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Beating Retreat: Vijay Chowk comes alive

Soul-stirring martial tunes and solemn drum beats reverberated in the air while the majestic Raisina Hills was lit up coinciding with the sunset as part of the Beating the Retreat ceremony here on Saturday.

New Delhi: Soul-stirring martial tunes
and solemn drum beats reverberated in the air while the
majestic Raisina Hills was lit up coinciding with the sunset
as part of the Beating the Retreat ceremony here on Saturday.

The ceremony, which marks the conclusion of Republic
Day celebrations, saw bands from three armed services in their
colourful ensembles playing tunes like `Indian Star`, `March
of the Mariners`, `Amar Senani`, `Sare Jahan Se Achcha` and
two new compositions -- `Gaj Raj` by Captain Mahendra Das and
`Rashmi` by Captain Khem Chand.
In a departure from previous years, Indian tunes were
the flavour this year. As many as 19 of the 25 performances
have been composed by Indian musicians and just four popular
tunes by foreign musicians have been retained, interspersed
twice with `Fanfare`, a collage by buglers and the `Drummers`
Call`, a traditional performance by only drummers.

Other than the ever-popular `Sare Jahan Se Achcha` and
`Abide with Me`, a hymn written by W H Monk, the rest of the
tunes were played after a gap of at least a decade.

President Pratibha Patil, Vice President Hamid Ansari
and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attended the ceremony that
saw 12 military bands, 15 pipes and drums bands, 72 buglers
and 12 trumpeters from various regiments of the Army taking
part along with four bands each of the Navy and Indian Air

This year, it was conducted by IAF and Wing Commander
Jaychandran was the principal conductor for all the bands.

President Patil, the chief guest of the function and
supreme commander of the armed forces, came from Rashtrapati
Bhawan preceded by mounted presidential bodyguards at Vijay
Chowk, where her arrival was sounded by trumpeters, 38 buglers
and 38 echo buglers followed by playing of national anthem.
The grand ceremony performed ahead of the sunset was
attended by a large audience amid elaborate security and
traffic arrangements. The crowd enjoyed the performance to the
hilt, breaking into applause again and again.

The band members, in their reds, olive greens, orange
and navy blues, played the tunes for an hour before the flag
was lowered amid retreat by buglers and the Rashtrapati
Bhawan, the Parliament House, the North and South Blocks along
with other official buildings in Raisina Hills lit up.

As many as 32 main retreaters, playing bugles, and six
trumpeters performed on the Rajpath at Vijay Chowk while 10
retreaters followed from North Block and South Block. Four
retreaters were deployed on the Vayu Bhavan and Krishi Bhavan.

The first tune to be played was `Indian Star` composed
by Subedar Sohan Lal. The Army`s 15 pipes and drums bands also
played `Sherpa`, a quick march tune; `Channa Bilauri`, a
troop; `Jhelum` and `Konkan Sundari`, two other quick march
tunes, `Monymusk`, a strathspey tune; `The High Road to
Linton`, a reel tune and `Pholoon Ki Ghati`, a quick march

The military bands of Air Force and Navy followed the
massed pipes and drums bands of the Army, and played six
tunes -- `Poseidon`, `March of the Mariners`, `Air Battle`,
`Evening Star`, `Nautilus` and `Air Warriors`.

Beating the Retreat is a military ceremony dating back
to 16th century England and was first used to recall troops
when they ceased fighting, sheathed their arms and withdrew
from the battlefield to return to their camps at sunset.

The ceremony here 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.

The Raisina Hills and the adjacent square provided the
perfect setting and a nip in the air gave the perfect
atmosphere. The illumination display just after sunset
brightened the architectural splendour of Lutyens` Delhi in a
fitting finale.

Out of the 35 bands from Army, Navy and Air Force
performing at the ceremony, 20 were military bands while 15
were of pipes and drums. Navy and Air Force contributed four
bands each, while the rest 27 bands were from the Army.

The massed military bands of the Indian Army also
played `Gaj Raj`, `Deshon Ka Sartaj Bharat`, `Rashmi`,
`Hathroi`, `Godhuli` and `Appu`.

All the massed military bands then played `Amar
Senani` which was followed by `Drummers Call` and `Abide with
me` before `Sare Jahan Se Achha` was rendered to mark the end
of the ceremony.

As the tricolour was lowered by a lady officer of the
IAF, camel-mounted troops on regalia atop the Raisina Hills
retreated along with the bands and the corridors of power were
lit up in magnificent lights bringing the 61th Republic Day
celebrations to a conclusion.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who could not attend
the Republic Day celebrations on January 26 as she is down
with fever, watched the ceremony today. Defence Minister A K
Antony was also present along with senior BJP leader L K
Advani who was accompanied by his daughter Pratibha.