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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Explained: The significance of the Beating Retreat ceremony

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

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: January 30, 2020 7:31:14 am
Beating Retreat ceremony, Beating Retreat ceremony 2020, what is Beating Retreat, Republic Day, Abide with me, indian express, indian express explained Dress rehearsal for the ceremony on at New Delhi. (Express photo by Prem Nath Pandey)

The Beating Retreat ceremony took place at Vijay Chowk in New Delhi on Wednesday. The ceremony, which takes place on January 29 every year, marks the culmination of the four-day Republic Day celebrations.

Explained: What is the Beating Retreat function?

The military tradition began in 17th century England, when King James II ordered his troops to beat drums, lower flags and organise a parade to announce the end of a day of combat. The ceremony was then called ‘watch setting’ and took place at sunset after firing a single round from the evening gun.

The ceremony is currently held by Armed Forces in the UK, US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and India, among others.

According to a Ministry of Defence press release, “‘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.”

Section D (Ceremonials) at the Ministry of Defence conducts the event.

Last year, 15 Military Bands, 15 Pipes and Drums Bands from Regimental Centres and Battalions participated in the ceremony. Bands from the Navy, Air Force, State Police and CAPF, comprising Central Industrial Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force and Delhi Police, had also taken part.

The ceremony consists of musical performances by the bands, who each year play Indian and western tunes. This year, there was a controversy whether the hymn ‘Abide with me’, a favourite of Mahatma Gandhi, would be played or not. The tune has been retained, according to reports. The bands march back while playing ‘Saare Jahan Se Accha’, a popular marching song of the Indian Armed Forces.

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