New Delhi: With rain drops falling and foot-tapping music playing on the ground, the Beating Retreat ceremony was held on Jan 29 at Vijay Chowk opposite the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi, marking an end to the four-day Republic Day celebrations.
The ceremony began with fanfare by buglers and the massed band playing ‘Agniveer’ tune after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Chief of Defence Staff General Anil Pandey, and the tri-service chiefs welcomed President Droupadi Murmu.
As many as 29 captivating and foot-tapping Indian tunes based on classical ragas were played by the music bands of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the State police and Central Armed Police Force (CAPF).
Following the separate performances from the bands of the three Armed Forces, were the massed bands mesmerizing the audience with tunes such as ‘Kadam Kadam Badhaye Ja’ and ‘Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon’.
The ceremony and the rain both ended with the lowering of the flag and buglers playing ‘Sare Jahan Se Acha’ as per the tradition.
While the audience and performers remained undeterred by the constant rain, a drone show, said to be India’s biggest with 3,500 indigenous drones, and a 3-D anamorphic projection show on the facade of the North and South Blocks had to be cancelled due to bad weather.
Beating the Retreat Ceremony
The Beating Retreat Ceremony held in Vijay Chowk, Delhi, is a sombre end to the four-day-long Republic Day celebrations in India, including the Republic Day parade held nearby a few days prior.
In terms of scale, while the January 26 celebrations may be grander, the Beating Retreat, capping off the Republic Day celebrations, also has its share of synchronized marches, memorable musical pieces and more. Such a ceremony is also held by Armed Forces in the UK, US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and others. We take a look at its history and evolution over the years.
Also called ‘Beating the Retreat’, the ceremony traces its origin in India to the early 1950s, as per the Union government’s Ministry of Culture website, “When Major Roberts of the Indian Army indigenously developed the unique ceremony of display by the massed bands”.
The website further says that the idea marks a centuries-old military tradition when the troops ceased fighting, sheathed their arms and withdrew from the battlefield to return to their camps at sunset at the sound of the Retreat. It would be accompanied by certain protocols, such as the lowering of flags.
The earliest origin may have been in 17th century England, when King James II ordered his troops to beat drums, lower flags and organize a parade to announce the end of a day of combat. The ceremony was then called ‘watch setting’ and took place at sunset after firing a single round from the evening gun.