Beating Retreat on 29 January: All you need to know about ceremony that marks culmination of R-Day celebration

The Beating Retreat inspires admiration towards the country’s sovereignty as the massed bands of the military’s three wings - Army, Navy and Air Force present soul-stirring music

FP Staff January 28, 2022 20:40:32 IST
Beating Retreat on 29 January: All you need to know about ceremony that marks culmination of R-Day celebration

File image of Beating Retreat ceremony 2021. News18

The Beating Retreat ceremony at New Delhi’s Vijay Chowk will mark the culmination of the 73rd Republic Day celebration on Saturday.

While the Republic Day parade on 26 January showcased India’s cultural diversity, military might and noble initiatives, the Beating Retreat inspires admiration towards the country’s sovereignty as the massed bands of the military’s three wings - Army, Navy and Air Force present soul-stirring music.

The intriguing ceremony has been a part of the Republic Day celebration for more than 70 years, let’s take a look at its origin, how it has developed over the years and what to expect this year:

What is the origin of Beating Retreat

Beating Retreat can be traced back to the late 17th century when it would mean military troops disengaging from battle at sunset.

As per the Royal Irish Virtual Military Gallery, orders from James II’s army on 18 June 1690 told drums to beat a retreat at night.

Later in 1694, William III’s army gave similar orders: “The Drum Major and Drummers of the Regiment which gives a Captain of the Main Guard are to beat the Retreat through the large street, or as may be ordered. They are to be answered by all the Drummers of the guards, and by four Drummers of each Regiment in their respective Quarters.”

The sound of bugles, trumpets and drums would indicate troops to sheath their swords and withdraw from the battlefield.

A statement from the Defence Ministry states that “the ceremony of Beating Retreat creates a mood of nostalgia for the times gone by” when colours and standards are cased and flags are lowered.

“‘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,” it said.

History of Beating Retreat in India

According to the Ministry of Defence, 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.

Since then, each year on 29 January the Indian Armed Forces conduct the Beating Retreat ceremony in the presence of the President as the Supreme Commander of the armed forces.

How is it conducted

With the illuminated Rashtrapati Bhavan and Parliament House buildings in its backdrop, the Beating Retreat ceremony is held at Vijay Chowk.

Military Bands, Pipe and Drum Bands, Buglers and Trumpeters from various army regiments besides bands from the Navy and Air Force play an array of tunes, generally with a patriotic fervour.

What is new this year

The decades-old Republic Day tradition will be slightly different this year as the country also celebrates 75 years of Independence.

The massed bands of the Indian Armed Forces will include 44 buglers, 75 drummers, and 16 trumpeters who will fill the air with 26 energetic tunes.

Martial musical tunes with Indian fervour will be the flavour of the ceremony this year starting with the entry band playing the ‘Veer Sainik’ tune.

This will be followed by Pipes & Drums Band, CAPF Band, Air Force Band, Naval Band, Army Military Band and Massed Bands. The principal conductor of the ceremony will be Commander Vijay Charles D’Cruz.

While the classic ‘Abide With Me’ has been dropped this year, a number of new tunes including ‘Kerala’, ‘Hind ki Sena’, and ‘Ae mere Watan Ke Logon’ have been included.

Also read: Why all song and dance over ‘eternal flame’ and ‘Abide With Me’ is politically motivated

Another new attraction will engage the audience this year. A drone show has been organised by a startup ‘Botlab Dynamics’ and supported by Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi and Department of Science & Technology.

The show would be of 10 minutes duration involving around 1,000 drones fabricated through indigenous technology. Synchronised background music will also be played during the drone show.

The ceremony will conclude with the bands marching out to the evergreen tune of ‘Sare Jahan se Acha’ hanging in the late-winter evening air of Delhi.

With inputs from agencies

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