The Crotchet’s Corner

My perspective about all things inconsequential

Beating Retreat

It is decades since I watched the Beating Retreat ceremony in Delhi, but the memories linger to this day. Television, unfortunately, cannot recreate the mood, the ambiance, and the splendor.

So, what is “Beating Retreat”?

In the olden days, soldiers on the battlefield stopped fighting for the day at sunset, and would resume the next morning – sounds strange? Sunset was heralded by buglers, whose bugle calls would be heard on the battlefield – and the fighters would “beat the retreat” so to speak.

Today, “Beating Retreat” is largely ceremonial, and has become a part of the Republic Day celebrations in India – it is held on 29th January every year.

Vijay Chowk is located at the foot of Raisina Hill, with the Rashtrapati Bhavan in the background and the two majestic wings of the Central Secretariat buildings flanking the venue for this awe-inspiring ceremony.

The camel cavalry on the ramparts of the Secretariat buildings, the impressive President’s Bodyguard, on their horses, accompanying the carriage of India’s Head of State, and the presence of the three Service Chiefs is a splendid sight.

The massed bands of the Army, Navy and Air Force, marching proudly down Rajpath onto Vijay Chowk, provide a mere prelude to an hour’s spectacle.

Forming intricate patterns, wheeling around, and playing some truly melodious and rousing music, the bands variously conjure up images of the hills of Kumaon, the lush green fields of Kerala, the rugged Vindhyas, the valor of the men of the armed forces, and spirit of courage and determination.

My favourite was the pipes and drums – an amazing spectacle.

Beating Reatreat2

The end of the music by the bands is followed by the drum beats. It’s hard to describe, and words will not do justice in describing it, but you wonder, as you watch/hear the staccato rat-a-tat of the snare drums, as to how the human hands can move so incredibly fast.

A hush descends over Vijay Chowk as sunset approaches. In the distance, one hears church bells, a lone trumpeter picks up the lilting tune of “Siki Amo Le”, followed by the softly played hymn “Abide by Me”.

And, in the rapidly descending darkness, as the bands, as also the camel cavalry move away, thousands of light-bulbs come on at Rashtrapati Bhavan and the surrounding buildings – spellbinding, indeed.

Beating Retreat3

It is brilliant, and I hope I can watch this again some time.



August 26, 2009 - Posted by | About this and that | , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. thanks.very nice information.Waiting for new posts


    Comment by Richard Berrye | November 3, 2010 | Reply

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