Beating The Retreat Ceremony

 The History/Origin of the ceremony  

In England during the 16th century, the ritual of beating retreat has been started for the first time. And was first used to recall nearby patrolling units to their base camps.

Beating The Retreat Ceremony
Beating The Retreat Ceremony

Earlier it was known as “Watch Setting” and was initiated at sunset by the firing of a single round from the evening gun.

In India, the ceremony of beating the retreat was started in the early 1950’s when Major G.A. Roberts from Grenadier battalion of the Indian army was asked to develop the ceremony of display by the massed bands.

When Queen Elizabeth II and HRH, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh were visiting India for the first time after independence.

Then, the contemporary Prime minister Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru summoned Major G A Roberts asking him to do something spectacular, creative and eventful on Queen’s visit.

And that was the first event of Beating Retreat in India. Thereafter, it became the official ceremony.


Beating The Retreat Ceremony
Scene of First Republic Day Of India

   Beating The Retreat 

Beating Retreat is a ceremony of lowering of the national flag.

Beating The Retreat Ceremony
The Flag Lowering Ceremony

In India the Beating Retreat ceremony conducted on the evening of 29th January officially known as the end of the Republic day festivities.

 It is performed by the bands of the three wings of the military, the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force.

 In 2016 retreat saw the first appearance of marching bands from Central Armed Police Forces and the Delhi Police. And the Army Symphony Orchestra and Traditional Ensemble, and later on it became a mix of Western and Indian traditional instruments.

 The venue is Raisina Hills and Vijay Chowk, from the north and the south block of the Rashtrapati Bhavan (President’s Palace) towards the end of Rajpath.

The Chief Guest of the function is the President of India who arrives escorted by the President’s Bodyguards (PBG), a cavalry unit.

 But at Attari – Wagah border this ceremony is a daily military practice, the ritual takes place every evening before sunset.

 The security forces of India (Border Security Force, BSF) and the Pakistan Rangers have jointly followed the practice since 1959.

 It is a symbol of the two countries rivalry, brotherhood, and cooperation. But the ceremony took an aggressive turn after a few years.

 On 2nd November 2014, approximately 60 people were killed and 110 people were injured in a suicide attack on the Pakistan side Wagah border.

After, India–Pakistan military confrontation on 29 September 2016 the border closing ceremony continued. But Indian visitors were not allowed on the evenings between 29 September and 8 October 2016 at Attari border.

 Similar parades are being organized at Mahavir/Sadqi border near Fazilka and Hussainiwala/Ganda Singh Wala border near Firozpur.

 The Ceremony Overview 

Republic Day Ceremony (29th January)

The ceremony starts with the massed bands of the three services marching in unison, playing popular marching tunes like Colonel Bogey March, Sons of the Brave and Qadam Qadam Badhaye Ja.

Beating The Retreat Ceremony
The Indian Army Band

The Fanfare by buglers then is followed by the bands of the Indian Army.  Marching forward in quick time, then breaking into slow time.

 The massed military bands break into quick time and go back to the farthest end of Raisina Hills.  

 Pipes and Drums of the Indian Army play traditional Scottish tunes and Indian tunes like “Gurkha Brigade”, Neer’s “Sagar Samrat” and “Chandni”.

 The last bands to perform are the combined bands of the Navy and the Air Force.

 This part of the ceremony ends with their compound march.

Attari – Wagah Border (Ceremony)

Beating The Retreat Ceremony

The ceremony takes place every evening before sunset.

Beating The Retreat Ceremony

One infantryman stands at attention on each side of the gate. As the sun sets, the iron gates at the border are opened and the two flags are lowered simultaneously.

And this is the Beating Retreat Border ceremony on the international level.

The flags are folded and the ceremony ends with a retreat including brusque handshake between soldiers from either side, followed by the closing of the gates again.

 The soldiers of this ceremony are specially appointed and trained for this auspicious ceremony.

 They also have a beard and mustache policy for which they are paid additionally.

 The spectacle of the ceremony attracts many visitors from both sides of the border and international tourists.

  Attari – Wagah 

Wagah is a borderline running along Grand Trunk Road between Amritsar in Punjab India and Punjab in Lahore, Pakistan.

 The Indian border side is known as Attari and the Pakistani border area is referred to as Wagah border.


Beating The Retreat Ceremony
Wagah Border Pakistan

Attari also spelled Atari, is a village of Amritsar District in the Punjab state of India, 3 km from the Indo-Pakistani border at Wagah.  

And it was the native village of Sardar Sham Singh Attariwala, one of the generals in the Army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. So, it named as Attari.

Beating The Retreat Ceremony
Attari Border

And it is the last Indian station on the rail route connecting Lahore, Pakistan with the Indian capital Delhi.