Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Beating Retreat at Vijay Chowk

This is the first time I got the opportunity to witness the Beating Retreat ceremony at Vijay Chowk in Delhi.

This ceremony is held every year on the 29th of January and it marks the official end of the Republic Day celebrations. It had been a cold day and so carried extra woollies to protect from the chill that comes down as the sun slowly dips into the western horizon.

The different groups of bandsmen in uniforms were ready by the time the President, Pratibha Patil reached. She was seen waving to the people from her car. Soon the Tricolour was unfurled with the first sound of the drums and Vijay Chowk resonating with the notes of our National Anthem as people stood up in respect.

The President took her seat with the three Service Chiefs seated behind her.

There were camels decked in colourful attires with men seated on their backs and stood on top on both sides of the North and South Blocks. They looked so disciplined as they stood still without making any movements at all. Soon horses came along with the motorcade of the President and took their positions.

As the national flag fluttered with the soft cool breeze, the band started playing. Everything is so organised and time bound and disciplined that the function started right on time. The ceremony opened with a parade by select contingent of Armed forces band. The next one hour was filled with music and sound created by the drummers, trumpeters, buglers, bagpipers, the brass bands, the bagpipers, which impressed all those present for the ceremony. Two new tunes were played this year for this occasion.

As the buglers sounded the “Retreat”, the flag was lowered and people stood up to catch a glimpse. And then the bands started marching up the Raisana Hills with the sound of the favourite tune, “Saare jahan se accha”. The camels and horses were seen moving away and disappearing from sight.

When we thought the ceremony had come to an end, there was something very spectacular that caught the eyes. Dusk had descended and light was fading and at that moment, all on a sudden, the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Parliament, the North and South Blocks suddenly lit up. They were decked up with thousands of electric bulbs. This was indeed a moment that I can never forget...hypnotising moment. The lights kept people looking at the buildings as though they have been mesmerized by some charm or spell.

No one was allowed to carry cameras or mobile phones with them as they entered the restricted area. There was heavy security and commandos were perched on tower tops close by There was four checking points before getting seated. From the place where we had our seats, the view was very good. The saddest part was I could not take pictures of this ceremony. How long it will last in my memory....but surely I’ll tell my grandchildren about it...