Sunday, 24 Jan, 12.03 pm Deccan Herald

Republic Day: What is the Beating Retreat ceremony?

DH Web Desk,

As India celebrates a unique Republic Day sans a chief guest, the ceremonious Beating Retreat was also in doubt until Saturday.

The ceremony, held on January 29 each year, marks the culmination of the four-day-long Republic Day celebrations.

What is the Beating Retreat?

It takes place at Vijay Chowk each year and is a centuries-old military tradition dating from the days when troops disengaged from battle at sunset.

The tradition began when King James II, in the 17th century, ordered his troops to beat drums, lower flags and organise a parade to announce the end of a day of war.

As soon as the bugles sounded the "retreat", the troops ceased fighting, sheathed their arms and withdrew from the battlefield. It is for this reason that the custom of standing still during the sounding of "retreat" has been retained to this day.

"'Beating the Retreat' has emerged as an event of national pride when the Colours and Standards are paraded. The ceremony traces its origins to the early 1950s when Major Roberts of the Indian Army indigenously developed the unique ceremony of display by the massed bands. 'Beating Retreat' marks a centuries-old military tradition, when the troops ceased fighting, sheathed their arms and withdrew from the battlefield and returned to the camps at sunset at the sounding of the Retreat. Colours and Standards are cased and flags lowered. The ceremony creates nostalgia for the times gone by," according to a Defence Ministry statement last year.

The ceremony begins when the President arrives at Vijay Chowk in a ceremonial motorcade accompanied by his bodyguards in their ceremonial uniforms. After the event, the Prime Minister walks around the Vijay Chowk, waving to the crowd.

This year's Beating Retreat ceremony

Amid doubts over whether the ceremony will take place at all, the Defence Ministry confirmed the programme on Saturday, adding that it will have a special composition 'Swarnim Vijay', to commemorate 50 years of India's victory in the 1971 war besides a few other tune compositions.

Republic Day celebrations will be low-key and scaled-down this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. India's military might and some of the state-of-the-art assets of the armed forces, including three T-90 tanks and BrahMos missile system, will be showcased during the parade on Rajpath with strict Covid-19 safety guidelines in place.

Last year, there were 26 performances by the bands of the armed forces and central and state police contingents. 15 military bands, 16 pipes and drums bands from regimental centres and battalions participated in the event in 2020.

From "Abhiyan" to "Nritya Sarita" and "Ganga Jamuna", Indian tunes were the flavour of the Beating Retreat ceremony.

Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane, Air Force Chief Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria and Navy Chief Admiral Karamvir Singh were present at the occasion last year.

The Army, Navy, Air Force, state police and Central Armed Police Force bands performed over two dozen tunes. The Christian hymn ''Abide With Me'', a favourite of Mahatma Gandhi's, drew loud applause. There was controversy surrounding its inclusion at the ceremony before the celebrations.

The event came to a close with the popular patriotic tune 'Sare Jahan se Acha'.

The Beating Retreat is currently performed by the British, American, Canadian, Australian and Indian armed forces.

(compiled with PTI inputs)

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by Dailyhunt. Publisher: Deccan Herald