An ecstatic mix of performances, dominated primarily by Indian compositions of patriotic fervour and marked by foot-tapping drumbeats and calming chimes, was seen on Sunday evening at Beating Retreat Ceremony that marks the culmination of the annual
But while several performances worked brilliantly well in their individual right, they somehow failed to establish a perfect resonance with a military ceremony that dates back hundreds of years when opposing armies laid down their arms at sunset to regroup on the morrow.
The transition from the soulful rendition of “Veer Bharat” to a rather high-pitched “Pyari Bhumi”, for instance, seemed out of sync and as the band returned to “Veer Bharat,” an overarching sense of being misplaced seemed evident.
There were, no doubt, exhilarating performances like “Mera Mulq, Mera Desh, Mera yeh Vatan,” performed by an army band. “Jai Bharati” was another spectacular rendition which surfaced during a well co-ordinated march past. The drum rolls that set the onset of “Call of the Heart” saw the audience cheering in their best spirits.
The re-creation of “Admirals Ensignia” was again a change from the traditional performances. Displaying a dash of late pop star Michael Jackson, the contingent moon-walked backwards and ended in a symbolic sword-fighting pageant. They returned back to foot-tapping with drum rolls, swaying their heads right and left to create a fervour never seen before.
The arrival of the flute players after “Jai Bharati” performance was a high-point of the evening as the crowds resumed to a throbbing silence to witness the magic that they created. Even as the “Call of the Heart” took centrestage, the healing sound of the flute continued to mesmerise the visitors in the background.
While these changes from the traditional practises may have created an atmosphere of euphoria immediately, the evergreen “Abide with Me” was a nostalgic ride down the memory lane.
The soulful hymn brought the proceedings to an end before the Retreat was sounded, the tricolour lowered and the massed bands marched up Raisina Hill to the strains of “Sare Jahan Se Aachha”. And as its strains fades in the distance, thousands of light bulbs came alight on Rashtrapati Bhavan, the North and South Blocks, the Parliament House complex and adjacent buildings.
The fanfare that buglers create every year remained unchanged too. The beginning and end of the evening were marked by their resounding bugles.
Needless to mention, the discipline of the armed forces remained at its best. Like every year, it was impossible to find a mismatch, whether in their attires or the co-ordination with which they performed.
This interplay between the traditional military custom and free spirit of music kicked-off with the arrival of President Pranab Mukherjee, who is also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. In a shift from the previous years, the President this time arrived in his historic buggy, which for over a decade now, had been replaced by bullet proof cars in view of security.
The arrival of the president in the traditional buggy, escorted by his 46 bodyguards and the ceremonial contingent from Rashtrapati Bhavan to Vijay Chowk was a sight to behold, one that resonated perfectly with the atmosphere of anticipation in the hundreds of visitors.
The president was welcomed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the chiefs of the three wings of armed forces.
A total of Military Bands, 16 Pipes and Drums Bands from various Army Regimental Centres and Battalions participated in Beating the Retreat ceremony. Besides one each of Indian Navy and Indian Air Force, a band of the Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force and Delhi Police too participated in the magical musical evening.
As the audience made their way back home with the dazzling sight of the historical buildings glittering in the backdrop, the drum rolls and the crisp sound of the hooves of the horses remained as reminders of history and of the constitution, which came to effect on the day we now celebrate as Republic Day every year.