, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Republic Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the country's constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. Thousands congregate on Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard in New Delhi, to watch a flamboyant display of the country’s military power and cultural diversity. (AP PhotoManish Swarup)

National Cadet Corp students march in a parade as they practice for the upcoming Republic Day parade at the Raisina hills, the government seat of power, in New Delhi, India, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Republic Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the country's constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. Thousands congregate on Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard in New Delhi, to watch a flamboyant display of the country’s military power and cultural diversity. (AP PhotoManish Swarup)

Indian army tanks are lined for the upcoming Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Republic Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the country's constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. Thousands congregate on Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard in New Delhi, to watch a flamboyant display of the country’s military power and cultural diversity. (AP PhotoManish Swarup)

National Security Guard soldiers get ready to participate on their tableaux for the upcoming Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Republic Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the country's constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. Thousands congregate on Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard in New Delhi, to watch a flamboyant display of the country’s military power and cultural diversity. (AP PhotoManish Swarup)

Army band soldiers talk as they prepare to march during rehearsals for the upcoming Republic Day parade at the Raisina hills, the government seat of power, in New Delhi, India, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Republic Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the country's constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. Thousands congregate on Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard in New Delhi, to watch a flamboyant display of the country’s military power and cultural diversity. (AP PhotoManish Swarup)

An Indian army instructor checks the marching posture of a soldier during practice for the upcoming Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Republic Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the country's constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. Thousands congregate on Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard in New Delhi, to watch a flamboyant display of the country’s military power and cultural diversity. (AP PhotoManish Swarup)

People watch rehearsals for the upcoming Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Republic Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the country's constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. Thousands congregate on Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard in New Delhi, to watch a flamboyant display of the country’s military power and cultural diversity. (AP PhotoManish Swarup)

An Indian Army brass band marches during rehearsals for the upcoming Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Republic Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the country's constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. Thousands congregate on Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard in New Delhi, to watch a flamboyant display of the country’s military power and cultural diversity. (AP PhotoManish Swarup)

Major Piyush Sharma, from Indian Army Bengal Sappers, gives a command to his contingent for marching during rehearsals for the upcoming Republic Day parade at the Raisina hills, the government seat of power, in New Delhi, India, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Republic Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the country's constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. Thousands congregate on Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard in New Delhi, to watch a flamboyant display of the country’s military power and cultural diversity. (AP PhotoManish Swarup)

A Border Security Force soldier stands with his camel in between practice for the upcoming Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Republic Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the country's constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. Thousands congregate on Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard in New Delhi, to watch a flamboyant display of the country’s military power and cultural diversity. (AP PhotoManish Swarup)

A National Security Guard soldier takes position on his tableaux during rehearsals for the upcoming Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Republic Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the country's constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. Thousands congregate on Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard in New Delhi, to watch a flamboyant display of the country’s military power and cultural diversity. (AP PhotoManish Swarup)

Soldiers are reflected in water from a fountain during rehearsals for the upcoming Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Republic Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the country's constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. Thousands congregate on Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard in New Delhi, to watch a flamboyant display of the country’s military power and cultural diversity. (AP PhotoManish Swarup)