A large number of people from different walks of life gathered the Attari border to give Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman a hero's welcome. Unfazed by rain or cold, the crowd eagerly waited at the border to welcome the IAF pilot, even as Pakistan changed his time of arrival again and again. Soon after his arrival, celebrations across the crowd.
A jubilant nation came out on roads to celebrate with firecrackers, and music and dance.
Wing Commander Varthaman, son of a decorated IAF veteran, was captured by Pakistan after his jet went down following a strike by an enemy missile.
Varthaman's MiG 21 was shot and he bailed out after bringing down one Pakistani F-16 fighter during a dogfight to repel a Pakistani attack on Wednesday morning. He has been in Pakistan since then.
Excited citizens carrying tricolor, raising patriotic slogans and dancing to 'dhol' beats waited with bated breath to catch a glimpse of the IAF pilot.
Patriotic fervour prevailed at the border with residents singing songs, beating drums and carrying tricolour. They sang patriotic songs and raised slogans like "Bharat Mata ki Jai".
A Sikh youth was seen carrying a huge garland, while an elderly man was seen beating 'dhol'.
"If permitted, I want to welcome the Wing Commander with this garland," said the youth carrying garland.
Many were also seen with tattoos of Indian flags on their faces.
Amritsar Municipal Corporation Deputy Mayor Raman Bakshi, who reached here along with his supporters said, "Today we are full of enthusiasm as our hero is returning."
He was also carrying Indian flags, sweet boxes and garlands.
Neha, a young tourist from Delhi, said, "I feel blessed that today I am going to have a glimpse of a real life hero who without caring for his life showed such valor."
Security arrangements have been further strengthened here, with Punjab Police personnel deployed in large numbers.
Amid tight security arrangements, crowds were stopped nearly one km away from the Attari-Wagah Indo-Pak border.
A battery of media persons camping there since morning were also not allowed to go near the JCP (Joint Check Post), the land transit route between India and Pakistan.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced in Parliament on Thursday that Varthaman would be released on Friday as a "peace gesture".