Monday, January 30, 2006

Beating the Retreat

Among my favourites is the Beating the Retreat Ceremony that's held on the 29th of January every year at Vijay Chowk, New Delhi. I have been missing it during the past couple of years. But yesterday, I managed to watch it.

Once upon a time the armies ceased fire on sunset. They lowered the flags, stopped fighting, and made sure the dead got an honourable burial. Of course, not these days. The Beating the Retreat function is a purely British tradition, though the personnel who take part and much of the music are very much Indian.

The ceremony, which culminates with the spectacular lighting up of the Rashtrapathi Bhavan (the President's residence) and North and South Blocks of the Central Secretariat, draws to a close the Republic Day celebrations. It was introduced as a formal ceremony by Maj Roberts of the Indian Army in the 1950s.

This year there were three new compositions. There were 14 military bands, 12 pipe and drum bands, and 68 buglers from different regiments of the Indian Army. Navy and Air Force bands too took part.

Contingents carrying all those musical instruments, marching with pride and dignity, into a variety of geometric formations to the accompaniment of a mellifluous medley of military tunes, with the architectural marvels in the background -- is a sight that leaves an indelible impression in the mind. It's a sight I long to see every year. The informality of the music combines in a unique perfection with military order and precision -- not something we get to see always.


  1. This is a ceremony I try not to miss. It is awesome!!

  2. This is something I've heard a good deal about but never seen... will add to my "to do " list.